But clearly the stakes are quite high:
Moreover, Kevin McCloud sees Bristol, as a place to do business
- this will be, after all the European Green Capital for 2015:
BBC News - Bristol named European Green Capital for 2015
European Green Capital | Green Cities Fit for Life
You could try something a little different:
See also: Futures Forum: Eco-housing ten years on
And: The demand for self build homes appears to exist but remains a difficult method of housing to advance. This is due to a number of factors , funding (many mortgage company’s appear to be reluctant to lend on favourable terms.) The lack of appetite from our Housing Association partners compounded by the lack of suitable land has made this type of housing difficult to develop. This type of housing ownership isn’t where the greatest need lies, this has been identified as rented. So as a consequence most housing providers focus on this need. Perhaps self build may be more popular in East Devon once the economy improves and lenders are less risk adverse. Futures Forum: East Devon and affordable housing: November 2012
In fact, eight years ago, the District Council turned down one such application in Axminster:
Although self-built straw bale housing can take on quite an unexpected appearance:
Learning from the 'Straw Bale House'
10 Stock Orchard Street in Islington, North London, is the combined house and office designed by and for Sarah Wigglesworth and her partner Jeremy Till. Commonly known as the 'Straw Bale' house it was an experiment in design at the time of completion. Having studied about this house during my undergraduate studies (where both Wigglesworth and Till were teaching at the time), I finally decided to visit the building myself on one of their open days earlier this year. More than seeing the building, I wanted to understand how it had performed over time and whether it had lived up to its green credentials.
Upon first approaching the site, I can't help but think how tight it looks and wonder how well it functions against the railway lines adjacent to it. But as I go in through the gates, the site opens up into an L-shape with varying materials and facades on different elements, clearly used for certain purposes. When designing this building in the late 1990s the idea behind it was to create sustainable living within an urban environment. SW + JT wanted to prove that green building didn't have to be rough round the edges but could in fact be done using everyday materials in a simple manner.
|gabion walls enclose the steel structure holding up the office|
The L-shaped plan of the building helps define the living from the working space and also creates a generous open space at ground level in between the two. One part of the L sits facing the railway lines and is raised above the ground on stilts. The steel stilts are wrapped in recycled concrete filled gabions and have springs on top to absorb the vibrations from the passing trains. The facade facing the railway lines is clad in sandbags filled with sand, lime and cement which over time have turned into concrete in the shape of the sandbags. This facade provides the sound adsorption required on this side of the building. The other side of the L is where the living takes place. On 3 of the sides the building is wrapped in straw bales (not structural) to provide the thick passive building insulation requirements, with the south side having a glazed facade to maximise solar gain. This is not rocket science, but sensible environmental design. These design decisions show that a sustainable building doesn't have to be a complicated building, it just needs to use natural resources carefully. These are technologies that are not difficult to implement, maintain or sustain and this is precisely the intention of the architects.
|the cement filled sandbags on the facade facing the railway lines|
|straw bales are left on show in one corner of the house|
All materials used for this project were considered carefully based on criteria which included embodied energy, recyclability and distance from site. Apart from the materials, other technology used is rainwater harvesting, solar water heating and natural ventilation via the central tower and the stack effect. There is a green roof and a composting toilet in the house too - I wonder how much it's used? Although SW did emphasize that they only wanted the composting toilet but were told they would have to install a 'conventional' toilet too.
Walking around the house with SW as our guide, it's clear to see that she is happy with the house and definitely proud of what they have achieved. When asked if there are things she would change, she doesn't admit there are any, except maybe a slightly bigger kitchen! I'm interesting in learning about how the building has performed in the last 12 years and what informed certain decisions in the build. There are many elements of the house which work very well. For example, the house is raised above the ground providing an undercroft. This was done to match the buildings behind the site which sit much higher than the site for 10 Stock Orchard Street. Raising the building not only helped fit in with the neighbours but also provided a space underneath which is used for storage in a shed and also a place for the chickens to live. But one big advantage of this undercroft is a grill which sits on the ceiling of the undercroft and connects to the larder in the tower of the house. The cool air is drawn in up and through the larder keeping the food very cool therefore not requiring any refridgeration. This tower also helps to naturally ventilate the house. The undercroft also allows space underneath the house for a spare room, an office and utility spaces.
|the house with south facing glazing and the ventilation tower above|
The rainwater harvesting also performs well providing water to irrigate the roof garden, for the washing machine and flushing the toilet. However, Wigglesworth mentions that the building 'leaks' meaning it lets out air therefore not being warm and air tight. But Wigglesworth doesn't see this as a problem, she says instead of 'turning on the heat, we put on a jumper'. This is a learning exercise, SW and JT have adapted to their experimental house and learnt to live with it. It is a way of living. As is growing their own vegetables in the garden plot on site.
Although I am very impressed with the building and the innovation of the architects, I can't understand why there is so much steel structure within a house which is so clearly trying to be as low energy as possible. I ask SW exactly this question and the response is on the lines that they wanted a material that was controllable and accurate. This is understandable when working on a project such as this where there are so many experimental technologies in place. But I still think its a shame that such a high embodied energy product (albeit recyclable) such as steel had to be used where timber could do just as good a job and perhaps look more beautiful within its neighbouring eco-friendly materials. But that's just my opinion...
Completed in 2000, the building has performed well over time with the straw bales (one of the newest materials) not requiring any maintenance except a few bales being replaced. As is the case with many experimental builds (as can also be seen through 'Grand Designs'), the building took twice as long to build and was far over budget. However, it meets the needs of its client and users, it is sustainable and it provides a new precedent for sustainable design using basic principles. But more so, I think the ethos of Wigglesworth and Till is also commendable - they practice what they preach. They live sustainably - they grow their own vegetables and use their own resources (to an extent) through solar energy generation and rainwater harvesting. In addition they have cut back their energy used for the daily commute by bringing the workplace and the living place together. Could this be the perfect example of green living?
Anthony Caro, Hugh Casson, Leon Krier, Kisho Kurokawa, Charles Jencks, Tate Library, RIBA Library