It is encouraging that there is a lot of quiet work going on although there is a plenty of scope for more widespread use of these materials, techniques, and attitudes
Our aims, in converting the old barn which is adjacent to our home to a self catering unit, included keeping the character of the place, leaving no one in any doubt that this was once a working barn, and doing it in as environmentally friendly manner as possible, both with regards to materials and methods used and future running costs (financial and environmental).
We did a lot of research looking at all manner of aspects, from insulation to paint finishes and wood treatments, lime pointing to types of washing machine and boiler to use. Lots of people were extremely helpful and we were steered from one to another, and one organisation to another. It is encouraging that there is a lot of quiet work going on although there is a plenty of scope for more widespread use of these materials, techniques, and attitudes.
We reused materials or obtained second hand goods locally when available. We were helped enormously by the fact that our architect, Dave Corson was happy to change the building as little as possible, and our builder, Adrian Le Page, was enthusiastic in doing the job in perhaps a different way than is standard at this present time (although many techniques were commonly used in the past).
The unit is essentially the upstairs in the barn (downstairs is still relatively unchanged and used for the boiler, storage etc). The design is open plan with a large bed platform overlooking the high pitched roof sitting/dining area, and with a separate bedroom, bathroom and kitchen under the platform.
The granite walls are exposed as are the roof beams. Other walls are of local elm (as are most of the floors) or painted tongue and groove. The electric wiring is encased in black metal pipes and exposed. Quality furnishings and fittings (for example brass light switches, granite worktop, solid cedar fire doors and iron light fittings and cast iron gutters) have been used. Some of the modern facilities are purposely noticeable. For example, one cannot “hide” radiators on granite walls (there is no room for underfloor heating). So we have much admired obvious claret radiators which are a feature in themselves.
Following is a list of some of the features which helped us achieve our aims:
- The use of natural materials – wood, cork in roof and internal walls for insulation, linoleum, lime etc
- Paints and wood finishes made from plant oils thus reducing toxic emissions, boron for wood treatment, lack of glues which give off formaldehyde (no plywood, mdf etc)
- Large heat retaining wood burning “ceramic” stove
- Condensing boiler for the oil fired central heating
- Water pre heated using solar panels
- Low flush toilet connected to an underground pit which collects rainwater to use for flushing
- Good quality less energy consuming refrigerator and other appliances
- Warm roof
- Reuse of materials if possible e.g. roof pantiles, windows (all different!)
- Low energy light bulbs