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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

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    • CommentAuthorDaniel
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2007 edited
    Dear people,

    I'm an architectural student currently doing a research project on ecological building extensions. There is not too much information around on this topic but only basic principles. What I'm trying to do is really understand the issues and detailing for how to go about doing this. I'm looking at conservatries, rear and garage extensions, porches etc. The kind of work one would normally do but using ecological materials and construction techniques. For example:
    How would I join a rammed earth wall to an exisitng masonary wall?
    How would I join a timber frame structure to the rear of my house?

    Are there any people out there who have done projects themselves? If so I'd really like to hear from you.

    kind regards

    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeMay 18th 2007
    Not sure that any extension can be considered green. First the costs is twice as much as new build second adding a well insulated bit to a poorly insulated house is none too sensible, thirdly joining very different structure forming materials together will for sure lead to differential movement problems. Green is about best use of resources and building extensions is not this apart from the carbuncle effect and in general over-development of sites.

    To join a rammed earth wall to a masonry one just build in some flexible slip ties.

    Screw nail peg or bolt wood to masonry.
    I think you have an excellent project!
    I am not sure If I agree that extensions are/cannot be green. If you were to specify mostly recycled or re-used materials would that not be a green thing to do? Obviuosly this would not be very practical but at the end of the day there are a vey large number of people who are increasingly building extensions rather than moving home. This is an area of building which must be addressed. Tony's point about insulation is a good one but I have a feeling, it won't be long before we see legislation forcing insulation improvements to the existing house when an extension is built. This requirement was planned for the Part L[2006] changes but was dropped at the last minute. It was however brought in for comercial buildings
    Not sure that any extension can be considered green. First the costs is twice as much as new build second adding a well insulated bit to a poorly insulated house is none too sensible, thirdly joining very different structure forming materials together will for sure lead to differential movement problems. Green is about best use of resources and building extensions is not this apart from the carbuncle effect and in general over-development of sites.
    What exactly do you expect people to do?

    Knock it down and start again? move? what exactly? give up?

    Mike(up north)
    May be i'll tell my builders to give up and just build it like it was in the 70's
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeMay 20th 2007
    It is far better use of resources -- time. money, materials, effort -- to build new. In some cases knock it down and start again yes but these are relatively rare. Leaving the existing houses as they are and moving home would be best and the exchequers greed for stamp duty is the biggest hindrance to this and is therefore an anti-green tax. Have a look around at any 1930's to 1960's housing estate or road and view the gross over development of the sites, too little access to the rear gardens, terracing effect of the street scene, too little parking or rather too many vehicles generally uglification of once relatively airy well designed suburbs.

    The house market is stuffed and stagnated forcing the populous to extend when the better option would be to move.

    Giving up is never an option.
    • CommentAuthorAds
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2007
    Tony's comments are, I feel, rather provocative, but certainly deserving of discussion. For example, I agree that the cost of moving house, not just stamp duty incidentally, means that the same money could be put to better use within an existing property. However, I would like to see the facts laid out showing that a new build (both Big Builder's and best practice) costs less and is a far 'better' use of resources. If a current 1930s-1960s house is presumed to be zero carbon etc today, since it cannot effectively be 'un-built', how much carbon and how many non-sustainable materials will be used in the build of a new property?

    On the assumption that there will be some of both at what point in time is the crossover point when the new property effectively starts to consume less of both (or at least carbon)?

    The other point regarding overdeveloped sites is fair, but only in some cases. Many older properties were built on much bigger plots than their equivalents today. As a result there is frequently plenty of scope to enlarge and improve an older property without over-development. Of course small builders often buy up these older properties and DO knock them down, commonly replacing them with a multi-property site.
    • CommentAuthortony
    • CommentTimeMay 21st 2007
    How do we define overdevelopment then? right up to the boundary? no access to back garden except through the house? Filling all the garden? Joining the house up to next door? Building any extension?
    Imagine if all the houses in the country had been left pretty much as they were built, just properly maintained - no flat rooves, box dormers, uPVC windows, "stone" cladding, forecourt parking etc. The urban environment would be a site more visually appealing that it actually is.

    However, if you stamp on peoples aspirations by denying them the land to build their own homes, they are left with little choice but to adapt the houses that already exist to meet their needs. A good extension can be beneficial to the way a house looks and make it a better place to live. Unfortuately, you see many more extensions and alterations that have made the property look worse than if it had just been left as it was built.

    I'm glad the Government is looking at the area of planning and what people can and can't do with their properties. The current system of permitted development rights gives us just enough scope to potentially ruin the way houses look but often not enough to build something more suitable and well designed (unless we go through the bureaucratic and costly process of getting planning permission - many are understandably reluctant to do this).
    • CommentAuthorDaniel
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2007
    Thanks for your comments everyone, interesting food for thought

    The project I'm doing is for a not for profit sustainable building centre 'Rounded Developments' in Cardiff. Hopefully with the information collated and presented we can offer the public and builders who want to execute projects in an alternative, more sensitive way, an opportunity to view the choices and understand the issues and practicalities involved. It’s very daunting when looking at these new materials and misconceived ideas.
    Extensions as well providing more space also offer an excellent way to further insulate and control the climate in an existing house. Especially conservatries. I agree that often extensions can be awful with no thought given to the integrity of the house or the spaces created.

    I also agree with Eco-renovation, the ecological home improvement guide by Edward Harland, an extension should also be a last resort. Multi purpose rooms, reviewing our storage facilities and conversions of attics and garages are all possibilities that we should review first. Unnecessary high rooms are also opportunities for mezzanines or an extra floor.

    However we do have a huge existing housing stock in our country and however bad it is we must try and make the most of the opportunities which are presented to us.
    • CommentAuthorken davis
    • CommentTimeMay 22nd 2007
    daniel, i believe firmly that eco-extensions can be a good thing. one advantage is that they can turn an old external wall in to an internal wall of course. probably the most common house type in this country is the victorian and edwardian terrace with its rear outshoot. building a new party wall down the centre of the rear access alley ways and then across the backs of houses would radically transform their space and energy efficiency and a range of such 'standard' solution ought really to be available to people without recourse to the expense of architects and party wall surveyors fees.
    • CommentAuthorpeppercat
    • CommentTimeAug 13th 2007
    I do not see why extensions are necessarily non-green. For example putting a conservatory on my old, single storey, cottage has reduced my electricity consumption (averaged over 6 years either side of build) by 2.4% for heating (storage heaters) due to (a) improved draught proofing of not having a front door opening directly onto the exterior and (b) passive heat gain for ~8 months of the year (yes even in Aberdeenshire in an exposed position) allowing the conservatory heat to warm up the rest of the house by leaving said front door open in the middle of the day to get the warmer air from the conservatory into the rest of the house. The non off-peak consumption shows an even greater saving but then we've switched over to low energy light bulbs and put bathroom towel rail on timer switch and other energy saving ideas over similar period.
    I am now about to start on a rear extension on the north facing side to form similar draught proofing of the back door and give me a utility room/pantry with a large cupboard on north facing wall where I intend to keep foods that need a low temperature and thus reduce the size of refrigerator required - I expect a similar reduction in electricity usage from this as well as making my house more effective for me to work from home and this save on travel.
    • CommentAuthorjimbeam
    • CommentTimeAug 14th 2007 edited
    an extension should also be a last resort , said Daniel

    Not at all . it was part of the appeal of the property and land when we first saw it. We are planning an eco extension on a 200 year old cottage. We were not allowed by planning to pull it down, not that we wanted to in the first place. We will have granite and cedar cladding. Aesthetics and efficiency are prerequisite. We have the land space to enjoy and the space for slinkies. Planning was fun(?) but energy efficiency won the day and the council deferred from forcing us to have a lean to or placing the extension on the north side to "fit in" with the original cottage. They woke up to eco thinking and the design spec.

    said Ken Davis

    Exactly. Our south west facing external two storeyed wall (presently covered in layers of decades of external paint) will be re rendered and the granite exposed. Aestethically and energy efficient. Isn't this the case?
    • CommentAuthorOIMO
    • CommentTimeAug 16th 2007
    Like jimbeam we are planning an 'eco-extension' on property.

    In our case one we hope to buy shortly. It is currently a bland 1960s bungalow with only one South facing window, a very poorly insulated flat roof kitchen extension and a nasty PVC conservatory that faces North! After the extension/re-model it will have significant amounts of South facing glazing, along with a south facing pitched roof to install a solar water heater on, a protected East side with plenty of glazing for good daylighting of the kicthen/dining space that is returning back inside the original house envelope. (The lean to extension and conservatory are to be demolished to release some space back to the garden) As part of the project we will add a front porch to reduce heat loss, an inner back door for the same reason and rainwater recycling along with numerous draughtproofing and insulation measures for the existing building. Now if we do not add the extension the house will not have the South facing glazing and would be too small to meet our needs, if we do add it then it will also get all the other measures. We also hope to use some recycled materials in the extension such as roofing tiles. Is this not a 'green' project?

    As an aside, while the idea of a new build appeals there are no plots in this part of town and if the land that this is sitting on were up for sale as a plot a developer would try and put two houses on it and the price would reflect that.
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