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SelfBuild &Improve SUMMER 2015 £3.50/€3.75

The empty nest Reconfiguring your home

Shipping Containers A building material for your project?

In good health Taking care of your septic tank

ISSN 2049-3630

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Carbon power Biomass boilers

Dishing up a treat

What the planners want

Practical kitchen design

How to gain planning permission

Pondering a pond Water gardening

Garage design Attached or detached?

for your self-build

Building a future proofed home

DIY Kitchen helpers




Summer 2015 AT SELFBUILD & IMPROVE YOUR HOME we wanted to bring your attention to the ROI building control regulations (again!) and urge you to make your voice heard in the current review that’s taking place; the deadline is May 15th. The cost of hiring an assigned certifier has given selfbuilders a significant extra cost and impacted on the number of projects and this is the reason why the Department of Environment has tabled a number of alternatives. We give you a synopsis of the consultation documents in the Eye on Ireland on p90. Another regulatory cost that’s been weighing down self-builders is the Health & Safety regulations that make it mandatory to draw up a site-specific H&S plan among other obligations (legislation passed in ROI in 2013, just phased in NI in April, see p90). It is the homeowner’s responsibility to pay for this so it must be budgeted for at the beginning of the project…be forewarned! Also important to consider are the planning issues that surround your self-build and home improvement projects. In the first of a new series, two planning consultants answer your self-build queries for both NI and ROI (p40). In the Autumn 2015 issue we will be looking at extensions, and in subsequent editions at annexes (e.g. garage, granny flats, etc.) and renewables. To get back to the fun and exciting part of self-building and home improving, check out our feature on container builds starting on p102. Shipping containers are fast becoming a viable

Cover Photo: Richie Lavery Photography richie@richielavery.com www.richielavery.com Tel: 07828 773 852 Editor: Astrid Madsen Managing Editor: Gillian Corry Subscriptions: Patricia Madden Sales Manager: Mark Duffin Advertising Sales: David Corry Nicola Delacour-Dunne Louise McCorry Lisa Killen Maria Varela Graphic Designer Myles McCann Printing: WG Bairds Distribution: EM News Distribution Ltd

raw material to build our homes from, despite the increase in building standards, as NI architect Patrick Bradley and the RIPPLE project in ROI show. If you’re dreaming of a new kitchen, turn to page 48 where interior designer Gwen Kenny shares some tips on how to upgrade your existing one and what to consider when starting from scratch. Smart appliances have come a long way; there’s now an oven that lets you know when your cake is ready or meat is cooked to the specified doneness… goodbye timers! For less extravagant kitchen helpers, consult the DIY masterclass on p118 which shows you how to make a spice rack and chopping board. Finally, if you’re thinking of adding a focal point to your garden, why not try a pond? Fiann Ó Nualláin takes the plunge on p54. Meanwhile on p34 services engineer Tony Traill explains how to use logs and other biomass from the great outdoors to heat your home. There’s lots more, including inspiration from Irish home building and improvement projects, so get stuck in…


For more images of your favourite projects featured in this issue, join us on www.facebook.com/selfbuild

Happy building and improving!

Astrid Madsen astrid.madsen@selfbuild.ie

Our panel of experts for summer 2015 BRENDAN BUCK





Danielle is a researcher at the University of Cambridge, where she leads work to reduce material demand in construction, exploring material efficiency across the whole life of buildings. Cambridge University, Engineering Department, email dod21@eng.cam.ac.uk

Before setting up his practice David Donaldson, BSC Hons MRTPI, worked within the DoE Planning Service for nearly two decades. Donaldson Planning, 50a High Street, Holywood, Co Down, BT18 9AE, tel. 90423320, mobile 07920873600, www.donaldsonplanning.com

Féidhlim is the director of FH Wetland Systems, an environmental consultancy business specialising in the design and planting of constructed wetlands, gravel reed beds and zero discharge willow facilities. FH Wetland Systems Ltd., 30 Woodlawn, Lahinch Rd, Ennis, Co Clare, tel. 065 6797355,  www.wetlandsystems.ie

Ciaran is a woodwork and construction studies teacher in Moyle Park College, Clondalkin, Dublin. He qualified from the University of Limerick in 2005 with an Honours Degree in Materials and Construction with Concurrent teacher education. He resides in Leixlip, Co Kildare, email ciaranhegarty2005@ hotmail.com

Gwen is an interior designer and project manager with Divine Design, which she set up in 2004. She’s also a member of the Institute of Designers and of the Interiors Association. Divine Design, Dublin, tel. 01 457 6236, mobile 087 679 4147, www.divinedesign.ie





Stephen Musiol runs the architectural practice small spaces, helping home-owners find the best ways to increase their space, and the best ways to improve what they’ve got. He focuses on designing changes to houses that make them livable, lovable and lasting. Dublin Tel: 01 454 7287 www.smallspaces.ie

Award winning garden designer, author and broadcaster, Fiann has a background in fine art, sculpture, horticulture, ethnobotany and complementary medicine. He currently is a co-presenter on RTE 1’s Dermot’s Secret Garden programme and is a regular SelfBuild & Improve Your Home writer. Check out Fiann’s blog on http://theholisticgardener. com or send him a tweet @ HolisticG

Debbie Orme is a freelance writer and editor, who works across a variety of subjects including business, healthcare, property, pregnancy/ parenting and the over 50s. She also ghost writes autobiographies and proofreads for a wide range of publications. Email debbie.orme@talk21.com or call NI mobile 07739 356915.

Carol is a leading commentator on the Irish property market, with a special interest in affordability. She regularly contributes to radio, national newspapers and magazines. www.caroltallon.ie

Brendan Buck, BA (TCD), MRUP (UCD), Dip. (UD), Dip. (EIA/ SEA), MIPI is a Town Planner and head of BPS Planning Consultants. 23 Saval Park Rd, Dalkey, Co Dublin, mobile 087 2615871, www.buckplanning.ie




Tony Traill is a director of Element Consultants; a small, multidisciplinary consultancy specialising in energy and resource efficiency at all scales. info@elementconsultants.co.uk www.elementconsultants.co.uk

Ben Wilson, BArch (hons) MArch RIBA RSUA, set up his practice in 2007. Before that he worked for four years at Richard Murphy Architects in Edinburgh. Wilson McMullen Architects, 19 Glenvale Avenue, Portrush, Co Antrim, BT56 8HL, tel. 7082 5865, www.wilsonmcmullen.com

Published by SelfBuild Ireland Ltd. 119 Cahard Road, Saintfield, Co Down BT24 7LA. Tel: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0570 Fax: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0576 E-mail: info@selfbuild.ie Directors: Clive, Gillian & Brian Corry The publishers cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions nor for the accuracy of information reproduced. Where opinions may be given, these are personal and based upon the best information to hand. At all times readers are advised to seek the appropriate professional advice. Copyright: all rights reserved.







Moninne Agnew was the lucky winner of €10,000 worth of building materials at the Dublin SelfBuild & Improve Your Home Show and an intro to Universal Design.

Alison in Wonderland Case Study


Lift off Case Study


Alison Crozier of Belfast fulfilled her childhood dream by building her own home…

Due to financial constraints, Jim Preston of Co Carlow had no choice but to roll up his sleeves to get the energy efficient modern home he dreamed of.

Carbon power: Biomass boilers


Tony Traill tells you what you need to know about log, wood chip and wood pellet burning boilers.


What the planners want… when you’re self-building


Dishing up a treat


Pondering a pond: the art of water gardening


Garage design


Love at first site Case Study


Window dressing Case Study


Eye on Ireland


Planning consultants explain what the rules are in NI and ROI. What to consider when you’re devising a new kitchen or renovating.

Fiann Ó Nualláin delves into water garden design. Attached or detached? Architect Ben Wilson looks at your options.

When Jane Buckley extended her house in Co Cork, as well as the house her life changed too!

A contemporary makeover in Co Antrim.

What’s been happening that’s essential knowledge for anyone building or improving their home. In this issue, a focus on health and safety and the ROI building control consultation.



SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


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????????????? contents


70 The empty nest

Architect Stephen Musiol helps you reinvent your family house.

In good health: part 1

92 98

A guide to checking your waste treatment system, making repairs and improvements, siting and selection.

Full steam ahead

The transformation of a shipping container into a home.

In the Architect’s chair

102 110

Gillian Corry talks with architect Patrick Bradley.

Tour of the house

Take a virtual tour of old and new with Patrick Bradley as he describes the renovation of a thatched cottage and building his shipping container home.


Kitchen helpers


Advertiser index


Between the covers books


Reader Information Service


The future is Lego Comment


Notice board


How to make your own spice rack and chopping board. How to contact the companies appearing in this issue.

TV presenter Dermot Bannon’s Love Your Home and an interior designer’s sustainable product guide.

Design for adaptability, deconstruction and material reuse. Product and industry news from the world of self-building and home improvement.

110 8 8

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home




Happiness is.... Winning a €10,000 prize! The lucky winner, Moninne Agnew had, over the years, re-decorated the interior of her home to look stylish and be very comfortable. But comfort is more than just a nice floor covering and a squashy sofa because whilst her home looked good, in the energy stakes it was a very poor performer indeed with a BER rating of ‘F’. Looking for ideas and help to improve things, Moninne visited the SelfBuild & Improve Your Home Show at Citywest in Dublin last September where she entered a competition for a fabulous prize of €10,000 donated by the organisers, SelfBuild Ireland Ltd., for the winner to spend on building materials towards either a home improvement or selfbuild project. “If I hadn’t won I never would have done

the work,” Moninne explained. “There was a lot of insulation needed and of course that’s not something you can do piecemeal, like the interiors.” Moninne contacted a company she had met at the Show and they swung into action by helping her to find Registered contractors and alerting her to the financial help available for projects such as hers. Indeed, the whole process was very smooth as the team processed the grant application through SEAI on her behalf. The main house was built in 1959 with solid walls and an extension added in 1994 is of cavity construction. With the prize money and grants, Moninne was able to have these solid walls insulated externally whilst the cavity in the extension was fully filled and all walls were finished with a sand based acrylic

render to give a uniform look. Internally, the front roofspace insulation was upgraded to bring it up to current Building Regulations standard, in addition all the exposed pipework, water tank and access hatch were insulated. The rear flat roofed section had given Moninne problems in the past with leakages so the advice was to completely remove it and replace with a new roof, with which she agreed. It was all insulated and finished off with new lead flashing to the chimney and valleys and weather sealed back under the existing pitched roof. Moninne is delighted with the way the house not only looks but performs as well, not to mention the savings she will make on her energy bills. The house is now an excellent ‘C3’ rating and Moninne is in the happy position of having a house that was built in the mid twentieth century but is as good as any newbuild today. Project co-ordinator: Kingspan Retrofit, Castleblaney, Co Monaghan tel. 042 9754 626 www.kingspanretrofit.ie External insulation works: Pw Thermal Building Solutions Ltd., from Eco Thermal Homes, Dublin 24 tel. 02 420 1771 www.pwthermalsolutions.com Pumped cavity insulation: 360 Insulations Ltd., Clara, Co Offaly tel. 083 3551 795 www.360insulations.com Attic & flat roof insulation: Eco Thermal Homes as above.

Design for life = a house for life Self-building is arguably the most fulfilling and successful way of achieving a home ideally suited to your needs and wants. Life however is a continuous process and has many different stages, each with their own special and specific requirements. What is ideal for two fit thirty-somethings with young children is likely to be quite the opposite for an elderly single person. It’s a situation we have been looking at in these pages with our second article on the subject starting on page 92. Altering the way a house is laid out and functions is generally a varying combination of expensive and problematical with the www.SelfBuild.ie

result being ‘the best that could be achieved within the budget’, as well as an unsettling upheaval for all involved. Many people prefer just to move or ‘downsize’ but that brings its own disruption as also left behind, more often than not, are friends, support networks and the ease that familiarity with a neighbourhood brings. With houses now being built to require virtually no financial outlay on energy costs to run, a huge burden has been lifted and in the very near future that will no longer be the powerful driver for change it currently is. With that removed, the focus now falls on design, Universal Design. Due to be launched within the next two

months are ‘The Universal Design Guidelines for Homes in Ireland’ and the ‘Universal Design Guidelines for Dementia Friendly Dwellings for People Living with Dementia, their Families and Carers’. The aim of the reports is to inform everyone involved in the construction of houses on how to create in Ireland homes suitable for everyone, regardless of age, size, ability or disability. In our next issue we will be looking at the ideas behind Universal Design in general, and how these can be incorporated into your own self-build to create a home you need never have to leave. See www.universaldesign.ie

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Once we’d seen it we realised the situation was exactly what we were looking for...


case study

Alison in wonderland Alison Crozier’s childhood dreams were not of princesses and ponies but about the house she would one day build.


aving a dream come true is exhilarating, whatever age you are, and so it has proved for Alison and her husband Alan. “From as early as I can remember, I knew the design of the house I would build if ever I got the chance, so I’m thrilled to be living in it now” is how Alison describes their self-build. It all began with a house that was too small for Alison, her husband and their teenage son. Neither was the semi-detached bungalow suited to looking after her grandson, as she does regularly. Not wanting to leave the area and searching for a better property in this Belfast suburb, one day they passed a large site in a tree lined street with a dilapidated house on it, due to be auctioned. Alison and Alan were immediately attracted by the sunlit back garden (also a part of Alison’s dream home), the trees to the front and the views of the Stormont estate. “Once we’d seen it we realised the situation was exactly what we were looking for,” said Alison. “Alan was born in a house just round the corner and the trees reminded me of my family home too. It’s so convenient for going into Belfast or down to Newtownards, it’s on a bus route (we plan to be here for the rest of our days!), there’s a play park just across the road and to the other side the whole expanse of Stormont which is a real focal point, especially at night.”

More photographs available at



The Croziers may have planned for their retirement, but they are clearly a very active couple as in the space of a little over eighteen months the site had been bought, the new house built and moved into and their existing one sold! How did they do it? Their story begins in March 2013 with the purchase of the site prior to auction. “We were very lucky in having good people helping us, the critical ones like our architect and the builder. The architect we found „


case study We chose a timber frame structure because of the speed of construction and for good insulation

because we loved a house he’d built which we used to pass on the way to our holiday home on the Ards peninsula. The owner of the caravan site knew him as did other people who had homes there so it was through word of mouth that Lee came on board. Our builder I met because I was looking at some new houses being built nearby and began talking to owners who were complimentary about him, then I discovered that he lived literally across the road so paid him a visit. Alan and I felt very comfortable he would do a good job for us too and having him as a

neighbour was also helpful as he couldn’t very well abandon us!” Achieving value for money is usually arrived at by the tendering process and the couple did approach another builder, but, despite phone calls, he never responded. This was not particularly critical as Alan’s job involves regular pricing and through that experience he was well aware of current values of building materials. Self-building is a stressful business but it’s the exception that proves the rule and the Croziers are just that. Things having got off to a good start, very often couples find that problems arise when they meet with their architect to put thoughts onto paper or, having agreed a design, struggle to have it approved by the planning department. Perhaps it was because over the years Alison had worked at and modified her dream home that it all came together so easily. Indeed, after only two meetings with their architect, the design was submitted for planning approval and was passed without alteration.


So far, so good and believable. However, as anyone who has ever organised anything knows only too well, the smoothest running events are those where the most amount of preparation has been done, and that is the secret of this speedy and successful build. As soon as permission was granted, Alison organised a folder for every part of the work, her aim was to be at least one month ahead with everything ready before it was needed. “We chose a timber frame structure because of „



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case study 16

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

the speed of construction and for good insulation, a feature we’re enjoying now as the radiators, run from a mains gas boiler, are only on for about an hour morning and night during the colder months. The brick cladding ties in with the neighbouring houses, is maintenance free and we like its warmth as well. I knew the timber frame would go up very quickly although I did get a bit of breathing space at the start because the ground here is typical of much of Belfast. The city is built on the flood plain of a river, the Farset, which left a large depth of soft material known as sleach, deposited where houses are now built. In order to get good foundations therefore, our engineer advised piling.” The one-month-ahead rule is one which other self-builders might like to copy; be warned though, it may sound simple, but behind its success lies seriously hard work. “I went down to the site every day,” Alison explained, “and asked the builders what they would need next so that I would have things well in advance of when they were wanted on site. That way the builders wouldn’t be held up for lack of material. Choosing things wasn’t very complicated, I believe that the female sex has an inbuilt sense of what will work and what won’t and as long as you have an overall colour scheme the rest tends to fall into place. The internet is a vast resource of ideas and I found it helpful when planning the layout and www.SelfBuild.ie

colours. Ours is what I would describe as subdued; champagne, gold, white and marble contrasted with black. We liked certain features such as an open staircase, lots of wood and glass and the deep roof overhang. I also wanted the house to open into the sunny south facing garden American style with a large room where we can all do our own thing with plenty of space to spread. Another idea „

We liked certain features such as an open staircase, lots of wood and glass and the deep roof overhang.


case study Splashes of colour in the family room

which the overhang permits is a drying area – this is Northern Ireland! It rains rather a lot and it only takes a short shower to ruin hours of drying, however, the line above the patio and under the overhang means everything is sheltered from the rain yet gets the benefit of the drying. Alan and I both like high ceilings, they remind us of our family homes and I believe they make for better air circulation, so we made sure to allow for plenty of headroom! And as we want to stay here forever, future proofing measures included extra wide doorways and in the master bedroom, a wet room with no shower tray and a single glazed side. These were major design decisions and once the layout was fixed it was my job to ensure the builders weren’t kept waiting.”


“Ordering was the easy part!” Alison continued. “The tendency is to think that once you’ve done that the item will arrive in due course, but life is never as straightforward and I found it was often the things I didn’t consider to be unusual or special which proved problematic. For example, finding a bidet with igold plated taps took ages and then I was told there was a five week delivery. I soon learned to not take my eye off anything until it was actually on site. That meant a huge amount


of following up as, having placed the order, I then asked for confirmation of everything – timing, cost, delivery – and sent a confirmatory email. If possible, I also visited the showroom. Depending on the delivery date, I would then phone to check that everything was running to schedule, doing this constantly until the item was on site. It was a lot of chasing but so well worth it because there were no nasty surprises and I had time to find replacements.” Some items, like the kitchen, the couple had seen elsewhere, liked, and went to the same supplier. The walnut and cream units combined with the black granite worktop suited their colour scheme perfectly and the island is ideal for a family gathering point, as well as storage. Indeed, Alison is full of praise for their functionality, especially the pull out larder cupboard which holds all the stored food, and the drawers which cleverly conceal the plates. Two big drawers underneath the built-in double oven hold pots, pans and bowls, a second set of drawers contain crockery. With its wood stove, clerestory windows (above eye level) giving a glimpse of sky and trees and glazed rear wall, this room is the family’s favourite place to be. “Although I always knew in my head what my dream home would be like to live in, the reality is „

case study

even better,” said Alison with enthusiasm. “There are so many small things that make such a big difference, such as the instantaneous hot water tap in the kitchen, the sheltered rear garden where we can sit out until late on in the year and, with the wall heater on, on winter nights as well. As for the garden, Alan designed the landscaping so parking is very easy for visitors and the artificial grass I’d recommend to everyone; no maintenance, no muddy shoes and it looks good all year!”

Satisfaction guaranteed

Having emphasised earlier the benefits of forward planning, Alison added some further thoughts on how to enjoy rather than endure a self-build. “Don’t be railroaded by a supplier into taking something you don’t want just because they don’t have the one you do, if you have time in hand you’ll be able to find an alternative. I would also say to go for the best quality you can, replacing anything later on is always going to be more expensive. Except for the bedrooms which are carpeted, the floors are all ceramic tiled which was quite a dent in the budget at the time, but they just need a wipe and come up looking like new, they’re so hard wearing I can’t imagine we’ll ever need to change them. I would also encourage people to experiment with layouts and colours using some of the online or in store 3D computer programmes as well as trial paint pots to find a shade that works. We’ve been in the house for eighteen months now and I can honestly say we wouldn’t change a thing. The whole process went very smoothly thanks to the constant attention of our architect and the builder did everything he said he would. Our only problem was one we couldn’t possibly have foreseen, and that was a neighbour complaining our roof overhung his boundary by something like four inches! He demanded £5,000 compensation but that was just opportunism, he was selling the house anyway and our architect demonstrated his complaint wasn’t justified and smoothed everything over.” n

Site size: 0.45 acre Site cost: £150,000 Build cost: £250,000 (excluding fittings) House size: 2,500sqft House value: £475,000

Build spec

Walls: 100mm Durham red facing brick, 50mm cavity, vapour barrier on 18mm osb on 140mm kit with 150mm mineral wool, 25mm PIR, 12.5mm plasterboard, plaster skim. U-value 0.17W/sqmK Roof: concrete tiles on 38mm x 38mm counter battens on breathable sarking membrane fully taped & laid flush on trussed roof with 400mm mineral wool insulation between and over rafters and with dpm and 12.5mm plasterboard. U-value 0.11W/sqmK Floor: 75mm min lightweight screed with polypropylene fibres or D49 Mesh, separation layer of Grade B1F waterproof building paper or 500 gauge polythene sheet on 150mm rigid phenolic foam on DPM (1200 gauge polythene) on PC concrete floor to engineer’s detail with void beneath filled with blinded hardcore. U-value 0.12W/sqmK Air test: 6ach SAP: 83 (B) Gillian Corry

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Architect Lee Jenkinson, The Beach House, 2B Manse Road, Cloughey, Newtownards, Co Down BT22 1HS tel. 4277 1548 mobile 0795 1919 035 www.leejenkinsonarchitecture.co.uk Boiler Potterton Gold H 15 www.potterton.co.uk/home Builder Springfield Developments Ltd., Belfast mobile 07989 535577 clarkekennedy@hotmail.co.uk Tiles Ceramica Etc, Bangor, Co Down BT197QT tel. 9127 1227 www.ceramicaetc.co.uk Kitchen Cooke & Lewis at B&Q, branches throughout Ireland tel. 0333 014 3098 www.diy.com/cooke-and-lewis Sanitary ware Stevenson & Reid, Bangor, Co Down BT19 2QY tel. 9145 7527 www.stevensonandreid.co.uk

Blinds Dundonald Blinds, Belfast BT16 1XW tel. 9048 6895 Curtains The Spinning Wheel, Belfast BT1 6JH tel. 9032 6111 www.thecottonmill.com Stairs Jeff Walker, Comber, Co Down mobile 07876 395599 jeffwalker0172@gmail.com Glass, balustrade, gates and railings Chris Irvine, Bangor, Co Down, mobile 07833 377274 Carpets Carpetright, Bangor, Co Down tel. 0333 220 8354 www.carpetright.co.uk Lights Arches Lighting Centre, Belfast, BT4 3EL, tel. 9065 7415 www.archeslightingcentre.co.uk Piling Hamilton Bogie, The Mini Piling Company, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim BT38 7DZ, tel. 9332 9444 www.mini-piling.com

Timber frame Timberdwell Homes, Derry, Co Londonderry, BT47 3GR tel. 7181 2422, www. timberdwellhomes.co.uk Plumbing & heating A Russell Plumbing & Heating, Lisburn, Co Antrim, BT28 1DL tel. 9209 2062, www. arussellplumbing-heating.co.uk Insulation Mineral wool (walls and roof): Knauf www. knaufinsulation.co.uk, PIR (walls), roof membrane, and phenolic foam (floor): Kingspan Insulation www.kingspaninsulation.ie Roof tiles Dark Brown Mini Stonewold, www.monier.co.uk Online design ideas www.houzz.co.uk Photography Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill, 17 Clarence Street, Belfast, BT2 8DY, tel: 9024 5038 www.scenicireland.com

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SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study The house was built to passive house principles

Lift off The mechanics of how butterflies take flight is complicated, even though, when you look at them, their flutters seem effortless. Jim and Eva Preston’s house in Co Carlow has many of the same characteristics; while it looks simple the build was anything but…


More photographs available at



s is often the case, mother nature was in large part responsible for the timing of Jim and Eva’s self-build. “When we seriously decided to go ahead with it we were living in a 100sqm three-bedroom apartment off the side of Eva’s brother’s house and expecting our third child,” says Jim. “It was time to make a move!” Jim and Eva had been dreaming of designing their own home ever since they met, and even though they’d been planning to build for 10 years, ‘robbing’ ideas as they went along, taking the final jump felt like a brave move. “At the time I already had my own business as a contractor and took the very difficult decision to put everything on hold while I built our house, all the while maintaining a relationship with my clients,” he says. “On top of that, like many others in our situation, we had few

resources and got very limited bank support.”

Initial design

A carpenter by trade, Jim had already made up his mind who to call for the design as he’d worked with him before. “The designer was given a list of what Eva wanted, including a pantry, kid’s playroom, a laundry chute, a dishwasher that didn’t mean bending down to the floor, and the list goes on,” says Jim. “Eva is very practical and knew from experience what would work for us.” The external, butterfly design was devised after the internal space was figured out. “The designer was very patient, he told us not to worry what it would look like from the outside, that the first thing to do was to make it work indoors,” adds Jim. “With all of our requirements I thought we’d end up with a „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study


Jim and Eva had been dreaming of designing their own home ever since they met, and even though they’d been planning to build for 10 years, ‘robbing’ ideas as they went along, taking the final jump felt like a brave move.



case study Jim and Eva had been dreaming of designing their own home ever since they met


spaghetti junction! His expertise shone through and he produced a layout that works really well.” Then came the exterior design, with upside down roofs and cantilevers, which both Jim and Eva loved. “The designer produced planning drawings which we sent off for approval having consulted with the local authority first,” relates Jim. “They were very positive from the beginning and keen to encourage ecobuilds even though there are very few examples in our area. We’re on the outskirts of a small village with little in the way of a traditional style. There was therefore no need to conform to a vernacular.” The house was built to passive house principles,

it’s very well insulated and airtight and of course is ideally orientated: in the evenings the west facing bedrooms at the back get the sun, in the morning and afternoon the living areas are filled with light and solar heat.

Tight budget

Due to the complex nature of the build – as a rule of thumb, the simpler something looks the more complicated it is to build! – Jim tackled each element individually. “We had to be inventive,” he says with a note of pride. His approach was to draw out the construction details when and as required, with the roof buildup for example, and when things got tricky, he did mockups. “It took a while to figure out some design elements, such as how to achieve the shadow details, so I made models which I tweaked until I got it right.” “You need to have patience to design and detail every element,” he continues, “which was stressful as that does not really work with a fast-track build!” Indeed, the initial 12 month schedule had to be extended to 16 months due to the attention to detail Jim afforded the build, which really doesn’t seem all that long considering he didn’t have any construction drawings done, working solely from the ones they’d submitted for planning. “Our designer was on hand to advise and in some instances, primarily the cantilevers, I called upon the expertise of structural engineers, getting the best deal I could from lads I’d worked with, but it still all cost money,” expounds Jim. The staircase was a case in point, using a cantilever to achieve the SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

floating effect. “I’ve fitted so many standard trim staircases that I wanted to try something different, but it was a challenge!” A structural steel spine is encased in the wall to provide support, as per the structural engineer’s spec, and the hand rail is recessed in the wall, highlighted with an LED rope light. “It makes a really nice effect at night. The balustrade is a wall of 6mm stainless rope from the tread to the ceiling, all the mechanics are exposed and visible underneath, with the turn buckles showing how it all works.” One way of making savings was to approach the EPS factory nearby, with whom Jim has had dealings in his line of work. “They gave me end of line price reductions, things like that,” he says. “You do what you can!”


You might expect Jim to have built his house out of timber, a material he talks about with passion. “I love working with wood, but due to the demands of this project I chose cheaper and quicker alternatives to traditional methods,” he says. In terms of the structure, insulated concrete formwork (ICF) was specified for the walls and metal for the roof, both of which drastically reduced labour costs as it limited the number of trades Jim had to enlist and so expedited the build. ICF consists of hollow blocks of insulation (usually polystyrene) filled on site with concrete. ICF also provided a nifty solution to his wish of hiding all of the drainage pipes – none are visible www.SelfBuild.ie

from the outside. “The upside down roofs channel the rainwater to a central drain which is then evacuated through the ICF walls,” explains Jim. He put in four inch (100mm) pipes within the walls before pouring the concrete, which allowed him to run all of his services. The detailing of this build is so high that even the outlet for the wastewater vent is hidden (there’s four bathrooms upstairs)! It’s located in a gable wall and since the roof line is stepped, you can’t see it. One down side to DIY is that you literally have to deal with every nut and bolt. “An example of things taking time to figure out was when we looked at attaching the soffit supports to the wall,” says Jim. “The metal overhang brackets had to go all the way back to the concrete, through 300mm of „

A structural steel spine is encased in the wall to provide support and the hand rail is recessed in the wall, highlighted with an LED rope light.


case study 26

roofing material. But no over-the-counter screw is 300mm long and of course each hole you drill breaches the airtight barrier. What I ended up finding was a plastic tube at the end of which are spikes and a funnel, it’s thermal bridge free and they cost 60c each, which is less than a traditional screw retailing at €1!”

Clever ideas

Jim wanted to build an energy efficient house and took time figuring out how to achieve an airtight build with this particular design. “This was my ninth project to build to passive principles so I knew how important it is to have a continuous insulation and airtightness barrier, something that on site isn’t easy to achieve,” he says. “It’s also not easy to get the products. Matching details and design to reality is anything but straightforward!” Creative as always, Jim began his ICF wall from foundation level, one metre below ground, instead of starting it at ground level. “Oftentimes the weak point in terms of insulation and airtightness is at the junction between floor and wall as the wall is usually built from the ground up with no link between the floor insulation and wall insulation,” he explains. “Our ICF wall was started the equivalent of three blocks deep into the ground to avoid this problem.” Another potential weak point is the junction between wall and roof, and there Jim ensured the roof insulation sat on the wall itself. Around windows and doors, Jim used closed cell foam insulation with a vapour permeable membrane to make the junctions airtight. “I sent out the glazing specification to 10 different manufacturers but most of them told me I would need to restrict the size of my openings, and I wasn’t prepared to do that. It was in part due to „

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Visit us at our showrooms: Upper Floor, Unit 22, Old Turnpike Road, Ballymount, Dublin 22 Tel: 01-6853353 info@ultimatejoinery.ie / www.ultimatejoinery.ie



laminate flooring, semisolid flooring

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case study

the non-standard dimensions and to the fact that some of the window furniture wasn’t compatible, rails for instance would have to be custom made to take the weight of what I wanted.” He ended up finding a local supplier who was able to provide the right size at the right price. With the building now airtight he had to tackle ventilation. “We did look at passive stack ventilation but to ensure good indoor air quality we decided on a mechanical system with heat recovery,” says Jim. “It costs approximately €250 a year to run and is 85% efficient. We’re very pleased with it, not that it’s something we could factor out anyway. That said, personally I have seen a lot of heat recovery systems that don’t work to their optimum efficiency because the house wasn’t airtight in the first place!” Again cost was an issue with companies quoting anywhere from €4,500 for a standard single fan unit, flexible ducting system to €10,000 for the ‘Rolls Royce’ installation consisting of two units with rigid ducting. “What I did is buy a used unit online for €1,000 then bought the ducting for less than €1,500 and spent about €500 in labour for installation,” he says. On the electrical side, lighting was also very important. “We used commercial shop fittings, fitted flush with the ceiling, and fluorescent light boxes recessed in the ceiling,” says Jim. “There is a floating ceiling in the kitchen with a hidden rope light and a continuous beam of light from the www.SelfBuild.ie

ground floor to the second floor which was a simple idea but very difficult to execute!”

Kitchen magic

The kitchen is central to any house design, and this was no exception. “We sat down with the designer to determine the look, using 3D images,” says Jim. “I built the units out of white MDF carcasses and made sure everything had a drawer to go into. Eva wanted a simple white finish so we used birch ply as a compromise; I also put in finishes like dovetail on the drawers.” „


case study Eva and Jim opted for a very modern streamline design


“We had our heart set on all of the services being hidden, even the extractor fan which we built flush to the wall,” adds Jim. “Buying a unit like that off the shelf is impossible so you’re talking big money to get it from a specialised company. What I did is put in two 2x6’’(50mmx150mm) inline fans in the ceiling and ducted it to the cantilever outside; there’s two outlets there with dampers. There’s an access hatch in the pantry for cleaning the filters and general maintenance.” The pantry is hidden behind a panel door and is kept cool thanks to the lack of heating and windows. In the kitchen sockets push up from the worktops and the splashback is a continuation of the acrylic worktop that returns up the walls. There is also a flush electrical floor box in the polished concrete kitchen floor, very handy for the vacuum cleaner! In keeping with this very non-traditional build, Eva and Jim chose not to avail of traditional skirting boards and architrave finishes and instead opted for a very modern streamline design, which is very awkward to achieve – another reason for the delay in the build schedule! “There’s barely a stick of timber in the house,” jokes Jim. “As for the floor, we had so much choice that we couldn’t decide on which wood finish to have

so we just went with polished concrete downstairs and laminate upstairs!” But that too required some figuring out. “A professional polished concrete job is very expensive so we had to do it ourselves; it was very slow going, learning as we went,” relates Jim. “Upstairs we chose a black embossed and distressed laminate with a black oil finish. It’s unusual in that it’s a plank, 9’’x8’ or 230mmx2.4m.” To fix it in place he chose to stick it directly to the concrete, using a resin liquid DPM and MS flexible polymer floor adhesive, a method that’s usually specified for laying parquet. “It cost more than the laminate!,” exclaims Jim. “But we felt it was better than underlay, which would have „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


case study

created an insulation barrier between the room and the underfloor heating. This direct stick method provides optimum conductivity.” The entire house avails of underfloor heating. He did however go all out on the doors – yes, they’re made of wood, but not of a standard size so he had to get them customised. “They’re full height to the ceiling, 3m by 1m, with no door frame head and hung without a knuckle so the mechanism is completely hidden.” Details like that ‘nail’ the modern look they wanted to achieve.

Future proofing

Sockets push up from the worktops

The house is bigger than they first anticipated, but despite the size Jim and Eva find it easy to heat. “I have an hour meter with controls and spend about €350 a year for heating and €600 for hot water,” he says. “I have an oil condensing boiler but no solar as of yet. One roof is plumbed to be entirely covered with panels, once the economics work out! At the moment the cheapest solar option is €6,000 to €7,000, and lasting on average 20 years it would be cost neutral for us to do it. It’s a nice idea but oil just isn’t dear enough yet! Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have renewables but at this stage for us it’s too expensive. And I figure we’ll be happy to have oil as a backup even if we eventually retrofit a heat pump or a biomass boiler.” There’s also a provision for solar shading, in the form of a brise soleil. “Although I must say overheating is a nice problem to have! When it does get too hot we just slide open the glass door, the one across folds open and that provides cross ventilation. We could also run the underfloor heating in reverse but never have.” In addition, the design included a car port which Jim has yet to build. “The 4m free standing glass car port canopy will be at the back of the building, over the back door, suspended from the building with wire rope. Finn plates have been installed ready to receive the required fixings.” The design was so thorough that it’s even futureproofed for Jim and Eva’s golden years! “We have a self-contained apartment with its own separate entrance and exit and utilities, accessible from the house. Eva and I plan to retire here but in the meantime, it will be a granny flat for our parents when they get elderly, or a place to holiday if family come home from abroad.” As for water, Jim also thought ahead and has already decided where he will be collecting rainwater, at the back of the garden. “There’s no tank or pump but there’s room for it. At the moment we have land drains at the side of the

building and the water is evacuated in a traditional fashion to a soakaway.” The mark of a good design is how happy the occupants are, especially when the builder is the occupier… when you do something yourself, you’re usually your worst critic! “I can’t express how delighted we are with the finished product,” says Jim. “We just smile every time we see it.” n House size: 4,200 sqft Plot size: 2 acres BER: A1

Build spec

Walls:: ICF, polystyrene blocks provide 65mm insulation each side, 200mm concrete cavity with 100mm service pipe encased, U-value 0.2W/sqmK, added another 100mm EPS board internally to achieve 0.15W/sqmK Roof: standing seam with zinc overhang on top of fleece separation layer, 300mm EPS board, vapour control layer, 32mm metal deck, 180mm metal purlins supported by an RSJ, 150mm service void, resilient bars, 100mm acoustic mineral wool, airtight membrane, plasterboard, U-value 0.12 W/ sqmK Floor: superinsulated (200mm EPS) raft passive slab, U-value 0.12 W/sqmK Windows: aluminium clad, double glazed, argon filled, warm edge spacer bar, low-e, U-value of windows and doors 0.85 to 1.0 W/sqmK, G-value 50% to 55% Space heating demand: 15W/sqm

Astrid Madsen

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Builder’s merchants Chadwick’s, branches throughout ROI, www.chadwicks.ie Grange, Dublin 13, tel. 01 8390193, www.grange.ie Insulation Neotherm, Dublin 22, tel. 01 4030811, www.neotherm.ie

Insulated concrete formwork (ICF) Amvic, mobile 087 2501335, www.amvicireland.com Ironmongery Proline Hardware, Dublin 8, tel. 01 4536633, www.prolinehardware.ie Structural engineer Keith Loscher, mobile 087 9492217

Airtightness (advice and supplies) Ecological building systems, tel. 0469432104, www.ecologicalbuildingsystems.com Laminate flooring Italian Baltario supplied by Floor design, Dublin 10, tel. 01 6234157, www.floordesign.ie Laminate flooring Hu O’Reilly Photography, Studio One, Dame House, 24-26 Dame Street, Dublin 2, Mobile 086 3935z940, www.huoreilly.com

ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Biomass is organic matter used as a fuel. It covers everything from fish oil and bone meal to wood and energy crops, however, in this first article our focus is on log, wood chip and wood pellet burning boilers.


n households, the most common biomass options are log, wood chip or wood pellet stoves and boilers as other fuel sources are not yet feasible on a small scale. A word of warning: all biomass systems can be dangerous if incorrectly designed, installed or operated. It is imperative that all installations comply fully with all of the applicable local, national and international regulations and legislation.


For many years the argument in favour of woody biomass has been that providing the wood is from a sustainable source (i.e. the forest or plantation is renewable and for any wood that is burnt, an equivalent amount of wood is planted) the carbon that is emitted from combustion will be re-captured by the new trees1. Obviously, the counter argument is that the carbon emitted by mature trees has been collected over many years and the same amount of carbon will not be re-captured by newly planted trees so an imbalance will exist for a considerable period of time. Sustainable forestry only fells trees that can be replaced by a mature equivalent, planted years earlier for this purpose, but this isn’t always the case.

Basic Biomass Combustion Principles

Almost everyone is accustomed to burning wood or peat on an open fire to produce heat. In its most basic form this is biomass combustion. We all know that it takes time to light a fire, for it to become established, to burn well and to produce good heat. To do this it needs a regular supply of good quality, dry wood and adequate air for combustion. If the wood is too damp or there is insufficient draught it will not burn well. Alternatively, if there is too much draught all the heat goes up the chimney! Similarly, once you stop fuelling a fire, it takes time for the fire to die down and eventually go out. These are the basic principles applicable to all biomass combustion and should be borne in mind when designing any system.

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Carbon power: biomass boilers The key points are easily understood; a good quality fuel fed at the correct rate and the optimum amount of combustion air are required at all times. Less obvious are the other important factors: biomass boilers take time to light, reach an efficient burn rate and to extinguish themselves. During all of this time they produce heat. Thus, they cannot modulate their heat output in response to changing heat loads in the same way as a modern modulating gas boiler (a modern hi/low oil boiler does modulate but not as well as gas). Similarly, they will always produce some heat while operating and this must be removed from the boiler to stop overheating and inefficient fuel consumption. An effective method of protecting a boiler in the event of a power outage or mechanical breakdown, which can relieve the pressure and heat, is essential. The means of protection for all types of log, chip and pellet boilers should be specified by the system designer on a case by case basis.


It may seem strange to discuss fuel before the boilers themselves but the type of fuel will usually dictate the boiler design. The most common fuels will be forestry products and energy crops. Forestry products include logs, wood chip and wood pellets. Energy crops include short rotation coppice willow (SRC) and miscanthus (elephant grass). SRC is normally dried and chipped. Miscanthus is normally shredded, often as part of the boiler feed system, and is usually used where it is produced on site and thus it is more suited to large scale rural installations. The level of automation of biomass systems is directly relevant to the type of fuel used. In general, the more fluid the energy source (electricity being the optimum), the more automatic the system can become. A heat pump, for example, requires only one ‘fuel’, electricity, normally delivered automatically from a mains connection. In contrast, a log boiler requires both wood and electricity and the wood must be handled manually2. The arrow below describes the level of manual intervention required. „


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dries out, some fly ash will inevitably be released and stick to the tar in the chimney. Ultimately the chimney will become constricted reducing the available combustion air and it could eventually lead to a chimney fire. www.elementconsultants.co.uk

Note that even automatic pellet boilers require some level of manual intervention, if only to dispose of the ash. In all cases the moisture content (MC) of the fuel will affect the calorific value (CV) or heat energy content of the fuel. This in turn will determine the volume of fuel and the design of the boiler required to burn it. When trees are felled they have a high moisture content, typically about 60%. If left to air dry the moisture content reduces substantially and will continue to do so if brought under cover in a well-ventilated shed. Most manufacturers will require a maximum moisture content below 25% to achieve their rated outputs. Dry timber is crucial for several reasons. If wet timber is burnt, considerable energy is used to drive off moisture, reducing efficiency. The process takes with it some of the volatile oils that would normally burn and these will condense as they cool in the chimney, depositing a layer of tar. When the wood



It is important to understand the volume of fuel that may be required. For a log boiler, the trees will need to be cut, ringed, split, stored and air dried and, to reach the necessary moisture content, this process will need to commence 18 – 24 months prior to loading the wood into the boiler at very frequent intervals. For 20% MC logs approximately 5.5 times the volume of oil will be required for the same energy content. So, if you burn 1500 litres of oil a year (1.5 m3), you will require about 8.25m3 of wood. According to the UK Forestry Department that is just less than two 15m high trees with a 60cm girth at mid-point3; a lot of wood to handle. As you can see from the chart above (based on 1000 litres of oil), for wood pellets you would need almost 3m3 and for 30% MC woodchip you would need almost 11.5 m3 of wood chip. These are considerable

volumes and, even if you are producing your own wood chip, will require transport, mechanical loading and storage. All of these must be carefully considered in evaluating a scheme. Crucially, you must ensure that you have sufficient storage to hold enough fuel to keep you going through periods when deliveries may be difficult, for example because of a fall of snow, or treacherous road conditions. SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Biomass boiler sizing

As with any type of boiler, it must meet the design heat load of the building4. In addition, distribution

losses and hot water demand must be added. Although this output may only be needed for a few days in the year, for a fixed maximum heating system flow, the boiler system must be sized to accommodate that load. In practice a conventional boiler will also include a ‘fast start margin’ of 20% to 30% additional capacity that allows a large heat output when, at the start of an intermittent heating period, the building temperature is low. If the house is not continually heated, without this, in colder weather the building will not reach design temperature very quickly. The heat input must exceed the losses in order for there to be a temperature rise. This method of plant sizing results in a boiler that will, under part load and steady state conditions, be oversized for the actual demand with the result that it cannot ‘turn down’5 sufficiently to meet the part load condition. Because biomass plant is not as responsive as conventional, in most cases it is desirable to let the boiler run continuously year-round, operating in ‘slumber mode’6 when there is no demand. Changing the heating profile allows a reduction in design capacity and in many cases the fast start margin may be mitigated or eliminated. In other words the house will not be brought up to temperature from a very low start because the house has not been allowed to get to that low level. By using thermal storage7 a biomass plant may be sized somewhere between the conventional plant size plus the start margin; potentially 80% or less of the overall conventional design installation size. The thermal store is like a battery or a capacitor for the system and is depleted to provide the balance of required output during the heat up period. The size of the thermal store will depend on the size of boiler to start up peak, the duration and mean start up (peak) load, the available charging time plus the thermal performance of the „

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Storage of wood pellets must be absolutely watertight. If pellets are exposed to damp, they soon take on the consistency of damp porridge oats and become permanently unusable. Similarly, wet wood chips will, in time, start to decompose creating heat and, in extreme cases, have been known to spontaneously combust! Delivery, storage and handling from source to boiler is a critical path to get right. If you are buying in pellets or wood chip, how reliable is the source? How secure is the company – will they still be looking after you in 15 years’ time? How far away from them are you? If transport prices increase, how will this affect your delivered fuel price? If you are using wood chip, remember that the closer you are to the supplier the cheaper the price will be; a great deal of the volume of wood chip is simply air! Sufficient access must be available for delivery lorries and/or handling equipment. The optimum method of transfer from the delivery vehicle to the store must be determined. The method of collection and transfer from the store to the boiler must also be decided upon. This may be swept arm and auger, gravity to auger or vacuum fed. Each can have drawbacks depending on the fuel quality: wood chip can ‘bridge’” in a storage container, oversized chips can seize an auger and a build-up of fines (dust) in wood pellets can render a worm auger or vacuum system ineffective. A poorly designed or ill thought out delivery system can lead to frequent breakdowns. With all of the above decided, the next step is to choose the boiler and how it will be integrated with the heating system.

1 See http://www.biomassenergycentre.org.uk/portal/page?_pageid=76,535178&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL 2 There will be exceptions. We are not considering wood stoves with back boilers. 3 http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/timbervolume.pdf/$file/timbervolume.pdf 4 In the UK it must be capable of at least meeting the fabric and ventilation heat losses when the inside design temperature is say 21°C and the outside air temperature is –3°C. 5 Reduce its output. www.SelfBuild.ie


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duration, occupancy and the likely response of the biomass boiler on any specific fuel. In practice a biomass boiler sized at 50-60% of peak will be able to meet 80-90% of the total site heat load, subject to satisfactory turndown being achieved. Without constructing a load profile, sizing the boiler on average winter demand is probably adequate (again considering achievable turndown) to ensure that 80-90% of the load is displaced. The conventional boiler will contribute to winter peak demand and exceptionally low summer demands. Biomass boilers have improved considerably in recent years in terms of fuel handling, turndown ratio and controls. However, the fundamental principle of not working the boiler hard remains the key ingredient to efficiency and success.

Financial Incentives

As far as we are aware there are no financial incentives for Biomass Boilers in ROI. The Domestic RHI8 was recently launched in NI and gives an initial support payment of £2,500 and an ongoing support payment of 5.6 p/ kWh, based on a calculated annual heat demand if all reasonable energy efficiency measures had been carried out at the property9. In addition, it is capped at £2,500 per annum. The support lasts for seven years and the tariff will be reviewed annually. Both the equipment and the supplier must be accredited under the Micro-generation Certification Scheme (MCS) for projects <45kW to avail of financial incentives. n Storage of wood pellets must be absolutely watertight.

building. A 30% reduction over conventional design sizing should be possible. In general operation, thermal storage may be used to buffer the load and thus allow the boiler to operate over a smaller range and reduce the requirement for turndown. Again the practical limits will be dictated by the load pattern, the response time of the heating system and the thermal response of the building. If it is a manually fed biomass boiler, there is no automatic control over fuelling in relation to heat demand, and turn down or set back should be avoided if at all possible. If the boiler turns down with unburnt fuel in the combustion chamber for any great length of time, tarry condensate will line the flue pathway and subsequently, when there is a demand for heat, the combustion fan will drive fly ash into the flue that will stick to it and eventually clog the flue pathways. A biomass boiler can be used very effectively in conjunction with thermally responsive oil or gas heating. The conventionally fired plant may be used to meet peak seasonal and start up demands and in some cases, short or small duration summer base loads, but otherwise remain switched off. Another advantage is that the biomass boiler may be turned off if the house is unoccupied, leaving the conventional boiler to carry the load. Again there is no infallible rule of thumb for accurate sizing, it will depend upon demand

The next article in this series will look at biomass stoves and cookers with backboilers Tony Traill, Element Consultants, Ballyclaire, Co. Antrim. www.elementconsultamts.co.uk Additional information RS Biomass Equipment, Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone BT78 4ED tel. 8166 2707 www.rwbiomass.com

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Choice Heating Solutions (Renewable Heating Solutions)  Coolymurraghue, Kerrypike, Co Cork Mobile 087 275 4012 www.choiceheatingsolutions.com Reinco (Renewables & Insulation Consultancy)  11 Westland Road, Cookstown, Co Tyrone BT80 8BX, Mob: 07729 125 002 www.reinco.co.uk ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)

6 to ensure the fire does not extinguish. 7 The use of thermal storage allows a smaller boiler to charge a cylinder of water to temperature and carry a larger than installed boiler load for a short duration whilst the boiler can run for a longer continuous period to replenish the thermal store. 8 See http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/index/information-and-services/environment-and-greener-living/energy-wise/energy-saving-grants/renewable-heat-incentive-rhi/domestic-rhi-introduction.htm 9 Based on the EPC


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Self-builders Gordon and Lisa Browne were keen to be as energy and environmentally conscious as possible, but felt that building to passive house standards would compromise the design they’d planned as well as take them too far over their budget. It was when visiting the SelfBuild & Improve Your Home Show in Belfast that they first became aware of the possibility of using a log boiler. The Browne’s had lots of time to think about it because planning approval took them three long years of discussions over the exact siting of the house, and then there were difficulties with the entrance onto the road. Gordon remembers it well: “The site was on our family farm but at that time there was a different planning policy in place compared to the one we have now, it was far more restrictive. Then we ran into difficulties with the roads service and it wasn’t until our local councillors got everyone on site that it was, finally, all resolved. In the meantime Lisa and I had been working on the design and especially how to heat the house and the hot water. As the house would be low energy rather than passive, we put in as much insulation as the design allowed as a first step. After that it was a case of weighing up the options. The two front runners were a heat pump and, after visiting the Show, a log boiler, both

of which are ideally suited to running underfloor heating. The heat pump I worked out would cost, overall, £6,000 more than the log boiler, and as we have a free source of fuel in wood from the farm, it was the one we chose. At the time we were able to avail of a grant of £2,500 and the cost was £8,500 making a total outlay of £6,000 which we worked out means it will pay for itself in seven years. Running costs are in the region of 5 – 6p/kWh for the house

L to R, thermal store, biomass boiler, pressurised cylinder. www.SelfBuild.ie

which is 2,900sqft and has two adults and one child. Our builder recommended a consultant who helped us to choose an installer and they designed and built the system. It consists of a boiler which I load with wood that’s a maximum of 0.5metres in length and a moisture content of not more than 20%, a 2,000 litre buffer tank and a smaller hot water cylinder with an electric immersion heater as a back-up. During the summer I fill a log store with fallen timber from the farm, working on a two year cycle to give it plenty of time to season. In fact I am using three sheds as I have one for wood that’s ready to use, another with one year old logs and the third is for the new stuff! When the weather is really cold and snowy, which only happens on a small number of days each year, the boiler is loaded manually two to three times in a 24 hour cycle, using half a ton in a week. For most of the colder months it’s a once-a-day job though and by the time we reach late spring, I only need to light it once every

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Logging on

three days. That’s the easiest part, just some crumpled paper and a match are enough. Before going down this route we were well warned about the amount of wood we would need, but in our situation that’s not a problem, we were also told never to put in off cuts, mdf etc. as the glue in these will just melt and clog everything up. It’s been an ideal solution for us, and for anyone who has a source of the right type of timber it’s a really cost effective and environmentally friendly way of providing heat and hot water.” Gillian Corry Aditional info: Consultant: Element Consultants, Doagh, Ballyclare, Co Antrim BT39 0TB tel. 9334 0311 www. elementconsultants.co.uk Boiler: Froling from R&S Biomass Equipment, Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone BT78 4ED tel. 8166 2707 www.rsbiomass.com


what the planners want

What the planners want…when you’re self-building Planning permission: when do you need it and how can you obtain it? In this first article of a four part series, we look at self-builds and some of the issues to consider. I’m shopping around for a site. Should I only consider ones that have already been granted planning permission? ROI: Estate agents sell sites with and without planning permission; those without can be cheaper, but the planning process is time-consuming, expensive and risky. With planning permission you can begin building immediately, though not to your design. Rural sites with planning permission have fewer advantages, as they are normally only available to another person who meets strict rural


housing policy. Some avoid all this by purchasing an existing property, demolishing (wholly or partly) the house and replacing it with their design. But this will be costly and planning permission still required – even for the demolition. For those considering this, you should seek the opinion of the planning department. NI: As with ROI, it is possible to buy sites with or without planning permission. However, be wary of buying a site without permission as you are effectively buying land and not a site, which may SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

another, then the existing site must also remain large enough); and (iii) Can a design and layout be achieved which does not unduly impact on the amenity of neighbouring properties (this may cause your proposed dwelling to be single storey only). In rural areas you need to consider: (i) Whether your site can be accessed safely by road (sightlines); (ii) Can the site can be serviced by an on-site wastewater treatment system? (a Site Suitability Tester is required); and (iii) Is the site able to absorb a house without it having a significant visual impact on the area.

I am thinking of buying a plot of land but I don’t own it yet. Can I apply for planning permission on it?

I have a large back garden. Can I build a new house in it?

In what circumstances do I need to have someone assess a site for suitability?

ROI and NI: Applying the above criteria, consider whether it is going to be possible to access your back garden. Many back gardens in urban areas are large but inaccessible. Take a standard road of detached houses. The properties may have space for a laneway to the side of their house or they may demolish a garage to provide access to the rear of approx. 3.1-3.5m wide. Then, is the rear garden sufficiently long to provide for a separate property with its own parking area, a dwelling and a rear garden? All the while leaving the existing property with sufficient rear garden area (of around 60sqm) to provide for a setback between dwellings of around 15m? Finally, if the property adjoins rear gardens on both sides, „

ROI and NI: The question you need to ask yourself with regards to your site is whether it’s suitable in principle for a house. The main planning issues facing urban sites are: (i) Is the site accessible by car? (ii) Is it big enough to fit a house and provide areas for parking and for private open space - a garden? Councils maintain minimum garden depth and size standards which vary, but the minimum garden depth is normally 7 to 11m and minimum garden size around 50-60sqm (if the site is being subdivided from

“Permission with harsh conditions can feel as bad as a refusal. The planners may have conditioned out a window which promised beautiful views, but also overlooked neighbours...”

ROI: If your heart is set on a rural location, those offering such sites for sale may agree to a deal involving purchase in the event of a grant of planning permission. In an urban area, such a deal is more difficult as there are more buyers, but it is possible. To make a planning application it is only necessary to have the permission of the owner of the property and to give his/her name and address. NI: The same applies, here notice must be served upon the landowner.


what the planners want

be suitable only for keeping a few chickens! Take expert advice early on as to whether permission is likely to be granted. Rural sites which have permission are normally transferable to another party, as the permission goes with the land and not the person. Watch that the permission is not going to expire before you can complete the transaction and commence building works. You also need to ensure that the site has been approved for a dwelling of the size and type which you desire, or that you can amend this to suit your needs.


what the planners want

the proposed dwelling would need to be single storey to minimise impacts on adjoining properties, but those impacts (visual, overshadowing, noise, etc.) may still be considered excessive.

A nearby farmer has offered to sell me part of a field. Can I build a house on it? ROI: Obtaining planning permission for a rural house is difficult. If this is your dream, before you spend any money, ask yourself: (i) Am I trying

“Few people could lodge a planning application without professional help, so find an accredited planner or architect. Secondly, discuss the proposal with the local planning department. Any issues raised can then be addressed in advance.” to build my first home (if you own one or have received planning permission previously, the Land Registry and/or tax records can be checked) (ii) Am I or my partner from this rural area / living in this area for 10 years? (iii) Are any of my family or my partner’s family? And (iv) Do I need to live here for work? If you answered “no” to each of these points, then you are very unlikely to obtain planning permission. If you answered yes to all the above questions and are intending to make a planning application, then you may be able to obtain planning permission. That said, in response to an EU query the Department of Environment has directed local authorities to allow for an exception to this rule and that is if you can prove you will be operating a full time business from your home which genuinely contributes to the local area (telesales and telemarketing are not considered adequate); refer to Circular SP5/08. In practice it is extremely difficult to qualify; I know people who have tried and failed at huge cost. So while it is in theory a possibility, I wouldn’t advise anyone to count on it as a means of gaining planning permission. NI: Planning policy in NI allows new houses to be built in the countryside in certain circumstances. Usually it is for active farm businesses; or where there is an infill site within a small gap between a row of existing buildings; or where the site is within a defined cluster of existing development. It is important to note that farmers may be able to obtain sites for dwellings on the basis of their active farm business, but that if they obtain permission then the site is not tied to that farm, so it normally can be sold if that is the choice of the farmer. For this reason it is usually best to apply for a site in the name of the farm business owner. Infill sites, or sites within existing clusters, are


subject to a number of criteria which are set out in Planning Policy Statement 21 - Sustainable Development in the Countryside.

What goes into an application for full planning permission? ROI: Few people could lodge a planning application without professional help, so find an accredited planner or architect. Secondly, discuss the proposal with the local planning department. Any issues raised can then be addressed in advance. Finally, when you are ready to proceed, you will need to issue public notices in the newspaper and on the site telling any interested parties of your planning application. The application itself will comprise of, inter alia, a planning fee, an application form, Ordnance Survey site location maps, the plans, details of all services, etc. Rural house applications will need to be accompanied by details which prove a local connection and a need to live in the area (birth certificate, school records, proof of residence for previous 10 years, details from Revenue, etc.). NI: Since 1 April 2015, applications in NI are made to the District Councils, and not the DOE. There is no need for an applicant to publish notices in a newspaper, nor are there any requirements to erect site notices. Advertisement is carried out by the planning authority after an application has been lodged. The application will need to be accompanied by neighbour notification and by sufficient information and plans to allow the authority to determine it. For an outline application (see below) this might comprise little more than a site location map but it is usually better to provide more detail of the scale and type of dwelling which is being sought.

What are the key stages and when do they happen? ROI: Within two weeks of your public notices being issued, you must lodge your planning application. If you have lodged a valid planning application, it then takes eight weeks for a decision to be made. This decision may be a grant, a refusal or a request for further information. If you receive a grant, this will come with conditions. You must comply with all of these. If you are refused you can accept the decision, work on a revised planning application or appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála. If further information is requested, you have six months to lodge this. Once you lodge it, the planning department has four weeks to make a decision. It can grant, refuse or ask for further information a second time. Again, you have six months to lodge any further information and, once lodged, the decision can only be to grant or to refuse. NI: The key stages of an application involve advertisement, neighbour notification, and consultation with other authorities such as roads and environmental health. When all information is received the authority will make a decision on the proposal. From 1 April 2015 most applications will be decided by the local planners, but more „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home



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what the planners want Planning departments do not favour ribbon development they prefer clusters of housing

contentious applications will be placed in front of the Council Planning Committee for a decision. As with ROI, there is a right of appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission if the application is refused. From 1 April 2015, there will be a period of 4 months within which any appeal must be lodged. The time period for the appeal process is normally around 6 months.

Can I appeal against conditions? ROI and NI: Permission with harsh conditions can feel as bad as a refusal. The planners may have conditioned out a window which promised beautiful views, but also overlooked neighbours. You may feel this ruins your design. You might want to appeal against the decision to the higher planning authority (see above). However know that not only will the condition be reconsidered but your entire planning application will be reassessed so you risk being refused outright. You cannot appeal this decision, it is final.

How much does it cost? ROI: The application fee for a house is only €65. Where councils make their money is on development contributions. If you obtain planning permission, you will be obliged to pay them a minimum of €7,425 (+€57/sqm over 100sqm) for an urban house or €2,700 (+€50/sqm over 150sqm) for a rural house. A condition will be attached to your planning permission stating the exact amount. Add to this the cost of having your house design produced, buying your maps, having tests done, etc. the total expenditure you make before you turn a sod can be large. The final cost will vary immensely, especially as some will spend lavishly on a top designer where another will pick a design from a book. NI: The outline application (see below) fee for a dwelling is currently £425. For a full application the fee is £851. Unlike ROI, there


are no additional costs payable to the authority if permission is granted. However you don’t get your money back if permission is refused.

I already have a site, should I apply for outline or detailed permission? ROI: Outline Permission sounds great. It is meant to be sought where an applicant wishes to find out whether planning permission would be granted, but may not wish to incur the expense of having detailed plans drawn. A grant of an outline permission means that the planning department agrees, in principle, to the proposed development. The problem is that to start works, you must lodge (within three years) a subsequent application for full permission based on the outline grant. It would be unusual, by the standards of current practice, to apply for outline planning permission for a house. It would be more common to undertake pre-planning meetings to ascertain the planning department’s view on the principle of your proposal. NI: Outline applications are useful if you want to firmly establish whether the principle of a dwelling is acceptable on a site. This can be particularly helpful in rural areas where there may be policy issues to resolve before getting into detailed house design. In urban areas, a good designer should be able to anticipate issues of overlooking or access, and to advise on matters such as developing a suitable design for the site. However, it is not always possible to anticipate how planners or neighbours will react to proposals.

Where can I get impartial advice on how to get planning permission for a selfbuild house? ROI and NI: There are many people and firms in Ireland who call themselves planning consultants. Most offer house design services and it may be in their interest for you to apply for planning SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Can I choose any design / have any design produced for my house? ROI and NI: Planning departments favour high quality architectural design. If you are proposing to hire a qualified and experienced architectural firm, you are likely to approach the local planners with a project that respects context. Context is the location, character and setting of the area within which your house will sit. In urban areas, planners expect a design to integrate the development with the surrounding built environment, using the correct materials, forms and landscape elements, e.g. by respecting existing street lines and existing urban structures. In rural areas, planners will not insist on the use of particular architectural styles but will generally expect visually similar/ sympathetic appearance in areas where there is an accepted vernacular. It is best to use an accredited designer who is experienced in working with your local planning office.1

What factors will the planning authority consider when determining my planning application? ROI: Every local authority area in Ireland maintains a Development Plan. Revised every six years, these contain the policies against which your house will be assessed. Knowing the planners will apply these policies, it would be useful to review, as a guide, at an early stage, what the relevant plan has to say about your site. NI: The planning authority must consider all proposals in line with the development plan and any other material considerations. They will take account of regional policies such as PPS7 Quality Residential Environments; PPS21, and the local Area Plans.

What elements of sustainable design would gain favour with the planners? ROI: Many eco-friendly elements are no longer a matter of choice. In 2011, the building regulations requirements regarding conservation of fuel and energy for dwellings were amended. Now the energy performance of new dwellings must be so high that achieving the standards requires one or more renewable energy sources, e.g. solar thermal

systems (for hot water; it is the most common as it is usually the cheapest option), solar photovoltaic systems, biomass systems, systems using biofuels, heat pumps, aerogenerators, etc. Building a house since 2011 has meant building an eco house relative to the standards of previous generations. While you may think that adding eco elements will help with the planning application, and it is certainly to be encouraged, they make little positive difference in gaining permission. This is due to the fact that planners are not building inspectors. How the house is built is not really relevant to the question of should it be built at a given location and the form it will take. Therefore some elements which have a visual impact, like solar panels or the orientation of the house, will be assessed on that basis.  NI: The NI planning regime is entirely separate from building control, and the planners tend not to be concerned with matters such as energy efficiency. The presence or absence of, for example, solar panels, will not influence whether the authority will grant permission for your dwelling. Neither will the planners be particularly interested in your heating systems, or proposed levels of insulation.

what the planners want

permission, even if you will be refused. To ensure you are properly guided through the planning process by a professionally qualified planner who is objective, contact an Irish Planning Institute www.ipi.ie (ROI) or Royal Town Planning Institute www.rtpi.org.uk (NI) registered planning consultant for advice. It is best to seek such advice before ever considering purchasing a site and/or ordering a house design. This way the planner can help you avoid heartache and bank balance meltdown.

I’d like to use a well, are there any planning restrictions? ROI: In urban areas, you will connect to the mains water supply (and sign up to Irish Water eventually!). The planners won’t consider an application for putting in a well due the proximity of services. In rural areas you may have to, or wish to, install one and in that case details of the location of the well must be supplied with your planning application. Minimum distances from the treatment system to the well apply (generally 25m). NI: In NI the drilling of a well within a domestic curtilage is likley to be regarded as permitted development, i.e. planning permission will not normally be required. However you should check with your local authority, especially if you are within an urban area. „

“If you are proposing to hire a qualified and experienced architectural firm, you are likely to approach the local planners with a project that respects context. Context is the location, character and setting of the area within which your house will sit.”

1 A good guide in NI is Building on Tradition, A Sustainable Design Guide to Building in the Countryside from www.planningni.gov.uk - Design Guide. Similarly ROI readers would find the Cork Rural Design Guide helpful, although this was produced in 2003 it is still a standard reference. Some individual councils have produced their own version. www.SelfBuild.ie


what the planners want

Who can object and how might their opinion affect the decision? ROI: Wherever you want to build a house, it’ll be close to someone’s property and many property owners are firmly in the NIMBY – ‘Not In My Back Yard’ camp. On the payment of €20 anyone can object to your planning application for five weeks after its lodgement. Objections normally raise issues the assessing planner is aware of, such as overlooking. Objections may have no bearing on the decision made, but, by objecting, a person buys the right to make an appeal to An Bord Pleanála. If such an appeal is lodged in the four weeks after your decision is made, it will take 18 weeks to assess – holding up your project. It is wise to try to address neighbour concerns when designing although that may not always be possible. NI: Anyone can object. They can raise important planning concerns, or they can raise mischievous comments which have little bearing on your application. The number of objections received to an application does not matter. It is what they say and whether these comments are material to the proposal that counts. The planners will consider the objections and decide whether or not they have any merit. Unlike ROI, there is no third party right of appeal in NI. If the planners approve your application, the objectors cannot force your application to an appeal. The approval can be challenged though the Courts, but this is rare given the significant costs involved.

Can I sell the house once it is built?

In rural areas, planners will not insist on the use of particular architectural styles but will generally expect visually similar/sympathetic appearance in areas where there is an accepted vernacular.

ROI: In urban areas, you can build your house and sell it immediately (indeed you can sell the planning permission). For rural houses, planning conditions can require you – or someone who meets the rural housing policy criteria – to live in the house for many years before you can sell it. This is called an occupancy condition. Such conditions cannot normally be successfully appealed and will generally only be removed if you are unable to pay your mortgage and the bank needs to sell the house. NI: Provided the house is not subject to an occupancy condition which limits occupation to a particular individual (this would

generally now only apply to a very small number of permissions), it is possible to sell. With changes in rural policy it is now normally possible to apply to have older occupancy conditions removed.

Can I change any element of the design after planning permission is granted? ROI and NI: It is possible to carry out works for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of the house, which are works affecting only the interior of the structure or which do not materially affect the external appearance of it so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures. Any material change would require a planning application to modify the design. If however you wish to add a rear extension, a porch, a shed, etc. it is possible to do so in some circumstances without planning permission. There are a range of development types, named exempted developments, which can be undertaken once a dwelling has been built which do not require planning permission. There are usually certain thresholds relating to, for example, size or height. Where these thresholds are exceeded, the exemptions no longer apply. The purpose of exemption is to avoid controls on developments of a minor nature; in the case of protected structures consult the planning department as what may seem like minor changes could require planning permission. n Next in this series: Extensions ROI: Brendan Buck, BPS Planning consultants, Dalkey, Co. Dublin, Tel: 087 2615871. www.buckplanning.ie NI: David Donaldson, Donaldson Planning, Hollywood, Co. Down BT18 9AE. Tel: 9042 3320 www.donaldsonplanning.com

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Interior design: kitchens

Dishing up a treat The modern kitchen is a multifunctional space: it’s where everything happens, from cooking to (in)formal dining, from homework to social gatherings. To invest in this key area is to enhance the quality of your life, all the while ensuring a return on investment. As conventional wisdom has it, kitchens and bathrooms do sell houses… Paul Sherwood Photographer www.sherwood.ie


he way we use our homes has changed dramatically, but the kitchen remains at the heart of it. And like any vital organ, there are some guidelines you should follow to keep it in good health. Whether you are designing a new build or working on a renovation project, planning and preparation are vital to ensure an effective ergonomic design. The kitchen involves more trade and supplies than any other room, so taking time to tease out the bigger picture is a must. Once work is underway, even the smallest change can have lots of knock-on effects, involving additional headaches and expense.  When re-modelling an existing kitchen to a tight budget or looking for areas to cut costs it is worth finding out if you can re-use the existing plumbing and electrics to save on their fees, providing you’re happy with the positioning of the major items (hob, sink, etc.).


Functionality is the thread connecting everything in the kitchen. So start by thinking about tasks, including food preparation, storing equipment and utensils, family dining, entertaining, homework and play. Traditionally, before the advent of dishwashers, the sink was placed under a window looking out onto the garden or back yard. The practical reason for that was light and being able to watch the children at the same time as tidying up. The area next to a window is arguably a prized spot, too precious to be wasted on a sink and, with modern plumbing and lighting you don’t have to keep to the old way. Pairing up for function does make sense still, and placing the dishwasher next to the sink enables you to rinse plates and load the dishwasher all in one movement. So does locating the pull out bin near both of these. The hob nowadays gets pride of place as more time is spent at it, while sinks are now sited on islands or hidden away depending on the cook’s needs. The work triangle – made up of an imaginary line between the fridge, sink and cooker – remains


important. It minimises the distance travelled during food preparation and allows us to move unobstructed between these three key areas. However, changing lifestyles has seen a blurring of the boundaries. Many contemporary kitchens have two cooks working at the same time; a hob in one place and an oven or two in another, as well as a dishwasher to be filled and emptied. Ease of movement has to be a priority to create the most functional space possible.

Island life

Islands have featured on most homeowners’ wish lists in recent years and show no sign of going away. They allow the cook to prepare or clean up whilst chatting with guests or keeping an eye on the kids. Some islands incorporate hobs which require ducting for an extractor that pops out from the counter, another option is one concealed in the ceiling although these are approximately three times the cost of a standard model. A sink is another option and allows the cook to chat with guests. You could even have the best of both worlds and orientate the sink towards the dining/living room as well as a view. If you entertain often or have a large household, you might consider having more than one sink; one by the window near the dishwasher and a second in an SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Modish materials

Generally, carcases are either solid wood, with oak a timeless favourite and walnut also a winner, or compressed board covered in a washable finish; the better quality ones have a uPVC edge on them. When it comes to doors, the choice is vast. Solid


wood ones are usually made up of five pieces, a four-piece frame and a centre panel that is either raised or flat. They can be stained or painted, with shades of grey on-trend and even more fashionable, greige (half grey and half beige). Grey washed woods are very much in demand at the moment too while the more budget conscious options of vinyl and foil wrapped medium or high density fibre doors are becoming increasingly popular as they can give a realistic wood finish, with stability and consistency of colour and grain among the benefits. Wrapped doors are also available in a plain flat finish and there are many shapes of door frames, including ones that have built in handles. If you’re looking for a glossy finish, the wrapping can be made of vinyl. More durable is acrylic, which provides a higher gloss effect and is applied in layers. Some even have flecks of metal to reflect light. Moving on to counter intelligence, materials here can include durable granite, which is heavy and expensive; always go and view your slab as each one varies and you might get more of a particular fleck than you were expecting. Quartz, a manmade product and incredibly hard wearing, scratch and stain resistant, has the beauty of being consistent. Wood, which is available in a huge array of colours, requires a twice yearly simple „

Interior design: kitchens

island or peninsula for hand washing or prepping food. This allows several people to use the kitchen without getting in each other’s way. While islands facilitate interaction and sociability and can include storage and pop-up sockets, they require space – you need to be able to comfortably pass another person on each side while the side that faces the kitchen should allow the dishwasher to open and someone to stand there at the same time. The ideal 1100mm clearance between the island and the nearest worktop is not always available and some allowance can be made. However, shoehorning an island unit into a squeezed kitchen space isn’t a good move. A peninsula – an island attached to the worktop on one side – can be a good compromise. It still allows you to have a breakfast bar and a working island but requires less clearance space and provides additional counter area. Islands and peninsulas can have two heights, a standard counter height and a taller one for standing or eating; the double height can form a ledge which can hide the prepping activity from your guests. You may be tempted to position your kitchen in the brightest part of the house but consider how much time you will actually spend in it. A light filled living and/or dining area with the kitchen in a darker spot, utilising task lighting from above and beneath presses, is a very viable option. We do after all spend approximately thirty minutes in the morning and an hour in the evening preparing food, whereas we sit for an hour and then relax for three at the dining table and sitting area.

Paul Sherwood Photographer www.sherwood.ie

“Functionality is the thread connecting everything in the kitchen. So start by thinking about tasks, including food preparation, storing equipment and utensils, family dining, entertaining, homework and play.”


Interior design: kitchens Le Mans corner self unit

maintenance oiling. Did you know beech has natural anti-bacterial properties? Formica has a huge colour range but can easily chip and scratch; composite materials offer seamless styling and stain resistance but may be prone to scratching; concrete is hardwearing but involves a significant financial outlay. For splash backs, glass, tiles and metal are among the choices, or a simple up stand usually 100mm high made from either quartz or granite.

Smart storage

Following the mantra of ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ really pays dividends in the kitchen. In recent years there has been a move away from presses to drawers. Drawers are a great way of maximising space and accessibility, (gone are the days of emptying everything off a shelf to get to the item at the back), and the wider the better. However, remember that if you have large drawers in a small space, and someone is standing in front of them, they will have to move for the drawers to open.  I personally am not a fan of tall presses that pull out as larder units as I find they can be heavy to open and difficult to access. I prefer individual pull-out shelving which allows items at the back to be easily reached. It can be a good idea to combine a couple of systems in a double tall larder press, creating a complete centralised storage solution. You could take this a step further by fitting back lighting, so that the back panel illuminates on opening. Internal fittings can add to the cost of a kitchen but make for a super organised space. Your options include plate racks, peg boards, pull-out spice racks, individual cutlery holders and saucepan dividers. Design cabinetry to suit how you use the kitchen, bearing in mind any awkward sized items that need to be stashed away. Magic corners incorporate two


tiers of shelving, at front and back. The front set is attached to the door. As you open the door, the front row pulls out and the back row pulls forward, providing access to all four shelves. Carousels feature two levels that spin around a centre bar. Whereas a Le Mans carousel has two kidney shaped tiers that manoeuvre out individually, they tend not to have the same storage capacity due to their shape. Reputable brands are worth investing in when it comes to smart solutions and inserts, they will stand the test of time and allow for changes as the family grows. Bins are another big part of internal storage fittings. A 500mm wide press can hold a full pullout bin system. When you’re prepping vegetables on the counter, you simply pull it open and dispose of everything directly into the correct bin. In our busy household, I prefer to split ours into two decent sized bins; a four bin system for composting, bin waste, glass and paper recycling is another option.

The appliance of science

The range of kitchen kit available is advancing in tandem with technological developments. All appliances are rated for water and energy efficiency; both should be taken into consideration before purchasing. Integrated appliances are concealed behind closed doors, giving a seamless minimalist finish to the kitchen. Semi-integrated usually means hidden behind doors but with the controls visible. Freestanding appliances sit in an open casing and can be taken with you, should you move house. My advice is to always compare capacity. American fridges are prized for their look but remember that they are usually freestanding, taking up a lot of space. And they usually don’t have a huge amount of room inside due to the ice making machine. „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home



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Interior design: kitchens

Smart appliances, meanwhile, are revolutionising our interaction with the kitchen, are more energy efficient and make our lives easier. That’s if you know how to work them – some have ‘smart’ features which are a trifle too novel to quench my scepticism just yet! Receiving a text from my fridge telling me the kids have left its door open for five minutes doesn’t have the same call to action as the very annoying beeps my current model emits. However, I do like the sound of the refrigerator with a built-in camera that allows you to see what’s in it whilst standing in the supermarket aisle. This canny piece of kit scans products as they go in, monitors expiry dates and even offers recipe suggestions based on the contents! Those conscious of weight loss might like the fridge that announces your daily calorie intake, or another that tells you when its filter needs changing, and handily emails your shopping list.

to reverse the blades each time you use it to ensure even wear.

Tapping into style

At a time when we are all more conscious of our domestic water consumption, fitting taps with aerators is a practical move. They provide more pressure and use less water. Some have LED lights with blue indicating cold water, purple warm and red hot. A fantastic innovation is the instant hot water tap which eliminates the need for a kettle. You can choose between a separate boiling water tap with accompanying mixer, or one through which you can get either hot, cold or boiling water. A child safety system is available and the tap sits on the worktop, with a tank underneath. Running costs are similar to those for a kettle.


Effective lighting is a must in kitchens, both for functionality and to create atmosphere, with mood lighting particularly important in open plan designs. Task lighting normally involves white lighting for food preparation and other activities where clarity is needed. Warmer ambient lighting promotes relaxation. If the kitchen is in a darker part of your home, you can create a feel of natural light by adding fluorescent or LED tubes over cupboards; the light will hit the ceiling which can be painted in light reflective paint. This will bounce the light around the room, providing indirect illumination. For a conversation point, suspend a light box from the ceiling.

Floor show

Barbara Egan Reportage www.reportage.ie


That sink-in feeling

The three popular sink finishes in ascending order of cost are stainless steel; ceramic and composite. Square corners can be difficult to clean and Belfast sinks tend to be deeper than normal and so harder on your back. My tip is to go for a minimum of a bowl and a half – this allows you have two sinks on the go for different tasks. Stainless steel can be cleaned with everything from scouring powder to steel pads, as can ceramic, but these last are subject to chipping and if your sink is in front of a window, check that you won’t be blinded by light bouncing off the metal. Composite have the wow factor but you need to take care sharp cutlery doesn’t do damage, nor are they suited to extensive use of cleaning products. Accessories include chopping boards that sit over sinks, providing extra space, and baskets to collect vegetable peelings. Mechanical food disposal units fitted under the sink with debris posted in down a ‘drain’ mean you can remove immediately strong smelling items such as fish skin. You must run the cold water tap at the same time and the motor is quite loud, remember

Flooring is an important decision; for both practicality and aesthetic appeal, it sets the tone of the space. Ceramic and porcelain tiles; linoleum, cork and cushioned varieties of these; polished concrete, engineered wood, vinyl and stone are among the covetable coverings. As well as selecting a material that ties in with the overall look of your kitchen and suits your budget, consider durability and ease of cleaning. Polished ceramic tiles can be very slippery when wet but they are excellent for reflecting light. Full bodied porcelain tiles are very durable but are hard to walk on, both of these are not forgiving if you drop plates or glass, unlike cork and linoleum which are great to walk on but the former does require maintenance. Wood floors look wonderful but are not waterproof.

Dress it up: windows and wall coverings

Soft furnishings are hugely important in an otherwise hard surfaced area. They add colour, drama, remove echoes and soften the whole room. Window dressings tend to be minimal, the traditional being a roller blind, but new technology is creating more choice and though only a small area, they can change the whole feel of a kitchen. Almost any fabric can be stiffened and made into a laminated roller or roman blind with remote control window treatments, or that tilt as the sun shines and even roof windows that close when it rains! Rugs are also a great way to add softness in the SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Interior design: kitchens

kitchen and to help zone the room, giving each area of the open plan living space an identity and function without walls. They are warm under foot and can make a great focal point under the dining table or in the seating area. Some words of warning: if they are under the dining table the chairs need to pull out on them or off them but not half and half. Think of upkeep too, a shaggy rug could become troublesome when cleaning out spills! They’re also useful for subduing noise around a table. A current trend for using wallpaper as a dramatic background or to replace art in the kitchen/living room is a great way of keeping the kitchen feeling fresh. There’s a huge choice, but digitally printed wall panels are at the heart of research, innovation and creation and though not to everyone’s taste, they are very impressive in their oversized patterns and incredible array of colours.


Our kitchen table is now our dining table, it has many uses and needs to go from day to night with relative simplicity. Tables can be made from everything from hand crafted recycled old boats carved from 100 year old trees to precision engineered designs made of sleek steel, glass and layers of lacquer. Free standing tables and chairs allow you to circulate easily and to move them or change their size for entertaining. Built in benches and tables are restrictive to sit at (everyone is the same distance from the table) and tend to be a lot less comfortable, but they are very economical of space, provide storage underneath and you will get a lot more people sitting on a bench than on chairs. Kitting out a kitchen with fixed elements is an expensive business so it’s worth assessing the priorities and investing in a few hardworking hero pieces such as an island or double pantry unit. As for those wow factor elements, the marketplace www.SelfBuild.ie

is flooded with desirable options from feature mantles to walk-in pantries, to fish tanks acting as dividing walls, removable glass fronted splash backs with a photograph behind which you can change at will, and more. Whether you go traditional or contemporary, the 2015 kitchen is hot property indeed. n

Divine Designs www.divinedesigns.ie

Gwen Kenny, Divine Design, Dublin 22 tel. 01 457 6236 www. divinedesign.ie Additional information Caroline Irvine Associates, Dun Laoghaire tel. 087 298 7401 www.carolineirvine.com

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Beam Vacuum & Ventilation (Vacuum & heat recovery ventilation systems) Magherafelt, Co Londonderry Tel: 7963 2424 www.beamcentralsystems.com Granaghan Fireplaces (Fireplaces & Stoves) Maghera, Co Londonderry Tel: 7940 1733 www.fireplacesni.com Hannaway Hilltown  (Kitchens)  Hilltown, Co Down Tel: 4063 0737 www.hannawaykitchens.com Homecare Systems Ltd (Ventilation & central vacuum systems) Donaghmore, Co Tyrone Tel: 87769111 www.homecaresystems.biz Ian A Kernohan Ltd (AGA) Conlig, Co Down, Tel: 91 270233 www.iakonline.com

In-House at the Panelling Centre (Kitchens, bedrooms, walls & floors, applicances) Santry, Dublin 9 Tel: 01 884 1111 www.in-house.ie Perfect Water Systems Ireland Ltd  (Water filters & testing)  Charleville, Co Cork Tel: 063 89290 www.perfectwater.ie Smeg (UK) Ltd  (Italian Home Appliance Manufacturer)  Abingdon, Oxfordshire Tel: 01235 828 308 www.smeguk.com Soaks Bathrooms (Bathrooms) Belfast, Co Antrim Tel: 9068 1121 www.soaksbathrooms.com The Spinning Wheel  (Curtains, Blinds & soft furnishings)  Belfast, Co Antrim Tel: 9032 6111 www.thecottonmill.com

ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

A body of water just adds to the gardening experience, be it a Belfast sink with a single water lily or a full-on deep pond with fish or fountains. In between lies a huge range of sizes, shapes and functions in water garden design

pondering a pond

Pondering a pond: the art of water gardening A

complete garden is a garden with water. Not only does it bring the finesse of reflection, the dynamics of movement and the experience of sound – even a still pool can attract and amplify the hum of bees or the hover of damson flies – it gifts a wide range of wildlife. It’s also a great way to expand your growing opportunities from edible and nutritious watercress to exquisitely flowering marginal irises.

Getting started

If your garden is incomplete and you intend to rectify that, there are a few things to think about first so hold off on digging a big hole just yet. Above all, consider health and safety – do you have young children or small dogs to which water may be a dangerous attraction? Several inches of water is enough to drown in so to avoid a tragedy make use of a surface grill or judicious fencing. In terms of personal safety, while digging the feature yourself is rewarding, enlisting a qualified electrician is essential if you wish to feature lights, pumps, filters, etc. Their location for maintenance is key, you want to lean rather than wade in to fix any issues. After these two essentials, all other considerations are down to style and function.

The big and small of it

First up is scale of endeavour, the size of your garden must inform your enthusiasm; have you the space to go grand or will you end up needing a raft to hang the washing out? Size is not just about design, it’s also about practicalities. The width and depth of your eventual feature sets one of the parameters for what will become your maintenance commitment level. Style type will affect that commitment, even wildlife ponds require weeding, algae removal and multi seasonal care. All worth it. All part of the gardening experience and not a chore when compared to the pleasure of having a pond – but it’s something to think about before you start. There’s a pond type to suit every garden and lifestyle, from a person who likes to have a garden www.SelfBuild.ie

but not garden as a pastime, or a gardener who wants to be actively participating. There are reservoir water features for balconies and patios that introduce sound, sound that displaces traffic noise and creates an oasis of tranquillity, there are small contemporary wall mounted water features and non-porous ceramic and glass containers too. I have an old galvanised water tank connected to a downpipe and filled with native yellow flag irises and it is home to slug-munching frogs most years, so there are no excuses to not have water in your garden. If you want the pond experience then the following sections will guide you through the process.

Water brings to a garden the finesse of reflection, the dynamics of movement and the experience of sound

Location, location, location

With scale and type based on a realistic assessment of what you can look after, next is position, which is key. Not just a view from the house or a hidden treasure to discover; where is the best location for a water feature? Placement can impact on the maintenance, for example, if too near deciduous trees leaf litter will appear to have a magnetic attraction to the water surface resulting in clogged filters and other equipment. Full sun encourages „


pondering a pond There’s a pond type to suit every garden and lifestyle

algal growth but full shade inhibits water lilies and restricts your palette of marginal planting. The best place is often down to what you want to plant in it, or if you prefer contemporary pools with no plants, then it’s just a case of where it shows itself to best advantage. Remember that formal pools can also be planted – water lilies work a treat and radiate serenity too. Some formal features can host fish and still remain elegant, but I’ll return to what you can populate water features with later.

Circle or square

If you have a formal garden then a formal geometric-shaped pond, (square, rectangle, circle, oval or semi-circle), will complement and enhance. Formals can be raised affairs or sunk to meet lawn level or paved edging. Rills (shallow channels) and founts are good for keeping water moving and creating a focal point. If your garden is eclectic (that’s polite for fussy or haphazard and describes the plots of most plant lovers and plant collectors), or wild or informal then a more natural, nongeometric shape will fit right in. Informal ponds tend to be more wildlife friendly because their planting extends beyond the body of the water into marshy zones and bog gardens providing cover for wildlife. Natural streams, pebble spills and rock/ slate waterfalls complement the scene and sense of this type of naturalistic feature.

How to construct a pond

With the site, style and shape selected, mark out with a rope or hose and chalk spray. Then, depending on the scale, put your back into it or


your bum into a mini digger. Dig a little deeper and wider than your desired size so you can pad the base and sides for extra protection against puncture. Once the hole is excavated and the shelves and sloping edges are rounded, you are ready to begin your first layer. First of all have a good trample to hammer down any stones, removing sharp edged ones as you go, before lining the hole with soft, conforming material (there are commercial felts and bubblewrap-like sub-liners but salvaged materials like paper, damp cardboard, old carpet or fleece will also do the trick), forming a cushion layer to protect the pond liner. I like to add sand on top of this layer for more padding and especially to help shape slopes and shelves. Now you are ready for your liner. To find the size required the golden rule is to run a measuring tape down the sides, over the contours and add an extra metre for good measure. More is always better than less, the excess can be trimmed back and folds made to create bog garden barriers. If you are in any way unsure there are many online calculators that will help you find pond volume and required liner size. While you can make bog gardens from silage plastic or tarpaulin, when it comes to pond liner, the butyl rubber type will last up to and sometimes beyond 50 years. Size calculated and liner purchased, unfold the liner over the hole and allow it to breathe a while (and warm up in the sun – makes it more malleable), before attempting to shape it around the contours of the pond. When it comes to shaping, patience is the virtue; be gentle, don’t drag it around too much, think ‘draping’ rather than „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

pondering a pond

stretching over. This is not upholstery – tautness will come later. As you find corners and shelves you may start to make folds and pleats using black vinyl duct tape to fix down or go old school with some bricks wrapped in fabric to hold in place until the pressure of the water fill pushes everything down securely. Once the liner is shaped and conforms to the pond’s contours, begin to fill. Do it slowly, that way you can make any taught adjustments and smooth everything as you go. Don’t cut the excess liner edges until the pond is full because there can be slight subsidence and pulls on the liner as the weight of the water mounts. That extra metre all round will feel like a godsend! If you wish to layer the bottom of your pond with soil pockets for plants, mud for frogs and wildlife or shale/gravel for a visual effect you can do that before you fill. The water will murk up anyway but less so this way – it is more expedient too when you add pumps and filters to not have clogging material unsettled in the water (see below). To finish the choice is between brick or stone. Remove some sod or soil and fold the trimmed back liner under and then replace and plant up on top, or you may keep the excess to use as part of a marshy area for blurring the edges with naturalist planting. More than likely you are filling from the tap so the pond will go green at first but then will find a balance (see water quality below), after about three weeks. Don’t add any plants or fish until then and run pumps or filters for a few days after that.

Tips for water quality

Water quality is not only important for the health of your fish or pond life but also for the plants within it, both the ornamental and potential weeds, and thus your maintenance commitments. Healthy water means healthy fish; murk, algae infested, the run off from nutrients and lawn fertilizer etc. all make for poor water conditions which will stress or even kill fish and pond life. Go green on lawn care and refrain from spraying anything near the pond, also remove fallen leaves and other debris regularly. You can get kits to check for ammonia and nitrite levels (a good idea if you host fish,) but pH is also important as both ammonia and nitrate become more toxic to pond life in higher pH ranges. The ideal range is 7.0 to 7.8. but pH levels between 6.6 to 8.4 are safe and suitable. A good filter keeps the balance right without needing to resort to chemical intervention whilst the correct ratio of fish and healthy plants all help regulate pH and nutrient levels. Topping up fallen levels in summer, straight from the hose, can alter the level of toxins and pH so let the tap water sit for a day before adding. Rain barrels and downpipe containers can host nutrients from gutter debris and some diseases so exercise some caution and slow increments there too. If the algae ‘blooms’ then some straw in a hessian sack or upcycled pair of tights will absorb the extra nutrients and diminish proliferation.

Selecting and using pumps and filters A pump is often employed to create a water feature – a stylized cascade, natural waterfall or fountain – but it also helps maintain the health of your pond and resident fish by continually recirculating and aerating the water. Pumps also are essential if you want to operate ultra violet (UV) clarifiers and filter systems to further maintain healthy water PH, lessen bacterial and algae manifestations. Pumps fall into three distinct categories: Pond filter or solid handling pumps remove debris by pumping it to a pond filter system. They can circulate the pond volume through the filter at least once every 2-4 hours and run continuously. A pond fountain pump does no filtration, it just recirculates to a fountain or waterfall. Filters can be attached to prevent jamming up from leaf litter or other pond debris. Ornament pumps often take the form of a fountain or water bubble mechanism – more for small bodies of water or added decoration. Some ponds can run all three devices.


The pump capacity required will depend on how big your pond is as pumps are sized by volume, not pressure or volts. So remember to accurately record measurements when constructing the pond. To work out the volume of water in your pond (or what the guy in the pond filter store will call its ‘cubic capacity’) simply multiply the pond’s width x length x depth. To get the latter just stick a dry stick into the deep part and measure the wet length, in either feet or metres, just remember which when you’re ordering the pump. Most brands and systems require to be wired up to your house mains with garden circuit breakers etc., so a qualified electrician using armoured cable is essential, but there are solar „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

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pondering a pond Boulders of local stone give this pond a very natural look Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill Photographic www.scenicireland.com

options with good capacity too. For smaller ponds the solar option or what’s often called an All In One Pump (pump with built-in biological filter and UV clarifier), is a perfect choice. The larger the pond the greater the breadth of accessories, but moving water is a filtration and aeration mechanism in its own right and if you have a cascade it will do most of the work. Filters and clarifiers are great additions but not always required, for example if you have no fish or it’s a wild pond. If you intend to go all out with fish, fountains, lights and all the trimmings, then I would advise you to create a system with separate pumps for water works and filtration systems so you can switch off the fountains and waterfalls without stopping the filter. Above all, always consult the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and secondly, it’s worth paying a qualified electrician to give it the all clear or, even better, do it all for you.

So to the Filters, of which there are four main categories: Internal filters or the all-in-one/easy-to-install units (contain pump, filter and often a clarifier). Great for small ponds but in larger ones their recirculation ability can be underwhelming. External pressurised filters are often built into a waterfall or disguised by rocks. These are located in land adjacent to the pond with water pumped to the box for filtering and sent back under pressure. Note the word ‘pressure’ – they may not be suitable if you keep water lilies or fish that don’t like currents, e.g. large fish or koi carp. In such situations you may opt for an external pump-fed filter where the water is returned not by pressure but by gravity, via a cascade or overflow tube.


External gravity-fed filters are not unlike a sump where water seeps in by gravity but is returned under motorised pressure, they often come with fountain or waterfall systems. Ultra violet clarifiers or UVCs are filter boxes that power UV light to stop algae proliferation (or, more accurately, to cause flocculation), making the algae clump so you can remove it manually more easily. Some mechanisms have these included but they are also available as stand-alone units. I will look at some biological controls of algae in the next issue. In the second part of this article I will explain which plants and fish are best for a variety of locations and types. n Fiann Ó Nualláin, Dublin www.theholisticgardener.com

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Golden Gates (Traditional cast iron gates)  Bray, Co Wicklow Tel: 01 286 2495 www.goldengates.ie Roofblock (Masonry roof overhang) Newtownards, Co Down Tel: 9181 8285 www.roofblock.co.uk ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0) SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Garage design According to the UK automotive services company RAC, up to 50% of domestic garages are no longer used to park cars in. The other 50% are either a store for overspill from the house, Christmas decorations, bikes, DIY tools, gardening equipment and of course junk, or a makeshift utility, kidsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; playroom or freezing cold gym!


f increasingly weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not parking our cars in the garage, do we need to change the way we approach their design? Just as we are revising house design to allow for reuse and adaptability to allow for changing lifestyles, ownership and personal circumstances, should this not also apply to the garage?

Attached or detached? More photographs available at


If correctly designed, detached and attached garages can be built in both rural and suburban

settings. However, with larger sites more common in rural areas where space is not at such a premium, detached is usually the preferred option, especially if used to house a workshop or, say, shelter a boat. Historically, attached garages have often appeared like an afterthought, tacked on to the side of a house or unsympathetically integrated into the overall design. This is especially true in small suburban houses, where it can be difficult to integrate a larger garage into the form and aesthetic of the existing house. When successful,

Wilson McMullen Architects, Portrush

Future Proofing

garage design

they become an integral part of the design, as in the example below, where the hardwood used on the front door was replicated by the hardwood hinged garage doors.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus put his finger on it when he said, ‘nothing is permanent but change’, and this applies just as much to the garage as to the main house. Taking some simple steps at an early stage in the design phase will enable you to use the space differently as circumstances change. Doing so will save you significant costs (and time), associated with later conversion or re-use as the garage is often the first port of call to gaining more space within the home.

When building an attached garage: • Build cavity walls instead of a single skin with piers, the additional cost is not significant. The main advantage is it will give you a wind and watertight construction that can easily be insulated with pumped foam or beads at a later date. • Think through the level difference between the garage and house floors to ensure you have enough depth to easily accommodate a damp proof course, rigid insulation and a screed at a later date. The means that floor levels can be matched and existing floor spaces more easily integrated. • Consider future layouts and how these may connect with the garage space. For example, building in a door lintel in the right location to be accessed from an existing hallway that could be broken through later to create access to the garage when it is converted into a bedroom or snug space. • Heating and plumbing. Leave a spare / unconnected heating loop from the boiler or alternatively leave radiator tails within the garage, so that the heating system can be easily and cost effectively extended into the new space. „

Design statement Garage door www. rundumgaragedoors.co.uk

The principle role of the garage must guide its form and location; if part utility then it needs to be close to the house, a noisy workshop is better at a distance. A detached garage is simpler to design for that very reason, you are also less constricted by size, layout, approach and aesthetic. Additionally, a detached garage can be expanded more readily and it is less likely to be restricted by existing structures or boundaries. The disadvantages of a detached garage are generally the advantages of an attached one, principally convenience! The ability to access your garage from the comfort of your own home, regardless of its actual use, and without having to negotiate the weather, is a notable advantage. Two further plus points are that it utilises the existing external walls of the house which can reduce construction costs, and it also aids heat retention within the home by acting as a buffer between inside and outside. Attached garages also provide easy access to services, electricity and heat if desired, and can be more readily converted into usable floor space within the home, at a later stage. The jury is still out on which is better for security. An integral garage can be less secure (e.g. left open or not locked), and thus provide simple access for burglars into the main house through the internal door; leaving it open is even more likely when it is remote and therefore at risk of the contents being stolen.


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garage design

• Locate windows and openings with some consideration of future layouts. • Leave as much open space as possible. This will ensure an easily converted and reconfigured area in the future. If you wish to divide the garage space, do so with stud partitioning rather than masonry, where possible. • If the garage is part of a new build house and space is constructed above it, consider using open web joists. This will allow for a much easier retrofit of services, ductwork, electrics etc. when the space is reconfigured.


Often overlooked, carports can be an attractive addition to a house or garage when thoughtfully designed. They can be a separate space in their own right or act as a buffer between the garage and the house. In our climate they are useful to provide shelter from the elements while moving between car, garage and house – or even a barbecue if the weather turns poor.

Size, layout and connecting rooms

If you are building an attached garage, the overall depth and width are likely to be restricted either by the gable depth of the house, or by the size of the plot or aesthetic of the house. Typically a single garage is around 3m x 6m internally to allow for parking the car comfortably without banging or damaging doors and so that garage doors can open and close without scraping your bonnet. A double garage is typically 5.5m to 6m x 6m internally. If you think you may wish to convert the garage to habitable space in the future, this will have a bearing on where it is attached, e.g. off a back hall or circulation space. As a garage with storage then adjacent to the kitchen or utility is more appropriate. An aspect of garage location often overlooked is over shadowing. Garages tend to be quite large www.SelfBuild.ie

structures so look at where the sun rises and sets in your garden and what spaces will potentially become shaded. Areas like existing external terraces or garden spaces and any internal spaces that may be affected from a loss of sunlight / daylight. Try at the outset to zone the space for use, e.g. a section for long term storage such as Christmas decorations, short term everyday storage such as bikes etc. and separating garden, car or diy storage for paints, thinners, oil etc. that tend to be messy or greasy. There are many storage systems available that can be thoughtfully integrated into the design.

Grill House, Antrim www.wilsonmcmullen.com

Planning permission and Building Control approval

The rules regarding constructing a garage in NI and ROI are similar. In NI, Planning permission is not required for a detached garage or car port „


garage design Up and over garage doors by Hormann from www.haldane-fisher.com


provided that certain criteria are met (note that measurements for new build garages are calculated using external measurements, not internal finished floor levels). They are: The garage is to be used for domestic purposes only, materials are to match the existing house, the size (footprint) of the garage / car port is not more than half the total area of the property, is under 4m in height, and no part of the garage is in front of the principal or side elevation of the original house that faces onto a road. There are other constraints applied if the garage is associated with a listed building, within a conservation area and is to be built close to your boundary, such as a maximum eaves height of 2.5m if it is within 2m of the property boundary. In ROI detached garages under 25sqm, that remain set back from the front elevation, utilise matching materials to the existing house, do not reduce the available garden space to below 25sqm, have a maximum ridge height of 4m if a pitched

roof and 3m if any other type of roof e.g. flat roof, and are for domestic purposes only, do not require planning permission. In both NI & ROI, if the garage is to be placed on or near the boundary of the property or is associated with a listed building/ conservation area, independent planning advice should be sought. In NI, a garage which is attached to the house will be treated as an extension for which a different set of rules apply, see permitted development rights on the planning NI website. In ROI planning permission will be required for an attached garage and in both NI and ROI, converting a garage into another use, e.g. games room, home office etc., requires planning permission. Building control in NI will not be involved if the detached garage is under 30sqm (footprint including external walls), substantially built from non-combustible materials e.g. masonry construction and more than 1m from a boundary. Larger garages and attached garages require

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

garage design

building control approval and are subject to a plan and inspection fee. In ROI since the implementation of new responsibilities for homeowners under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013 which came into effect in March 2014 for homeowners, a garage now requires the appointment of a competent and certified designer, a project supervisor for the pre-construction and construction phases of the project, requirement to keep a relevant health and safety file in relation to the work being carried out and to let the Health and Safety Authority know if the project is going to take longer than 30 days or more than 500 person days (number of days the work takes multiplied by the number of people doing the work).

Bespoke timber clad side sliding garage door by www.rundumgaragedoors.co.uk

Specification Garage design

For garage doors there are many innovative manual and motorised systems available in differing configurations and materials, whether it is a standard aluminium roller shutter door, a twin wall insulated sectional door, sliding panel door or a hardwood hinged door, and, at the top end, bespoke framed doors clad in a material to blend in with your house.

Heating options

Understandably, because of the reduced insulation, building control in NI and ROI are not overly enthusiastic about heating a garage. The options are to use your existing heating system and zone Â&#x201E; www.SelfBuild.ie

Overlap trackless sectional garage door by Hormann from Haldane-Fisher www.haldane-fisher.com


garage design

Spreading floor screed

this on its own thermostat, or use independent electric thermostatically controlled radiators or even portable air heaters.


For future proofing it’s best to use a window of a similar standard to the house ones. If that is too expensive, an alternative is to use a colour matched uPVC system for the garage windows.

Floor finishes

Most garage floors are concrete with a basic dust sealer. A more robust and durable finish is possible with a penetrating garage floor sealer, there are also decorative and non-slip options with epoxy, acrylic and polyurethane sealants. Some can be rolled or painted on, others require professional help. In all situations, preparation of concrete surfaces is key.

Sound proofing

A garage is an ideal spot for budding pop stars to hone their skills and here some sound proofing is a good investment. Independent stud walls and ceilings on resilient bars is usually the most effective

method and there are many systems available from DIY to professional recording studio fit-out. That said, the weakest point acoustically is the garage door so the first step is to buy an insulated one. In the next article we will be looking at garage conversions n Ben Wilson, Wilson McMullen Architects, Portrush, Co Antrim BT56 8HL www.wilsonmcmullen.com tel. 7082 5865 More info Hardwood and glass, curved timber clad: www.rumdumgaragedoors.co.uk Contemporary garage: www.ecospacestudios.com Planning www.planningni.gov.uk Hormann (garage doors) tel. 01530 513000 Garage Doors: Hormann Tel: 01530 513000 www.hormann.co.uk

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. CES Quarry Products Ltd (Liquid screed) Saintfield, Co Down Tel: 028 9751 9494 www.cesquarryproducts.com Fast Floor Screed Ltd (Liquid screed, self smoothing screed)  Enfield, Co Kildare Mobile: 087 253 6688 www.fastfloorscreed.ie Garage Doors Systems (Made-to-measure garage doors)  Ballymena, Co Antrim Tel: 2565 5555 www.garagedoorsystems.co.uk GMS Insulation Ltd  (Spray Foam Insulation)  Moyne, Co Longford Tel: 049 433 5057 www.icynene.ie

Kingspan Insulation Ltd (Insulation Panels) Castleblayney, Co Monaghan Tel: 042 979 5000 www.kingspaninsulation.ie Moy Isover ltd  (Insulation)  Dublin 22 Tel: 01 629 8400 www.isover.ie Nordan Residential  (Timber & aluminium clad timber windows & doors)  Kells, Co Meath Tel: 01 450 1111 www.nordan.ie

RTU (Ultraflo screed, Exposa decorative concrete) Newtownabbey, Co Antrim Tel: 9085 1441 www.rtu.co.uk Schneider Electric Ireland Ltd (Electrical components) Maynooth, Co Kildare Tel: 01 601 2200 www.schneider-electric.com Tilt A Dor (Insulated Garage Doors) Newtownards, Co Down Tel: 9181 5337 www.tilt-a-dor.co.uk U Value Spray Foam  (spray foam insulation)  Bray, Co Wicklow Mobile: 086 869 0234 www.uvaluesprayfoam.ie

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It just so happened that a friend of mine had recently got work done on her house that I really liked, and I asked her for the design-build contractorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s details.


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

case study

Love at first site They say love hits you like a brick; for Jane Buckley and Brian O’Regan of Co Cork it literally did!


he story begins when Jane, living with her young daughter, bought a house in 2009. “Despite it being only seven years old, I knew it needed work,” she says. “It was a bit small and the kitchen was dark and dreary.” The family who sold her the two-storey, three bedroom house had decided to trade up instead of renovating. The building should have complied with the 2002 building regulations relating to the conservation of fuel and energy (Part L), which had just come into force when the house was being built, but according to design-build contractor Brian O’Regan it’s more likely that it was built to the 1997 regulations, as he says was common practice that year. “For the walls the maximum U-value applicable in 1997 was 0.45 W/sqmK, in 2002 it was brought down to 0.27W/sqmK. That’s a big difference in terms of heat loss,” he says. The current requirement (2011 edition) is 0.21 W/ sqmK. “The double glazed windows which were installed in 2002 with a uPVC frame probably only achieved an overall U-Value of 3.1 W/sqmK; the average nowadays is half that,” continues Brian. “But the draughts from and around the windows were mostly due to perishing seals leading to cavity condensation, and to screwed corner construction, which resulted in splitting at the joints due to thermal stress.”

Meeting of minds

“I wasn’t sure how to go about sprucing up the place, whether we should extend the kitchen or add another room,” explains Jane. “It just so happened that a friend of mine had recently got work done on her house that I really liked, and I asked her for the design-build contractor’s details.“ This is when she first met Brian. “He had brilliant ideas,” she says. “His solution was to enlarge the kitchen and reconfigure it, adding extra living space in the form of a highly glazed extension. The sitting room we were using at the time was dark and located at the front of the house so it made sense to project out onto the garden to avail of the sun.” “The upper storey windows limited the potential height of a traditional pitched extension,” adds Brian. “Therefore a mono-pitch rising away from the existing building provided the opportunity to install floor to ceiling glazing, which allowed us to maximise the solar gains coming from the www.SelfBuild.ie

south and west orientations. We also upgraded the windows in the existing house to triple glazed.” In the kitchen, the window above the sink was brought down to the ground and the work surfaces moved to face away from the garden. Additional countertops were added at an angle to the original, against the party wall. “My favourite change is the curved wall, which links the new and old worktops, I think it really changed the whole feel of the kitchen,” says Jane. Brian also suggested getting rid of the bar and under counter corner units as Jane rarely made use of them. The overhead presses were replaced with a double cupboard unit that encases the oven. “There’s a bit of shelving too but the main thing is that we have nothing overhead,” adds Jane. “It feels so much more airy.” The colour scheme, meanwhile, took some time to figure out. “We first tried green and blue, and then three or four shades of orange,” recalls Brian. “I painted parts of the wall for her to see the effect and Jane chose the colour we still have today. It’s bright and cheerful.”

Bedrock of a relationship

The first step was to dig the foundations, and digging they did! “There were no grounds,” says Brian. “There was no end to the black bog sediment we found.” In the end they went down 6.5ft below ground level, which required raft foundations. Brian jokes that they nearly could have put a basement in, although that comes with its own set of challenges – and associated costs. Unfortunately with such a large hole in the ground, Jane’s dogs didn’t fail to fall in and get caught in the cement! “We had to wash them in the bathtub upstairs,” an experience Brian hasn’t forgotten!. Brian’s extended family were also involved, with his father and cousin in charge of most of the building and finishing work. Inside there’s 100mm offset between the house and extension which was dealt with by the introduction of a step. Outside the garden level was brought up one foot and the extension down two feet so the two would meet. Indeed, for the dogs it was important to have a continuous floor level between inside and out so a hidden gulley was built: a concrete slab with a good fall was poured underground and a 100mm opening cast; at ground level a 7mm gap was left for the water to pour into with gravel covering the whole lot. Landscaping, which is more often than not an afterthought, was central to the project, from the „

More photographs available at



case study The extension is narrow on the kitchen side and widens up as it reaches the garden


fencing to the garden furniture. “Instead of kerbing or concrete we chose a stainless steel border,” says Brian. “It was my first time using it and I think the extra cost was worth it, there’s no maintenance and it gives a nice clean line.” “What I may not necessarily rush to do again is use natural stone for the patio! We used Kilkenny limestone and the thickness varied from 25mm to 18mm so we first started by re-grading each of the slabs. We then poured a one inch bed under each one but there were still some discrepancies so a lot

of time was spent making sure they were level. We fixed them into place with an acrylic tile adhesive as it’s not prone to frost.” It was important for Jane to be able to remain in the house and, somehow, the work went on around her and she was never without a kitchen.

Warming up

“The heating system is oil based and we decided to zone it,” says Jane. “There’s a timer for upstairs and one for downstairs, the hot water is controlled separately. We put in underfloor heating in the extension to avoid radiators taking up precious wall space. Although we did install vertical ones because I really like the look of them!” “We now only use a tank and a half of oil per year as opposed to three before we extended,” continues Jane. “A lot was gained by insulating the attic and its access hatch,” adds Brian. Indeed, 300mm mineral wool insulation replaced the 100mm insulation that was there, although this meant losing storage space. “Because of the increased floor height we keep banging our head when we go up there!” Work was also undertaken in the main bathroom upstairs. “It was very dated,” reminisces Jane. “It also didn’t work as a functioning bathroom. We had to put in a new bath and new shower.” The electric shower was replaced with a pumped shower fed from the hot water cylinder. “It does make a massive difference,” says Brian. “The downside is that it’s noisy but it’s worth the inconvenience!” They also insulated the hot water cylinder and increased its size. „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


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As for the ‘living fire’ element, Brian urged Jane to opt for a gas fire in the extension. “I don’t really like the look of solid fuel alternatives, they also require a large vent pipe which would have been visible both inside and outside the building unless we had built a chimney,” he says. Gas flues are more compact and positioned on the gable end, not the roof. And as there is no heat associated with it, can more readily be concealed internally behind the wall. “The fire will heat the kitchen if we leave the door open; it takes about 15 minutes to get going and then it gets too hot! So we switch it on and off,“ adds Brian. “I admit it is an expensive way of heating the space but I so much prefer how it looks I think it’s worth it.” The glass panes, meanwhile, came in standard sizes and were installed by the supplier. “The triple glazed panels arrived with a proprietary airtightness tape and that made them so much easier to install, providing continuity with the walls „ www.SelfBuild.ie

Jane was in charge of the interior design


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and ceiling,” he says. He adds that it’s essential to invest in the building envelope. “I would advise people not to skimp on the main elements of the build, including insulation and roof finish as well as windows and doors. Choose the best system available, look at the bigger picture when it comes to energy rating, security, after sales service and guarantee. Windows and doors are an integral part of a building and you don’t want to be changing them in 10 to15 years; choose wisely and you will have them for life! Also visit showrooms – for us seeing the real thing really made the decision process much easier.” They went for a factory paint timber finish which only needs repainting every 10 years.

parameters of planning for exempt development, as we also built a shed” added Jane, “truthfully we had little choice but to go for this size. In fact once the project was finished, one of the neighbours went to the council to say we weren’t allowed to build, but we were as it was under 40sqm and doesn’t „

Cementing the bond

While Jane and Brian got on well during the build, it wasn’t until they met again at a party a year later, that their relationship really took off – and resulted in a wedding! With the builder now her husband, asking Jane what she would change, five years after completion of the build, was a leading question! “I love every element of it but I would now perhaps go a little bit bigger, maybe add a foot. We really spend all of our time in the extension and with the family expanding some extra space would be a bonus.” “That’s the first I’ve heard of it!,” exclaimed Brian. “I admit we had to keep within the www.SelfBuild.ie


case study Brian built the shed as an experiment

overlook anyone.” As a family home this house has got everything, with both Jane and Brian having made it their own. He’s spent a lot of time in the garden, among other things planting copper beech trees alongside the fence. “The colour of the leaves is really beautiful,” he says. “I also had fun building the shed, it was a bit of an experiment. I erected a single leaf block wall, upturned the damp proof membrane a foot, poured the floor and plasterboarded above. And despite what you might think there are no humidity problems at all.” As for Jane, her eye for colour has made the extension feel warm and cosy, with a Turkish patchwork rug tying the scheme together. Together Brian and Jane have also made this the home in which they had three children, and as can be expected, space is now at a premium. “We’ve just had our fourth child so we’re thinking of what to do,” ponders Jane. “We’ll probably need to move, which will be difficult, the house represents so much and we have invested such a lot of ourselves in it.” But as with most decisions relating to building and extending, family demands naturally dictate the next move… How about a self-build? n

Plot size: 300 sqm House size before: 1,200 sqm Extension size: 23 sqm Build cost: extension €43,000; existing house upgrades to heating system and kitchen €13,000; gardening, patio and shed €6,000  

Build spec

Walls: inside cavity: aerated blocks, external blocks: standard and laid on edge. 150mm cavity filled with expanding phenolic foam. 100mm polyurethane backed plasterboard. U-value 0.07W/sqmK Roof: cold roof, 150mm mineral wool between joists, counter-battened with 150mm more. U-value 0.12 W/sqmK Floor buildup: 250mm concrete structural floor slab, 120mm PIR floor insulation, 75mm finished floor including 18-25mm Kilkenny limestone, U-value 0.15W/sqmK Window & doors: triple glazed timber windows factory painted with water based microporous paint, overall average U-Value 0.92 W/sqmK. Astrid Madsen

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Design & build contractor O.R.Construction, Kinsale, Co Cork, tel. 021 4774618, www.or-construction.com Main contractor Bernard O’Regan and Martin O’Regan, O’ Regan and Sons Contractors, Kinsale, Co Cork, tel. 021 4774484 Kilkenny limestone and decorative gravel O’Connell Stone, Ovens, Co Cork, tel. 021 7432906, www.oconnellstone.com Electrician Pat O’Regan, Kinsale, Co Cork, mob 086 825 9755

Heating & plumbing contractor Nick O’Regan, Kinsale, Co Cork, mob 087294 6716, email nickyoregan@gmail.com Energy consultants Anthony Hayes MRIAI, mobile 087 7607485 and Marc O’Riain, mobile 087 610 4990 Builder’s merchants Bandon Co-Op (Arro), Kinsale, Co Cork, tel. 021 477 4080, www.bandoncoop.ie, and Cork Builders’ Providers, Togher, Co Cork, tel. 021 4961 700, www.corkbp.ie

Windows Senator Windows, Cahir, Co Tipperary, tel. 052 7462111, www.senatortimber.ie Kitchen Express Kitchens, Cork, tel. 021 422 8800, ww.expresskitchens.net Cement & concrete Keohane Readymix, Innishannon, Co Cork, tel. 021 4775599, www.keohanereadymix.ie

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SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


Window dressing What happens when you love where you live but yearn for a different style of home? Janet and Stephen Montgomery of Co Antrim adopted a contemporary makeover.


More photographs available at


wo years after they married in 1990 Janet and Stephen bought a recently built bungalow. Situated in a desirable residential area, it was also tucked into a quiet, leafy lane. “We loved the house from the first moment we saw it,” says Janet. “Not only was it fabulous in itself, and situated in a beautiful area, it was also close to the M2 and the International Airport. Since we also own a property in Portugal and spend a lot of time there, the house’s

proximity to both motorway and airport was ideal.” With four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a large living room, there was plenty of space for everyone. However, by the time the children had become teenagers, they felt it was time to move on. “We wanted to live in an environment that was brighter and calmer,’ says Janet. “At the front of the property what we were looking for was a layout that gave us a better flow throughout the house and improved the lighting too,” adds Stephen.

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Location location

Initially, the couple looked at other properties in the neighbourhood but were unimpressed by what they saw. “Unfortunately, country living isn’t always idyllic – every house we viewed had been burgled at some point! Since Stephen’s job used to require that he travel a lot, he was often away and that was a factor in our decision making,” explains Janet. After a lot of house hunting and much soul searching, the couple ultimately decided to stay put and invest in their existing property. “It was a case of our not being able to find a suitable alternative,” adds Janet. “Instead we simply decided to change the scenery, inside and out! After all, we were very happy in this lovely area with great neighbours, so it seemed like the perfect solution.” “Stephen and I have always favoured a mix of old and new,” Janet continues, “and this was our primary aim for the design. Although our bungalow had been ‘modern’ in 1980, it was now looking its age, so updating was a priority.” „


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case study

“There was a similar bungalow nearby; the owners had completely transformed it through the use of wood and chrome, steel and glass. Stephen and I loved it! It was exactly how we wanted ours to look and we decided to do something very similar, but not a direct copy.” Once the couple had made the decision to alter the appearance of their bungalow – and to add a little extra space – they looked for an architect who would understand exactly what they needed.

Regulations (N.I.) 2000 which were applicable at the time. Both the planners and Building Control dealt with this project as a porch extension. Tender drawings, along with a detailed descriptive pricing schedule, were issued to contractors, but when the quotations came back it was time for a re-think. They were far in excess of what the couple wanted to spend… „

The refurbishment of the bungalow involved creating a spacious porch and widening the existing bay window into a larger, more open area, thereby extending the living room.


They soon found a designer whose work they liked and he duly produced the style they had in mind for their house. He worked closely with a chartered architectural technologist who was then engaged to provide the detailed working drawings and tender documents. To achieve the light-filled ultra-modern look they wanted, the refurbishment of the bungalow involved creating a spacious porch and widening the existing bay window into a larger, more open area, thereby extending the living room. New windows throughout and a new balcony at the rear were also retrofitted while the surrounding garden underwent a major transformation to provide the change of scenery they had been looking for . The planning application was granted approval in March 2008 and the detailed plans were assessed and passed by Building Control under the Building www.SelfBuild.ie


case study ?????????????

Devil is in the detail

glazing, a lot of effort was put into its sourcing. “The architect helped us a lot, especially with the choice of windows,” says Janet. “Although the aluminium was dearer than uPVC, it will last longer. We also loved the fact that they weren’t a ‘traditional’ colour, but rather a shade of blue, which worked well with the brick. I think the glazed elements made the biggest change, they really altered the whole look of the house.” “The only window we didn’t replace was the one in the bathroom. Had we done so, we would have had to retile so we simply left it as it was and painted the old window frame the same colour as the new ones.” With so much glazing, the extension had to be made of steel posts and beams. A structural engineer was therefore brought on board to size the steelwork and provide structural calculations necessary for Building Control approval.

hands of a professional.” The architectural technologist took on the role of project manager, making regular site inspections throughout the construction phase. Stephen and Janet consider this one of the best moves they made during the process. “Not only did it ensure we had an expert on site,” Stephen says, “it also meant that as stages of the project were signed off we would then pay that particular tranche of the money to the contractor. It all went like clockwork.” “You should always employ the services of reputable professionals to guide you through and manage the various stages of your project,” he adds. “This will help ensure you end up with a value-for-money, quality building and that your statutory obligations are fulfilled.”

“There’s a relatively small area of masonry walling in the extension and this was clad in Western Red Cedar boards, which was just enough to give us the mix of wood, glass and chrome that we love,” adds Janet. “Our architect designed the extension with a flat roof, which contrasted very nicely with the existing pitch of the house, while the overhanging eaves on the extension roof were finished with a zinc cladding system to create an elegant fascia and soffit detail.” Double-glazed roof lights were strategically placed to augment the amount of natural light in the extension but also to transfer it into the existing lounge via a panel of new glass blocks built into the interior wall. In terms of heating, the existing oil-fired central heating system was upgraded to take the load of the new floor-to-ceiling vertical radiators in the extension. “They’re minimalist, but enough to adequately heat the full space,” says Janet. „

“When the quotations came in from the first round of tendering, the best price was around £177,000,” says Stephen. “This was more than we wanted to spend so we went back to the drawing board – literally – and removed some of our planned works to bring the cost down. We reduced the extent of the external works and removed the internal finishing from the contract. Following a bill of reductions, the best price in the second round was £138,000. We accepted this tender and the wheels were set in motion.” “By this time, Stephen had joined me in the family business,” says Janet. “We were both extremely busy and knew we couldn’t be on site regularly enough to keep an eye on things. We were also mindful of the fact that we had no experience in building, so we decided to leave this work in the

With so much glazing, the extension had to be made of steel posts and beams.

Amazing glazing

Considering the new build consists mostly of


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

The architectural technologist took on the role of project manager, making regular site inspections throughout the construction phase. Stephen and Janet consider this one of the best moves they made during the process.

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Bringing up the rear

To provide a harmonious finish, the back of the house had to be sympathetic to the new style showcased at the front. A new balcony was built and its support structure clad in the same Western Red Cedar ship lap boards as the extension. The cedar was then capped off and weathered with a coping fabricated from a zinc sheet, echoing the porch’s roof eaves detail. Again reflecting the Montgomery’s love of mixing the old with the new, the balustrading of the balcony comprises toughened glass panels topped with rebated satin stainless steel handrails. The views are pretty spectacular too, looking, as they do, over the rolling County Antrim countryside. “The bedroom window,” says Janet, “had been a sliding patio-type door guarded by a railing, and we simply replaced it with an aluminium door (with side lights) leading out onto the new balcony. To be honest, we don’t use this outdoor space all that much but it is a very aesthetically pleasing addition inside and out, as it allows us to better enjoy these fantastic views.” „ www.SelfBuild.ie

The balustrading of the balcony comprises toughened glass panels topped with rebated satin stainless steel handrails.


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“They really did take care to ensure that there was as little disruption as possible to us and to our mains services. The only problem that we actually experienced was when Stephen’s phone line for the business was cut off, but, considering the amount of work that was done, that was pretty miraculous!”

Forward thinking

Four intermediate circular stone pillars were built in a random pattern to complement the boundary and party walls.

Hot on the landscape

With both Stephen and Janet now working in the family business, their free time is very precious and they felt that looking after their garden was taking up too much of it so they decided to invest in a low-maintenance solution. With memories of all the burgled houses fresh in their memory, they also chose to install automatic gates. These were purpose made with a sturdy steel frame core and clad with the same Western Red Cedar boards used on the front façade of the extension. The work began by removing all of the planting, trees and roots along the side boundaries of the bungalow, apart from the existing mature ones in the front garden, the mature silver birch trees in the rear eastern corner and the existing Castlewellan Gold hedge along the South Western boundary. The ground was then excavated and foundations were laid for 1m (3.3ft), 1.35m (4.4ft) and 1.80m (5.9ft) high solid stone and blockwork boundary and party walls. Four intermediate circular stone pillars were built in a random pattern to complement the boundary and party walls. The approach to the house was improved by lifting the concrete kerbing and 40 linear metres of hydraulically pressed kerbing with exposed granite aggregate were put in its place. Amazingly, despite the fact that both the interior and exterior of the bungalow underwent considerable updating and extending, Stephen, Janet and their family remained on site during the four-month contract period. “The builders were very good,” says Janet.

Since this major overhaul in 2009, the couple have gone on to refurbish their bathroom but they can still see plenty of potential in their dream home. “There are still a lot of things we would have liked to have done at the time but we simply didn’t have the money then,” ponders Janet. “We would, for example, have plastered the brickwork at the sides of the house and upgraded both the kitchen and the conservatory, but that’s all for the future!” “Although we made a lot of changes, the aim wasn’t so much to alter the space as to create a more contemporary style of home and living. We’re delighted,” adds Stephen. “We no longer feel the need to move, quite the opposite, it’s been so much better to just improve what we have.” n House size before: 203 sqm (2,184 sqft) House size after: 232 sqm (2,496 sqft) Site size: 0.22 acres Build cost: £138,000 EPC: not applicable  

Build spec

Bay: Predominantly made up of fixed double glazed windows with aluminium frames that were polyester powder-coated, all glazing fitted with trickle vents, U-value 1.8W/sqmK. New walls: Block cavity wall construction insulated with 60mm thick foil faced PIR insulation in the cavity. Finished with horizontal Western Red Cedar cladding on preservative impregnated battens fixed to the outer leaf blockwork. U-value negligible a most of the new build consists of glazing. Flat roof: Covered with a high-performance, flatroofing PVC membrane and insulated with a total of 130mm PIR board to create a warm roof with a U-value of not more than 0.2W/sqmK. Floor: concrete sub-floor then 75mm PIR insulation under a 100mm fine concrete screed. U-value 0.22W/sqmK. Astrid Maden & Debbie Orme

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Architect Azman Khairuddin RIBA, Big Design Architecture, Antrim, Co Antrim, tel. 9448 8258, www.bigdesignarchitecture.com Architectural Technologist Gary McElvogue MCIAT, Streams Architectural Design, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, tel. 9336 5436, www.streams.org.uk Structural Engineer Ian Thompson, Thompson Barr, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, tel. 9036 9300, www.thompsonbarr.com

Builder Aaron Newell, Newell Contracts, Ballyclare, Co Antrim, tel. 9334 5600, www.newellcontracts.com Balustrade Macspec Engineering, Ballynahinch, Co Down, tel. 9756 2591, www.macspec.co.uk Windows Metal Technology, Antrim, Co Antrim, tel. 9448 7777, www.metaltechnology.com

Zinc cladding system Rheinzink, www.rheinzink.com Kerbing Tobermore ‘Country Kerb’, Lusk, Co. Dublin, tel. 01 843 7440, www.tobermore.ie Flat roof PVC membrane Sika-Trocal, www.irl.sika.com Photography Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill Photographic, 17 Clarence Street, Belfast, BT2 8DY, tel. 9024 5038 www.scenicireland.com

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Eye on Ireland H

This year’s RIAI Simon Open Door will take place over Saturday and Sunday, 9th and 10th May 2015. Architects nationwide will offer one hour consultations to the public for a donation of €55, see www.simonopendoor.ie


ealth & Safety. Two words that have the unique ability to conjure up both dread and disdain! Needless to say, construction sites are dangerous places to be and with strict regulations overseeing commercial builds for years, it’s also not surprising that small building sites have become the most hazardous. According to Louise Hosking, managing director at Hosking Associates, in the UK, of the 43 people who died on construction sites last year, three quarters were working on smaller projects. In Ireland, about a dozen people lose their life each year in construction accidents, most of them in ROI, and hundreds of serious accidents are reported annually. The main culprits are machinery and work at height but it’s a complacent attitude on site that seems to be the real cause for injury. So what’s being done about it? In addition to the health authorities ramping up awareness campaigns, European legislation has been transposed into Irish law to make small building sites safer, measures which ROI passed in 2013 and which NI just implemented in April of this year. In ROI self-builders will now be aware that they have to pay for someone to draw up a health and safety plan at the design stage. At the construction stage they must also appoint a ‘Project Supervisor Design Stage’– usually the architect or engineer – and a ‘Project Supervisor Construction Stage’, usually the builder or the homeowner in the case of direct labour. This extra work and responsibility can cost €500+, which the homeowner is responsible for paying. The Health & Safety Authority has published a handy guide available on www.hsa.ie/eng/Publications_and_ Forms/Publications/Construction/Guide_for_ Homeowners.html or call 1890 289 389. In NI homeowners too must get a construction phase safety plan drawn up for their particular project and it must be presented for conveyancing purposes if you eventually sell the property (applicable to projects finishing up after April 6th 2015). According to a briefing note from Hosking Associates, the health and safety file is a handover pack, which should include as-built drawings or specifications of components that have been installed. For home owners, these duties are passed to the main contractor. Where there is more than one contractor, a principal designer must also be appointed who is responsible for coordinating all matters relating to health and safety. If the principal designer changes or is not engaged to the end, the responsibility for the file moves on and may rest finally with the principal contractor. But what about the safety of your home after it’s

been built? You may be interested to hear what drives burglars to steal. A professor in criminology interviewed 15 convicted burglars in the UK for Churchill Home Insurance and he found drug addiction was in large part responsible, but there were other factors too. “I was addicted to drugs but crime is an addiction as well,” said one of the interviewees. Most agreed it was lower risk than shoplifting by providing “quick, easy money.” One convict warned about allowing eBay shoppers to visit their home: “People will see something they like on eBay. Go round to have a look at it so you have the address, say they don’t want it, and then go get someone like me to get it for them.” The subjects believed reduction strategies should focus on tackling the root cause of the crime, principally drug addiction, offering better support to those leaving prison and of course the need for the public to be more security conscious. Top of the list of deterrents is a dog, then monitored alarms, security cameras, removing valuables visible from the road, neighbourhood watch stickers, and other measures such as upstairs lights on a timer, not allowing post to mount up, drawing the curtains and locking the doors when at home. In home improvement news, the ROI grants have recently been increased by 25% to 50% for all supported energy saving measures (insulation, solar thermal heating, heating controls - standalone or with new gas/oil boiler installation). A bonus payment has also been introduced for those who complete three (bonus of €300), four (bonus of €400) or more energy efficiency improvements; the minimum grant threshold of €400 has also been abolished. See www.seai.ie/Grants/Better_energy_ homes/ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Astrid Madsen  


eye on ireland

Meanwhile, Minister for Energy Alex White recently announced he was looking at cheap financing options for homeowners to carry out energy upgrades. The Department of Energy tells SelfBuild: “While we cannot go into detail on the research underway, discussions are not limited to banks; credit unions, third party finance providers, energy suppliers and others could all potentially play a part in any future Better Energy Finance scheme.” Readers of SelfBuild & Improve Your Home will be familiar with Pay as You Save (PAYS), renamed Better Energy Financing, which was meant to be phased in as a replacement to the grant system but it seems it won’t be rolled out. Again according to the Department of Energy, no decision has been made on PAYS as of yet, but a combination of grants and affordable consumer finance is more likely. Finally, Irish roofing company Tegral has launched a Roofing Academy in Athy, Co Kildare, which runs a free one-day upskilling course for NI and ROI roofing contractors (not open to self-builders); training includes among other things roof ventilation and how to install a skylight. www.tegralroofingacademy.com, tel. 059 863 1316, contact them for course dates. And if you’re thinking of a green roof for your project, know that an updated code of practice has been published by the Green Roof Organisation, with added guidance on substrate installation and waterproofing. It’s available on www.nfrc.co.uk/green-roof-installations. n

Pictured at the cheque presentation are Janice O’Leary, Blarney Community, Adam Whitbourn, Head Gardener Blarney Gardens, Caroline Myers, Padraig Mallon CEO Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and Sir Charles Colthurst with Assistance Dog Oriel.

This year’s Blarney in Bloom raised more than €17,000 for Irish Guide Dogs, the highest amount raised to date. Thank you to all who attended and supported the event. Fast becoming the Munster garden event of the summer, each year for one day in July Blarney Castle opens its gates to the public for a garden show all in aid of local-based national charity Irish Guide Dogs. Blarney in Bloom 2015 takes place on Saturday 11th July 2015. For more information about how you can help support Irish Guide Dogs check out: www.guidedogs.ie.

Cast your vote It’s not often that self-builders get to rally around a single cause, but in ROI the time has come! The Department of the Environment is reviewing the building control regulations to tackle the issue of cost in relation to mandatory inspection and certification. And they’re currently looking for your views on what course of action to take. According to the consultation documents, over 1,000 single dwellings have commenced to date since the new building control regulations came into effect on 1 March 2014. The Department states that “where a fully certified design is available, the assigned certifier role can be comfortably achieved for €3,800 including VAT.” They reckon it can cost you up to €6,000 including VAT if the design is inadequate for addressing building regulation compliance, hence the need to address the fees assigned certifiers are charging. The reason for the high price tag is that they are taking on significant risks (were things to go wrong, they’d be the


ones in the lion’s den – see interview with legal expert Rory O’Donnell in the Winter 2014 issue of SelfBuild & Improve Your Home). A very important new development is the introduction of a sample inspection plan for self-builds and it seems that regardless of which option is eventually passed into law, the inspection plan will be a part of it. The document is available on the Department’s website and it’s called ‘Sample Preliminary Inspection Plan for Single Dwellings’. Three options are on the table: 1. Exempt self-builders from the rules, i.e. make the statutory requirements advisory rather than mandatory. Homeowners would be responsible for lodging the following documents with the authorities: design plans and relevant certs, and a promise to follow the sample inspection plan. A major downside, according to the Department, is: “A two-tier system of residential houses would develop – those which enjoy statutory certificates of completion and those which do not. Homeowners who do not have a statutory certificate of completion may find themselves at a disadvantage for insurance, mortgage or

conveyancing purposes.” 2. Broaden the pool of persons who can qualify as ‘assigned certifier’ to include among others, practically-trained designers, and to drive down the cost of providing the service. (The ROI branch of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists has already created a register with a view to making it statutory.) 3. Add the sample inspection plan for self-builds to the current Code of Practice in the hope that this standardised format will lead to a reduced assigned certifier’s fee. Considering the few ‘cons’ listed in the consultation document, this seems to be the department’s preferred option. The consultation also considers extensions greater than 40sqm and proposes to exempt those with a certain plot ratio from the regulations. You are urged to make your views known, so log on to the Department’s website http://www.environ.ie/en/ DevelopmentHousing/BuildingStandards/ PublicConsultations/ to consult the documents and download their response template which is to be sent in by the 15th of May to Buildingstandards@environ.ie


small spaces 92

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

small spaces

The empty nest This is the second in a series looking at how we alter our homes to accommodate major changes in our lives. The focus in this article is the empty (or emptying) nest: with the children now adults, how do you reinvent your family house to meet your needs and match your newfound priorities? The empty nest is an important milestone. You might be looking towards retirement, if you’re not there already. You might have little enough mortgage debt, healthy equity, some money available to invest and have been thinking about what to do with the house in a loose way for years, but without ever doing a big job. Future proofing is on many people’s agenda and, although you are currently child free, with things the way they are there’s no certainty that they won’t be boomeranging back, and for extended periods. Later on there could well be visits with partners and kids – especially if your house is a lot bigger than theirs (which is quite likely in the current property market). You may want to: l Reinvent the house because the kids are gone and because you can. l Fix up the house to prevent the kids from going just yet. l Change things because they won’t / can’t go and the old way doesn’t’ suit. l Rework the house because they will need to come back at times, but without redesigning it as a hotel and storage facility! l Make changes to the house because you will (both) be spending more time at home. Although we are talking here about making changes to the house you have, it goes without saying that in reality you will be assessing this against the option of living somewhere else. That might mean moving to a different area because you’re no longer tied to work, downsizing to somewhere smaller or an apartment or even doing a house swap with one of the (grown up) kids – something that is increasing in popularity.

It’s my house. I can do what I want with it. At last!

It’s a fact of life that having a family involves putting all kinds of aspirations on the back burner and devoting your energy and money into your offspring. The mere fact that they have moved out from under your roof doesn’t change this of course, but it does leave you freer to consider your house from the point of view of what you want. You

maybe have an aspiration to finally ‘do the house’, but with a bit of baggage from knocking it about for years without ever having had to nail things down. That non-committal thinking about what you can do often leads to confusion once you do start taking things seriously, as what you have are a lot of partial ideas that neither work together nor add up to anything. Also, the goalposts have moved and some of your plans might really have been responses to what the house was like with the full family in it, but that’s changed. So – piece of advice number one – wipe the slate clean and think ahead, not behind. How will you be using the house from this point on?

Grandparents looking after grand children during the working day is an increasing feature of people’s lives

How gone are they really?

If you live in a rural area the empty nest tends to happen earlier as kids can’t go to college and still stay at home as easily. In a few years a full, noisy house can suddenly turn into an echoing space. Although you might feel you’re rattling around now, a few years down the line things may change again in one of two ways. Over the last few years the phenomenon of boomerang kids has been very noticeable, and the problems of young adults getting their hands on affordable housing (and properly paying jobs) will mean this will continue. Fast forward a few years and you’ll be looking at how to accommodate visits from the families of your children – with partners and grandkids. This „


small spaces

Apartment Downsizing Existing Plan

Self Contained Existing Plan

Self Contained Proposed Plan


Apartment Downsizing Proposed Plan

all plays into what changes you might want to make to your house, and reinforces the need to imagine what the future might look like, as opposed to designing purely for now. It’s not the case that you have to redesign your home as a hotel, but many houses can be reconfigured to provide them with something approaching a ’guest wing’, where a separate family unit can stay with a bit of autonomy so that everyone isn’t under each other’s feet. Obviously this is easier on rural or large suburban sites where there is space. On urban or suburban sites with the benefit of a large garden, there is also the option of adding a granny flat to provide this kind of accommodation, sharing the house over time. In both cases converting existing garages can be a way to obtain this space – often with rural houses this may mean building a small extension to link a freestanding garage to the house as well as converting the garage itself.

Different generations – different tastes?

It is a golden rule regardless of your situation, if you want to make changes to a house the place to start is with yourself. Spend time actually thinking about what you do in the house and then consider the space that allows you to do it – and keep an open mind. The solution you were making assumptions about might not look so ideal after all! What you should be aiming for is a house that allows you to live the way you want to, and that also reflects your personality. Looking at it this way, you might find that you want to have space to accommodate large family gatherings, even though the house doesn’t have a lot of people actually living in it. At the same time, you might want a layout that can close down into more intimate spaces when it’s just the one or two of you. While a lot of houses might not have this kind of space, that doesn’t mean you have to build it all from scratch. Opening up to connect existing spaces or adding an extension are two ways, and it could mean ensuring the whole house is in full use for longer rather than building on one new space SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

small spaces

Link to Garage Existing Plan

Link to Garage Proposed Plan

Linking a converted garage

and having rooms you no longer use. Another form of remodelling might be lifting the roof off a bungalow to create additional bedroom space, possibly in conjunction with amalgamating smaller rooms below into more open spaces. This focus on thinking of the house as an empty space allows you to make other gains as well. The modern desire for more daylight and sunlight where they are needed in particular, and in creating a good flow through a house from one space to the next, can make a big impact.

Wiser, older heads…

If making house changes at this stage of life, it’s likely that you’ve done so at least once before, and probably learned a good few of the hard lessons about half-measures and shortcuts. Homeowners www.SelfBuild.ie

at this point in their lives are generally more interested in getting things done properly and in putting in the effort – and money – to do so. Part of this also translates into longer term thinking – the desire to future proof a house. Investing in good energy saving measures, thinking about mobility and having bathroom and bedroom options on the ground floor of the house – even if this is just a case of earmarking space for them rather than fitting them out just yet – are the main ones to allow for. You may have recent experience of how the previous generation began to find their houses difficult to live in as they got older. It may never be necessary but it will give you peace of mind to know that there’s a second sitting room downstairs that’s close to a bathroom and a drain hidden under a tile elsewhere that could be opened up. „


Out of the frying pan and into the fire

If the house has been your own whilst your significant other was out at work, this freedom might be suddenly compromised by the arrival of a new species – the retiree! If you are thinking about making changes to your home at this stage of your life, you might want to make allowances for this. The house will feel like it ‘belongs’ to the one who has been taking care of it most, so for the retiree carving out a piece of the house for him/ herself will help restore the balance. It could mean incorporating a man-cave – a more or less maleonly space (room, garage, attic etc.) that is apart from the rest of the house and possibly where different rules apply as regards décor, tidiness etc. Very often men claim these spaces for themselves by virtue of needing somewhere for a hobby, I’ve seen car workshops, art studios, lovingly curated collections of models, sports memorabilia rooms, music rooms and lots of so-called ‘studies’. Making sure you both have your own individual territory at what can be a difficult transitional stage is worth investing in.

small spaces

Urban Cottage Downsizing Proposed Plan

Urban Cottage Downsizing Existing Plan

A bit on the side

Retirement can take many forms and for some people it’s an opportunity to explore a new career, occupation, sport, or income stream from replacing your absent children with paying tenants or lodgers. College catchment areas lend themselves to this particularly well and there are often tax incentives to make sure the (small) income generated from it isn’t taxed unduly. The way you might set a house up for this would range from simply renting a bedroom and not making any changes, to adding an ensuite to the room you plan to rent, or adding or converting an extension specifically for this purpose, so that there is a degree of separation between you and your lodgers. Grandparents looking after grandchildren during the working day is an increasing feature of many people’s lives, which requires a good set up, including how to deal with toys, space to play, access

to the outdoors, easily accessible, and large enough, bathrooms and so on. Changing your house to create a more effective home can open up a huge number of additional possibilities. You may even find yourself taking up DIY classes! n Stephen Musiol Small Spaces Architecture, Dublin 12 tel. 01 454 7287 www.smallspaces.ie Additional information Simon Houston, Arca Design, Mallusk, Co Antrim tel: 028 9083 6088 www.arcadesign.co.uk

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. A&H Nicholson (Loft Conversions, Refurbishments, New Builds etc.) Kilkeel, Co Down Tel: 4176 9397 www.ahnicholson.com Advanced Timbercraft Ltd (Timberframe house construction)  Newtownabbey, Co Antrim Tel: 028 9083 8951 www.advancedtimbercraft.com Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd  (Waterfurnace heat pumps & underfloor heating) Skibbereen, Co Cork Tel: 028 23 701 www.ahac.ie AMVIC Ireland (Insulating Concrete Formwork) Naas, Co Kildare Tel: 045 889 276 www.amvicireland.com

Calor Gas (Suppliers of LPG outside of the National Gas Grid)  Dublin 12 Tel: 01 450 5000 www.calorgas.ie Flogas Ireland Ltd  (Heating: Calulations, systems & appliances) Drogheda, Co Louth Tel: 041 9874 813 www.flogas.ie Gyproc (Wallboard) Dublin 22 Tel: 01 629 8400 www.gyproc.ie Kilbroney Timber Frame Ltd  (Timber Frame)  Rostrevor, Newry Tel: 4173 9077 www.kilbroneytimberframe.com KNX Tech  (Home Automation)  Mount Merrion, Dublin Mobile: 087 989 6428 www.knx-tech.eu

Senator Windows Ltd (Doors, Windows & Conservatories)  Wexford Town, Co Wexford Tel: 053 914 1522 www.senatorwindows.ie The Camden Group (Manufacturers of PVCu windows, doors and glass units) Antrim, Co Antrim Tel: 9446 2419 www.inlitenwindows.com Ultimate Joinery  (Doors, Windows & Stairs)  Walkinstown, Dublin 12 Tel: 01 905 5833 www.ultimatejoinery.ie Velfac Direct (Windows)  City West Road, Dublin Tel: 01 403 9999 www.velfac.ie

ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0) www.SelfBuild.ie


in good health

In good health: wastewater Waste treatment is the poor relation on every build. The last thing to get anyone’s attention – until the planners start asking questions! In all cases, having a well-functioning sewage treatment system may make the difference between safe, clean ground and surface waters, and contamination of drinking water and habitats.



his article is a guide to checking your system, making repairs and improvements and knowing what is involved in a site assessment to enable you to choose the right

Site and system

Older houses usually have a septic tank and percolation area whilst newer ones may have a mechanical treatment system, but the initial check will be much the same. Before you even leave the house you may already know two things. One,


does your wc flush freely? Two, are you aware of any contamination of your own or a neighbour’s well? A poor flush may simply be a blocked pipe in need of rodding, or it may be that the tank or percolation area have become congested and in need of an overhaul. Well water contamination can be difficult to link to a particular pollution source, but may indicate the need for better treatment prior to percolation. Moving outside, check the percolation area. If you don’t know where it is, then have a look for trees or shrubs that are thriving, particularly down-gradient of your septic tank. This often SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

typically be darker in colour than the rest of the liquid in the tank, and there may be a thinner dark compost-coloured layer corresponding to the surface scum. No surface scum may indicate an absent outlet T or excessive flushing by stormwater or groundwater ingress. If the sludge or scum are too close to the base of the outlet T, (the EPA guide is ≤30cm for sludge and ≤10cm for surface scum), then the tank should be de-sludged. Apart from the issue of scum clogging the percolation pipes, the tank should have sufficient liquid capacity to allow for a reasonable settlement time. If the sludge depth is excessive, this residence time falls and solids settlement will be compromised, leading to a gradual clogging of the percolation pipes with sludge.

in good health

indicates a ready supply of nutrients. Some older properties may only have a soak pit, which basically bypasses the treatment element of percolation and introduces water closer to the groundwater level. If you have well contamination, this may be a possible cause. A ‘percolation area’ (ROI) or ‘soakaway’ (NI) is the name given to a dispersed infiltration area which filters the effluent through the subsoil before it reaches the groundwater. In ROI a ‘soak-pit’ is a rubble-filled pit used as a disposal method for storm water from roof surfaces etc. Soak-pits do not filter water and are unsuitable for septic tank effluent or grey water disposal. The ground around the percolation area should be free of surface ponding. Adjacent streams or drains should be free of black sludge, sewage fungus or other obvious signs of enrichment. If you spot any of these it’s a clear indication of inadequate infiltration. The recent septic tank inspection process in ROI found that the largest cause of failure was chronic lack of tank maintenance. Desludging the tank every year or two (depending upon the number of people in the house and the tank size), should therefore solve most problems. If blockages or pollution persist then ‘secondary treatment’ in the form of mechanical aeration or a constructed wetland, for example, will help to reduce the pollution levels and lower the potential for clogging up the percolation area. Where greater treatment is needed, using ‘tertiary polishing’ via, say, a soil or sand polishing filter or reed bed, may be necessary. This applies to sites where the groundwater is vulnerable or with no infiltration in the soil so that the effluent may need to be routed to a drain or stream. A discharge licence is required for discharges to surface waters, and this won’t typically be given in ROI, (In NI it’s easier but not easy) so this option is really only suitable for existing problem sites rather than newbuild projects. Technically there should be a distribution box to split the septic tank effluent evenly between approximately four percolation pipes. Check that all the pipes have an even flow leaving the box. These are a newer addition and not usually found on properties more than fifteen years old.


The easiest time to check the tank design is when it’s being de-sludged. The tank should have a dividing wall, „

Clearing a storm water drain

Care and repair

Septic tanks work by allowing sufficient time for sludge to sink to the bottom and surface scum to float to the top so that only the liquid leaves the tank. If the design permits sludge throughput, or more commonly, if sludge depth is excessive, then it will be carried into the percolation area causing clogging of the pipes and system failure. With this in mind, there are a number of things to be checked; principally the sludge depth and the tank design itself.


Sludge depth can be checked using a long pole wrapped in a white rag. Dip the pole into the tank and leave it for a few minutes. When you remove the pole, check the different colours that have penetrated the rag. The sludge at the bottom will www.SelfBuild.ie


in good health Septic tank with percolation grid under lawn Kingspan Environmental


with a window set below scum level, and a T-piece on both the inlet and outlet pipes. Without these, the surface scum is free to migrate into the outlet pipe and clog the percolation area. Simply fitting a T-piece at the inlet and outlet may be sufficient to overhaul a faulty tank. Check for tank integrity at the same time. The easiest method is to listen for groundwater ingress or look for obvious cracks in the structure immediately after draining the tank. Also look at the line that the tank effluent makes above the pipes - this should be clean above the surface scum line, showing that there was no historic variation in tank depth that may indicate groundwater ingress or tank outlet clogging. Small repairs can be carried out yourself or by a local tradesman. If there is major work required then a better option is probably to replace the tank or percolation area; or put in a new treatment system completely. In ROI and NI, planning permission is needed in order to substantially change, move or install a new waste water treatment system. If the tank is sound, but too small or only single chambered, the easiest solution may be to add a new tank and de-sludge the new larger capacity system less often. Because of the presence of gasses, septic tanks are dangerous so never enter one or use a naked flame or anything that might spark and ignite. The pipework should also be checked. According to the EPA, grey water (from kitchen sinks, baths, washing machines etc.) and black water (from the wc) should both be piped to the septic tank. There is a school of thought that suggests that these should be kept separate in order

to maximise the health of the septic tank bacteria, but the combined approach is the current official guidance. If you have a mechanical aeration system, then similar structural checks should be carried out, as well as regular inspections of all pumps and blowers. Make sure that your service contract is up to date and the necessary inspections carried out. Bear in mind that the percolation area for a mechanical system is usually smaller than that for a septic tank, so extra care is needed to ensure that everything is working well and achieving the required water quality. If your mechanical system is yet to be plugged in (itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not unheard of) or has failed for some other reason, now is an ideal opportunity to get it working. Be sure to do this with the help of the supplier so that you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t simply pump out accumulated sludge to your percolation area. Septic tank effluent is tricky stuff and in the past the construction of the percolation area did not always receive the attention required. If you have very free-draining soil and are worried about direct contamination of your groundwater, an analysis of local well-water may be in order. If contamination is present you may want to upgrade or change your system.

Site assessment

If an upgrade or a new system is needed, the site characteristics have to be identified. The general rule in ROI is that for greenfield sites the Code of Practice should be followed, but where site conditions are unsuitable other non-standard options such as zero discharge willow facilities or SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

The main features that are examined during the process are as follows: Features of the surrounding area - county development plan zoning, local housing density and prior experience in the area. An assessment of site size, layout and vegetation - check topography, dominant vegetation types (certain plants indicate particular soil types and likely percolation rates without the need for bringing in machinery). Minimum distance considerations - see EPA Code of Practice (ROI), BS 6297 – 2007 Design and Construction of a Percolation Area set out in table below: Soil characteristics - a 2m deep trial hole is dug to check the general soil characteristics. Three separate percolation test holes are excavated to the depth of the percolation pipe invert level. These are filled with water and the fall in the water level is timed to determine the infiltration rate. The answers to these will indicate if a standard tank and percolation system is appropriate, or whether secondary treatment or tertiary polishing are needed, or indeed if the site is suitable for effluent infiltration at all.

1 2



Closing words

in good health

integrated constructed wetlands may offer a viable solution in exceptional circumstances. For existing sites where there is a pollution problem there is generally greater scope for innovation outside of the brief of the technical guidelines. My experience on such sites is that reed beds, wetlands or willow filters all have a role to play in offering a cost effective way to protect receiving waters. The site assessment has two main objectives. Firstly, is the site big enough to accommodate a treatment and disposal system, while still observing the suggested minimum separation distances to dwellings, boundaries, wells and water-courses. Secondly, is the soil suitable for treatment and disposal of the final effluent, taking into account depth and percolation rate?

Finally, your own values, preferences and priorities will have a bearing on the type of system you select. Budget, environmental priorities, degree of maintenance input and openness to innovation are all part of the decision making process. With these in mind, part 2 will look at the different treatment options available. n Féidhlim Harty, FH Wetland Systems environmental consultancy, Ennis, Co Clare tel. 065 679 7355 www.wetlandsystems.ie Additional information David Best, Kingspan Environmental, Newry, Co Down tel. 3026 6799 www.klargester.com Tomas O’Donoghue, Waterford Institute of Technology tel. 051 302 000 www.wit.ie

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. August BioPro Ireland Ltd (Biological waste water treatment)  Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny Tel: 061 536 233 www.biopro.ie Kingspan En vironmental Ltd  Newry Co Down Tel: 028 3026 6799 www.klargester.com ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0)

Mechanical treatment system

Note that the new Building Control (amendment) Regulations 2014 apply to sewage treatment as well as every other area of your construction project, so liaise with your architect and engineer to ensure that you are in compliance.

Minimum distance requirements from treatment systems to site features. For existing systems some leeway is generally permitted. EPA Code of Practice (ROI) BS 6297 – 2007 (NI) Ditch, drain or watercourse 10m 10m Any dwelling 7m septic tank, 10m perc. area 15m Well variable, 15-60m variable, but not less than 50m Site boundary / trees 3m Road / slope break or cuts 4m Surface water soakaway 5m Lake or foreshore 50m www.SelfBuild.ie


These images have been copyrighted by Stephen Fleming Photography If you wish to purchase rights to use these images please contact: shootme@charleyf.com - www.flemingsphotography.com

Full steam ahead In their current form, shipping containers have been around since the 1950s but have only become a popular construction material in the past decade.


More photographs available at


his global housing and architectural trend spread to Ireland in the form of small or student projects, none of which are believed to have been built to be fully compliant to building regulations. That was the situation until two pioneering projects proved that, with the right team on board, building out of scrap metal was possible in

Ireland too: NI architect Patrick Bradley’s house and the RIPPLE project in ROI. Bradley’s use of two shipping containers to create his home was recently chronicled on TV show Grand Designs (see Architect’s Chair interview page 111). Project RIPPLE, meanwhile, happened in November 2014 bringing together 65 professional and trades people, suppliers and supporters to create what’s believed to be the very first, fully-

container homes

compliant, home in ROI, made entirely from a disused shipping container. Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the story of the conversion of scrap into a home as told by Carol Tallon.

Making waves

People are choosing to live in a different way. Simply put, innovation within the property market in Ireland has not kept pace with changing global trends; for example, people are moving away from the notions of permanency or lifetime debt. In a more mobile society, there is a need for flexible approaches to home ownership. A low cost model of sustainable housing was inevitable after the property market crash; building with shipping containers is simply one potential solution in a country that has sufficient space to accommodate different lifestyle choices. While the initial aim of project RIPPLE was to come up with a low-cost model of housing that could be rolled out quickly and without the long Â&#x201E;


container homes

Ceardean Design


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

container homes

lead-in time that traditional housing requires, it became clear that this approach contained its own unique challenges in Ireland. Our climate demands greater levels of insulation, and given the size of the container, it had to be external rather than internal. The project took two years to plan and during that time the general property market in Ireland recovered at a pace much quicker than expected. Thus many sites and opportunities disappeared. While difficult for the project, rising housing prices reinforced the need for a low cost model for housing, particularly in the capital. Perhaps the greatest challenge was the introduction of new, more onerous building regulations in early 2014, which meant increased compliance issues and with those, increased costs for all self-builders. The same home traditionally built would cost €55,000 but a 40ft shipping container can be converted into a fully-compliant home from €25,000 direct labour or €35,000 using www.SelfBuild.ie

a contractor. Accommodation consists of an entrance into the kitchen, with lounge/seated area to the right and storage cupboard to the left. A hallway leads to a fully-accessible bathroom, with wc and shower, then into the deceptively spacious bedroom with extended height, double bunk beds and built-in wardrobe. The timeline below is for this particular project which had some aspects and challenges unique to it, such as it only taking three days to build. More importantly, it was an entirely voluntary and charitable project. All labour and materials were donated or sponsored; we therefore had to work with what we were given, using the labour available within a very short time frame. The temporary site required preparatory steelworks which were done offsite. Markings were made using a chalk line then permanent marker on the interior of the container for window and door openings, chimney exit and roof pipes for solar panels. This was done by recreating the floor plan inside. The next step was to put in acrows (steel bars used for temporary support from floor to ceiling with threads for adjustable heights,) before cutting out the side of the container. But before we could do that, the side panel had to be removed to reveal the steel cross members to allow us to cut out the side of the container along the markings using an angle-grinder. Steel supports around the openings were made by the team to give new strength to the structure. These were connected to the steel cross-members of the floor. On the roof of the container, the four lifting points were extended to allow for a super-insulated fibreglass roof whilst still allowing for the container to be transported. „


container homes

Day One

In the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Kilmainham, Dublin with a team of 20 to 30 people on site, a rusted and slightly battered 40 ft container was craned off the delivery lorry and placed on a firm, level site of concrete and gravel. As we were aiming for passiv or near passiv haus standards the entire container was wrapped in an airtight membrane then the exterior timber frame was built around it, using 4x2” timbers. The insulation was cut to size and placed between each of the battens with a second layer screwed on the outside of the timber frame in larger panels. The entire building was wrapped again in another watertight membrane.  Inside, a sheet of membrane was sealed to the floor and two layers of insulation placed on top.

Marine plywood was then screwed into place to create the upper surface of the floor. We had decided to leave the rippled interior exposed with the walls and ceilings spray painted in a light grey colour. The idea came from commercial projects but it works well for houses too.

Day Two

Similar to a traditional self-build, the first fixes happen concurrently, as follows: - Timber studding - to create the walls and interior spaces - Plumbing   - Electrical The plumber and electrician worked together on the roof mounted hot water solar panels (evacuated tubes). The exterior was sealed using glass reinforced polyester (GRP) and a roof created from fibreglass. This section was completed by putting the downpipes in place.

Day Three

Next to go in were the windows and exterior doors which were tinted for aesthetic reasons and to aid the energy performance of the glass. All the electricals and plumbing were completed and connected and the joinery, bespoke double bunk beds, storage spaces and the kitchen were installed; all coordinated by an interior designer. With watertight, breather membranes completed and battening prepared, the external cladding began. While the original RIPPLE design


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RIPPLE container build supporters: Allsop Space www.allsopspace.ie OPW www.opw.ie Irish Museum of Modern Art www.imma.ie BNI Network Ireland www.bni.ie DMPR Public Relations www.dmpr.ie Cosmopolitan Communications www.cosmopolitan.ie Brian Daly Magician www.briandalymagic.com Punctual Print www.punctualprint.com The Park Studio www.theparkstudio.ie PJ&E McGarrell Ltd www.bni.ie Re-imagine Sign Specialists www.reimagine.ie Lilliput Stores www.lilliputstores.com Extreme Structures www.extremestructures.ie Joseph Whelan Auctioneers Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin


container homes

These images have been copyrighted by Stephen Fleming Photography If you wish to purchase rights to use these images please contact: shootme@charleyf.com - www.flemingsphotography.com

provided for a more traditional timber cladding, a design choice was made to experiment with bamboo, to truly stunning effect, especially after adding exterior uplights and downlights. A quality, composite decking area was fitted, creating raised access into the building whilst some final landscaping completed the project and the site was opened for viewing.

Day Four

On day four of the project, Sunday 30th November 2014, this stunning new home was donated to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to support their work in helping the homeless. The plan is for it to be located at the charityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s women and children shelter in Longford, Bethany House, subject to site suitability and local planning approval. Hopefully the container house will be used as an alternative to unsatisfactory hotel or B&B rooms for families, while they are waiting for more permanent accommodation. The use of converted shipping containers to provide emergency accommodation is in use worldwide, Australia started using these dwellings in 2007. This has to be good news following a year of reports about the rise in homelessness in Ireland and the doubling of the number of families in emergency accommodation since last year. This project will take one family off that list and whilst one is not a big number, not only is it a start, one family has a whole new quality of life and that has to be worth a lot. Â&#x201E;


Residence 9 is a new window system designed to replicate the 19th Century Flush Sash Timber Window It can be considered for use in Conservation Areas due to its authentic appearance. This authentic design is also appealing to any homeowner who wants a top end luxury window brand. It is hand finished and made by craftsmen

Enterprise Crescent, Ballinderry Road, Lisburn, County Antrim, BT28 2BP Telephone: 028 9266 0500 Fax: 028 9262 9491 www.aps-group.co.uk / info@aps-group.co.uk

Carol Tallon www.caroltallon.ie (founding member Ripple Project)

Be in a chance to win one of six copies by entering our draw on Facebook. Plus you’ll get a free ebook for when you’re on the go… log on to www. facebook.com/selfbuild for more details. Irish Property Buyers’ Handbook 2015 by Carol Tallon. Guest contributor: Karl Deeter, Irish Mortgage Brokers. Published by Oak Tree Press www.SuccessStore.com

Additional information: Derek Trenaman, Michael Malone (founding members Ripple Project), Ceardean Architects, 169 Inchicore Road, Dublin 8, mobile 087 6436645, email info@ceardean.com

Build spec

Insulation: rigid phenolic foam 100mm in floor, 150mm in walls; flat roof waterproof system with 150mm polyurethane foam. Windows: Sliding timber / aluminium-clad glazed screen measuring over 9 meters long.


WIN A FREE COPY of the 2015 Irish Property Buyers’ Handbook!

Photography by Stephen Fleming Photography, www.sflemingphoto.com and Tania Flores of Ceardean Architects, 169 Inchicore Road, Dublin 8, mobile 087 6436645, email info@ceardean.com

container homes

Since embarking on this unusual build, many similar projects at various stages of planning and preparation have come to light. To date, planning permission has been granted for at least two container builds in Dublin and County Cork, with many more expected throughout 2015 and 2016. Containers make an ideal structure for self-builders due to their ridged frame, manageable size and versatility. So what are you waiting for? n

KSM Construction https://ie.linkedin.com/in/kenmariner Vincent Brady Consulting Engineers www.consulting-engineers.ie S.K Interiors Ltd www.skiinteriors.ie Ait Place www.ait-place.ie Lawlor Burns & Associates www.lawlorburns.com Hear Me Roar Media www.HearMeRoarMedia.com M&M Electrical Contractors rmongey@mmelectrical.ie Metallica Steelworks www.metallicasteelworks.com John Egan Heating www.johneganheatingandplumbingbray.com

RIPPLE container build suppliers: Truck & Crane Hire Paddy Devoy www.truckandcranehire.com Shipcon Truck & Crane Hire www.shipcon.ie HSS Hire www.hss.com O’Sullivan Safety www.osullivansafety.ie Heiton Steel www.heitonsteel.ie Bamboo Suppliers of Ireland www.bamboosuppliers.ie Straffan Kitchens ciaranedshes@gmail.com CMR Specialist Repair www.cmr-repair.com TileStyle Ltd www.tilestyle.ie JP Tallon www.jptallon.ie Decking NI Group (Deck 25) www.deck25.com Halton Construction www.haltonconstruction.com Greenstar Recycling www.greenstar.ie Brooks Thomas www.brooksgroup.ie 2eva.ie www.2eva.ie Irish Wire Products www.irishwire.com


Wexford Timber Frame www.timberframe.ie Coillte Panel Products www.coilltepanelproducts.com Terraplas Rental www.terraplasrental.ie Partel Ireland/ Lunos / Ampak www.partel.ie Seal Systems Ltd www.sealsystems.ie Mannions Builders Providers www.mannions.ie SAP Group www.sapgroup.com Ger Harte Painting and Decorating www.bni.ie Door Depot Dublin / Carroll Residential / Nordan www.doordepot.ie RVR.ie / RVR Energy Technology Limited www.rvr.ie PQ Fibreglassing Flat Roof Specialists www.pqfibreglassing.ie Dryseal Roofing / Hambleside Danela wwww.hambleside-danelaw.co.uk Kingspan Insulation www.kingspaninsulation.com Kingspan Environmental www.kingspanenviro.com/ JTM Power www.jtmpower.ie NAA Ltd www.naa.ie

Interlam Architectural Wall Panels www.interlam-design.com B&G Ltd www.bghome.ie Balmar Ironmongery and Accessories www.balmar.ie Forbo Marmeloum Flooring Systems www.forbo-flooring.ie Mullingar Electrical Wholesale www.mullingar-electrical.com Murphy Heating w ww.murphyheating.com Schiedel Chimney Systems www.schiedel.com Fossil The Stone Specialists www.fossilstone.ie MRCB Ltd – Specialists in Paint www.mrcb.ie Unipipe Ireland Underfloor – Renewables www.unipipe.ie Blindstyle www.blindstyle.ie Idealismart www.idealismart.com Rubber Matting Systems                   www.rubbermattingsystems.co.uk                    Enrich Environmental Ltd www.enrich.ie The Watershop www.watershop.ie Window Tinting Solution Ireland www.wstireland.net



SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

These images have been copyrighted by Aidan Monaghan Photographer If you wish to purchase rights to use these images please contact: www.aidanmonaghanphotography.com

patrick bradley

In the Architect’s chair

Gillian Corry talks with architect Patrick Bradley What was the first item you designed

I was a child completely obsessed with Lego and Meccano, building everything from fire stations to houses. With new pieces available every year, birthday presents were never a problem for my parents! Although she didn’t realise it at the time, my mother’s enthusiasm for old buildings and houses in general, also had a profound effect. When I was about seven we used to stop whenever we passed an old building and, if possible, go in and have a look around it. She would point out any interesting features and her enthusiasm, despite no formal education in the subject, rubbed off on me. As a teenager I renovated an old stone building on the farm as a place for me and my friends to meet and it was a good test just in case the reality of the architecture course proved different to the dream, but I loved doing it. „ www.SelfBuild.ie

More photographs available at



Aidan Monaghan Photographer www.aidanmonaghanphotography.com

patrick bradley

Why did you decide to become an architect?

Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright 1935

From a very early age I was into buildings the way other kids are into cars or animals and by the time I reached secondary school, I knew architecture was the only career for me. Being totally certain about it I thought ‘why waste time doing A levels when a Btech National Diploma in construction would get me into the architecture course at Queen’s University Belfast and give me a head start so that’s what I did and where I went.

What was your first professional commission and where was it built

As I love looking at old buildings of any shape or type, and taking photographs as well, it was maybe appropriate that it was the renovation of a thatched cottage. Following completion of the work I was really thrilled when the cottage was chosen as an example of good practice for the Northern Ireland Rural Design Guide Building on Tradition. After graduating I joined Consarc Design Group and loved my time working with them, especially alongside highly respected conservation architects such as Bronagh Lynch and Dawson Stelfox. It was a very busy period as I continued to help out on the farm – I’m an only son – as well as doing my own private commissions. Travelling from County Derry to Belfast was, I reluctantly had to admit, not the best use of time so I left Consarc and joined a local practice, McGurk Architects. They are highly regarded throughout Northern Ireland and have a wide range of expertise, and within a few years I was one of the senior architects. By that time I had built up so many private clients that in 2011 I decided to launch my own practice.

Who and what have influenced you

The two who stand out are Frank Lloyd Wright for his Falling Water house and Philip Johnston’s Glass House, also in the USA. Frank Lloyd Wright in particular did things way ahead of his time and both of them pushed the boundaries with their


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Richie Lavery Photography www.richielavery.com

patrick bradley

design and materials with buildings that not only met the needs of their clients, but also respected their surroundings. How do you achieve that? The honest truth is you can’t tell until the design is built but if you listen to your clients and study those buildings that do work, then you should be on the right track.

What type of work do you do

Most of my commissions are in the private residential sector, bespoke houses and extensions, but I also do quite a lot of restoration work on old and listed buildings, a cause very close to my heart. Doing Grand Designs has given the practice a massive boost, far more than either Channel 4 or I ever imagined. As a result of the programme, I’ve been offered commissions in 49 different countries which has led to some really interesting work, including a project in Iceland. I also got some very positive feedback, especially from the planning department who were very excited – and encouraged – with the outcome!

What does the future hold for domestic architecture

I feel very positive about this and view a part of my job as educating people to see that there are other options to the white bungalow. Many architects feel there are too many buildings being designed without the input of qualified architects and it is that artistic element which produces buildings of merit. Having said that, Kevin McCloud told me there was more good architecture per head of www.SelfBuild.ie

“From a very early age I was into buildings the way other kids are into cars or animals and by the time I reached secondary school, I knew architecture was the only career for me.” Patrick Bradley

population coming out of Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK, a great compliment to Northern Irish architects who want to push the boundaries of design.

What would you like to change

I wish just a brief look at architecture was included in the school timetable so that people learn to appreciate what you can get out of good design. Secondly, the scope of planning permission should cover more and look at design, sustainability and the site. A well designed house is a happy house and the people in it are happy too so you really would be changing society for the better as well. I would like to see a planning policy for good design, with qualified architects involved as a requirement of the process. „


Aidan Monaghan Photographer www.aidanmonaghanphotography.com

Aidan Monaghan Photographer www.aidanmonaghanphotography.com

patrick bradley

In contemporary architecture whose work do you admire most

Designs using cantilevers tend to get my attention, as does the work of the Australian architect Andrew Maynard, Richard Murphy in Scotland and in Ireland, Dominic Stevens and his Mimetic House. I find the internet a very useful tool as it gives a worldwide view of what works where.

What do you do in your spare time

I can’t stop looking at architecture! But I do love farming and being out on the land with the animals is a great tonic. My own house is on the edge of a Woodland Trust site and so being at work, doing what I love most, is not how I see it. I also enjoy hurling, Gaelic football and rugby.


Your favourite style of food, film, book and music

Food: pizza! In any shape or form. Film: Casablanca but really it’s all down to where you see it and who you’re with. Music: anything, it falls into the same category as the film in terms of time and place. Books: architecture ones but when I can tear myself away from that then it would be autobiographies, especially sporting ones such as Brian O’Driscoll’s.

What has architecture as a career given you

Working with architecture makes me happy, I gain enormous satisfaction and want to continue working in it for as long as I can. For me it’s not just a job, it’s my hobby too and I feel very lucky indeed to be in this situation, almost guilty in fact! „ SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Mellon’s thatch cottage restoration

patrick bradley

A tour of the house

How did you obtain the commission

I was photographing an old thatched cottage at the foot of our road when a lady, who turned out to be the owner, appeared. She knew I was an architect and asked if I would take on the task of restoring it. By this time I was working during the summer months both on the farm and with Consarc, so it was ideal. I had spent time on construction sites but working with old buildings teaches you much more. The cottage was built in 1875 on a farm and is Grade B listed. A three roomed house, it was in a dreadful state as you can see from the photograph.

The design process

I saw the project through from first design to completion, the aim was to bring it back to being as rural as possible but suited to modern living standards. We re-used the trusses, and the thatch and copied the windows from old photographs. The existing hearth now has a wood stove and we put in a loft bedroom accessed by a ladder. There was an unsightly block extension and a porch, both of which were removed and replaced by joining the cottage to an existing but separate stone building and creating a draught lobby inside the cottage.

The build

I provided detailed drawings and the clients were pure self-builders, doing it all themselves as the budget was very tight. I was on site regularly and it took two years to complete. www.SelfBuild.ie

A tour of the house

The house now consists of two bedrooms (one up, one down), with a bathroom and hot press off the downstairs bedroom, and an open plan living room with the fire dividing it from the kitchen at the far end. There’s a half door from the kitchen to outside as well as the main front door with draught lobby. An oil boiler provides hot water and supplies radiators if needed, but really the fire does the whole house. That and the fact that the walls are 600mm thick and lime rendered internally plus a 600mm thatched roof all help to keep the heat in.

Now it’s finished

I’m thrilled with it and so glad the owners had the vision to conserve it. Having it feature in the Design Guide was the icing on the cake.



Aidan Monaghan Photographer www.aidanmonaghanphotography.com

Aidan Monaghan Photographer www.aidanmonaghanphotography.com

Richie Lavery Photography www.richielavery.com

patrick bradley

“...I didn’t get much sleep but it was more than worth it.”

Patrick Bradley

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Richie Lavery Photography www.richielavery.com

patrick bradley

A tour of the house

Grillagh Water new build The design process

I began one evening at 7pm and by 4am the next morning it was all there. The only trouble was the cost! I had saved up an amount, but getting a mortgage wasn’t easy as I was self-employed and had only two years of accounts to show. That was what pushed me in the direction of using a container, my original plan for a conventional build was just too expensive. All I lost was a one metre length on both blocks. Now I’m planning a separate but adjacent container build for a dedicated office.

Richie Lavery Photography www.richielavery.com

The build


There’s more to containers than you might think, a whole range of different specifications. I drew up a 30 point check list and eventually bought from a yard in Banbridge, Co Down, though there are plenty around. At the yard the doors were cut off and when the containers arrived on site I cut out the holes for windows and service pipes. When doing the foundations we hit a classic situation; the trial hole I dug turned out to be the only part of the site that isn’t rock! The container was sprayed with foam insulation internally to a depth of twelve inches which has given me a virtually passive house. If heating is needed – „


Richie Lavery Photography www.richielavery.com

patrick bradley Richie Lavery Photography www.richielavery.com

although I have a wood stove – there’s underfloor emitters beneath the tiled floors and it and hot water come from an LPG combi boiler. Waste is dealt with by a bio digester and cooking and lighting is electric. My energy costs work out at about £7 per week. Externally the roofs are finished in grass, internally it’s mostly open plan with stud walls separating the different areas and plasterboard on the walls and ceiling, which I painted. Doing Grand Designs helped because suppliers were very good to me and the result was a higher spec than I otherwise could have afforded. I found I soon forgot about the film crew who must have come over about 25 times to film, and Kevin McCloud at least six, during what turned out to be a nine week build. The programme was scheduled to go out in September and we didn’t begin on site until late June, then lost two weeks with the July holidays. I didn’t get much sleep but it was more than worth it.


A tour of the house

There is a separate access door to each section, lower and upper. The upper is the public space whilst below are two bedrooms and the bathroom with my infamous hanging bath, it’s what people who’ve watched Grand Designs always ask about. Although it’s hanging it’s entirely stable with an SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Richie Lavery Photography www.richielavery.com

patrick bradley

overhead shower at one end and yes, it is worth every penny. You enter the public area through the only opening on the north side, which helps to retain the heat, into a corridor with a hidden bedroom on your left and a sliding glass door in front which allows light and a view through from one end of the building to the other. The corridor takes you to the galley kitchen which is separated from the open plan living and dining area by a half wall and stairs to the lower level, which is set at right angles to the upper. Through double sliding doors on the west side of the dining area there is a steel grid balcony, at the far end of which is an outdoor chimney.

Now it’s finished

It really is everything I’ve ever wanted, an experiment that worked far better than I thought. But you don’t need to take my word for it. My Mum, who loves old buildings, has been completely won over and even if I’m not at home, she drops in for a coffee in the morning. Some people think that a contemporary building is always going to be cold and this house shows how wrong that is. I can’t imagine ever wanting to move. n Patrick Bradley Architects Ltd 30 Gortinure Rd, Maghera, Co L’derry BT46 5PA, mobile 07871655544 patrick@pb-architects.com   www.pb-architects.com

info The companies listed below provide products & services relating to this article. Artificial grass: Easigrass, Unit E3, Strangford Park, Newtownards, Co Down BT23 4YH tel. 9182 6134 www.artificalgrasscomapany.co.uk Barcelona Chairs: Modborn Ltd., Balmoral Drive, Woking, Surrey GU22 8EZ tel. 020 3287 0090 www.modborn.com Bath: Splinter Works Ltd., 2 Upper Camden Place, Bath BA1 5HX tel. 01454 280 028 www.splinterworks.co.uk Bathroom fittings, tiles: Kildress Plumbing Suppliers Ltd., 244 Drum road, Cookstown, Co Tyrone BT80 9HP tel. 8675 2000 www.kildressplumbing.com Coffee & TV tables: Zespoke, 6 Lyndseyville Road, Cookstown, Co Tyrone BT80 8UG tel. 8676 4647 www.zespoke.com Containers: Walcon Shipping Containers, 32 Circular Road, Banbridge, Co Down BT32 5LD tel. 4067 1766 www.walcon.co.uk Copper dining chairs: Vintage Vibe Ltd., Loknstore, 205 Vale Road, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1SU tel. 01622 629 029 www.vintagevibe.co.uk

Dining table & seats: Innovation Creation, Plot 3a Penwynne Farm, Dibden Hill, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire HP8 4RD tel. 01494 870 811 www.innovationcreation.co.uk Expanded metal cladding: Ridgeway Ltd., 103 Airport Road West, Belfast BT3 9ED tel. 9045 4596 www.ridgeway-online.com Grass roof: Green Roofs Direct, Larne Lough Nurseries, 146 Shore Road, Magheramorne, Larne, Co Antrim BT40 3HY www.greenroofsdirect.com Internal glass screens: Topglass Contracts Ltd., Toomebridge Business Park, Creagh Road, Toomebridge, Co Antrim BT41 3UB tel. 7965 9333 www.top-glass.com Kitchen & utility: Stormer Designs, Unit 1, Nelson Trade Centre, Nelson Street, Belfast BT15 1BH tel. 9031 5131 www.stormerdesigns.com Light fittings: Pound Lighting Centre, 30 Pound Road, Magherafelt, Co L’derry BT45 6NR tel. 7963 2082 www.poundlighting.co.uk

Polished concrete walls: Surface Form, A19 Kilcronagh Business Park, Cookstown, Co Tyrone BT 80 9HG tel. 8676 9607 www.surfaceform.com Smart lighting & sound systems: AK Electrics, 2 The Spires, Magherafelt, Co L’derry BT45 5TS tel. 7930 1892 www.icontrolhomes.com Sofa: Lord Brown’s Furniture, 17 Accrington Road, Whalley, Lancashire BG7 9TD www.lordbrowns.com Stove & flue: Granaghan Fireplaces, 20 Kilrea Road, Swatragh, Maghera, Co L’derry BT46 5QF tel. 7940 1733 www.fireplacesni.com Windows & doors: Topglass Contracts Ltd., Toomebridge Business Park, Creagh Road, Toomebridge, Co Antrim BT41 3UB tel. 7965 9333 www.topglass.com Photography Aidan Monaghan Photography, 48 Hopefield Avenue, Belfast BT15 5AP. Tel: 07887 563057 www.aidanmonaghanphotography Richie Lavery Photography www.richielavery.com

ROI calling NI: prefix with 048 NI calling ROI: prefix with 00353(0) www.SelfBuild.ie


DIY: Kitchen helpers

Make your own spice rack and chopping board I’m no Gordon Ramsey but I like to dabble in the kitchen every now and again, so I recently made a dish that called for no less than eight different spices!


he result was very appetising (in my opinion!) yet my sauce cupboard didn’t look nearly as nice – it was now crammed to the point of overflowing. The solution was to make a spice rack and, feeling enthusiastic, I decided to make a chopping board as well.


I will mostly be using hand tools, including a marking gauge which is used to scribe lines on timber parallel to an edge. It consists of a stock and a pin. The pin is dragged along the timber to make a mark while the stock is held against it. This is the


line to saw and chisel to. I have used a variety of methods to join the timber together. You can choose whatever way you want based on your ability and how adventurous you want to get. I am going to make my spice rack from old oak floorboards salvaged from a previous job. They’re the best kind of leftovers, with a bit of sanding and planing down to size they are ideal for using up on different projects. Photo 1. My first job was to measure the spice jars that I would normally use and then work out how many I wanted to store. I decided on six jars side by side with three shelves altogether for a total of eighteen

DIY: Kitchen helpers

We are now going to saw this piece in the same direction as the grain (brown stripes) of the wood. Hold the piece in the vice or with whatever clamping method you choose. Start your saw on the pull stroke and keep on the waste side of the line. You can always pare to the marking gauge line with a chisel later if you left too much material. Unfortunately if you’re on the wrong side of the waste, it’s much harder to rectify. Photo 4. Photo 4

Photo 1

jars. Plenty of space for even the most adventurous chef ! When the dimensions are established and you have your timber cut to size, you can start working on the joinery. Here’s the recipe...

Housing joint

To attach the bottom shelf to the sides, I am going to use a housing joint. This involves carving out a trench at the bottom of the two sides and tacking the bottom into it using glue and panel pins. To make this trench, measure the thickness of the bottom shelf; in my case, 12mm. I marked this measurement onto the ends of the two sides using a try square and pencil. Photo 2.

Photo 5

When you saw all the way down to the pencil line, take the piece out of the vice and turn it facing up. You now have to go across the grain to remove the rest of the trench. Photo 5. Do this on both sides of your spice rack. Clean up the trench with a chisel if needed. This is the first joint of our project. The shelf will fit up into this trench and be secured with a little glue and panel pins. On my project I will have to drill pilot holes for the pins as the oak is a hard wood and will bend the pins.

Mortise and tenon joints

Photo 2

To make the housing joint, we have to remove half of the thickness of the timber. For me, that’ll be 6 mm. With the aid of a marking gauge, mark your measurement along the edge. Photo 3. Photo 3 Photo 3

The next shelf will be joined to the sides using mortise and tenon joints. These are very strong and probably a bit of an overkill for this particular project but for the novice, this is an ideal opportunity to try them out! They are great for bigger projects such as bookshelves. A mortise and tenon joint is basically a square hole (mortise) into which a square peg (tenon) fits. Photo 6. The first step is to mark out the position of the shelf on the two sides. My spice jars are 120mm. I will therefore measure 140mm from the top of the bottom shelf to the bottom of the middle shelf. This will give me enough distance to put the jars in comfortably without too much obstruction. The shelves are 12mm thick so I will measure this next. The width of the sides is 60mm; to fit two tenons into this space evenly will require each tenon to be 15mm. To mark the tenons we will use a mortise gauge. This is identical to the marking gauge we used earlier but it has two pins rather than one. Set the distance between the two pins as 15mm; from the stock to the first pin should also be 15mm. When the mortise gauge is held against the timber and dragged along the edge, two scribe lines will be shown which will indicate the position of the mortise. Mark this with an ‘X’ to show that this is waste. Photo 7. To mark out the corresponding tenons for the „

Photo 6

Photo 7


DIY: Kitchen helpers

Photo 8

Photo 10

shelf, measure down 12mm from the ends of the shelf. Use the mortise gauge with the same settings as for the sides and scribe the lines for the tenons. The only difference is weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to mark the waste on the two edges and the middle this time. Photo 8. To remove the mortise we will use a mortise chisel; this is a chisel specially designed for this purpose. It has a more robust blade with thicker steel and usually has a steel hoop at the top of the handle to prevent it splitting from impact with a mallet. Start chiseling from the top of the mortise and work down. Always chisel across the grain as holding the chisel in the same direction as the grain will force the fibres apart and split the timber. Use the mallet and strike the chisel firmly. You will not split the timber when holding the chisel 90deg to the grain. Work down from one end of the mortise to the other. When you reach the bottom, use the chisel to break away some of the chips and then repeat the process until you are down halfway. Photo 9.

Photo 9

It is very important not to chisel through all the way to the other side. When you break through it will burst out all fibres and make a mess of the opposite side. It is therefore imperative to work from both sides until you meet in the middle. It is then a matter of cleaning up the square mortise and removing all the waste in the corners to make a neat square hole. The tenons are a bit easier in my opinion. Saw off the corners by going with the grain first (downwards) and then sawing across the grain. Photo 10. To remove the waste in the middle, saw down to the pencil line and use a coping saw or fret saw to remove the bulk of the waste. Photo 11. Use a chisel and mallet to chisel down to the pencil line.


Photo 11

Again, work from both sides. Test fit the joints and remove timber if necessary to get a nice fit. Ideally they should slot together with hand pressure alone but a tap with a mallet could be used. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t force it if itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s too tight, this could end in catastrophe!

Stopped housing

The idea behind this joint is to have the strength of a through housing joint without it being visible from the front. When you look at the finished product it seems as though the shelf is just butted up to the sides but it is in fact housed into them. The reason being that some people prefer to see a fluid edge with no interruptions. To produce this joint, we must again mark out the position of the shelf and the layout of the joint. It is very similar to the previous housing joint at the beginning. Square the lines around the piece and scribe a marking gauge line at the back of the joint. There is no need to scribe a line at the front as this is going to remain untouched. Step in 20mm from the front and scribe a line. Do this on both sides of your piece. Photo 12. Photo 12

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

To process this joint, we must first cut a mortise to give us a place to start the sawing. Photo 13. This joint doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go all the way across so it is impossible to use a saw for all of it. The purpose of the mortise is to give the saw somewhere to start. Saw down to the marking gauge line and use a chisel to remove the rest of the waste. Clean up the trench as best you can. Photo 14.

Photo 16

Clamp or tape together to stop them from moving. Apply glue to all the joints and assemble. When the glue dries, plane and sand the pieces smooth and finish with an oil or food safe finish. To prevent the spices from falling out, tack on a front rail or drill a hole and put in a long dowel. I intend on placing this spice rack against a wall or screwing it to the back of a press door so a rail on one side will suffice.

DIY: Kitchen helpers

Photo 13

Chopping board

To make the chopping board, I will start off with a length of square timber. In this case it was 45mm x 45mm beech. To make this board last for a lifetime, I will construct it so the ends of the board are exposed. This is known as an end grain chopping board and it has several advantages. Top of the list is self-healing. This means that when a knife Photo 17

Photo 14

To make the shelf, a piece has to be sawn out of the corner to allow it to fit into the side. Use whatever measurements you used for the trench and replicate these onto the shelf. Saw with the grain first and then across to remove this piece. Photo 15.

Photo 15

Dry assemble all the joints and see how they fit. There might be a bit of cleaning up or material to remove. Photo 16. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s now time to design the top of the two sides of the rack. A simple curve could be cut out with a coping saw and sanded smooth. Cut both of these together to make sure the two will be identical. www.SelfBuild.ie

is used to chop and it inadvertently damages the board or cuts it, the timber will actually close up over time. If the board is used often this can be a big advantage. Making the board with long grain (the grain going lengthways), timber means that it will get damaged and pieces will eventually crack off and become a lot more cut up over time. This is a very easy board to make. We get our timber in square sections and crosscut them to whatever thickness you want the board to be. In this case 30mm. Photo 17. Work out how big you want the board to be and determine how many of these blocks you will need. It is extremely difficult to glue the full board up all at once so it is a much better idea to glue it in sections.


DIY: Kitchen helpers

For each section there will be ten blocks. When working with glue you have a relatively short period of time before it sets so make sure youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got everything you need and the clamps ready first. Lay all the blocks on their sides and using a brush or roller, apply the glue to all the blocks at the same time. Photo 18. Turn the blocks the right side up and join them all together. If we were to apply a clamp to either end of this section â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and begin to tighten, the blocks would move and cause all sorts of problems. To prevent this from happening, take two scrap pieces of timber the same length as the section and cover one side of them with sticky tape or contact paper. This is to prevent the glue from sticking to these pieces. Place one of these pieces on either side of the section and clamp this together to prevent lateral movement of the blocks. Now apply the clamp to the ends of the section and tighten together. The blocks cannot move as they are held securely. Photo 19. Repeat this process for the rest of the sections

Photo 18

Photo 19

depending on how wide you want your board to be. Clean up the sides of these sections with a plane and sandpaper and now glue all the sections together. Trim the board to required length and width using either handsaw or power saw. To finish the chopping board, plane the top and bottom smooth with a low angle plane or a sander, and brush with a food safe oil or even vegetable oil. Apply cork feet to the underside if desired to keep it off the counter and protect it from spillages, etc. Never soak the board in water and apply the oil as often as required. Rout over the edges or sand the sharp edges off to improve the look and to make it more comfortable to use. There you have it! Two essential kitchen items to help you unleash the Jamie Oliver inside us all! Happy making! n Ciaran Hegarty All images courtesy of Ciaran Hegarty


SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Secrets to a Successful Space

DOMESTIC HOUSE design in Ireland is an area where those who need it and those who can provide it struggle to see eye to eye. On one side you have homeowners, often living in inappropriate cookie cutter house layouts or homes built from the bungalow book. They know that things could be very much better but many lack the confidence to consult an architect who is trained to see a home as a space and is not caught up in the clutter and confusion of daily life. Will Love Your Home change that? It is encouraging and refreshing to have a book published that focuses solely on Irish houses, though the format of Love Your Home by TV presenter Dermot Bannon will be familiar. It boasts a ‘coffee table’ design and the layout is similar to many house and interiors books – a text by the author, and a large amount of lavish photographs from a variety of architects. The images are particularly interesting because they are all from Irish architects, and it’s great to see their work brought to a wider audience. Bannon’s text ranges from general outlines of design fundamentals, through a ‘problem and solution’ discussion of typical Irish houses, to specific advice about rooms,

materials, etc. It is clear, understandable, common-sense, and approachable, while still describing a host of ideas that will give readers something to think about. The images are equally helpful, high quality photographs of high quality projects and I will be browsing through them for years. However, there are no plans! I am an architect and I do wonder what one of the homeowners described above will make of the suggestions and schemes. We all like to daydream but the harsh reality is very few of us can afford to build Grand Design style houses and so the practical uses of this book for the majority of homeowners are more difficult to ascertain. While the text is very much about the everyday value of simple good design, there is no escaping the fact that almost all of the houses shown in the photos are those of the very well-off. There are a few exceptions, and to be fair the majority of those seem to be Bannon’s own work. For the most part

though, the projects are to the typical house what a high performance car is to a family hatchback. I wonder if this just perpetuates the image problem that domestic design has – the idea that it’s something that’s fabulous, for those who can afford it. Another point I would like to take issue with is the pool of architects featured; it is very narrow. Leaving aside Bannon himself, there are twenty architects who have contributed work to the book, but almost half of the photographs are from just four of these. Re-working the format by including a few key case studies of exemplar projects in more detail could have allowed for a broader appeal and application.

between the covers

Love your home

Stephen Musiol Love Your Home by Dermot Bannon, Gill and MacMillan, www.gillmacmillanbooks.ie, Dublin tel. 01 500 9500, ISBN 9780717164486, colour photographs, hardback, 208 pages, €22.99

between the covers The Sustainable Design Book IN A NUTSHELL, this is a guidebook on eco-friendly design. There are 265 different products featured in a user friendly layout of five chapters, covering materials, furniture, lighting, home accessories and personal accessories. It is an inspirational catalogue aimed at designers and consumers looking for furniture and products that are beautiful, unique and sustainably made or sourced. In her introduction the author, Rebecca Proctor, states that “the aim of the book is to surprise, inspire and delight,” which she doesn’t fail to do. I really liked the interviews with leading designers which give an insight into trends and exciting techniques used within the industry. The reader gains a unique perspective not only into the designers’ work but also their outlooks, energy and passion. Every Q&A interview I read taught me something new and I found it inspirational how each designer/studio is making their work sustainable and how passionate they are about limiting their carbon footprint. www.SelfBuild.ie

Handy icons highlight each of the products’ sustainability credentials and websites make it easy to source them. This is particularly important because they have been gathered from all over the world and are hugely diverse. They include Loowatt, a waterless toilet system that seals human waste into biodegradable polymer film, Bees Wrap is an innovative wax coated cloth for preserving food, there is a pendent light made from a recycled Gramophone horn and even reversing the normal course of events is the process of turning paper into wood again! While some materials are invented to publicise up-cycling, most are conceived as a unique replacement using renewable resources. Photographing the objects described against a pure white background is particularly helpful as this allows them to stand out clearly and enables the reader to really see the detail in each. There is a generous allocation of space (a full page), for each object and the product description includes an historical note on its origins.

One caveat concerns the printing. Although the material – paper – is from responsible sources, regrettably it is printed in China which adds to the carbon footprint (the publication being English) and contradicts the fundamental message of the book. Another issue is that of cost; there is no indication what kind of financial outlay is required to purchase these items. There is a lot to learn in these pages and following the principles and practices given, we could all lessen the impact we have on the earth’s limited natural resources without losing out on style and design. As long as we consume less, not more! As one interviewee states, hopefully sustainability will “move beyond a trend and into a lifestyle choice” this books inspires you to do just that. Gwen Kenny The Sustainable Design Book by Rebecca Proctor, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, London EC1V 1LR tel. +44 (0)20 7841 6900 enquiries@laurenceking.com www.laurenceking.com Hardback, colour, 320pp £24.95


advertiser index

advertiser index A

A&H Nicholson......................................................... Pg 128 1 Sheemore Crescent, Kilkeel, Co Down, BT34 4FA Tel: 028 4176 9397 Web: www.ahnicholson.com Advanced Timbercraft Ltd........................................... Pg 69 Beechvale, 10 Brown’s Road, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, BT36 4RN Tel: 028 9083 8951 Web: www.advancedtimbercraft.com

Frost Insurance Ltd..................................................... Pg 69 3 The Crescent, Limerick, Co Limerick, Tel: 061 310566 Web: www.frostinsurances.ie G

Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd............................. Pg 128 Unit 3 IDA Industrial Estate Baltimore Road, Skibbereen, Co Cork, Tel: 028 23 701 Web: www.ahac.ie

Garage Door Systems.................................................. Pg 69 Wakehurst Industrial Estate Wakehurst Road, Ballymena, Co Antrim, BT42 3AZ Tel: 028 2565 5555 Web: www.garagedoorsystems.co.uk

AMVIC Ireland............................................................ Pg 57 Monread Industrial Estate, Naas, Co Kildare, Tel: 045 889 276 Web: www.amvicireland.com

Gas Networks Ireland................................................. Pg 61 Tel: 1850 42 77 47 Web: www.gasnetworks.ie/dial

APS Ltd..................................................................... Pg 108 50 Enterprise Crescent Ballinderry Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim, BT28 2BP Tel: 028 9266 0500 Web: www.aps-group.co.uk August BioPro Ireland Ltd........................................... Pg 43 Cillin Hill Business Centre Dublin Road, Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny, Tel: 061 536 233 Web: www.biopro.ie B Beam Vacuum & Ventilation..................................... Pg 132 Opus Business Park 35 Aughrim Road, Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, BT45 6BB Tel: 028 7963 2424 Web: www.beamcentralsystems.com C Calor Gas.................................................................... Pg 82 c/o Calor Teoranta Longmile Road, Dublin 12, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 450 5000 Web: www.calorgas.ie Camden Group......................................................... Pg 131 Unit 4-7, Steeple Industrial Estate, Antrim, Co Antrim, BT41 1AB Tel: 028 9446 2419 Web: www.camdengroup.co.uk

GIRA (KNX Tech)......................................................... Pg 89 32 Wilson Road, Mount Merrion, Dublin, Co Dublin, Tel: 087 989 6428 Web: www.knx-tech.eu GMS Insulations Ltd.................................................... Pg 47 Legga, Moyne, Co Longford, Tel: 049 433 5057 Web: www.icynene.ie Golden Gates.............................................................. Pg 51 7 Churchlands Church Road, Bray, Co Wicklow, Tel: 01 286 2495 Web: www.goldengates.ie Granaghan Fireplaces............................................... Pg 128 74 Killygullib Road Swatragh, Maghera, Co Londonderry, BT46 5QR Tel: 028 7940 1733 Web: www.fireplacesni.com Gyproc.......................................................................... Pg 4 Unit 4 Kilcarbery Business Park Nangor road, Dublin 22, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 629 8400 Web: www.gypsum.ie H Hannaway Hilltown...................................................... Pg 7 44 Main Street, Hilltown, Co Down, BT34 5UJ Tel: 028 4063 0737 or t: 4063 1291 Web: www.brookwoodfurniture.co.uk

CES Quarry Products Ltd............................................... Pg 9 Doran’s Rock 124 Crossgar Road, Saintfield, Co Down, BT24 7JQ Tel: 028 9751 9494 Web: www.cesquarryproducts.com

Homecare Systems Ltd................................................ Pg 15 The Beam Centre, Unit 3 TVI Business Park, Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, BT70 2UD Tel: 028 8776 9111 Web: www.homecaresystems.biz

Choice Heating Solutions............................................ Pg 59 Coolymurraghue, Kerrypike, Co Cork, Tel: 087 275 4012 Web: www.choiceheatingsolutions.com


D DK Windows & Doors Ltd.............................................. Pg 3 Unit C, Westland Business Park, Willow Road (Off Nangor Road), Dublin 12, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 424 2067 Web: www.dkwindows.ie DL Windows............................................................... Pg 59 Clonalvy, Garristown, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 835 4066 Web: www.dlwindows.ie E Eco Building Systems.................................................. Pg 64 Valley Business Park, Newry, Co Down, BT34 3DS Tel: 028 4173 9372 Web: www.ecobuildingsystems.co.uk F Fast Floor Screed Ltd................................................... Pg 43 Cappagh, Enfield, Co Kildare, Tel: 087 253 6688 Web: www.fastfloorscreed.ie Flogas Ireland Ltd......................................................... Pg 2 Knockbrack House, Matthews Lane Donore Road, Drogheda, Co Louth, Tel: 041 9874 813 Web: www.flogas.ie


FP McCann Ltd............................................................ Pg 47 3 Drummard Road, Knockloughrim Quarry, Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, BT45 8QA Tel: 028 7964 2558 Web: www.fpmccann.co.uk

Ian A Kernohan Ltd..................................................... Pg 51 Fir Trees, Greenway Industrial Estate, Conlig, Co Down, BT23 7SU Tel: 028 9127 0233 Web: www.iakonline.com Isover......................................................................... Pg 33 Unit 4 Kilcarbery Business Park Nangor road, Dublin 22, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 629 8400 Web: www.isover.ie K Keystone Lintels Ltd.................................................... Pg 27 Ballyreagh Industrial Estate Sandholes Road, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, BT80 9DG Tel: 028 8676 2184 Web: www.keystonelintels.com Kilbroney Timber Frame Ltd........................................ Pg 64 Valley Business Park, 48 Newtown Road Rostrevor, Newry, Co Down, BT34 3BZ Tel: 028 4173 9077 Web: www.kilbroneytimberframe.com Kingspan Insulation Ltd.............................................. Pg 10 Bree Industrial Estate, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, Tel: 042 979 5000 Web: www.kingspanstore.com Kingspan Klargester.................................................... Pg 73 180 Gilford Road, Portadown, Co Armagh, BT63 5LF Tel: 028 3026 6759/048 3026 6799 Web: www.klargester.ie


Nordan Residential..................................................... Pg 89 The Door Depot Old Castle Road, Kells, Co Meath, Tel: 01 450 1111 Web: www.doordepot.ie P Perfect Water Systems(Irl.) Ltd................................. Pg 128 Ballysally Business Park Railway Road, Charleville, Co Cork, Tel: 063 89290 Web: www.perfectwater.ie R Reinco........................................................................ Pg 59 11 Westland Road, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, BT80 8BX Tel: 07729 125 002 Web: www.reinco.co.uk. Roofblock................................................................... Pg 43 5 Bramble Wood Old Shore Road, Newtownards, Co Down, BT23 8WZ Tel: 028 9181 8285 Web: www.roofblock.co.uk RTU............................................................................ Pg 21 Cloughfern Avenue, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, BT37 OUZ Tel: 028 9085 1441 Web: www.rtu.co.uk S Schneider Electric Ireland Ltd...................................... Pg 31 Block A, Maynooth Business Campus, Maynooth, Co Kildare, Tel: 01 601 2200 Web: www.schneiderelectric.ie Senator Windows Ltd................................................. Pg 64 Seaview Industrial Estate Maudlintown, Wexford Town, Co Wexford, Tel: 053 914 1522 Web: www.senatorwindows.ie Smeg (UK) Ltd............................................................. Pg 79 3A Park Square Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, OX14 4RN Tel: 01235 828 308 Web: www.smeguk.com Soaks Bathrooms........................................................ Pg 96 5-7 Apollo Road off Boucher Road, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT12 6HP Tel: 028 9068 1121 Web: soaksbathrooms.com T The Panelling Centre................................................... Pg 76 Furry Park, Old Airport Road Santry, Dublin 9, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 884 1111 Web: www.panellingcentre.ie The Spinning Wheel.................................................... Pg 82 8-9 Donegall Square West, Belfast, Co Antrim, BT1 6JH Tel: 028 9032 6111 Web: www.thespinningwheel.co.uk Tilt A Dor.................................................................... Pg 64 Jubilee Road, Newtownards, Co Down, BT23 4YH Tel: 028 9181 5337 Web: www.tilt-a-dor.co.uk U U Value Spray Foam.................................................... Pg 82 Kimacanogue, Bray, Co Wicklow, Tel: 086 869 0234 Web: www.uvaluesprayfoam.ie Ultimate Joinery......................................................... Pg 27 Unit 4 Granite House Greenhills Industrial Estate Walkinstown, Dublin 12, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 905 5833 Web: www.ultimatejoinery.ie V Velfac Direct............................................................... Pg 28 Ground Floor Unit H, City West Shopping Centre City West Road, Dublin, Co Dublin, Tel: 01 403 9999 Web: www.teroco.ie SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

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product selectors

A&H Nicholson

Alternative Heating & Cooling Ltd. Heatpump and Underfloor Heating Systems

Many Services - One Quality • Loft Conversions • Refurbishments • Alterations/Extensions • Garage Conversion • New Builds • Kitchens • Electrical Services • Plumbing Services • Bathroom Fitting • Plastering • Bricklaying & Stone A&H Nicholson Limited is a construction firm dedicated to achieving customer/client satisfaction and service. We have the necessary skills to give our customers the standards they require. We refuse to compromise on quality and all work is completed to the highest of standards. Our teams are fully trained and qualified, and offer excellent craftsmanship and service.

Unit 3 IDA Industrial Estate Baltimore Road Skibbereen, Co. Cork T: 028 23701 E: info@ahac.ie

Tel: 07834 436714



Perfect Water Systems

Our ground source/geothermal/Air source range of heat pumps are market leaders in the renewable energy field. • “Waterfurnace” Water/Water ranging from 6 to 145kw, • “Euronom” and “Panasonic” Air/water from 7 to 72kw. We offer heating and cooling design solutions for both the Domestic and Commercial markets, ranging from 100sqm apartments to sports complexes, libraries, nursing home and innovative systems for the fish farming industry. New build, renovate or waste heat recovery, we offer a nationwide service,with sub-dealers operating in various locations throughout the 32 counties.

Granaghan Fireplaces

Transform your life with a Kinetico water softener - the best kept secret in every home

Jump into a crystal clear, limescale-free shower... ...then snuggle into softer, cleaner, brighter towels.

Find out more today; Perfect Water 063-89290 Laois | Aqua Treatment 087-2580318 Galway | Arqtech Laboratories 087-6688769 Dublin | Arqtech lo-call 1850451850

Granaghan Fireplaces have been creating and selling hand carved fireplaces for over twenty years. We design, create and sell unique fireplaces in Marble, Granite, Sandstone, Limestone and provide beautiful designs at an affordable price. At Granaghan Fireplaces our emphasis is on creating bespoke fireplaces that meet the individual requirements of our customers. All fireplaces are painstakingly created using traditional methods and only the finest materials. Whichever design you chose you can be assured the finest quality craftsmanship. So be bold and choose the fireplace or stove of your dreams at Granaghan Fireplaces. Come and see our huge range.

20 Kilrea Road, Swatragh, Maghera, BT46 5QF Tel:028 79401733 / Fax: 028 79401936 www.fireplacesni.com / michael@fireplacesni.com

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Get tech savvy: Home cinema on a budget Adding a new window or new doorway: what you need to know Interior design: loft conversions Plants for ponds and riverside Basement conversions: tanking DIY guide: mantelpieces Building with stone Universal design: building a home for life In good health Part 2: types of wastewater systems Garage design Part 2: how to convert your existing garage Pleasing the planners Part 2: how to secure planning permission for your extension

On Sale 22 July 2015 128

SelfBuild & Improve Your Home

Most of us, when we first started playing around with houses, built them out of Lego. There were endless options and reconfigurations, no structure needed to be the same and a finite number of pieces provided endless options and hours of fun.


tep into the real world and we’d be hard pressed to take a house apart and be left with any reusable components. But what if we took those childhood ideas of adaptable and reusable building components and applied them to house construction today? Would there be any benefits? What should the priority be when designing a new home – the immediate needs of the occupier, a prediction of the possible needs, future saleability, or minimisation of whole life carbon? Most likely it will be a combination of the first three options. While some projects seek to reduce operational carbon beyond regulations, very few consider carbon emitted outside the use phase. What if you could build a house that addressed all five options? A house, with low whole life carbon, that makes the best use of resources, one that can change and adapt to the users’ evolving needs. By integrating design for adaptability, deconstruction and material reuse, combined with a strategy to reduce operational carbon, this could be achieved. Design for adaptability, deconstruction and material reuse means thinking at the design stage about the options to make a house as flexible as possible, and planning its construction so that it can be taken apart piece by piece, rather than destructively demolished. Making a house flexible involves a range of considerations. In terms of design, this may include doorway and stair width to allow accessibility for wheelchairs and stairlift installation in the future. Broader spatial considerations could be the inclusion of a flexible space plan; for example, open plan spaces that could be easily sub-divided and still create useful living areas, an assessment of the potential for home expansion could also be included. Designers should collaborate with occupiers and contractors to create a home that maximises future options. The result would be a home which can change and adapt to a user’s requirements over time, whilst adding to the future saleability of the property. Design for deconstruction works well in tandem with design for adaptability. It means that if in ten years you want to extend your home, then instead of smashing through a brick wall, you can dismantle the section of www.SelfBuild.ie

wall where you want to extend and ideally reuse those wall elements within your extension. Both approaches require a layered construction, ideally with easy access to those elements with shorter life spans to enable quick maintenance, replacement and upgrade, such as plumbing and electrics. This approach lends itself to frame construction rather than traditional brick and block, as the separation, build up and access to different layers is more practical and reversible connections can be more easily incorporated. That is not to say that design for deconstruction is not possible with masonry construction, but it would mean switching to a lime mortar and deconstruction would be labour intensive. Design for deconstruction also facilitates disassembly and material reuse at end of life. Potential reuse can be maximised by tagging materials with key properties (i.e. structural grade), providing a deconstruction plan and an inventory of materials and components that could be collated in a home information pack and retained with other property information such as the energy rating. This information enables future occupants and contractors to know what materials are within the building, facilitating deconstruction and reuse. But why does material reuse matter? To date, we haven’t run out of building materials; if anything the palette keeps expanding. But what about the energy and emissions expended to make those materials? It is


The future is Lego

generally a long, energy intensive road that takes raw materials to their finished products. Energy is required to extract materials, process, refine, manufacture and transport them from several locations before they arrive on site. This is known as the cradle to site embodied energy, and the greenhouse gas emissions produced during these different stages is the embodied carbon of a material. Conservation of this embodied carbon is the primary aim of material reuse. If individual elements, sets of components, or whole buildings can be reused, then new materials and their associated emissions can be avoided. This is an important approach for reducing carbon emissions from the built environment. These embodied emissions are significant, estimated at 63 MtCO2e for UK structures built in 2007. To meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, these embodied emissions should be targeted alongside the operational emissions from homes. By incorporating design for adaptability, deconstruction and reuse, the usable life span of homes can be maximised, user satisfaction increased, materials reused and embodied carbon reduced. In the commercial sector, co-benefits have included faster construction times and on-site waste reduction. Flexibility in use (designs accommodating as wide a range of users as possible) is seen as a huge benefit in the supermarkets, office buildings and temporary event structures which are considering or have already deployed this approach. There is the potential for even greater benefits within housing. A house that can be easily upgraded, extended, and adapted throughout its life to suit changing needs and demographics would be ideal; with the added bonus of helping to save the planet: reducing embodied emissions and preserving resources for future generations. My final question is, what are you waiting for; could these strategies be incorporated into your new home? n If you’re interested in working with us to develop pioneering case studies that showcase these strategies please get in contact. Dr Danielle Densley Tingley, dod21@cam.ac.uk, the UK INDEMAND Centre, University of Cambridge www.cam.ac.uk


notice board

Hidden wonder worker If you’ve read our article on the subject (see page 98), then this next piece will be of particular interest to you. The range of options for waste water treatment when you don’t have access to a main sewer have multiplied in recent years as the industry has taken on the challenge of providing efficient, reliable and safe systems. It’s an area Kingspan Klargester have great expertise and vast experience in and they have drawn upon this to create the new BioFicient wastewater treatment plant. It’s a ‘home grown’ product designed and manufactured in Ireland and is thus perfectly suited to our climate and conditions. If you are going to need a

new or a replacement system for a selfbuild or home improvement project, then you will want to know about this because it has some really stunning features. Managing the removal of waste water from a new house is one of the earliest design considerations and this system has advantages that could make that a whole lot easier. The main points are: l Suitable for shallow dig applications l Simple installation below ground, minimising visual impact l Low maintenance and running costs l Can be installed in traffic areas eg. Driveways l Built in alarm which notifies the homeowner of any

potential problems, ensuring compliance at all times and thus protection against the risk of pollution and prosecution. l Increased ammonia reduction (99% ammonia output level of 0.4mg/l, lowest in class) l Efficiency rating of up to 95% Time on site for installation is reduced because it is lightweight, has a low profile and extension neck making it very unobtrusive, and it requires only a small digger to put it all in place. A range of models is available to suit all households. BioFicient is fully compliant, tested and approved to BS EN 12566 Part 3 standards and has been designed for use within the EPA Code of Practice. For further information contact Kingspan Klargester (part of Kingspan Environmental), 1a Carnbane Industrial Estate, Newry, Co Down BT35 6JQ tel. 3026 6799 www.klargester.ie

noticeboard Opening lines The latest blockbuster product from Carroll Residential has just been launched, the DanWin outward opening door and window system. Of special interest to self-builders and home improvers on this island is the attention in their manufacture to the essentials for our climate. Independently certified by Buildcheck for weather tightness and U values, the product carries a six year Guarantee. But to begin at the beginning, what about the raw materials? The wood is slow growing Scandinavian pine from FSC forests which is then preservative pressure treated, resulting in a far deeper penetration than is achieved with flow coating, spraying or immersion dipping. This gives the basic timber a much improved lifespan and if you wish to have maintenance free windows and doors, there are eight standard colours to choose from with the alu-clad option.


Paving the Way

The average U value for the double glazed units (including the frame), is 1.3W/ sqmK and each unit is made to measure. Designed in Denmark, made in Ireland and in your new home in just four weeks from placing the order, the people to contact are Carroll Residential, The Door Depot, Bluebell Industrial Estate, Dublin 12 tel. 01 4600 363 www.doordepot.ie

Paving and walling manufacturer Tobermore have added a new colour, ‘Harvest Gold’, to their Historic Flag range. Tobermore’s Historic Flag embodies traditional, vintage charm. The flag has a durable natural stone surface while the fettled edges and riven face add a timeless elegance, making it ideal for both old and new properties. Harvest Gold can now be ordered as well as the existing colours of Bracken and Slate, and Historic Circle, which measures 2.24m in size, is also available with the Historic range. Call Tobermore, Co L’derry on 7964 2411 or visit www. tobermore.co.uk for more information. SelfBuild & Improve Your Home


Profile for Selfbuild Ireland Ltd.

Selfbuild & Improve Your Home Summer 2015  

Selfbuild & Improve Your Home Summer 2015