EXTENSIONS RENOVATIONS NEW HOMES INTERIORS GARDENS
SUMMER 2018 £3.50 / €3.75
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Dream it . Do it . Live it
DIY IN SLIGO / TIPP SUPERHOMES / BARREL ROOF IN TYRONE / MONAGHAN SEMI-D / SPEEDY OFFALY / BARN IN DOWN / CORK RENTAL
ALL IRELAND BEST SELLING MAGAZINE FOR SELF-BUILDERS AND HOME IMPROVERS
EDITOR'S LETTER / WELCOME
Welcome... Great news! Selfbuild Live, Ireland’s go-to event for selfbuilders and home improvers, now features free one-day Bootcamps – take part in Dublin from the 14th to 16th September (pg 78) and for an overview of the situation in NI, the Belfast Bootcamp recap is on
page 69. Quality is at the top of the priority list, and the vital first step is to come up with a design solution that’s specific to context and has architectural merit (pg 100). But how about the bricks and mortar? Sadly, in ROI local authorities still do not oversee key construction stages. Cost and staffing issues seem to be the excuse for the lack of building control and yet the government budget for this year alone, to remediate just some of the pyrite cases is €30 million (pg 19). Prevention should be better than cure. On the flip side what’s very encouraging to see is how seriously the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland takes the hidden dangers of renovations with its system of quality control for contractors (pg 15). Rated on a green to red scale, tradesmen can readily be struck off for poor building practices. Ideally though, homeowners should know what ‘shade’ of contractor they hire – too many are currently on ‘orange’ alert.
Solar panels Your PV and thermal options
Full overview of self-building in NI
Irish design heroes
Designs with architectural merit and speed dating
With Selfbuild. Dream it. Do it. Live it. Astrid Madsen - Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
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selfbuild.ie SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 05
C O N T E N T S / W H AT ’ S I N S I D E
Selfbuild Dream it . Do it . Live it
48 36 SELFBUILD: THE ALL-IRELAND
All of our articles equally cover all parts of Ireland, including each and every one of the 32 counties. The regulations, work practices and everything else you can reasonably think of, we’ve got it covered from both sides of the border. When we refer to Northern Ireland the abbreviation we use is NI, when we refer to the Republic of Ireland it’s ROI.
06 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
W H AT ’ S I N S I D E / C O N T E N T S
SELFBUILD LIVE DUBLIN
DITCH THE CHIMNEY
ENABLING THE RENEWABLE SELF-CONSUMER
Basic information about building or improving your home in any of the 32 counties
CHILD FRIENDLY GARDENING
HOW SELF-BUILDERS CAN MAKE VILLAGES THRIVE
76 24 DIY SELF-BUILD ON A BUDGET
36 THE FINAL BUILD Decades of experience have culminated in Eric and Gladys Black’s home for life in Co Tyrone.
Your complete guide to building in NI from the experts we gathered at Selfbuild Live Belfast.
Learn from the Irish self-builders who have been through the process of building and home improving
Paul and Rebecca O’Connor of Co Sligo chronicle the self-build evolution of their family home.
Clíodhna and Enda Rooney of Co Monaghan on injecting the wow factor within a tight footprint.
60 TINKERING AT THE EDGES
Adding a porch and living room extension made all the difference for Julie and Andrew Rogers of Co Down.
82 MAKING YOUR HOME SUPER One-stop-shop energy renovations.
104 LIKE CLOCKWORK The story of Mark Feely’s fast-track stick build in Co Offaly.
120 THE SKY, AND THE SEA, ARE THE LIMIT Lyons and Nicci O’Keeffe on renting out their self-build in Co Cork.
Moving your children away from screen time and into wildlife.
How the community land trust model could help self-builders build within rural towns.
Your 10 step guide to planning an extension.
100 DO YOU REALLY NEED AN ARCHITECT?
THE LOW DOWN ON SOLAR PANELS
124 ASK THE EXPERT
Everything you need to know about solar thermal, PV and battery storage.
102 SPEED DATING
The vital importance of investing in good architectural design.
Your self-build questions answered.
128 PLANNING REFUSED
Architect Mélina Sharp explains how her parents’ dream of building on the family farm was shattered.
How to choose your designer.
48 SEMI-D MAKEOVER
For a truly low cost self-build, don’t install a chimney or a wet heating system.
Why now is not the time to pay selfbuilders for the electricity they generate in the home.
We will be at Citywest Dublin from the 1416 September 2018. Gain some facts and figures for your project or just pick up ideas to make your home brighter and better.
106 THE ART OF GETTING FROM A TO B
Spatial relationships in the home.
108 IRISH DESIGN HEROES
A showcase of Irish products and services from our sponsors
116 OUTDOOR CARE
Modernist masters to inspire your interiors.
Patio and deck maintenance.
Product and industry news in the world of building and home improving.
118 GREEN ROOFS
Intensive versus extensive and much more in between.
126 APPEALING YOUR CASE
Your guide to fighting your case in front of An Bord Pleanála (ROI) or the Planning Appeals Commission (NI).
INSIDE THE LUMI LIFT AND SLIDE
Discover the latest addition to Lumi’s range of sliding doors – the double glazed lift and slide.
114 INSIDE THE CONCRETE HOME
The Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland on why concrete built is better built. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 07
CONTRIBUTORS / TEAM
EXTENSIONS RENOVATIONS NEW HOMES INTERIORS GARDENS
SPRING 2018 £3.50 / €3.75
Stuart is a freelance writer for design-led publications; he also holds the full-time position of Senior Development Manager at Taylor Wimpey Central London. email@example.com
Brendan Buck, BA (TCD), MRUP (UCD), Dip. (UD), Dip. (EIA/SEA), MIPI is a Town Planner and head of BPS Planning Consultants based out of Dublin. buckplanning.ie / mobile 0872615871
Caroline in an architect and award winning interior designer who set up her practice Irvine Nash in 2003. She’s based in Co Dublin. irvine-nash.com / mobile 087 2987401
Dr Marion McGarry is an author, historian, part-time Galway Mayo Insititute of Technology lecturer and freelance illustrator. She is the author of The Irish Cottage published by Orpen Press. @marion_mcgarry
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Dream it . Do it . Live it
DIY IN SLIGO / TIPP SUPERHOMES / BARREL ROOF IN TYRONE / MONAGHAN SEMI-D / SPEEDY OFFALY / BARN IN DOWN / CORK RENTAL
ALL IRELAND BEST SELLING MAGAZINE FOR SELF-BUILDERS AND HOME IMPROVERS
Cover Photo Mark Watts ©UniqueHomeStays Editor Astrid Madsen firstname.lastname@example.org Design Myles McCann email@example.com Shannon Quinn firstname.lastname@example.org
Denis Naughten Denis Naughten TD is a scientist by profession and currently holds the role of ROI Minister of Communications, Climate Action & Environment. dccae.gov.ie
Fiann Ó Nualláin
Award winning garden designer, Emer is a Dublin based architect and author and broadcaster, Fiann has a surveyor who specialises in designing background in fine art, ethnobotany and and implementing sustainable systems complementary medicine. and settlements. theholisticgardener.com / eosfuturedesign.com / tel. 01 497 2564 @HolisticG
Mélina Sharp Mélina is an architect working in Clare who has recently completed a post graduate certificate in digital analysis and energy retrofit in DIT in preparation for the new NZEB regulations. email@example.com
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Gerry distributes Icynene spray foam insulation through his company GMS Insulations Ltd which he founded in 2005. Gerry is also a director of Future TEK Homes Ltd. icynene.ie / ROI tel. 1800 98 98 90
Andrew is a project manager with over 30 years’ experience. He is also a writer and the author of Managing Your Build published by Stobart Davies.
Tony has over 25 years’ experience in the construction industry and has a vast array of experience ranging from award-winning low carbon building design to industrial energy efficiency. elementconsultants.co.uk
Patrick is an engineer and energy consultant based in Belfast. tel. 906 41241 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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Published by SelfBuild Ireland Ltd. 119 Cahard Rd, Saintfield, Co Down BT24 7LA. Tel: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0570 / Fax: (NI 028 / ROI 048) 9751 0576 firstname.lastname@example.org / selfbuild.ie 08 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
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H I G H L I G H T S / W H AT ' S N E W
2017 stats are in 2017 WAS AN ACTIVE YEAR FOR SELFBUILDERS in ROI with approved planning permissions up 23.5 per cent on 2016 for oneoff houses, from 4,230 to 5,225 units. New dwellings starts also recorded an increase in 2017, with 4,824 commencement notices filed for new single dwellings, representing a 20 per cent increase on 2016. In NI the level of planning approvals for new single dwellings was steady at the 2,000 mark in 2017. In terms of commencements, the number of new house starts includes speculative development so it doesn’t represent one-off houses only. But as an indication of activity, the increase from calendar years 2016 and 2017 was around four per cent. Overall the NI construction sector continued to recover in 2017 with third quarter statistics showing the volume of work was the highest level reported in the past five years with the total volume of housing output was at its highest point since 2011, up nearly 15 per cent year on year. Most of the increase in the third quarter was due to an 8 per cent increase in repair and maintenance.
Safe as houses? AS ROI CONTINUES TO GRAPPLE WITH HOUSING DEFECTS, from pyrite to mica all the way through to fire safety, it seems we’re still not any closer to making it mandatory for local authority building control inspectors to oversee key stages of construction with site visits, as is currently the case in NI. However the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government did publish a report on Building Standards, Building Controls & Consumer Protection entitled Safe as Houses? Whilst it has no statutory footing, (the report is not binding, and is for all intents and purposes a recommendation to the Department), it outlines measures to introduce a Building Control Authority and making latent defects insurance mandatory for all builders. Meanwhile the Green Party’s Private Member’s Bill that could see the introduction of more consumer protection for homeowners has been delayed. Unfortunately the introduction of mandatory inspections on building sites by local authorities does not seem to be within the scope of the Green Party proposal, its focus instead is on improving remedies. The Bill, once presented, would then have to be passed by the Oireachtas to be turned into law.
Feed-in tariffs put on the long finger THE ROI DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT’S PILOT GRANT SCHEME for generating electricity in the home will not consider allowing homeowners to sell the excess back to the grid, Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten told Selfbuild in March. The options, he said, will not include feed-in tariffs but will be looking at providing a grant for homeowners to install the microgeneration unit, e.g. photovoltaic panels, and battery storage as well as possible tie-ins with electric vehicle charge points, for which a €600 grant is currently available. No decision has been made as to the exact makeup of the scheme but it is still scheduled to be rolled out this summer. A major reason for the lack of an export tariff is that at present, grid connection for small or micro generators is too complex to do (read more about this on page 92). The good news is that the electricity network operator is engaged in a project called StoreNet which should help the ESB cope with microgenerators feeding electricity into the grid with the help of battery storage. The Flexigrid project is modelling the physical rollout of StoreNet and how to scale up the results. Partners include Tesla and Solo Energy. In NI, meanwhile, export tariffs are still available based on import/ export meter readings. The NIRO scheme, which was a feed-in tariff for microgenerators (additional payment for the exports) is closed Infograpic from ESB Networks to new applicants.
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 09
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ROI grants to refurbish homes In brief in rural towns to be rolled out The pilot grant scheme to encourage people to move to a rural town will be launched this summer, the Department of Rural Affairs told Selfbuild. THE TOWN AND VILLAGE RENEWAL SCHEME scheme was granted €15 million under Budget 2018 and it is expected to be launched “in the first half of the year”. The scheme was originally due to be rolled out in the third quarter of 2017. However the pilot scheme to encourage residential occupancy in rural towns and villages is still at the early stage of development as Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring has just now established a Steering Group to “accelerate and oversee the design and delivery of the pilot scheme”, with the first meeting of the Steering Group to “take place shortly”, the Department told Selfbuild. The Steering Group is chaired by the Department of Rural And Community Development and involves a number of other key departments and agencies
including the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. In January 2017, the Minister for Rural Affairs at the time, Minister Humphreys had indicated
the subsidy to refurbish disused buildings in rural towns could amount to €20,000, a figure the Department of Rural Affairs has since not been able to confirm.
ROI switches to flat water connection fees IRISH WATER PLANS TO CHARGE ROI SELF-BUILDERS a flat fee of €5,636 to connect to water and wastewater services, as compared to the current average new connection fee of approximately €10,000 on one-off houses. Irish Water is proposing a standard connection charge of €1,935 for water and €3,701 for a wastewater connection. The changes are expected to take effect in the second quarter of 2018. The combined charge will result in lower total connection costs in 53 of the 57 current charging regimes, with an increase applying in four regimes, Irish Water told Selfbuild. One of the biggest changes under the proposed policy is that Irish Water will complete all of the connection works to the boundary of the property, providing a standard national connection service. This is not the case today where customers are often required to complete, and separately pay for, elements of these works themselves. There are currently 57 different charging regimes with over 900 different connection charges across the 31 local authorities. All charging regimes have different methods for calculating connection charges, including different structures and customer classifications. In addition, there are different levels of connection works performed across the charging regimes (i.e. differences in the physical and material works included and how these charges are applied).
If you’re thinking about an energy upgrade, know that Codema’s Energy Saving Kits are now available in Co Roscommon, Co Leitrim, Cork City and Gorey libraries. Originally rolled out in Dublin City libraries, the kit contains six practical tools to help you save energy at home, available to borrow free of charge. codema.ie A group of farmers have come together to form the Irish Hemp Growers and Processors Association, with plans also underway to establish a fully recognised hemp co-operative, reports fora.ie. At the moment most hemp products are imported, so this move could help boost the hempcrete, and other eco building materials industry in Ireland. Tesla says its solar roof slate production has started, reports Reuters, which represents a big step towards bringing building integrated photovoltaics into the mainstream. Manufacturing of the premium solar roof tiles is in collaboration with its battery partner Panasonic; the company has also started surveying the homes of customers who made a deposit of $1,000 to reserve the product last year. More than a dozen Tesla employees, including Elon Musk, had the solar roofs installed on their homes last year as part of an initial pilot program.
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 11
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New home loan open to self-builders First time self-builders in ROI are eligible to apply for a low interest Governmentbacked mortgage from their local authority THE REBUILDING IRELAND HOME LOAN is only open to those on an annual gross income of €50,000 or less as a single applicant, or €75,000 for joint applicants. There’s also a cap on the value of the home you can buy or build. In the Greater Dublin Area, Cork and Galway, the maximum market value is €320,000. In the rest of the country, it is €250,000. The scheme is replacing both the Home Purchase Loan and Home Choice Loan initiatives whose loan to value ratios were higher, at 92 to 97 per cent as compared to 90 per cent for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan. The 10 per cent deposit must consist of at least 3 per cent savings (only 7 per cent can be gifted).
The Rebuilding Ireland loan can be used both for new and secondhand properties, or to build your own home. You must however prove that you have had two insufficient offers or refusals for a mortgage from two lending institutions. For self-builds the loan allows for stage payments. As with all house purchases under the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan, the 10 per cent deposit must be equivalent to 10 per cent of the market value of the property and the value of the site cannot be used towards this
deposit. The loan is eligible for selfbuild projects up to a maximum of 175 sqm gross internal floor area. Under the loan, applicants can choose a fixed rate of 2 to 2.25 per cent interest for 25 to 30 years, for absolute certainty of the amount of repayments over the lifetime of the loan. What this means essentially is that a person or couple can purchase a home, while ensuring that they can still keep their monthly repayments to one third of their net disposable income – with no risk of their mortgage rate rising and so no threat to their ability to afford repayments. So, for example, a person earning €40,000 a year and living in Mayo could afford to buy a house worth €224,920, provided they had the deposit of €22,400. They could then borrow €198,000 from their local authority and their monthly
repayments would be in the region of €858 a month, or 33 per cent of their Net Disposable Income. Up to the end of October of last year, Minister Murphy stated that that two-thirds (or over 5,300 homes) of the overall number of houses purchased by first-time buyers in the Greater Dublin Area, Cork and Galway were purchased for less than €320,000. Across the rest of the country, over 90 per cent (or 3,380 homes) of the overall number of houses purchased by first-time buyers were purchased for less than €250,000. Other eligibility criteria apply, for instance, you must meet prudential lending analysis, i.e. must demonstrate that you are able to afford the loan repayments. A Home Loan Calculator is available on rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie so you can get an idea of how much you could borrow and what the repayment rates might be.
Heat pump grant details published AVAILABLE FROM THE 16TH OF APRIL to homeowners who live in a home built and occupied before 2011, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) heat pump grant is only eligible to those who have a well insulated, or ‘heat pump ready’ home. You must also complete the works and submit the paperwork within six months from the date of the grant offer. The grant is part of the Better Energy Homes scheme and the same application process applies, with full details on seai.ie. The SEAI points out that uninsulated homes built more than 30 years ago may require substantial and costly upgrades to qualify for a heat pump system grant. Before applying you will need to appoint an SEAI-registered Technical Advisor. The list of Technical Advisors is available on seai.ie and a €200 grant is available to go towards this cost. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 13
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Orange warning for 50 per cent of grant aided contractors In 2017 the ROI Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) introduced a colour scale to rate the contractors taking part in Better Energy Homes, the grant scheme that subsidises energy upgrades for all homes built before 2006. SELFBUILD FILED A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION request to get a breakdown of how contractors performed in 2017, with the results showing half of the registered contractors were in the high-risk orange zone, and just a third in the low-risk green zone. A total of 213 contractors were deregistered in 2017. In total 1,542 contractors were registered in 2017, 637 of which (41 percent) did not perform works during the period and were therefore not assessed on the colour scale. The SEAI told Selfbuild that of the 47,000 calls their Better Energy Homes call centre received in the past year, less than 100 were complaints of which roughly two thirds related to homeowners complaining about contractors, either for unfinished works (‘making good’ e.g. skirting boards) or because they believed the standard of works to have been poor.
Vetted tradesmen on the list are registered on the basis of continued National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) certification of the products and associated methodologies the tradesman uses. Quality Assurance and Disciplinary Procedures for contractors registered on the Better Energy Homes list include having the SEAI conduct quality of works inspections (rated on a green to red colour scale) to check for compliance to technical standards and overall performance. Once contractors are identified to be in a zone other than green, they must take demonstrable action to improve performance including eliminating repeat issues. If in the orange zone, they must have moved to the green zone within the next three evaluations, i.e. within 18
Warmer Homes scheme extended THOSE IN ENERGY POVERTY in ROI can now claim grants for windows as well as external wall insulation and heat pumps. The Warmer Homes scheme finances the entire cost of energy upgrades for households in energy poverty. The scheme is now available to homes that could not previously receive works because they already had been insulated. See seai.ie for more on the scheme and how to apply.
292 129 17 GREEN ZONE
Performance of SEAI contractors under the Better Energy Homes scheme, 2017 GREEN: good performance / low risk, YELLOW: medium performance / moderate risk, ORANGE: poor performance / high risk, RED: very poor performance / very high risk Source: SEAI via FOI request
months. If in the yellow zone, they must have moved to the green zone within the next two evaluations, i.e. within the next 12 months. If there is no demonstrable improvement, contractors receive a letter of deregistration and have 14 days to appeal the decision of deregistration. Any contractor identified in
the red zone immediately receives a deregistration letter pending appeal within 14 days. The contractor cannot be selected for new works but may complete ongoing works. For more on the procedures refer to Better Energy Homes Quality Assurance and Disciplinary Procedures for Contractors, seai.ie
In brief An IKEA advertisement gave expectant Swedish mothers 50 per cent off their crib purchase if they peed on it. There are no signs the campaign will make it to Irish shores. Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud has become the Society for the Protection of Ancient Building’s first official ambassador. In an interview in the Society’s spring magazine, he said: “The one thing I’d like people to understand about SPAB is that it is progressive, and pragmatic. It takes the wisdom of its learning and of practice in the field to constantly evolve and reinterpret its approach.”
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 15
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Major push for decreasing energy use
Changes to ROI building regulations underway AS SELFBUILD WENT TO PRINT IN APRIL, the ROI Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government published a public consultation to review the energy efficiency and ventilation requirements of the building regulations for dwellings.
One-stop-shop for renovations is becoming preferred model for renovations IF YOU’RE LIVING IN AN OLD DRAUGHTY HOUSE, in order to benefit of energy bills as low as €300 to €400 a year you’d need to invest on average €30,000 to €40,000. That’s according to the submission made by the Tipperary Energy Agency’s Paul Kenny to the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment in January. This results in a simple payback of 10 to 20 years at current fuel prices, which explains the lack of appetite on the part of homeowners today.
However a major benefit of investing in the upgrades is the impact these changes have on the homeowners’ health. “Several of the homeowners have contacted us they have detailed that the deep retrofit is life changing in terms of eliminating their need for frequent trips to A&E and excessive courses of medical treatment,” said Kenny. Kenny argued that the 2050 climate and energy targets could only be achieved with the help of deep retrofitting buildings with renewable heat. A mixture of grants and low cost finance, as well as a robust carbon tax, could all contribute to a move to ‘deep retrofit’, he said. A deep retrofit or aiming to bring a home to nearly zero energy buildings standards often requires the introduction of a dedicated ventilation system (e.g. demand control ventilation), upgrading the fossil fuel boiler to a renewable system (e.g. air source heat pump), adding insulation to 16 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
The highlights include: l Introducing minimum U-values of 0.18 W/sqmK for all building elements (walls, roof, floor) as opposed to the previous value of 0.21 W/sqmK. l Minimum U-values for windows and doors set at a strict 1.4 W/sqmK (there will no longer be permitted variations)
the roof and walls, and oftentimes some form of window upgrade. The Superhomes model, administered by the Tipperary Energy Agency, provides homeowners with a one-stop-shop solution whereby administrative and project management tasks are all taken care of by the not-forprofit energy agency. Contractors are chosen from a pre-approved list, a model recently endorsed by the EU and which is gaining
traction throughout Europe. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has renewed calls for homes built before 2006 to get an energy upgrade, claiming savings of up to €600 a year on an average heating bill of €1,850. Over 370,000 homes in Ireland have availed of home energy grants. For more about Superhomes see our project profiles starting page 82
‘...2050 climate and energy targets could only be achieved with the help of deep retrofitting buildings with renewable heat.’
l Airtightness to change from 7 m3 per hour per sqm to 5 m3 per hour per sqm at 50 Pa. l Natural ventilation will no longer be allowed as a means to provide whole house ventilation, in line with the above increased airtightness requirements. The public consultation documents are available on housing.gov.ie. Submissions and comments on the review should be submitted on the Templates for Submissions only and sent by email to buildingstandards@housing. gov.ie The closing date for the receipt of submissions and comments is no later than 5:30 p.m. on Friday 8th June 2018.
N E W S / W H AT ' S N E W
Government supportive of one-off housing in countryside The National Planning Framework (NPF), the ROI roadmap to 2040 with associated €115 billion capital investment plan, will not represent “some sort of clampdown on rural housing”, minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy told Senators in February. IN THE SEANAD, MURPHY SAID: “Nothing in [the NPF] suggests any sort of a policy shift from what local authorities are supposed to be doing at the moment in terms of implementing the rural housing guidelines, which is broadly to apply a general siting and designbased policy across the country for the purposes of determining rural housing planning applications and in some limited areas around the main cities and towns that are under genuine pressure from significant uncoordinated and ribbon type development, to ensure that in such areas, housing need should be determined by social, economic or occupational linkages to the rural area in
question.” “Moreover, while the framework endorses a more rigorous approach to assessment of housing needs in general, the reference to a housing demand need assessment, HDNA, is very simply a local authority-led comprehensive assessment of the housing needs of its area, in other words assessing the housing expected to be built within the area, including in rural areas. In a nutshell, what the NPF is really calling for is a properly planned approach to identifying, meeting and managing the real housing needs arising in rural areas. There is nothing to fear in it.”
IN THE SENEAD, MINISTER MURPHY ALSO HIGHLIGHTED THE UPCOMING CHANGES to ‘locals only’ rules, which will introduce new guidelines preventing local authorities from turning down one-off housing applicants because they are not from the local area. The Department of Housing told Selfbuild that while there may be mention of the locals-only issue in the NPF, the process of changing the 2005 planning guidelines on sustainable rural housing is “different and separate”. The negotiations with Europe on the workings of the local-only rules are still “ongoing”, the Department told Selfbuild. However the consultation period with local authorities was concluded late last year. That consultation was attended by six representatives nominated by the Local Government Managers Association (the umbrella for local authority senior management) as well as three senior officials from the Planning Division of the Department of Housing.
Some of the most energy-guzzling and polluting heating and ventilation products will no longer be allowed to enter the EU market, on the back of the EU Ecodesign rules that took effect in January. With the new Ecodesign rules, local space heaters will have to reach a minimum space heating efficiency range (31 to 74 per cent), depending on the type of heaters, to enter the EU market. Limits on emissions of nitrogen oxide are also foreseen. The rules will notably affect electric radiators, gas stoves, fan heaters and small kerosene heaters. However EU legislators failed to add long-needed energy labels to electric radiators and outdoor heaters, said Coolproducts, a campaign led by the European Environmental Bureau and ECOS. coolproducts.eu. As Selfbuild went to print the ROI Department of Housing published a study that showed that Irish residential construction costs are generally comparable with those in Germany, France and the United Kingdom but above those in the Netherlands. A conclusion that tempers statistics that point to inflation on some construction materials. Another report, published in the Central Bank’s Quarterly Bulletin, showed that there was a high rate of outward migration among unemployed construction workers during the 2008-2012 period, with implications for the recovery in the construction sector, as “inward migration” is again “likely to play an important role in meeting the demand for labour in the sector as housing output picks up”.
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 17
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Ask an architect THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A SELF-BUILD (new build or renovation) is getting the design and specification right before you go near the construction stage. So if you’re finding yourself struggling or are starting off with your project, why not book a no-strings-attached one-to-one consultation with an architect? There are two initiatives happening in parallel, both for a good cause, on both sides of the Irish border from the 14th to the 20th of May. In ROI the RIAI Simon Open Door consultation costs €90 while bookings for NI’s RSUA Ask an Architect are £40. All funds go to a good cause, to the Simon Communities and the Friends of the Cancer Centre through its partnership with the Jill Todd Trust, respectively. Thanks to the generosity of sponsors who are covering administration costs, every penny donated go to support the cause. Book your consultation simonopendoor.ie and askanarchitect-ni.com
LtoR at the launch of the Simon Open Door initiative, Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for the Simon Communities, celebrity architect Dermot Bannon, and Kathryn Meghen, RIAI CEO
1,000 homes repaired under Pyrite Remediation Scheme
Men and women equally enjoy DIY
SINCE ITS INCEPTION THREE AND A HALF YEARS AGO, the Pyrite Resolution Board has repaired over a thousand homes, according to Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government figures. The budgetary provision for 2018 is €30 million to fund the operation of the pyrite remediation scheme in 2018 on some 430 additional dwellings. By the end of March this year over 2,000 applications had been received with 1,600 dwellings considered eligible. The average all-in cost of remediation in 2016 was in the region of €70,000 per dwelling, with one-off houses, generally having larger ground floor areas, being the most expensive. Pyrite (iron sulfide) is a naturally occurring mineral in sedimentary rocks. When exposed to moisture and oxygen a series of chemical reactions can occur which can have the effect of prising open cracks and causing further expansion. When this expansion occurs in hardcore that is well compacted (e.g. in a dwelling) it may result in the cracking of floors, internal partitions and external walls; outward
ACCORDING TO THE HARDWARE ASSOCIATION IRELAND, as many women as men enjoy working on DIY projects but old stereotypes die hard when it comes to the hardware retail trade with 40 per cent of women respondents saying they weren’t taken seriously by sales people when shopping for hardware or tools (only 20 per cent of men felt the same way). The study, carried out by Empathy Research, found that a significantly larger proportion of women than men (53 vs 44 per cent) think that DIY projects are a good way to spend time with family and friends. The Hardware Association has also recently published its first economic impact study of the sector. hardwareassociation.ie
movement of external walls; and/or the heaving of ground floors and bulging of internal partition finishes. The scheme is a last resort for affected homeowners who have no other practical option to obtain redress and is limited in its application and scope, i.e. pyritic heave must be established among other requirements. pyriteboard.ie
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LOVE YOUR HOME DUBLIN
Inspiration from influencers
Open a tool library! Knowing that the average drill is used for just 13 minutes in its lifetime, it makes sense to consolidate tools from households into one centralised ‘library’, giving access to the local neighbourhood on a subscription basis. More information on How Tool Sharing Could Become a Public Utility from the ellenmacarthurfoundation.org How architects design “Creating a home is the most personal act that architects can be part of. But the challenge is that despite our training and skill we’re not the experts. Those who live in what we design know more than us about the manifestation of their hopes and dreams. We just have to listen well enough to lead.” – Architect Duo Dickinson on “Why Designing a Person’s Home is the Most Challenging, Thrilling Task an Architect Can Face”, April 2018 via ArchDaily, ISSN 0719-8884 archdaily.com Duct tales Nowadays we all know about the importance of making our homes airtight, but did you know it’s equally important to pay attention to how airtight your ducting is too? In Europe only France and Belgium consider ductwork airtightness in their energy performance regulations, but even then there is no minimum requirement and default values are acceptable. Awareness of the topic is low and there are few studies around, but it seems the energy used by the ventilation systems can be reduced by 30 to 50 per cent when airtight, among other benefits. Full webinar about Ductwork Airtightness available on tightvent.eu Dumb house “With the exception of smart thermostats in crappy houses, none of [the smart home technology] saves energy. It just wastes it, in the name of convenience. Asking Siri to turn off the lights is fun, but we would be better off in terms of energy and exercise if we got up and flicked a light switch. Rather than saving energy, the Smart home is going to be a great big energy suck.” – Llyod Atler on treehugger.com
You’ve already heard the news that the Love Your Home show is coming to Dublin, on 1213 May 2018 at the Citywest Convention Centre. Created for home lovers, the show has been running in Belfast for the past eight years. The excitement is building online with influencers like Suzanne Jackson of So Sue Me, Facesbygrace, Chef Adrian and charity partner Focus Ireland getting the word out.
Check out the video the good folks at Love Your Home put together for their facebook page and grab yourself some free tickets while you’re there! You won’t regret the visit to what’s fast becoming Dublin’s premier home event with HomeStyle Talks, an Artists&Makers village and loads of advice and inspiration for those looking to carry out home improvements. show.loveyourhome.ie
In the pipeline
Irish self-build bloggers WHERE IRISH SELF-BUILDERS share their experience, from concept to completion The adventure just started for Caroline, Calvin and children Lydia and Abigail in NI – they left their home of 10 years in December for the confines of a mobile home. The dream: build themselves their family home. Follow their journey on buildinginthecountry.wordpress.com This NI couple only has the finishing touches left to do on their family home: check out their Instagram page for plenty of inspiration instagram.com/newbuildhomeproject For a completed project and plenty of advice and inspiration, check out this self-build in Co Clare, which even has a 3D model of the house to play around with. jackdawridge.com
Green mortgages New proposals for a European Energy Efficiency Mortgage are gaining momentum, with Irish banks taking part in the discussion and a pilot phase to start in June of this year. Green mortgages would provide preferential rates to people upgrading the energy efficiency of their home, or capital in return for purchasing more energy efficient homes. Keep up to speed on igbc.ie and on energyefficientmortgages.eu
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Good Practice in the Design of Homes
Make the home you love DMVF Architects, Photographer: Paul Tierney
“IN RECENT YEARS IT HAS BEEN RECOGNISED that the quality of modern housing often has not been as high as it should be, and that performance gaps prevail. It can be made more complicated by the complex nature of modern building engineering services, including whole-house ventilation, advanced heating controls and the integration of renewable energy sources. In many ways, homes are becoming more dependent on advanced technologies working well.” That’s how Technical Manual 60 from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) introduces its first significant source of guidance on the design of homes. Even though this reference document is aimed at engineers and has its fair share of technical information, for hands-on selfbuilders it will provide useful information about full project life cycle, from site analysis through to construction, handover and operation, with insights into the impacts of system selection and design decisions on the performance of the home. Good Practice in the Design of Homes TM 60 by CIBSE, cibse.org, 98 pages, e-book, colour throughout, ISBN 9781912034277, £15
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O’BRIEN PRESS IS WELL KNOWN to publish Irish centric books and it’s great to see that with this practical how-to guide, the publisher lives up to its reputation by covering the intricacies of building a home on both sides of the border. So whether you’re in NI or ROI you’ll get the information you need to take that leap of faith. As a beginner’s hands-on manual, it’ll give you an invaluable look into the reality of embarking on a self-build or home improvement project by providing a breakdown of your cost plan, a flow chart of the planning process and other need-to knows. It’s also full of images and architect’s tips to inspire and elevate your very own design. As the three supporting authors are architects, it’s perhaps no surprise there isn’t that much DIY advice or reference to employing a chartered
architectural technologist for your project. That said, Make the Home you Love remains a very important addition to the library of anyone who’s building their own home in Ireland, and is already proving to be a go-to self-build reference for its in-depth and refreshingly practical overview of the entire process. Make the Home you Love: The Complete Guide to Home Design, Renovation and Extensions in Ireland by Fiona McPhilips with Colm Doyle, Lisa McVeigh and John Flood, 192 pages, colour throughout, softback, ISBN 9781847179579, The O’Brien Press Ltd obrien.ie, makethehomeyoulove.com
The Vibrant House SETTING THE MOOD TO HOUSE BUILDING and what the home really means is The Vibrant House, a collection of essays about domestic space in Ireland. The book is treasure trove of original works, from poetry to short stories, and delves into how Irish authors portrayed the home with essays on Edna O’Brien, Maeve Brennan and Seamus Heaney among others. An inspiring read. The Vibrant House: Irish Writing and Domestic Space, edited by Rhona Richman Kenneally and Lucy McDiarmid, ISBN 9781846826481, 256 pages, centre fold colour illustrations
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SELF-BUILDERS ARE ALWAYS ON THE LOOK-OUT for innovative products to help them comply with the building regulations and fulfil their broader environmental and aesthetic goals. For these non-standard products, Agrément certification assists your building professional in guaranteeing compliance and performance. Spray foam insulation manufacturer Icynene has in fact just finished going through a rigorous testing process to secure Kiwa BDA Agrément certification for its H2O Foamlite (LD-C-50) for both ROI and NI building regulations compliance. Among the other certs under Icynene’s belt is one from the Fraunhofer Institute which tested the product to common Irish roof build-ups and climatic conditions, including felt on roof, contemporary new build with breathable membrane and black bitumen felt. All of the certifications and testing held by Icynene covers and verifies direct application of LD-C-50 to both breathable and nonbreathable roof membranes and felts. GMS Insulations Ltd, ROI tel. 1800 98 98 90 / NI tel. 00353 49 433 5057, icynene.ie
Tradition. Reinvented DUE TO INCREASED DEMAND for innovative bricks with a heritage feel across the housebuilding, conservation and restoration sectors, AG (Acheson + Glover) is running a new campaign highlighting the benefits of its patented Heritage fine cast brick collection. Whilst the bricks are produced to the highest standards within a strict quality controlled factory environment, they retain a hand-crafted appearance. All of the fine cast bricks comply with BS EN 7713: 2011 and employ 100 per cent renewable energy – leading to a much sought after BRE Green Guide ‘A’ rating. The fine cast brick collection is frost resistant and free from soluble salts which means that the chance of efflorescence occurring is very low compared to clay brick. Available in a large range of rich colour-blends and full range of complementary specials, with stock items and short lead times for made to order items, the fine cast brick collection offers infinitely unlimited potential for your new build or renovation project. ag.uk.com
A brief history of time ICONIC MANUFACTURING COMPANY IRISH CEMENT is celebrating its 80-year anniversary! The manufacturer, which currently operates two modern energy-efficient cement factories in Platin and Limerick, has been at the centre of developing Ireland’s indigenous cement industry since 1938. It was in 1933 that the Cement Act was established; in 1934 the State approved the first cement licence and in May 1936, Cement Limited was registered as a Limited Liability Company with two cement factories opening in Limerick and Drogheda in 1938. Cement Limited and Roadstone Limited merged in 1970 to form CRH plc. In December 1978, the name ‘Cement Limited’ was changed to ‘Irish Cement Limited’ to reflect the long history of indigenous cement manufacture at the two factories and to more appropriately brand the company and its products as being 100 per cent Irish. The company continues to modernise and adapt both factories to reflect best practice and technology to meet customer demand for high quality products and ensure the long-term sustainability of the operations. Irish Cement Ltd, irishcement.ie
Autolab in Platin
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DIY self-build on a budget It wasn’t by design that Paul and Rebecca O’Connor became largely self-sufficient, it was a by-product of their self-build. Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Steve Rogers
was looking for a place to renovate – which I was convinced would have to be by the sea – and came across this house in a woodland in the year 2000. Not building in an exposed location presented its benefits and I quite liked the Hansel and Gretel feel to the place,” recounts Paul. “It’s not what I expected to buy but my budget was very limited; I was 27 at the time and working in Dublin. For me the most important thing was not getting into debt.” Nestled within a 24-acre woodland, trees surrounded the house perimeter. “I bought the middle acre and arranged for some trees to be felled to make room for a garden and provide access.”
the renovation and that provided the momentum, with a mix of enthusiasm and naivety guiding me.” With advances in technology, building a new home quickly and cost-effectively is now possible but if you plan to renovate, self-building on a budget still usually means taking your time. “I’m a graphic designer so the 3D aspect of building, symmetry and structure, felt intuitive. There were still some embarrassing moments at the builder’s merchant, asking for things not by name but by describing them the best I could.”
Even though there is a daunting element to taking on the challenge of a self-build, it’s also quite a natural process, argues Paul. “It’s not rocket science once you know the sizes and shapes and how they all fit together.” “I can see how it would be much more stressful if we would have had to get things done within a certain timeframe. In our case there was no mortgage or stage payments to worry about.” Paul physically did all the building work himself, learning as he went. “I’d search for information wherever I could and would
“The plans evolved with time. I originally got a loan of €17,000 to invest in
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Q&A with Paul Would you do it again?
We have the extension to complete within the next five years but I’m not sure if I’ll take it on. Some people argue that self-building becomes an addiction and, even though I’m ready to stop, I keep finding myself working on a new project. Given the choice, I’d build new.
What piece of advice would you give a budding self-builder?
What takes the most time is mulling over what to do, it took us five years to come up with where and how we would extend. We went from three to four bedrooms including one for the office. Most of the energy is spent on planning it all out, then it’s plain sailing actually doing it. It’s like making a film, once the plan and vision are in place you just do it.
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ring my dad who is a carpenter and builder. I’d get bits of information from anyone who was willing to share it, asked around and was realistic about my limitations, taking my time with everything.” “I made my share of mistakes but in many ways that’s how I learned. There were some elements that a year or two in I had to knock down and do again, although I never took any chances with anything structural.” As many hands-on self-builders will
attest to, building your own abode is not a complicated process. However over the years advances in building methods have started to remove the end user from the proverbial bricks and mortar. “Things have changed a lot since the time I started building over 15 years ago,” comments Paul. “I don’t think I could self-build the way I did before, completely on my own, relying on the advice of my dad and a few helping hands when I needed them.”
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Q&A with Paul What surprised you?
Ironically it’s how different the concept is to the execution. Also that sometimes there are things you can’t factor in advance. For example there was no road to the cottage, it was passable with a donkey cart but that’s about it. One of the first thing I should have done, 15+ years ago, was put in a proper access road. Instead we wheelbarrowed all of the materials to the site, or brought them by tractor. At the time I thought I couldn’t afford it and was under the impression I could work around it. I even had a Citroen DS in which I used to lug around building materials, then an old Mercedes – about as unpractical as you can get when doing work like this. Now I have a pick up with tow bar.
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CO SLIGO / PROJECT
‘It was an incremental process, when I bought it I saw it as a project, something to do.’
It’s not just new systems, or airtightness and ventilation requirements that have changed, there’s been an overhaul of the Building Control regime too. Nowadays even though you can still choose to take on a DIY self-build project and/or ‘opt out’ of certification (‘opting in’ means the build stages are signed off on by an ‘assigned certifier’ and the documentation is lodged on the building control database), you need to vouch that you’re competent to act as the builder and take on the work – this despite the fact that the definition of ‘competent’ isn’t clear. You also now need to file working construction drawings at the commencement notice stage.
“When I bought the house, it was a typical 150-year-old two-room cottage. There was no power line or telephone. It had corrugated concrete roof sheeting and hessian fabric for insulation on the joists so the first thing I did was re-roof with new joists, natural insulation and corrugated iron I got from a local sheet metal factory. I raised and extended the roof out.”
“It was an incremental process, when I bought it I saw it as a project, something to do, and then I met Rebecca and that’s when we decided to expand the footprint with timber frame. It grew around our needs, whether we felt we might need more space here or there.” The addition of a conservatory and new flooring with underfloor heating were completed next. “We were inclined to use quite a bit of timber on the build, including spruce and cedar, sourcing it all locally.” The heating and hot water system originally fed off a wood and coal burning range in the kitchen, but the process of feeding the fire indoors was a messy one. “In 2007 we moved the heat source outside by installing a wood burning heating system sourced in Germany with a 1,000 litre buffer tank and we light it for three hours every day. We have to empty the tray twice a week.” A bonus of living in a woodland is that the foresters leave Paul and Rebecca pulp grade wood. “There’s a huge quantity of it which I have to bring to the house with a forestry truck and then split into manageable portions. It’s great because it’s SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 29
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free fuel but there’s a lot of labour involved.” The couple have a wood storage shed made of scaffolding planks with two years’ worth of wood ready to burn. This new heating system was installed in 2006/2007 when they also extended the house to add a luxury bathroom. Then in 2014 they added a garage and rebuilt the studio. “I got to build new and that was pure joy. There was no working around an existing structure, everything was the size I wanted, there was no knocking down,” enthuses Paul. At this stage Paul and Rebecca had done the work without getting planning permission, thinking it was exempt as most of it consisted of a renovation or replacement and the additions were small. “We got in touch with an architect about extending the house even further, adding another 44sqm to the footprint into an L shape, as well as extending the studio, knowing this would require planning.” This is when their architect advised them to apply for retention for the work 30 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
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‘Paul and Rebecca have only ever had rainwater supplying the house.’
Renting out our self-build Paul and Rebecca decided to put their home up for holiday rental, but how has it been working out?
completed to date, which they did with his help at the end of last year. “It was our first time to work with an architect and it was very different,” adds Paul. “We have professional drawings and the whole thing is mapped out in a way that makes life that bit easier. Our planning application was approved and the process was quite smooth. We’ve now got five years to build the 44sqm extension, so it’s a medium-term project.”
Paul and Rebecca have only ever had rainwater supplying the house. “When we first came there was no water supply so we got a cube tank which held about 100 litres and collected rainwater; we soon realised algae tends to build up if left outside so we
What was your motivation to rent the house?
We thought we’d try it out as we thought it might be a way to help us finance the extension. We just did it for the month of August in 2016 while we went to Berlin. All went well, but we were so surprised at its success and the popularity (it was booked out quite quickly) that we wanted to give it a longer trial so we’re renting the house out from April to September this year. We will live in the studio while the house is rented out and we already have bookings for seven weeks this summer.
How are people taking to living in an ‘ecohome’?
People who choose to come here are forewarned of the eco-amenities so it doesn’t come as a surprise. The rainwater system is the one we get most complimented on, how nice it is on the skin. Paul and Rebecca are renting their house via AirBnB, the cost per night is €80, abnb.me/EVmg/e7G1wkg0vK
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Q&A with Paul What’s your favourite feature?
I could live with raw plaster so it was Rebecca who put on the finishing touches to the house. Personally what I love is that everything just works. I think it’s a sign of success that you don’t notice anything, everything just flows for the way we live.
What would you do differently?
I’d take insulation and airtightness more seriously, even though it’s hard to with a wonky stone structure. Where I know I skimped I notice the area to be cooler.
‘A condition of the planning permission to extend the house was to add a septic tank...’
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built a shed and insulated it.” “We now have four tanks which is what we need to supply the house during the peak summer season. It was trial and error over the years but we never run out.” Each of the containers have a gravel filter to sift the silt; this filtered water is directly used in most of the house apart from the kitchen which has a reverse osmosis unit that further purifies the water to drinking quality. “We got the water tested and it was better than the quality of the mains water.” In terms of waste, they have two systems. “There is a reed bed that processes all of our greywater and for the wc we have a compost loo which means it’s a dry process. The composting was also trial and error, getting it right.” “We tried various models, we now have a sealed galvanised steel box with an electrical fan sensor to create a negative vacuum so there’s never any smell and there’s no way for flies to get in. We change it every three months and empty them into much larger containers where they remain for another two years before we use it as compost in the garden.” But a condition of the planning permission to extend the house was to add a septic tank. “We wanted to use the composting system but the planners insisted on the septic tank so we had to agree to it,” laments Paul. “It’s a give and take.”
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More photographs available at facebook.com/selfbuild
Find out more about Paul and Rebecca’s major renovation and extension project in Co Sligo including the local companies involved...
BUILDING SPECIFICATION House Size: 150 sqm Plot Size: 1 acre Bathroom Extension: €8,000
New structures stick build (timber) insulated with soy-based spray foam. Existing house insulation six inches of recycled wood pulp in the roof and timber walls “like a mattress cut with a saw” then breathable membrane. Foil backed PIR in the new floors with underfloor heating above.
Areas outside the blue dotted line have yet to be built; thick rectangular walls represent original house footprint
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Sheet metal work Gusclad, Ballyfarnon, Roscommon, Gusclad.ie Photography Steve Rogers, steverogersphoto.com, mobile 087 265 4352
Garage Studio: €20,000
Bespoke cedar Reynolds Sawmill, Mohill, Leitrim, mobile 087 632 7923
NI calling ROI drop the first 0 and prefix with 00353
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CO TYRONE / PROJECT
The final build Serial self-builders Eric and Gladys Black built their barrel roofed house to make the most of the rolling countryside views Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Paul Lindsay
hroughout his career as a contractor Eric has built and renovated many houses for himself and for others. But this present house was, in many ways, the most important as it was built and designed with retirement in mind for both him and his wife Gladys.
“The land on which the house is built is very special, not just for the views it affords but because it has been in the family for generations,” says Gladys. “The connection to the land is very strong and we couldn’t think of anywhere else we’d want to live and retire to. We very much designed the house around the idea of feeling you were outside, yet being inside.”
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But not everything goes as planned. “We designed a living room with large picture windows, a living room in which to sit, relax and admire the rolling countryside views, but we’ve been in the house two years now and we rarely manage to use it!” says Eric. Eric is only semi-retired which means he’s still working and Gladys minds their granddaughter during the working week.
Drawing on experience
Eric, Gladys and their two children lived in England for a few years and on their return to NI, the couple decided to build a quaint cottage style house similar to those found in English villages. The windows were small, the roof was low and the house was full of character. But very quickly the couple realised this house was not the house for them. “We had forgotten the difference in weather compared to the south of England and so the need for bigger windows for extra light was essential,” recounts Gladys. They then went on to build and live in two more houses, using both blockwork and timber frame, taking ideas they liked to inspire features in their current house. This final design was a combination of the architect’s brief, Eric and Gladys’ wish list and a keen eye on budget. “Before deciding on the final barrel roof design, together with our architect we visited similar properties to gain an insight into what life would be like living in this type of house design,” adds Gladys. The build started in January 2014 with the couple moving in for
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‘We had forgotten the difference in weather compared to the south of England and so the need for bigger windows for extra light was essential...’
CO TYRONE / PROJECT
Eric and Gladys’ tips Consider spray painting. The house was all spray painted white, before doors and architrave went on. The whole house was painted in just one day, both ceilings and walls. Very little touching up was necessary when the house was finished and ready to live in. Don’t be afraid to ask. Query anything you don’t understand and ask about any aspect of the build you might not be familiar with. Your builder or architectural designer shouldn’t have any trouble explaining/ answering this for you.
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Q&A Would you do it again? If we were twenty years younger yes but at this present time – no! This is it, we’re on the family land and plan to stay put. The house was a difficult build with the barrel roof design but was worth it. We love living here.
The walk-in pantry or larder is brilliant. Everything is on view and easily accessible, not stacked behind each other on a shelf in a cupboard. No wonder in past generations, most houses had pantries!
What would you change? Christmas of that year. “Our build route of choice was timber frame simply because, of all the homes we had previously built for ourselves, timber frame builds had yielded the best thermal comfort due to the quantity of insulation installed,” adds Eric. But there is an issue with overheating. “The kitchen has a large corner window which means it gets sunshine for most of the day. The only downside is that in the summer the blinds have to be drawn to prevent the room becoming too hot.
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Opening windows and cross ventilating does not help so we are thinking of installing a brise soleil on the outside,” explains Gladys. “It’s something that needs further investigation,” adds Eric. “We also looked at using our heat recovery system to provide some sort of cooling, but its design is to solely provide filtered heat exchanged air.” The heating system consists of an oil burner which has been installed outside. “With the large windows and highly insulated walls and roof, no heating is needed for at least six months of the year,”
We’re thinking of replacing some of the gravel with a hard surface for the grandchildren to cycle on. We also regret not putting a corner window in the living room, as the solid construction restricts the view.
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says Gladys. “During the winter months we only need a minimal amount of heating and the spacious living room is easily heated by the wood burning stove.”
The unusual barrel roof design was inspired by the nearby farm buildings. “It was quite difficult to secure planning permission,” says Eric. “It wasn’t until PPS21 came into force in 2010 that we even stood a chance. And even then, we had to prove to the planners we’d lived here for generations, supplying letters and business receipts from my grandfather’s farming business.” “Strangely enough, the design itself wasn’t an issue with planning, as we’re shielded from view from the main road and the house is down a laneway. We decided to include all the design features we wanted and were delighted when there were no objections to any of them.” The warm roof construction of the barrel gave Eric the opportunity to use the curve as a design feature in the main part of the house, at the same time making the most of the dead spaces, for storage and the heat recovery unit. The staircase takes full advantage of the curvature and double heights, whilst the two upstairs bedrooms on either side, make the most of the views. The external cladding in corrugated 42 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
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Eric and Gladys’ tips Planning in advance. Kitchen and bathroom layouts need to be thought out well in advance, before construction begins, ensuring necessary services are in the correct places and not just guessed during the construction phase. If possible include a plant room for electrics and plumbing.
‘The unusual barrel roof design was inspired by the nearby farm building.' metal adds to the design feature. “The build up of the walls is timber frame clad in corrugate. Insulation was added behind the cladding externally, using fire proof insulation,” recounts Eric. “This also reduced the VOC content of the insulation entering the interior of the house. Externally, the bottom half is cavity wall. But as the two aren’t flush water tends to pool on the small ledge dividing corrugated metal and the plastered wall.” Rock wool was used internally between the studs, covered with a vapour and air barrier, before being battened out for a 25mm service duct area and finally plasterboarded. It’s not surprising to find that Eric and Gladys built a house that’s practical and lends itself to family living, with all the comforts and for all generations. As the saying goes – practice makes perfect. 44 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
Consult others. Consult people who have built similar houses to the one you have in mind, to get realistic feedback and costings. Take time to visit similar builds, taking ideas that suit you from each visit and then discussing your plans with your architect, now that you have a good understanding of exactly what you want.
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â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;With the large windows and highly insulated walls and roof, no heating is needed for at least six months of the year...'
Photographs of the construction stage available on selfbuild.ie SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 45
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More photographs available at facebook.com/selfbuild
Project information Find out more about Eric and Gladys’s new build project in Co Tyrone including the local companies involved... GROUND FLOOR
House Size: 2500 sqft / Building Cost: £260,000 / Plot size: 1/2 acre Construction: Timber frame, clad in corrugated metal with plastered blockwork, PIR insulation U-values: roof 0.16 W/sqmK, walls 0.17 W/sqmK, barrel roof 0.20 W/sqmK, floors 0.16 W/sqmK
SUPPLIERS Architect Trevor Hutton of T4 Architects, Stewartstown, Co Tyrone, tel. 7568 5695, t4architects.co.uk
Kitchen and sliderobes Croft Interiors, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, tel. 867 65606, croftinteriors.com
WC KITCHEN DINING UTILITY
Bathroom fixtures and fittings Killeen Hardware, Armagh, tel. 3752 2317, killeenhardware.co.uk Electrician Claude Gillis of C.A. Gillis Electrical, Cookstown, Co Tyrone, mobile 07769 646895 Photography Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill Photography, Belfast, Co Antrim, 07804307225, firstname.lastname@example.org
ROI calling NI prefix with 048, prefix mobile with 0044 and drop the first zero
LANDING LOFT STORAGE
N/W ELEVATION EN-SUITE
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Elevations Client Name:
Mr Eric Black Project Details:
80m East of 41 Kiltyclougher Road, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, BT80 9BZ
PROJECT / CO MONAGHAN
EXTENSION & RENOVATION
Semi-d makeover Clíodhna and Enda Rooney had a choice between moving or extending; they decided to stay put. But on the condition that their renovation project would inject the wow-factor into their semi-d… Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Paul Lindsay 48 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
CO MONAGHAN / PROJECT
ven though we love where we live, our concern about renovating was that it might be difficult to make it more comfortable considering the constraints of being nestled between two other houses – the footprint is relatively narrow and the garden is confined and overlooked,” recounts Clíodhna. “Martin, who designed the extension, is a friend of ours and he encouraged us to stay put as he could see the setup had potential.” continues Clíodhna. “He designed the space from the outside in to make sure that the room itself was the feature and not what you could look at outside. In many extensions Martin said he would create large glass panels in the external walls to bring the garden area into the house, but here the focus was on creating a feeling of warmth and light without compromising on privacy.” “We’d put pen to paper ourselves, sketched every configuration we could think of, but couldn’t figure out how to keep the space private and flood it with light. Martin came back with a few options that really impressed us. Straight away that highlighted to me why you need to hire a design professional and trust their advice.”
Q&A Would you do it again?
Yes I would, I really enjoyed the design process.
What advice would you give?
Don’t just build a box, get someone with expertise in design as they’ll know what’s the best thing to build in that space with the money that you have. We’d drawn so many sketches, we had so many ideas in our heads, and Martin turned it all around to produce something much better.
What surprised you?
I didn’t expect to be able to live without a kitchen for 12 weeks but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Although, much to my surprise, I did get sick of eating Chinese!
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PROJECT / CO MONAGHAN
As with many families, the motivation to renovate was the need for more light and a more workable kitchen. “It’s not that we’re chefs but you couldn’t comfortably have more than one person at a time in the kitchen, we used to bump into each other,” says Enda. Making the house work for them as a family was also important. “We wanted a porch to put down our stuff at the door and prevent a draught, but we also knew that a second living space was going to make everyone’s life much easier, especially for our 16-year old daughter Laoise.” As the extension is less than 40sqm they did not require planning permission. In terms of thermal comfort, the couple had already invested in an energy upgrade a few years previous. “Enda doesn’t really feel the cold so when he lived there on his own, heating wasn’t an issue,” says Clíodhna. “But when I moved in I thought it was nippy, even with the heat on, so we went for the government grant to get the attic pumped with insulation and did the walls too, and that made a huge difference to the comfort levels in the house.” 50 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
New living space
“We were sure of one thing: we didn’t want a box attached to the back of the house,” recounts Enda. “The solution Martin came up with was to build high walls on both sides and vertical glazing on either side of the
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CO MONAGHAN / PROJECT
Kitchen Tips Consider how you cook. I love the kitchen waste disposal unit at the sink (even though the dog hates how noisy it is). It’s just brilliant for all the scraps. Get rid of the kettle. The hot water tap is brilliant, I wouldn’t do without it. Give yourself enough room to manoeuvre. We made sure we could open fridges, dishwashers and so on without affecting the movement of others in the kitchen.
stove – we still have no blinds up and don’t feel a need for them.” “Inside, we wanted a difference in levels between the kitchen and new living area. Because the space was small, we needed a way to provide a definite divide without it being too stark. So we raised the living area where the patio used to be.” The extension is flooded with light from above with the help of a set of six rooflights, three on either side. “Our builder told us it would be cheaper to install two large rooflights but Martin insisted it would look better to have them in sections,” adds Clíodhna. The use of standard rooflights proved to be a cost-effective way of creating a cathedral like effect in the raised living area; once you’re in it you don’t realise the fact that there are no side windows on the long elevations. “It keeps the focus in the room and the flow from the existing house out into the new extension is so natural, you can’t tell where one begins and the other ends.” “We went with Martin’s vision and we’re delighted we did because at the time, we couldn’t tell. It was a bit like watching Dermot Bannon on TV, why fight with him if you trusted him to design it in the first place? The builder also suggested adding a window at the kitchen table, which wasn’t in the original plans, and we decided to go with his suggestion in that instance. It definitely does let in more light in that area. We realised it was the right call once we were on site.” In terms of the configuration, they
‘Because the space was small, we needed a way to provide a definite divide without it being too stark.’
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PROJECT / CO MONAGHAN
also debated quite a bit about the size of the utility room. “It would be nice for it to be bigger but I didn’t want too much to be taken out of the dining area,” explains Clíodhna. “So what we ended up with was a shorter but wider space than what we had before.” The kitchen is purposefully tucked away from the other daily activities. “I love how well separated everything is, and I especially like being able to close off the glazed hall door,” she adds. “I also love the glass panelling with chrome hand rail between the living/dining areas, it creates a division without blocking light and you can see right through.” Adding the floor space however did require that they invest in a new boiler. “Because of the extension, we needed to add two radiators in the living room and another, floor to ceiling, in the kitchen area,” explains Clídohna. “There was an increase in the energy bills as a result but nothing dramatic.” There is however now a noticeable difference in temperature between the new 54 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
‘Adding the floor space however did require that they invest in a new boiler...’
PROJECT / CO MONAGHAN
living room and the teenage-den sitting room in winter. “Even though we insulated at the front it’s not to as high a specification as the new part of the house, and the windows are double glazed as opposed to triple,” comments Clíodhna.
Clíodhna and Enda had their builder picked out very early on, and also knew their electrician, plumber and kitchen supplier. “We were lucky that we had connections in the trade, it made choosing who we would be working with a lot easier,” she confides. “It also helped that we had a clear idea of what we wanted, for example I was adamant that I didn’t want an island or breakfast bar, I felt we just hadn’t enough space. It was important for me to be able to open the dishwasher when someone else would be at the cooker.” Artificial lighting was also pivotal to the design. “To add to the wow factor Martin helped design a stunning feature at the kitchen, we lowered the ceiling for definition
Front sitting room
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CO MONAGHAN / PROJECT
Q&A What would you do differently?
We went with a solid fuel stove and I wish I’d stuck to my guns and gone for gas. Solid fuel is messy and if we open the door it can leave a smoky mark between it and the TV.
The best thing we did was to create a separate feeling to the living area by raising the floor level and using glass panelling with a chrome handrail between rooms, I love how light flows right through.
Refurbished wc in the hallway
and added LED mood lighting to highlight the curve.” “It’s independent from the roof, we built a frame that’s running between the two walls. I saw it in a pub and really liked it,” explains Clíodhna. “Martin said that if we dropped the ceiling we should have the tiles go up to it, so we went with that and it does bring it all together.” “Apart from the two pendant lights we went with lamps to provide warmth and if
we need them, we also have lights under the kitchen presses.” The floor finish is laminate, white in colour from the front door and charcoal in the new sitting room. The extension was completed three years ago and they’re still struggling to think of what they would change. “I can’t believe how much we got out of that extra bit of space, it’s completely transformed our enjoyment of the house.” With many more years to come! SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 57
PROJECT / CO MONAGHAN
More photographs available at facebook.com/selfbuild
Find out more about Clíodhna and Enda’s extension project in Co Monaghan including the local companies involved... BUILDING SPECIFICATION Wall: cavity wall (100mm blocks on internal and outer leaf) filled with 150mm PIR insulation boards and cavity closer together with 50mm insulation with 12.5mm plaster board to inner leaf. U-value 0.14W/sqmK Roof: cut timber roof rafter sizes 50x150, collar size 50x150, hanger size 50x150, 150mm PIR between rafters with 82.5mm PIR insulated plasterboard to underside of sloped ceilings, 400mm of attic quilt insulation between and above ceiling joists. U-value 0.18W/sqmK Floor: 100mm sand cement screed on 125mm PIR insulation horizontally with 25mm PIR on vertical edge, on 100mm concrete on compacted hardcore. U-value 0.13W/sqmK Windows: triple glazed, uPVC, U-value of units 0.77W/sqmK and G-value 0.38
GROUND FLOOR LOBBY
SUPPLIERS Insulation grant Better Energy Homes Scheme from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, seai.ie
Floors Irwin Tiles & Hardwood Flooring, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, tel. 042 9740278
Design and supervision J. Martin McLaughlin B.Eng (Hons) CEng MIEI of October House Design Ltd, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, mobile 0862217173, octoberhouse.org
Insulation Kingspan Insulation, kingspaninsulation.ie
Building contractor Niall Mulligan Construction, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, mobile 086 6088789 Plumbing John Mc Geough Plumbing, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, mobile 087 6422744 Electrician Declan Mc Guire Electrical, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, mobile 086 6013647
Kitchen Colt Design, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, tel. 042 9746415 Electrical Appliances Watters Electrical, Culloville, Co Armagh, ROI mobile 087 0523829
Photography Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill Photography, Belfast, Co Antrim, 07804307225, email@example.com NI calling ROI prefix with 00353 and drop the first 0
58 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
I TATION I NNS UL CO
UL TA E TIO N
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PASSIVE HOUSE DESIGN A passive house is one which is so energy-efficient that it does not require a conventional heating system to provide heating within the building, relying instead on a combination of green energy sources, high levels of insulation and airtightness to reduce heat loss. A passive house typically consumes up to 90% less energy than a house built to the minimum requirements for building regulations.
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Kilbroney Timberframe, Valley Business Park, 48 Newtown Road, Rostrevor, Co. Down, N. Ireland. BT34 3BZ T: (028) 4173 9077 E: email@example.com W: www.kilbroneytimberframe.com
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CO DOWN / PROJECT
EXTENSION & RENOVATION
Tinkering at the edges Even though Andrew and Julie Rogersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; barn conversion, completed over a decade ago, gave them the home they always dreamt of, once they were living in the house they realised they could do with some additions. Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Paul Lindsay
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CO DOWN / PROJECT
he original 18th Century barn Andrew and Julie renovated is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty. “We’re very lucky to be nestled in this incredible scenic setting, combining country and coastal delight,” enthuses Andrew. However after moving into their new home in 2005, their circumstances changed: “It wasn’t long after we were settled in that we found a lot happening; namely we both became retired and our elderly family in NI all died off.” “We thought of moving to mainland UK to be close to our children and grandchildren
and for this purpose decided to carry out renovations to the house so it would appeal to a wider range of buyers.” “However after completing the extensions we fell in love with the house all over again and came to the conclusion that we could only ever live in the countryside and not in a built up area. Our present location is only two miles from our local village which has shops, pubs and restaurants.” “We’re close to the sea and in an area of outstanding natural beauty, it was obviously going to be difficult to find something to replace it,” continues Andrew. “The bonus these days is that all major supermarkets
Q&A with Andrew What’s your favourite room/feature?
Sitting in front of the log fire watching TV. The rear extension has been an amazing success and is used as our main day area.
Would you do it again?
Yes but there would be no need as this is definitely it! We’ve been in over five years now and we love it.
What would you do differently?
I can’t think of anything we would change. We used local tradesmen and project managed it ourselves. We paid on a weekly basis which allowed us to change craftsmen if required, also to adjust time scales to control our budget.
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PROJECT / CO DOWN
Q&A What surprised you?
Getting fit! Being able to do the labouring work on the extension has been a very satisfying experience, learning new skills and toning up in the process.
What advice would you give others?
If I’m asked for advice I would say use the planning and building control departments, they can really help you save a lot of time and expense. Every time I’ve spoken with them they have been amazingly helpful. They were always keen to help.
64 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
deliver to the door.” “We now go over to visit three to four times a year and believe the time we spend with the family is of more quality. We’re sure living close and popping in and out would not suit either of us. Also they all come every year and enjoy the tranquil lifestyle we have here.”
“The first couple of winters we realised that the prevailing winds had a way of entering the house at the front door and make its way into the kitchen,” recounts Andrew. “That’s when we decided to build a porch as an antidraught measure.” “The plan was initially a modest one, a small box, but then we considered the potential resale value of the house and also of how usable we wanted to make it.” “At first we thought we wanted it big enough to put up the coats and then common sense prevailed and we made the most of its orientation by turning it into a small living area – as it gets the morning sun we can sit in it to enjoy the sunshine with a cup of coffee.”
“I thought if we’re building a porch let’s at least make it big enough for a pram and kids’ bikes,” adds Julie. “We now realise having a large porch could be handy in our advancing years for a wheel chair or electric buggy.” The outcome was a very successful one: “Adding the porch on the front has made the house so very much warmer,” opines Andrew. As the plan required planning permission the couple took the opportunity to extend at the back and build a garage. “Even though we had a large shed we realised that a garage was essential, so that was added to our wish list,” says Andrew. “Having decided that we loved our house and area and would never want to move, we decided on a rear extension with a log fire.”
CO DOWN / PROJECT
Log fire extension
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PROJECT / CO DOWN
“I would advise people to think of how much room you need to live comfortably. When we bought the original building our main objective was to downsize and to have easy maintenance,” explains Andrew. “However after a couple of years we realised that even though there’s only two of us we still needed the extra space especially with visiting family. We now can’t imagine not having the extra room, front porch and garage. The extension has now become our main living area, meaning our main lounge is always tidy for visitors.” As for the design, how the couple lived in the home drove their decisions. “Our double patio doors at the back took up a lot of room and they were seldom used, so we put together rough sketches and got our plans drawn up by an architect.” “We then got planning permission for the garage and extension, none was needed for the porch, and we found that the Building Control inspector was mostly concerned with the way we were building the extension as the garage was a 66 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
straightforward build.” This was in 2012. “Building Control was very helpful, for example the architect drew up plans and our engineer had suggested beam sizes, but Building Control advised us the thickness of the wood wasn’t right. We came back to them asking if an alteration our engineer suggested would do, and the inspector was very accommodating taking into account the structural nature of the problem as well as cost constraints.” The inspector also helped with the thickness of insulation in floor, suggesting a slight alteration in the specification. In terms of getting a builder, the couple chose to project manage it themselves. “We found tradesmen on the recommendation of neighbours who recently had some work done,” says Andrew. “Julie and I took great pleasure in our involvement and being able to change things are we progressed. Self-build for us has definitely worked especially as we have ensured that all work was to a very high standard.”
‘After a couple of years living in the house we realised that even though there’s only two of us we still needed the extra space, especially with visiting family...’
CO DOWN / PROJECT
Andrew’s Top Tips DIY window cleaning.
Thanks to internet how-to videos I now know how to clean windows. Wire wool Grade 0000 used dry is brilliant, also great on car windscreens. In our previous house we had large south facing windows which even when clean never looked perfect.
Think single storey.
I would never consider a property with an upstairs which only complicates heating control and window cleaning.
Where appropriate, match the materials.
With the extension we took care to make it look as if it’s always been there. Inside we chose bricks, stone, tiles and hard wood windows.
Think of cabling.
It was a good opportunity to install data cables, satellite multiroom TV as well as CCTV.
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PROJECT / CO DOWN
More photographs available at facebook.com/selfbuild
Find out more about Andrew and Julieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s extension project in Co Down including the local companies involved... GROUND FLOOR SUN LOUNGE
BUILDING SPECIFICATION BEDROOM
Original House Size: 130sqm Extension: 20sqm Porch: 25sqm
Insulation to building regulations requirements, walls natural stone with facing brick eaves and reveals, natural slate roof with clay ridge tiles. Windows Iroko hardwood frames, low e double glazed.
SUPPLIERS MASTER BEDROOM
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Photography Paul Lindsay at Christopher Hill Photography, Belfast, Co Antrim, 07804307225, firstname.lastname@example.org
OVERVIEW / BOOTCAMP
CLINIC Self-building in NI Embarking on a building or renovation project can be a daunting prospect but as seasoned self-builders will attest to, once you’ve done your homework, building or extending your own home is in fact a gratifying experience. So to help you get started we brought together a range of experts to Selfbuild Live Belfast – they came together to host the Selfbuild Bootcamp by sharing their tips and advice on the key stages of building and home improving. SPONSORED BY
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BOOTCAMP / FINANCE
Financing your self-build The Bootcamp featured a panel of experts in the field of build cost estimating, insurance and warranties. Here are the answers to your questions with information from Dermot Rasdale of quantity surveyors DJ Rasdale & Sons, Graeme Norris of Progressive Building Society and Jim Majury of Kerr Group on behalf of insurance and warranty provider Self Build Zone. What is the average price per square foot and how accurate is this?
Dermot Rasdale: The range is anywhere between £60 to £100/sqft, depending on the specification of the house. However, we strenuously advise people that this is a very rough guide. Take a 2,500 sqft house for example. If the specification was on the lower end of the scale (roof tiles, average insulation, radiators) the total would come in around £150,000 at £60/sqft. Yet, if the spec of the house was higher (roof slates, underfloor heating, high insulation) the total would come in around £187,500 or at £75/sqft. To get a realistic picture we recommend that self-builders hold out until their plans are completely finished, that’s the best time to get the estimate done.
Is it necessary to have a full specification on my plans?
DR: Yes. The more detail that is on the plans, the more accurate your prices and costings will be. It keeps you and your builder on equal ground as there will be very little room for variations.
How can I save money throughout my self-build?
DR: Throughout a project there will always be a few tweaks here and there, once you start to see the shape and structure of your building come together. Try not to deviate from your plans drastically as this will have a knock-on effect on every phase. Be sure of your specification and do your research into materials and the local cost of labour/ tradesmen. Ultimately the best way to save money is to spend a few 70 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
Left to right: Jim Majury of kerrgroup.co.uk, Dermot Rasdale of djestimations.com and Graeme Norris of theprogressive.com
quid before you start and get an accurate estimate based on your plans. At the end of the day: knowledge is power!
What is a PC Sum?
DR: A Provisional Cost Sum is the presumed cost for certain things on your plans where no specification has been drawn up / there is not enough detail to provide a fixed price. Common for plumbing, electrics and if you don’t choose them early enough, stairs and kitchen.
Can I control the cost of foundations/groundworks?
DR: To a certain degree, yes. If the architect or engineer is still unsure of the ground conditions after completing land surveys,
test holes can be dug and a clearer picture of what kind of foundation you will need will emerge. A contingency should always be allowed for foundations anyway as it is one of those things that will remain uncertain until they are being dug. More concrete could be required if they need to be deeper or wider, it may change from a trench to a pad foundation, steel may be required or the worst-case scenario: piling. If there is even a slight doubt that the ground conditions may be unfavourable, it is advisable to leave a contingency sum ranging anywhere from £2,000 to £10,000 for extra concrete and steel. However, if piling is required, you could be looking at £20,000 plus!
FINANCE / BOOTCAMP
How would you go about financing a self-build?
Graeme Norris: Getting your finances in order is a very important starting point for your self-build project. If you need to borrow money you should be aware that a mortgage for a self-build differs from a mortgage you would use to purchase a house because with a self-build mortgage, the money is released in a number of stages as the build progresses. It is also important to make a budget to estimate how much the project will cost. You should then add 10 to 15 per cent as a contingency sum to cover unforeseen costs which might arise during the build. Also bear in mind that you will have to live somewhere while the property is being built and what this will cost you each month.
At what stages of a self-build is finance usually available? GN: This can vary from lender to lender; funds may be released after the following stages have been reached: foundations complete, wall plate level, roofed, plastered and final completion.
At what stage should I approach a lender for finance? GN: We would recommend that you approach your lender before you start on the project even if you may not need to borrow money until later in the build process. This is because lenders need to carry out an affordability assessment in order to check that the mortgage you require is affordable. Your lender will also let you know what their policy is regarding the stages at which finance will be released, and also whether or not the project meets their lending criteria.
What finances do I need to have in place prior to approaching a lender? GN: Again this will vary from lender to lender. You first need to consider what upfront costs you will have. For example, if you have to use your own finances to purchase the site, how much will this leave you with, bearing in mind that you will probably also have to carry out some building work before your lender advances any funds. It is also useful to have a contingency of your own to cover unexpected costs. Financing a self-build project can be a daunting thought, whether you are ready to start building or even if you are just thinking about it, you can contact a local branch to talk through the mortgage process.
Typical heating system
Oil and rads
Oil and rads or Heat pump/renewable heating source with underfloor heating
Small background heating, e.g. small room stove/wood burner, integrated heat pump or electric rads
Typical insulation and thermal detailing
Minimum U-value requirements
Basic thermal detailing at junctions, additional insulation
Excellent thermal detailing, additional insulation
Airtightness (air changes per hour)
Around 1 ACH or less
0.6 ACH or less
Typical ventilation system
Trickle vents or Positive Input Ventilation system
Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery or Demand Control Ventilation
Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (high efficiency)
Indicative build cost
These three levels of energy efficiency can be achieved with current building methods, although some require more detailing than others to achieve it. See page 75 for more on building methods. Information supplied by Ronan McKee of FmK Architecture Ltd
If a builder is carrying out the work do I still need to take out site insurance?
Jim Majury: Yes, a common misconception is that your appointed builder/main contractor will have insurance — however you would be surprised at just how many builders and tradespeople don’t carry adequate insurance for the work they do. By appointing a single builder or main contractor you might assume that their own policy would extend to the work they carry out on your behalf and therefore there is no need to obtain a policy in your own name. However do not rely on this and you should always check the details of the builder’s policy to firstly make sure that it’s indeed valid and secondly, that the levels of cover are sufficient.
‘A site insurance premium really is negligible considering the subsequent costs that can be incurred.’
Why should I take out a warranty considering it’s not mandatory?
Does my home policy not cover my extension/renovation work?
JM: A self-build warranty provides peace of mind in the years after you’ve completed your self-build, namely the first 10 years where a structural issue or defect is most likely to manifest. Knowing that you have a warranty in place to respond to and cover the cost of completing or rectifying work that has been affected by damage (attributable to a defect in the design, workmanship or materials) is priceless when dealing with a potential major claim.
Does the self-build policy help me manage the project?
Can the self-build insurance policy be extended if the work is not complete in the period I have selected?
JM: Again this cannot be relied upon, home insurers will typically ask you for advance notification of any works on the property, however they may decide to withdraw or limit the policy cover provided for your existing structure and contents – leaving your biggest asset potentially uninsured. A site insurance premium really is negligible considering the subsequent costs that can be incurred.
JM: Yes, especially if you are project managing your self-build you will have obligations and responsibilities under construction regulations anyway, certain safety procedures and documentation will need to be followed and produced as well as ensuring the health and safety of any visitors, contractors or sub-contractors.
JM: Check this with your provider but the answer is usually yes. Standard policy periods are 12, 18 and 24 months, however there is should be an option to increase these in shorter increments if the project overruns. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 71
BOOTCAMP / PLOT AND PLANNING PERMISSION
Mervyn McNeill, macdesign.info
Finding a plot and planning permission
Planning Policy Statement 21: Sustainable Development in the Countryside, or PPS21 as it’s commonly referred to, is the planners’ policy to building in the countryside. Here are some pointers on how to navigate it from Mervyn McNeill of McNeill Architectural Consultancy.
inding a site can be the first obstacle to any dream of self-building; doing your research by visiting local farmers to ask what land is for sale or considered to be put to sale, estate agents for listings or even planning agents may point you in the right direction. Once you find it you will need to evaluate whether you can expect to get planning permission. Even though obtaining planning permission isn’t black and white, and it may take a planning statement (known as a Concept Statement or Design Statement) to persuade the planners your proposal is compliant with PPS21, there are some rules within PPS21 that are useful to be aware of at an early stage. For example section CTY2a of PPS21 deals with New Dwellings in Existing Clusters; to get planning permission for such a development you need to meet six criteria, which aren’t necessarily easy to fulfill. However section CTY3 which deals with Replacement Dwellings is one of the easiest to get approved provided there is already a building with structural walls substantially intact that exhibits the external characteristics of a dwelling. Section CTY4 which deals with the Conversion and Reuse of Existing Buildings of importance, e.g. a barn or old school house, is another section that is relatively straightforward to gain approval under if you also comply with road safety requirements. Oftentimes section CTY8 which deals with Ribbon Development, also known as sprawl or the spread of development in the countryside, will be used as the basis for refusing a planning application but there 72 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
Go - to documents The documents the NI planners will refer to determine whether or not to grant you planning permission: l Relevant area plans (spatial policy) l Regional Development Strategy (RDS) 2035 l Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) (Sept 2015) l PPS21 – Sustainable Development in the Countryside (June 2010)
is an exception, and that is to find a small gap between two buildings that have built up frontage to the road (line of three or more buildings). The proposal must also respect the existing development pattern. Section CTY10 which deals with Dwellings on a Farm requires that the business be active and established for at least six years. The design must also visually link or cluster with existing buildings on the farm. In all cases refer to CTY13 – Integration and Design of Buildings and CTY14 – Rural Character when building in the countryside.
l PPS3 – Access, movement & parking (2005 / 2006) l Supplementary guidance: Building on Tradition – A Sustainable Design Guide for NI Countryside (May 2012) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Source: planningni.gov.uk
PROJECT MANAGEMENT / BOOTCAMP
Eddie Weir, architectdp.com
How to handle the day-to-day
Project management is the management of people, time, money and quality by an individual or a team to ensure the efficient commencement, progress and conclusion of a project. All these elements apply to construction projects regardless of their size.Eddie Weir, principal partner of Architectural Design Partnership and CIAT Northern Ireland Regional Chairman, shares his thoughts on the pros and cons of the routes open to you.
tatutory approvals, check. Financing options, check. Now who’s going to manage the project? Tempting as it may be to appoint yourself, if you’re going for a mortgage know that your lender may require that you appoint a professional to issue a “Professional Consultant’s Certificate”. This certificate will require a degree of contract administration and site supervision.The Council of Mortgage Lenders, which represents 97 per cent of UK mortgage lending, provides further advice on the topic on cml.org.uk. In this context it’s important to note many professionals are uncomfortable in certifying construction projects where the construction works are spilt up in a piecemeal manner (with no overarching contractors’ warranty). This is often partly why in the case of a home building or home improvement project, the role of project manager is commonly handed over to a builder or a professional.
happens comes under your control and you should get exactly what you want. l You control the programme, which can be tailored to match your design development — the need to know the tile colour is less critical when the foundations are being dug. l Direct management of the work can give you greater flexibility. You can accelerate or slow down the works to suit your individual requirements — if cash flow is putting pressure on, slowing slightly or delaying the work for a month may well ease this. l You know you are getting best value when you procure, because the process is open and transparent. l You will save on overheads by eliminating the main contractor. l The final fit and finish and specification
is as detailed as you want it to be — as the project manager, you can look at the design, the drawings and the specification, and add as much additional detail, samples, mood boards and technical support as you feel is necessary to avoid any miscommunication with the trades / contractors doing the work.
l Are you ready for the level of input it requires? The time required to manage the scheme is always more than anyone to planned — your build will require you be on site each day (or at least a fair part of each day), and your evenings will be spent scheduling, procuring and planning. l The emotional investment required is immense — the nature of co-ordinating trades, supplies, deliveries and site logistics
Self-builder as project manager
The self-builder directly employs a main contractor (or series of sub-contractors) to run the building site on a day-to-day basis. This will usually involve the main contractor being responsible for organising a smooth flow of labour onto the site when necessary and paying them directly.
l You are the boss. Everything that SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 73
BOOTCAMP / PROJECT MANAGEMENT
is challenging, and is demanding even for those who have done it for years. l Do you have the right temperament for the role? If you can’t bear the thought of conflict with sometimes irate tradespeople, maybe you need to think again. If you know your admin and paperwork skills are poor, you may need additional resources to help you. You need to be sure of your contacts and links to the industry — how will you find bricklayers? Do you know a reliable electrician? Recommendation is useful, but research and more research are vital. l You are funding the scheme, and are responsible for each payment to each subcontractor and supplier individually — you will need to set up a payment ledger to manage this, along with the hassle of individual valuation and measurement of works done every month/week. l The lack of credit line facility may require greater cash flow consideration when selfmanaging. You will need to make upfront payments for goods and fittings, and in many cases the availability of trade discounts will be less than for an established contractor, subsequently negating some of the savings achieved by managing the works yourself. l You will need to carry insurance for the site — individual trades will hold their own insurances, but these will normally be limited to the value of the works they are carrying out. l Self-management requires a level of technical knowledge to ensure you understand the implications of the information you are dealing with. You also need to be confident that you can appreciate the subcontractors’ requirements, information and demands, and balance this with the legislative and practical demands of the wider scheme. l Health and safety on site will become your responsibility overall — the site is in your control. l Logistics will require planning — welfare facilities, craneage, water, electricity, etc.
Main contractor as project manager
As the client you contract a builder to carry out the work and manage the process for you.
l Payments and cash flow of the trades are the contractor’s responsibility. l The contractor’s credit lines ensure efficient cash flow. l The range of contacts and sources of materials is extensive and generally very reliable. l The use of a fixed-price contract gives an element of cost certainty, which helps both your planning, and your mortgage lender’s level of comfort. l Logistics and day-to-day running should be efficient and timely, and the site left clean and safe each day as part of the contractor’s working practices. l You make one payment each agreed period (usually monthly) to the contractor, which cuts down the complexity considerably.
l Added cost: the contractor will have built in a level of profit into your contract price. l The scheduling and programming is out of your control. l The solvency of the contractor is essential to the smooth running of the site. l The contractor may make assumptions in the event that you are not around — your specification documentation must be as comprehensive as possible to avoid unexpected issues. l Your control over the supply chain stops with the main contractor, which is less hassle for you, but more reliance is then placed on your documentation and specification to ensure you get what you think you are getting. l If you delay or stop the work for whatever reason, the contract may well contain provision for payment of loss of profit to the contractor — generally once the contract starts, it is financially vital that it finishes! l The feeling of empowerment you get from managing the process is lost when a main contractor is engaged — equally, the feeling of despair when it is stressful is lost too!
Professional as project manager
An in-between solution that sees a professional (a project manager by profession or a building designer) act on Pros your behalf for a fee that’s usually less than l A good contractor will have experience and insight into the build and pre-empt many the profit the builder will take if he takes on the role. issues before they arise. l They’re experienced in programming and Health and safety procurement scheduling. l They are responsible for health and safety Whatever your role in construction, the Construction (Design and Management) on site. l They’ll carry appropriate insurances for the Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 aims to improve health and safety in the works but make sure to check these are in industry by helping you to: place. 74 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
l Sensibly plan the work so the risks involved aremanaged from start to finish. l Have the right people for the right job at the right time. l Co-operate and coordinate your work with others. l Have the right information about the risks and how theyare being managed. l Communicate this information effectively to those whoneed to know. l Consult and engage with workers about the risks and how they are being managed. irtually everyone involved in a V construction project has legal duties under CDM 2016, there is no exclusion for small projects or domestic projects. As the building owner you must: l Appoint a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor. l Ensure there are arrangements in place for managing and organising the project. l Allow adequate time. l Ensure that a Pre-Construction Phase Plan is provided (PD designer). l Ensure that a Construction Phase Plan is in place (PC contractor). l Ensure a Health & Safety File is prepared and make it available to anyone who maintains or alters the building in the future. ven if the designer is only appointed to E undertake design (planning and design to ensure compliance with Building Regulations) they are still required to ensure that you as the client understand your responsibilities. Designers are required to consider health and safety hazards and risk as part of their design process and through that process eliminate them “so far as reasonably practicable”. Where that is not reasonably practicable, the designer must, through subsequent design considerations, reduce or control those risks. Additionally, the designer will need to include with the design, sufficient information about the designed structure, its construction or maintenance that allows other designers and contractors to fulfil their duties in the future.
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BUILDING METHODS / BOOTCAMP
Ronan McKee, fmkni.com
Ronan McKee of FmK Architecture provides a birdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eye view of the most common building methods available to self-builders in NI.
here are many building routes open to you as a selfbuilder, the table opposite outlines the main methods used on building sites today in NI. Note that design considerations such as solar orientation, layout for space and light as well as aesthetics may help guide your choice of build route, e.g. depending on your design some structural constraints may make one method of building thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s commonly lower cost more expensive or cumbersome than another. Building Control inspectors, who will be inspecting your build at key stages, will help troubleshoot when problems arise. Building Control advises that with any application (Full Plans or Building Notice application) a meeting with the area surveyor is arranged prior the commencement to discuss the proposed works. This will allow the opportunity to identify at what stages inspections for these works are necessary. You are required by the Building Regulation (NI) 2012, Regulation 12 to inform the Council of commencement and completion of certain stages of the works as follows: Notice of commencement, Foundation excavation, Placing of damp proof course, Placing of damp proof course, Placing of drains (incl. unadopted) before covering, Prior to covering any structural element, Prior to covering any sound insulation measures, Occupation of the building and Completion of the works.
Masonry cavity wall
Two rows of One of the most blockwork with a economical (+) void in between; insulation is either built into the cavity, or more commonly in NI bonded beads are pumped in to full-fill the cavity. Cavities have increased in size over recent years with 200mm plus now being used.
Tried and tested, compatible with hands-on selfbuilders; good thermal mass; solid fixings
Slower than other methods and prone to stop-start waiting on trades, limited U-values and requires detailing and attention on site to achieve airtightness
Timber carcass manufactured in factory and assembled on site, external wall finish and roofing completed on site
More expensive than other systems and can require crane hire (++)
Speedy construction (4-6 wks); easy to achieve high level of insulation, U-values and airtightness
Specialist company required, redrawings necessary if plans originally for masonry, impact noise must be managed
Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF)
Hollow lightweight insulated block components that lock together without mortar, into which concrete is poured
Tends to be expensive, additional cost to increase U-value on walls (+++)
Quick, unaffected by rain or frost, easy to achieve airtightness and low U-values, good option for basements and creative designs (e.g. curves)
Difficult to alter design, specialist equipment and companies
Masonry externally insulated
Solid single leaf masonry wall faced externally with insulation board
Tends to be more expensive (++)
Good option for renovations, quick to build, easy to achieve good U-values and airtightness
No cavity means no moisture barrier, relies on external render for waterproofing
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)
Pre-insulated and serviced timber frame panels built off site and slotted in ready for window installation
Tends to be more expensive (+++)
Turnkey option, quick build, that provides peace of mind in relation to airtightness and achieving good U-values
Few suppliers, requires specialist equipment
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 75
BASICS / EXTENSIONS ROADMAP
Wilson McMullen Architects wilsonmcmullen.com
Paul Dorrell Photography pauldorrellphotography.com
Hugo Borges hborges.ie
Extensions roadmap Your 10 step guide to planning an extension
Check whether you need planning permission
You don’t necessarily have to get planning permission to extend your home but you need to tick all the boxes to qualify. There are restrictions on floor area (in ROI less than 40sqm), eaves height (in NI no more than 3m high), etc. If you have any doubt, ask for a Section 5 Declaration from your local authority (ROI) or a Certificate of Lawful Development (NI) to make sure your plans don’t require planning permission. After that, make sure you abide by all relevant building regulations. 76 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
Check the purse
Embarking on an extension project is all about keeping an eye on the budget; check finances are in place and assess how much you will realistically need with design and planning fees, insurance and warranties as well as build costs. It’s not because it’s small that you shouldn’t give the design the due diligence that it deserves – for example if you’re adding a kitchen would you like it to be exposed to the morning sun? Then it needs to face the eastern
Cost The cost of extending your home is likely to be as much as building new, and in some cases may be more depending on the need to upgrade the heating system, renovate other parts of the house, etc.
elevation. And don’t forget to take into account the context of the site and connection to existing house. To help you design the extension and put it to paper, you’ll need an architectural designer, but consider too that you may need a structural engineer for things like specifying steel or a building energy assessor if you’re looking at an energy upgrade. Check references and insurance.
Check the regs
The building regulations apply to renovations; check the technical guidance documents and technical booklets, and consult
EXTENSIONS ROADMAP / BASICS
with your building professional for advice.
Choose as many of the finishes you can in advance
To save on costs have a look at which windows, doors, kitchen, tiles or other relevant products you will need to source yourself. It takes a long time to find what you want and at the right price – knowing this in advance will help the design process immensely, and will assist in the costings. By getting detailed construction drawings done you’ll be able to accurately price your project - you need a detailed specification otherwise costs are likely to creep up.
Comply with Building Control requirements
If you secured planning permission you will need to go through the building control process by filing a commencement notice (ROI) on the Building Control Management System as you would for a new build. In NI even if the work is exempt from planning permission you still need to advise Building Control, e.g. in the case of a roof space conversion or to install a wc under the stairs. All structural work must be filed with Building Control, also insulation work. Exemptions include
porches of 5sqm or less at ground level that protect an external access (but the glazing must comply with Part V of the Regulations), conservatories 30 sqm or less that have at least 75 per cent of the roof and 50 per cent of the external wall made of translucent material, and detached garages that are 30sqm or less and are either built substantially of non-combustible material or are not less than one metre from a dwelling or boundary of the site or a road.
The lead-in times will be similar to a new build but remember that windows can take a long time to arrive on site as they are manufactured to spec. It’s a good idea to order them as soon as you break ground.
Don’t forget Check the location of doors and vents
We live in a notoriously windy corner of the world so consider which direction the prevailing winds are coming from and avoid placing ventilation openings and doors on those elevations in order to prevent draughts.
Comply with health and safety requirements
If the project lasts more than 30 days or poses a significant risk, you must advise the health and safety authority (HSA in ROI and HSENI in NI) and appoint health and safety supervisors for both the design and construction stages. This work involves keeping a health and safety ledger on site.
Invest in your new doors
We give a lot of thought to our windows, but doors are a weak link too when it comes energy efficiency and security. Fiberglass / GRP doors are relatively new to the Irish market but tend to be well insulated and lightweight so are worth investigating.
Check the insurance
Check what your grant entitlements are
Check whether your house insurance is still valid during construction and whether it can be extended to site insurance during the works. With a contractor taking on the project management, check that their insurance covers all the necessary for your site, most importantly public liability but also employer’s liability.
You can get insulation and other energy efficiency grants in both NI and ROI, refer to the Spring 2018 issue or selfbuild.ie to check what you’re entitled to.
Disclaimer Image courtesy of PMac Ltd, photograph by Ros Kavanagh
This list is not exhaustive, always consult with a qualified building professional.
Get the neighbours involved before work begins
You may or may not need to get planning permission but in all cases, let your neighbours know what you’re up to as early as you can – ideally at the dreaming stage. It’s common courtesy and they may have information about your house or site that could be interesting to know!
building – and 10 Get snagging
The same stages as for a new build apply, refer to the Winter 2017 issue or check out our Basics guide on selfbuild.ie SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 77
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DESIGN / LOW ENERGY BUILDINGS
Photo by James Connolly on Unsplash
Ditch the chimney If you want to build a house that’s cheap to build and run, replace the stove and central heating with high spec insulation/airtightness, a heat recovery ventilation unit and a few strategically placed electric radiators. Words: Astrid Madsen with Shane Colclough of Ulster University
ou really can build a house without central heating, as long as you invest in the building fabric and can guarantee good workmanship. But does it cost more? The answer 10 years ago showed a 10 per cent premium as compared to current standards. Today, research from Ulster University points to price parity, but only as long as you do away with the chimney and central heating. But in reality most self-builders want the peace of mind associated to some form of central heating system or at the 80 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
very least, a wood pellet stove. Whilst these extras can be expected to cost more to build, the good news is even with these additional systems running costs remain low. In fact research shows you should expect your energy bills to be approximately halved as compared to building a house compliant to today’s Building Regulations.
Ulster University took the case of a semidetached 102sqm house and compared how much it would cost to build it to current standards as opposed to the nZEB standard (based on the well-established
passive house standard). The results showed that the extra investment in the building fabric (extra insulation, airtightness, triple glazing) and a ventilation system with an integrated heat pump, was offset by the costs associated to building a chimney (for a stove or open fire) and wet heating system with associated boiler/heat pump and radiators/underfloor heating. The passive house’s space heating is taken care of with an integrated heat pump, a small device that provides heat, hot water and heat recovery ventilation. To provide spot heating a total of three low cost but high efficiency electric radiators
LOW ENERGY BUILDINGS / DESIGN
were installed, including one in the bathroom. The electric radiators are rarely used which is what results in the very low running costs. Due to the installation of the chimney, wet heating, and associated second fix items, the traditional house took one week more to construct than the simpler passive house. This 102sqm sample house is of course very small by self-builders’ standards, so the question is, can the same savings be made on a bigger house? Manufacturers say integrated heat pumps can be used on larger dwellings, up to 350sqm in size which even for an expanding family is spacious. Even though this would also mean having to install more electric radiators for spot heating, for cold days in which you open the windows, the scaling up is likely to only require the addition of a couple more radiators as compared to the 102sqm house. Housing developers have come to realise that passive houses are a proven means to save on building costs and are now building to this standard. Selfbuilders, however, are less keen to ditch the proverbial boiler. For peace of mind and comfort it seems most want either a blast of heat from a fire or want to be able to rely on some form of central heating. This means many opt for a stove or underfloor heating with conventional heat pump (air to water or ground source). Installing these would negate the build cost savings witnessed on the 102sqm house, with costs dependent on the specific installation. The stove is a tempting alternative, providing a live flame and yet keeping the house airtight (sealed flue). But the requirement for a flue/chimney means the stove installation is expensive and may have the knock-on effect of overheating the room, being difficult to size for a low energy building. For instance the passive house requirement of 10W/sqm applied to a sitting room of approximately 20sqm means that only 200W is needed. Stoves typically are rated from 2kW up, 10 times more than what’s required to comfortably heat the room.
least halved with a passive house compared with a house built to the minimum building regulations, all of which rely on fossil fuel central heating. A key finding is the difference in terms of the interior temperatures; the passive houses in NI recorded on average a 1degC higher temperature in the living rooms despite requiring only 38 per cent of the space heating energy consumption of the houses constructed to the minimum building regulations. This indirectly implies over 60 per cent savings on the heating bills; considering the average in ROI for heating is €1,850 per year, a passive house with central heating or a stove should only cost around €700 per year to heat. A passive house with no other form of heating than spot high efficiency electric radiators was not part of the
‘Monitoring results show that in Ireland a passive house building is warmer and cheaper to run.’
Low energy building standards In ROI the Nearly Zero Energy Building standard will become mandatory by 2020 with full details published as part of a public consultation in April (see News section). The nZEB standard in ROI requires that dwellings must consume less than 45 kWh/sqm/yr. Whilst there is uncertainty caused by Brexit, the nZEB standard has been defined for NI in a recent report as requiring primary energy for regulated laws of less than or equal to approximately 44 kWh/sqm/yr. study, so running costs are unavailable but presumably should be even less. For the 102 sqm house in ROI, the bill for the ventilation, domestic hot water and space heating was €239 for the whole year. Overall monitoring results show that in Ireland a passive house building is warmer and cheaper to run, and boasts better indoor air quality – an important way of testing health, of your home and indirectly of yourself.
Another study by Ulster University, which is ongoing, is comparing 23 homes throughout the landmass of Ireland, half built to current building regulations and the other to the passive house standard. So far the monitoring results show you could expect your energy bills to be at
Photos by Homecare Systems Ltd
How cheap is a low energy house to run?
An integrated heat pump, specifically designed for nearly zero energy buildings, combines a heat pump with heat recovery ventilation (MVHR) to supply heat, hot water and fresh air. Pictured here is the Genius.
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 81
S U P E R H O M E S / T U R N K E Y R E N O VAT I O N
Making your home super A turnkey solution for ROI renovators who want to heat their home for less, and improve their health. Words: Astrid Madsen with Stephen Harte of the Tipperary Energy Agency
pgrading the energy performance of a home can be a daunting prospect, with horror stories of cavity wall insulation projects gone wrong and high costs for little return. Doing your research will point to the fact that knowledge of building physics is essential to get a retrofit right, which is why for homeowners a one-stop-shop solution seems to be the logical answer, a place where you can get impartial advice on what needs to be done in your home, get a shortlist of contractors, and then have the works and grant applications managed for you. SuperHomes Ireland is such a programme; administered by the notfor-profit Tipperary Energy Agency it’s wholly funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Electric Ireland and the EU. Manufacturers and contractors are hand-picked by the Tipperary Energy Agency to carry out the works. Funding of up to 50 per cent is now available thanks to the SEAI Deep Energy Retrofit grant scheme (this grant is not directly available to homeowners). The programme has been up and running for four years with over 70 retrofits under its belt. For any home built before 2006 the aim is to bring the property to an A3 and achieve a 50 to 70 per cent reduction in energy bills. How to achieve this depends on the house and how cost effective the measures are. Common to all retrofits is assessing the levels of insulation and airtightness. Then there’s the mandatory installation of an air source heat pump and of a demand control or heat recovery ventilation system. Being costly, solar photovoltaic panels are optional.
82 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
Zoning an older house with thermostats reduces energy use
‘Costs after discounts range from €12,500 to €30,000 but the good news is works last three months or less.’
The first step is to get a home survey done, at a cost of €475 (€725 for houses over 240sqm); if the homeowners agree to proceed with the recommended works additional professional and administrative fees are payable to Tipperary Energy Agency, at stipulated pre- and post-works intervals. The fee total ranges between
€1,250 and €3,600, depending on the project. The only catch is it does require some significant upward investment; cost after discounts range from €12,500 to €30,000 but the good news is works last three months or less. Here are some project profiles.
T U R N K E Y R E N O VAT I O N / S U P E R H O M E S
Seamus & Aileen Hoyne, Co Tipperary House profile: 165sqm split level bungalow with solar thermal panels, double glazed windows, oil-fired boiler. Built in 2006. BER: from B3 to A3. Measures introduced: replacement of all windows and patio doors with tripleglazed units, replacement of the back door, airtightness measures carried out to reduce ventilation losses and obtain a minimum air permeability rate of 5 m3/(hr.sqm), installation of demand control ventilation and 8.5kW air source heat pump with integrated controls and two thermostats (living areas and bedrooms). Cost: €17,900 excluding VAT. SuperHomes grant: 35 per cent. Retrofit time: two weeks. Yearly energy bills: 35 per cent saving; average annual oil spend of €1,000 as compared to €650 on electricity for powering the heat pump. Wood for the stove an additional €300 (unchanged). Health benefits: The lower part of the house, where the kids’ bedrooms are, is north-facing. There was condensation on the windows and the beginnings of small amounts of mould in one of the bedrooms. All issues completely resolved. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 83
S U P E R H O M E S / T U R N K E Y R E N O VAT I O N
Yvonne Doyle, Co Tipperary House type: Self-built in 2004, 210sqm detached four bedroom two-storey house. BER: C3 to an A3 with the help of PV solar panels fitted after the SuperHomes related works. Measures introduced: replacement of the oil boiler with an 11.2kW air source heat pump, airtightness measures carried out to reduce ventilation losses and obtain a minimum air permeability rate of 5 m3/ (hr.sqm), replacement of the existing front door with a low energy door, installation and taping of fireproof covers for downlighters to reduce draughts, installation of demand controlled ventilation, insulation of attic to a coverage of 300mm throughout, replacement of the hot water tank with a 200l cylinder, replace open fires with sealed wood burning stoves, a full window service (draught sealing with silicone), replacement of all light fittings with LEDs, removal of 24 down-lighters and replacement with a central light rosette. Cost: €26,500 including VAT. SuperHomes grant: 35 per cent. Retrofit time: six weeks. Yearly energy bills: 58 per cent saving; 84 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
it used to cost €2,000 for oil and solid fuel plus €1,000 electricity and now the electricity bill is €1,750. The couple says they “haven’t even made a dent in the €270 of logs that we bought”. Health benefits: The house was draughty from a warped front-door, two open fireplaces, worn window seals and poorly sealed down-lighters. There was some dampness in the main bathroom and the small sitting room, as well as a build-up of condensation. All of these issues have been resolved.
T U R N K E Y R E N O VAT I O N / S U P E R H O M E S
Neil and Aileen Walker, Co Dublin House type: 175sqm timber frame built in 1995. BER: C2 to A3.
what temperature you want upstairs and downstairs has made a huge difference in terms of comfort.
Measures introduced: 8.5kW monoblock air source heat pump with new 200l hot water cylinder, attic and wall insulation, a demand control ventilation system, LED lighting, 1.5kW solar photovoltaic panels, window service (draught sealing with silicone). Cost: €20,000 including VAT. SuperHomes grant: 35 per cent. Retrofit time: six weeks. Yearly energy bills: estimated 50 to 75 per cent reduction in energy costs. The retrofit has effectively added to the size of the house, because the Walkers have been able to reclaim the kitchen “which used to be an icebox”. “It’s a better investment than in the bank,” says Neil. “In the meantime we have an extra room, peace of mind that we’ll never have a kerosene leak again [which was the motivation to carry out an energy upgrade] and a deliciously comfortable house.” Health benefits: Telling the house SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 85
S U P E R H O M E S / T U R N K E Y R E N O VAT I O N
Xavier Dubuisson, Co Cork House type: 200sqm stone farmhouse with condensing oil boiler, rooftop solar thermal panels, demand control ventilation, two high efficiency wood burning stoves (one in the kitchen/dining room, the other in the living room), high level of attic insulation and LED light bulbs. BER: C1 to A3. Measures introduced: Cavity wall insulation, airtightness measures carried out to reduce ventilation losses and obtain a minimum air permeability rate of 5 m3/ (hr.sqm), minor improvements to demand control ventilation system already installed, removal of the oil boiler and replacement with an air source heat pump and controls, installation of ground-mounted 1.5kW solar PV panels in the garden. Cost: €18,205 including VAT. SuperHomes grant: 35 per cent. Retrofit time: six weeks. Yearly energy bills: estimated 50 to 75 per cent reduction in energy bills. Xavier says it’s fantastic not to be relying on oil: “I can’t remember how many times we ran out of oil and you’d be in the cold for a few days waiting for the delivery man to arrive and then there’d be a dirty 86 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
mess getting things running again. It’s particularly satisfying that a heat pump can deliver heat and comfort in an old house with minimal insulation like this.” Health benefits: It’s much easier on the body and on the mind to have less draughts and consistent temperature levels.
Ground mounted PV panels
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E N E R G Y / S O L A R PA N E L S
The low down on solar panels With the price of PV modules falling significantly since 2009, by up to 80 per cent depending on installation type, it’s starting to really make sense to invest in solar. Words: Tony Traill
reland actually enjoys a very healthy amount of solar radiation, not unlike that of the South of England. Here’s an overview of your solar thermal (solar panels to general hot water) and photovoltaics (solar panels to generate electricity) options.
Solar thermal: hotwater panels
olar water heating depends on energy from the sun so it is unable to provide continuous supplies of hot water throughout the year. The ballpark 88 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
figure is that it can provide hot water for a household’s washing and bathing needs for about half to two thirds of the year. Therefore a back up system will be required, usually in the form of a boiler. Even though you can increase the number of panels the law of diminishing returns comes into play when trying to achieve higher solar fractions with larger collector areas, though it is also true that a large percentage of the overall cost is in the cylinder and control systems, so adding panels does not increase the price greatly. Surplus hot water can be directed to a radiator, usually in the bathroom or if you don’t want more heat in the room, in the
loft. Some systems such as drain back are specifically designed to effectively go to sleep when not required. Or perhaps this is just the excuse you needed to indulge in that hot tub... In a new build a system sized for a family of four might set you back in the order of €4,000/£3,500 but it could be double that amount in an existing house due to the complexities of adding them onto an existing heating system and related construction work. Grants for existing homes (built before 2006) are available in ROI contributing €1,200 towards the cost. Yearly savings as compared to an oil boiler only set-up can
S O L A R PA N E L S / E N E R G Y
amount to €300 to €800. Bear in mind that the size of the hot water cylinder is important to size correctly – the bigger it is the more hot water you have for your family but also the longer it takes to bring to temperature. A cylinder that’s too big for the solar system will achieve a useful hot water temperature less often than a suitably sized cylinder.
Tube vs flat
There are two types of collector, the vacuum tube collector and the flat plate collector. The first of these comprises rows of tubes with each one plugged in to a manifold through which the transfer fluid flows. The tubes are evacuated to reduce convection losses and this type of collector cannot normally be integrated into the roof but is easier to retrofit because they are lighter to lift into place and have a reduced wind loading. A flat plate collector consists of a large sheet of metal with a selective coating to maximise heat absorption. This plate has pipework carrying the transfer fluid and is held within an insulated box. The glazing is normally glass but polycarbonate plastic may be used in coastal locations to reduce weight. Plastic has an advantage in that it can be moulded to custom shapes and sizes, but it can also be scratched. In contrast to the tube collector, flat plates can be integrated into the roof as well as sit proud. With careful design, it is sometimes possible to mount a panel on a conservatory roof with the cylinder inside the house but close by so that the system thermosyphons, eliminating the need for an electric pump. Frost protection is normally required and some flatplate systems are designed to drain back their water into the house so that the panel is empty when not in use. Although both systems will perform well on hot sunny days, vacuum tubes may perform better in cloudy conditions or when it is either windy or cold and thus extend the operating season. The aperture area on a vacuum tube system is lower and it does produce more heat for its aperture area, but in terms of gross area (i.e. total area taken up by the panel), the output would be similar. The response of the collector varies constantly because it depends upon the temperature of the ambient air, temperature of the collector fluids, the insulation of the collector and the angle of the direct sun. If properly designed and installed, solar water heating systems should give many years of trouble free service. Vacuum tubes may lose their vacuum after about
20 years and will then require replacement flasks. For systems with separate flasks this is a relatively cheap changeover, though tubes with a built-in flat plate are more expensive. Flatplate panels should last somewhat longer, though their performance may fade. Both systems will last longer if you have taken precautions to prevent them overheating by providing appropriate heat dumping arrangements.
As an approximate guide, to supply hot water in a four-person household you will need three to five sqm of net solar collector area. This very much depends upon usage, as anyone with teenage children will be only too well aware! It also depends upon collector efficiency, orientation and geographical location. Panels normally come in multiples of one sqm. The optimum pitch is between 30 and 50 degrees, orientation between SE and SW, however, you can compensate with more collectors if your proposed site lies outside these parameters. Collectors facing due East or West lose approximately 20 per cent of their output. Another factor to watch out for is shading, (avoid situations that have two or more hours obscured on a Spring or Autumn day) and being close to trees generally. With a solar water heating system it is not a case of fit and forget, but it does not require servicing annually as with an oil or
Ground vs roof mounted In ROI exemptions are in place for both roof mounted and ground based solar PV arrays for households (microgeneration) but with caveats. For instance, permission is not required for roof mounted systems up to 12sqm provided they are more than 50cm from any roof edge, among other criteria. In NI roof mounted solar systems do not need planning permission as long as they meet some basic criteria, e.g. the panels don’t exceed the boundary of the roof or the highest part of the roof while ground mounted systems must not exceed 14 sqm in area and 2m in height.
‘If properly designed and installed, solar water heating systems should give many years of trouble free service.’
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Finding a supplier
gas boiler. Approximately every three years the system should be flushed out with clean water and anti-freeze renewed. The primary circuit must not remain connected to the mains as anti-freeze could be pushed into the house system when there is an increase in pressure in the solar circuit, and contaminate the drinking water, all solar systems should have a separate fill valve and a completely closed loop. Things like checking for leaks, condensation or damp spots, keeping the collector glazing clean and noting if the circulating pump has become noisy, should all be tended to immediately.
Solar photovoltaics (PV)
PV panels generate electricity, and the way they do so is predictable and varies by a small amount from year to year, so knowing how much you are likely to generate annually is relatively simple based on orientation and roof pitch (there’s a three to four per cent variation from year to year). Photovoltaic cells don’t need direct sunlight to work – they can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day. South facing roofs receive more radiation throughout the year and will produce the maximum energy output. The ideal roof will have an orientation due south. However South-East and SouthWest orientated roofs will still produce reasonable yields. The sizing of PV varies considerably 90 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
depending on the jurisdiction; in NI a typical residential installation will be sized at around 4 kWp whilst in ROI it will be closer to 1.8 kWp for a 10 sqm area which does not require planning permission. According to the SEAI, domestic PV costs in ROI seem to be well below €2,000/ kWp; the installation can be VAT free through the Home Renovation Incentive. A 1.4 to 1.8 kWp installation will contribute about 1,400 kWh/yr in electricity while electricity use in ROI households is on average 4,200 kWh/yr. PV panels of this scale will typically allow you to jump a rung on the energy scale, bringing a Building Energy Rating from A3 to A2 for example. Solar PV requires almost no annual maintenance (although inverters should be replaced around year 15); it is self-cleaning on roof pitches of more than 5 degrees and has a long lifespan (25 years).
Every solar PV system is made up of several components: solar panels (modules), inverter(s), a meter and your existing consumer unit. The process is as follows. The sun produces radiation during daylight hours. The PV cells on the panels turn this radiation into direct current (DC) electricity. The current flows into an inverter, which converts the DC to alternating current (AC) electricity. AC is compatible with the main electricity grid and most electrical
Installing a solar system is a complex task which must be undertaken by a professional; check for a BPEC Certificate as an installer and that they hold current insurance. In ROI check out the SEAI’s list of approved installers; you will need to use someone from this list if you’re availing of the Better Energy Homes grant for solar thermal panels. In NI Building Control will inspect the work and if a system is being fitted to an existing property, a report from a structural engineer is also required. Before giving you a quotation, the supplier should call with you to check the condition of your roof, access to it and the existing hot water system. In a new build they should be given a copy of the plans at an early stage.
S O L A R PA N E L S / E N E R G Y
appliances; it is ready to use. The current is fed through a meter and then into your consumer unit. Plug in and switch on! Your system will automatically use the electricity you’ve generated and top-up from the grid as needed. Any electricity you don’t use is exported to the grid for others to use (NI only), stored in a battery provided you installed one with diverter switch and associated equipment, or sent to your hot water cylinder (immersion). In terms of grid connection, in NI for a typical domestic property with a single phase electrical supply, an array of <3.68kWp1 is deemed as micro-generation and may be fitted without making a grid connection application. The installer arranges connection under a ‘fit & inform’ scheme. Connection is free of charge. For installations >3.68kW single phase or >11kW, three phase, the installation is deemed ‘small scale’ and a grid connection application must be submitted. There is a fee for the application and for connection. The grid infrastructure in NI is weak and, in many places, is now at capacity for connection of generators. NIE publish a ‘Heat Map’2 that describes the status of the grid across NI. The system is more complex in ROI. If you want to export the electricity you generate to the grid you must apply to ESB Networks for permission to connect a micro generator (<6kW single phase, <11kW three phase) using Form NC6; they will inform you if they have any objections. You then must accept and pay for the ESB Networks quotation for fitting an import/export meter and submit your ETCI electrical certification after which ESB Networks will fit the meter. However, at present there is little demand, if any, from the electricity companies for purchasing electricity in this way so make sure you have a firm commitment before outlaying the cost of an import/export meter. The best approach may be to look at alternative uses or storage options for any excess electricity (see sidebar).
1 4kWp in practice, kWp = Kilowatt peak stands for peak power. This value specifies the output power achieved by a Solar module under full solar radiation (under set Standard Test Conditions). 2 nie.co.uk/connections/generation-connections/smallscale-generation/11kV-network-heat-map
Additional information from Brian Denvir of SEAI, Patrick Waterfield, energy consultant and Xavier Dubuisson of xdconsulting.eu
Plug it in?
Tesla Powerwall 2 is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to enable selfconsumption of solar power, emergency backup, load shifting and other grid service applications. tesla.com
One of the biggest problems with renewable energy is that it is not always produced when and where you need it. The sun delivers more energy to earth in an hour than the whole planet uses in a year! So first we need to capture the energy but then we need to be able to use it at the place and time of collection. Or, we need a storage (and transportation) medium. The grid can provide storage by allowing us to export excess electricity when we don’t need it and then take it back from the grid when we do. But the price you are paid for the excess spilled to the grid is generally considerably less than the cost of the electricity you take from it. Also it’s only in NI that you are likely to avail of an export tariff, in ROI at present energy suppliers aren’t keen to offer this. “Feed-in” and “microgeneration” tariffs can make the economics more favourable by giving a better rate for the exported electricity and, in some cases, by providing payments for the electricity you actually use. However, increasingly there is interest in the concept of battery storage in the home – especially for storing the intermittent output from renewable systems. Off-grid homes have used
battery storage for years. These have tended to be large banks of lead acid cells similar to car batteries and can be expensive overall, even if well maintained. However in the case of an off-grid home the cost is offset against that saved from avoiding grid connection or, looking at it another way, you have no choice! For the rest of us, the potential benefits of batteries need to be weighed up against the costs, which currently range from about £3,000 to £8,000 / €6,000, depending on storage capacity and type. Lithium ion is the dominant technology at present. Retrofitted batteries will generally be AC types, installed between the renewable system and the electricity meter. This requires an inverter to convert the DC output into AC (and back again for storage). DC batteries tend to be fitted when the renewable system is installed and do not require an additional inverter. Issues to be considered with domestic batteries include lifespan (number of charging cycles), capacity/ power output and of course cost (including installation and accounting for the value of the electricity). Some systems can be charged from the grid,
allowing variable unit costs at different times of day to be exploited via smart technology. There is also the possibility of linking electric vehicle batteries with the domestic electricity supply. The EV battery can be charged up overnight on cheap rate electricity and then supply the home with left over energy in the evening when tariffs are higher. However, utilising PVgenerated energy would require domestic batteries as well, as the car is likely to be out during the day (though domestic wind-turbines would not be affected in the same way). An added benefit of domestic battery storage is potential back-up in the event of a power cut though not all systems will do this. If you have a hot water cylinder another way of storing your electricity is to connect the output to the immersion heater and charge up your hot water. You will need an extra device called an immersion controller, which costs in the region of €300 / £200 to 400 and is installed after the consumer unit, i.e. using AC current. It will divert supply to the immersion heater any time there is excess. It can also be used in conjunction with an AC battery. So should owners of PV or domestic wind turbines, or those proposing to install them, rush out and buy batteries? The consensus is not yet – the technology is still developing. Efficiency and reliability will improve as costs fall. Also, batteries use rare metals that are in finite supply in the earth’s crust. Another emerging technology that can store (and transport) renewables-generated electricity is the hydrogen fuel cell. So watch this space... Dr Patrick Waterfield, Energy Consultant
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Enabling the renewable self-consumer Support for microgeneration in ROI: why no feed in tariff (FiT) now? Words: Denis Naughten
The Republic of Ireland is currently developing a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which will be designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contribution to EU-wide targets out to 2030. The design of the new scheme has included an extensive independent economic appraisal which compared the cost of supporting a range of commercial renewable technologies, including solar PV, anaerobic digestion, wind energy at various scales including small and micro-generation, to ensure that the new scheme delivers value for money for energy users whilst also delivering on the energy pillars of sustainability and security of supply. The assessment also included analysis of the optimum financial support mechanisms for renewable technologies, in line with the 2014 EU State Aid guidelines. Microgeneration, which typically involves an element of self-consumption and the selling of excess electricity to the grid, was also appraised by the Department, as part of the RESS economic assessment. This analysis identified a number of economic challenges that may need to be addressed before a support scheme for microgeneration can be developed. These include; the higher costs associated with microgeneration compared to larger and medium scale renewable generators, the need to reform network charges; the need to assess the distributional impact of such a policy decision on the PSO (cost burden sharing); and development of a fair tariff for exported electricity taking the benefits of self-consumption into account. This approach is in line with experience from other EU member states that have already implemented support schemes for microgeneration and are now having 92 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
‘It would be irresponsible if we didn’t learn from experiences of other countries and implement best practice in Ireland.’
to reform them. Just last week, the Times (Ireland) reported that the UK Government has paid out almost £60 million to settle claims from companies that lost out, after it was forced to halve the level of subsidies (FiTs) for rooftop solar PV, due to an overly generous FiT and the subsequent high take-up rates. It would be irresponsible if we didn’t learn from experiences of other countries and implement best practice in Ireland based on evidence that supports our policy objectives which is also cognisant of the direction of EU policy. There are also technical and infrastructural challenges that will need to be addressed before we can bring microgeneration at significant scale onto a system designed for large generators.
Notwithstanding these challenges, I am committed to further exploring opportunities to support microgeneration in Ireland. In October 2017, in conjunction with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), I hosted a stakeholder workshop on microgeneration. Following on from this workshop
which was attended by over 100 industry stakeholders and following further consultation with the microgeneration sector in Ireland, in January 2018 Government announced its intention to introduce a grant aided pilot scheme for rooftop solar PV installations, targeting domestic users and self-consumption. Key characteristics of the new scheme will be the promotion of technological innovations and the linking of energy efficiency measures with microgeneration supports. This proposed pilot scheme will commence this summer and will target solar PV and self-consumption amongst domestic customers. The data gathered during this scheme will inform future phases of support for microgeneration in Ireland, as we align with the ambition of the recast Renewable Energy Directive which recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers and deliver on ambitions and commitments made in the Energy White Paper and the Programme for Government. This will be the first phase in a multiphased implementation of supports for microgeneration in Ireland, as we move toward the new Directive and enable the renewable self-consumer.
The recast Renewables Directive recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of both renewable energy communities and renewable self-consumers; and the Directive will compel Member States to implement measures to remunerate these microgenerators who feed self-generated electricity into the grid. Ireland strongly supports this ambition, but it is important that it is implemented in an efficient and effective way. The RED2 ambitions align broadly with policies under development in Ireland, but the challenges previously identified; financial, technical and infrastructural, cannot be ignored and will need to be addressed and overcome as part of the development of this Directive. To support this ambition, the SEAI is currently conducting a behavioural and attitudes study into the likely demand for and impact of microgeneration among the public in Ireland which will inform future phases on this work.
I N S I D E T H E L U M I L I F T- S L I D E D O O R / I N S I D E T R A C K
Exponential growth New to Lumi’s double glazing range is the lift-slide door, and you can expect even more to come… with triple glazing.
What’s coming up
There’s great news coming out of Ballymena, Co Antrim – window and door manufacturer Apeer is rapidly adding to its hugely popular Lumi range, the pioneering seamless window line, with its double glazed lift-slide doors. Launched at Selfbuild Live Belfast in February 2018, the double glazed sliding doors are a third cheaper than their triple glazed counterpart, retailing in the region of £8,000 for a full length version. Cheaper still on the cost scale is the patio door with fixed panes of glass retailing closer to £6,000.
Style and function
Homeowners who aspire to get the Lumi look and functionality with the double glazing range need not worry about compromising on style or function. “This product is very similar to our current triple glazed alternative,” comments Linda Tomb, marketing manager for Lumi. “The
rigid aluminium frame provides minimal frame interruptions and comes in a range of colours. Exciting too is that we can now match the internal finishes of our Apeer door range with Lumi’s.” The Lumi window is made of a pultruded fibreglass profile with a flush fitted double glazed unit bonded into the frame. The sliding door glides on a two or three track system to allow effortless, silent opening and closing. The triple track allows you to fully switch the doors from one side to another and burglar resistance of up to RC2 (WK2) EN1627 is achieved. The sliding doors are on average 2.1 metres high but this can be extended to 2.6 meters without adding to the cost. The double glazed version is currently being marketed for a maximum of six meters in length and the company is actively looking at extending it to match the nine meter span achieved
On the back of Lumi’s success, Apeer is moving to larger premises in Co Antrim to fill the orders within a shorter lead time – good news to any self-builder! The new premises will also allow MD Asa Gilligan to give his own self-build a final push. “We had to fill customer orders before we could move on to the production of the windows for my house so hopefully the larger premises will mean my own project will get to move past the window installation stage,” he confides. Busy too is the Research and Development department, which managed to fine tune Lumi’s exterior profile so that the ceramic edge on the glass is now completely uniform as opposed to two toned. Last but not least, Selfbuild understands we may soon hear more about horizontal glazing… that’s right, Lumi is preparing to enter the sphere of rooflights. Stay tuned.
Ireland’s first radically different, superior performance glazing system.
NI tel. 033 0041 5014 / ROI tel. 048 256 32200 lumiwindows.com
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Child friendly gardening In the age of near perpetual screen time outdoor experiences are increasingly diminished and children are missing out on running around, getting fresh air and interacting with nature. Here are some tips to reverse the trend. Words: Fiann Ó Nualláin
he benefits of ‘outdoor time’ goes far beyond an injection of vitamin D which is supplied by exposure to sunshine. Outdoor activity boosts mood, concentration, motivation and movement, sleep hormone levels and metabolism. 94 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
The benefits extend to the physicality of being outdoors – of moving and doing. We know because there isn’t a week that goes by without a news report or scientific study to remind us that physical activity reduces stress and alleviates anxiety and depression. We also know similarly, that being in a natural or serene environment triggers
not just a relaxation response but actually lights up parts of the brain crucial to cognitive development. Why would you not want that for your children? It doesn’t have to mean weekend mountaineering or endless trips to the local park, it can simply be a garden – even a patio or balcony garden. It is not the scale of the project, it is the nature
C H I L D F R I E N D LY / G A R D E N
it comes to the age groups where vigilance is key, then the location of the play area or interactive child-friendly garden is best placed closest to the house. Very young children will be in your constant care but as they get older, their seeking out to go outside alone or with friends and/or siblings is good for both the child and for you. You may be a hawk through the kitchen window but they get a sense of freedom and free reign and you can relax knowing there are no trip hazards, poisonous or injurious plants (your local garden center will advise) or physical dangers in the designated zone. So there is no point in trying to create a safe space down the back of the garden for younger kids, but from age nine a treehouse or reading den can be located further away from the back door, allowing you to reclaim a patio and outdoor dining area. Teenage years are preoccupied with privacy and thus the perception of seclusion is welcomed and utilised; their chill out zone will therefore suit being even further away. When it comes to constructing a child play area, be that a sand pit and space to spill out all the toys or an adventure area filled with swings, slides and dens, don’t forget to include room for an adult seating area, you will also be spending time there. You can read a book or catch up on emails while the kids do their thing. That way getting outside is not a chore for anyone. You may be a gardener and want to share that hobby with your children or you may want to get them interested in the origin of food and healthy eating and so your ideas of a garden may be around the inclusion of raised beds, herb containers, maybe step over apples and pear cordons. Or you definitely still want one of the
Adapting your garden Depending on the age range you may have to think about making fencing secure, ponds blocked off or grilled. If the garden is to host young children (under 12s) then the safety aspect is to be the first and highest priority. A toddler can drown in just a few inches of water. You can section your garden off into a series of rooms or safe spaces with the addition of some sturdy yet attractive fencing to zone the areas. That said you don’t have to chop down the tree; you can use it for a tyre swing or to position birdhouses. You don’t have to remove the lawn for astro turf but you can if you chose, incorporate a mini pitch, a slide, a play house or sand pit in an area with child friendly surfaces which can include: � Wet pour rubber surface � Bonder rubber mulch � Soft fill materials � Play sand � Safety tiles � Soft matting � Artificial lawn � Actual lawn � Bark mulch
From age nine a treehouse or reading den can be located further away from the back door
Plan Eden, planeden.ie
of it and how that improves your child’s own natural development. Having this safe and nurturing space where children can exercise their imagination as much as their bodies is invaluable. A true natural resource. Playing with your dinosaur amongst jungle foliage or building a fort or wigwam for growing some peas is enhanced play – a play that really strengthens neural connections and boosts cognitive function. Playing in nature helps children with the development of their spatial and sensory awareness better than the most expensive crèche. Mother Nature not only nurtures, it teaches too. Witnessing and learning the basics of gardening, seeds sprouting when planted right, plants dying without water, etc. develops not just an understanding of life processes but the impact you can have on the world around you. Early schooling is all about ‘reasoning and discovery’, the garden and its environment gifts that as we discover the relationship between the weather and growth or the connection between things we nurture and the wildlife that uses those plants for food or habitat. The excitement is palpable when setting up an insect hotel or a bird feeder. There is also a wealth of pride in planting a strawberry plant and eating its fruit later, which goes hand in hand with the appreciation of food and the art of waiting. We discover how the bees are our friends and how to protect our crops by making a scarecrow – a fun teambuilding exercise if ever there was one. And in all those shared moments and the trials and tribulations of weeds and slugs and frost and wind snapped sunflowers, a family of gardeners will learn to build cooperation and communication. Young gardeners who learn to nurture and take responsibility for the plants in their care have, I would argue, increased selfconfidence and resilience. So we can create a garden that is full of fun and opportunity to play and participate and we can also encourage actual participation with the creation and care of the garden environment. Children may opt out at fourteen but you will have provided a wealth of memories and an appreciation of nature, of where our food comes from, by then. Gardening is enriching. There’s a misperception that it’s the sole domain of the retired. It is in fact for all ages.
Garden for all ages
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sections of the garden space to be a gardening place. All achievable. Not to harp on too much about health and safety, but beyond safe surfaces, safe storage for gardening equipment, secure fencing and lockable gates and doors there are a few more items to add to the checklist. The garden is an environment and it is important to provide shade in summer – that can be as simple as garden center umbrellas or an awning or bedsheet strung between a tree and a cemented post or two. Suitable clothing, hats and sunscreen are life lessons too as is garden hygiene: gardening with gloves, learning which berries are bad and which are human food, what bites, what stings etc.
Getting the kids to be hands on
Then beyond child friendly you can start to think of a fun garden, engaging with the space as a family. But I am often asked how do I get them interested. If they are young enough it is as simple as spending time with them in the garden, they will make their own connections. If they are older then maybe some activities at first will ignite the enjoyment. Again you can select as to the age of your child, but a growing project is always a good starting point. The task will be most enjoyed if the end result is a harvest for a meal or other practical outcome, otherwise it’s just a garden chore or single activity experience. So the bee plants can be watched over the growing season and be a reason to go outside and check. I find no matter the age, plants with sensory and textural qualities open a world of awe. So think of the senses and go explore the local garden center. For touch you will find the soft woolly lamb’s ear plant or even some moving plants such as snapdragons and you can play ‘talking dragons’ on the way home in the car. For sight we can use not just shapes (heart-shaped leaves, fireworks flowers, tall grasses) but colour themes. For smell, the adventure can start with lavender and chamomile which aromatherapeutically calm the moods and emotions of children and adults alike. You could succumb to the lure of perfume with jasmine, sweet peas, honeysuckle or even to balcony suitable plants such as mint and lemon balm for container growing. Sound comes with plants that rustle or swish in the breeze – that’s bamboo and grasses, trees and shrubs but also wind chimes and homemade streamers or bunting. 96 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
Give your children ownership and accomplishment, makes the space theirs. Keep it simple to start with then, pardon the pun, grow it. Some ideas: � Make the mud pie then get the interest up with a compost heap or a leaf mould stack. � Make an insect hotel, bird feeder or a hedgehog home. If they are of an age to like to go explore then visit a local community garden or botanic gardens to hunt for some ideas. That may yield a cola bottle cloche or a way to do a scarecrow. � Container gardening, be that planting up an old wellie boot or growing tomatoes for a homemade pizza or a vertical wall (upcycled pallet) of strawberries for ice cream making.
� Build a tee-pee for garden peas or make a trellis art gallery. Let them pick the colour to paint the bench then do a mural on the side of the shed. � A pizza garden: cut a circle in the lawn and plant in garlic, tomatoes, basil and other favourites. � A menagerie garden: there are lots of plants named after animals; ostrich fern, pony tails grass, kangaroo paws, dog violet, catmint and the majority as so easy to grow, you can make a cut
out shape of the animal to go beside it or do up a fun label/sign like you see in the zoo as to where in the world it comes from � A butterfly garden: the secret is to plant plenty of yellow, orange, pink and purple plants and lots of nectar plants and watch them come visit daily. A few flat rocks will give them a place to rest and recharge and like your garden even more. � Colour teams planters: plant up your sport team’s jersey colours.
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O P I N I O N / C O O P E R AT I V E B U I L D I N G
How self-builders can make villages thrive We should be building homes in village clusters, argues Emer O Siochru, just like our rural-dwelling ancestors used to. Words: Emer O Siochru How can self-builders help reverse the decline of rural towns? To revive Ireland’s rural towns and villages, we need an alternative to badly built developer estates and isolated oneoff houses. Building secluded houses in the countryside is damaging to the environment and has negative economic and social impacts. What we need is a different model of self-build that enables people to build on land that’s practically free and within a community network that can provide the healthy close-to-nature lifestyle to which many people aspire. We need to make it more economically rewarding to build and live sustainably, which in my view can only be done within walkeable settlements. The best method I’ve come across is community ownership of the freehold of the land and individual/family or cooperative ownership of the buildings on sites leased from the community, and I’ve been working with others to achieve this as part of a Community Land Trust Cooperative in Dublin. There’s a tradition for self-builders to build on the family land, won’t that be difficult to tackle? That’s simply not true; when free to do so the Irish chose to live close together. As the seanfhocal says: “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine”. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Irish farmers built dwellings in ‘farm villages’ loosely clustered around a village green as did many other European settlements. Agricultural land was allocated between families with ‘in fields’ strips of varying quality and shared ‘out fields’ for grazing, turf etc. These villages were comprehensively destroyed by Cromwell during the second invasion because they were seen as 98 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
The Irish had a propensity to build their homes in clusters, 1839 illustration of Listrolin via Ordnance Survey Ireland
hotbeds of native Irish resistance. The village inhabitants were dispersed locally to serve new English landlords or they were banished to Connaught where they quickly recreated their old villages as simpler ‘clochan’ villages on the poor soils of the west of Ireland. The successful land struggle in the 19th and early 20th centuries led to the ‘right to buy’ but that right was only offered to the lucky head tenant of the absentee landlord. Most subtenants and landless labourers were forced to emigrate as a shift to grazing from mixed farming reduced the need for farm labour. The Congested Districts Board (CDB) ‘rationalised’ the landholdings by dispersing the remaining clochan villagers to individual farmhouses along the road with 14 to 30 acres often as ‘Rundale’ strips running up the hillside.
The skills and services that the village cluster used to provide to the community were not recognised, thus the specialisation of labour that underpins economic advancement was ended. Following Irish independence, the Land Commission continued the work of the CDB to scatter the clochan farmers into larger holdings taking advantage of the now empty land. We lost more than half of our villages due to these purges – generally only market villages and towns survived. Thousands of rural families were forced to emigrate under this anti-village policy. It could be argued that the Irish language was seriously undermined as it became identified with subsistence farming and fishing. English became the default language of commerce in the villages and towns of the west of Ireland.
C O O P E R AT I V E B U I L D I N G / O P I N I O N
What would a Community Land Trust look like in a rural context? It would enable self-builders to build on a communal plot of land. The key is that it would be more economically advantageous than the alternatives – less costly than buying a house in an estate or building and living on a remote site. It would also enable more rural jobs and retain more of our young people at home. It is, hands down, the most attractive option in terms of amenities: the plots would be properly serviced and large enough to provide linked workspaces with communal land available for allotments or community supported agriculture. Transport could be shared – no longer would it be necessary to own and run two cars. Children could walk to friends’ houses, adults could walk home from the pub. The set up would provide opportunities for sustainable incomes, in the renewable energy and organic food sectors for example. Studies have shown that every eight homes built in a walkeable settlement generates one local job on average. It’s a much less precarious employment alternative to what many rural communities have been relying on to date: building each others’ houses. Instead a Community Land Trust jointly owned by homeowners and community stakeholders would acquire land in a suitable location. In our Dublin model, a linked Cooperative of planning and building professionals, potential users and the wider community would guide the design and development process of apartments and cohousing buildings. In rural areas and for individual house sites, a partnership with the local authority would be necessary. A Master Plan and Design Guide would be developed to integrate the new with any existing settlement and ensure that the new homes would be visually varied within common themes. Roads and services, community gardens etc. would then be developed by the Trust and residential plots laid out. A Trust Charter would outline principles for the community and host a forum to resolve any disputes. Individuals, families and cooperatives would then be awarded building leases with perpetual leases subject to ground rents on completion. Self-builders and cooperatives would be required to collaborate to reduce compliance, insurance and buildings costs. The homeowners would then pay an affordable ‘ground rent’ every year. Upon selling the house, bricks and mortar would be the only assets to pass on, with the land
remaining in the hands of the Trust. Clauses would cover resale to avoid undermining the community spirit of the development; to make sure it remains affordable for locals to buy or to limit holiday homes or investors. For instance, if an investor were to buy one of the houses and put a high rent on it, the Trust could increase the ‘ground rent’ by the same amount to discourage the practice. Today when you buy a house much of the cost (50 per cent in urban areas) can be for the land (location), not the actual house. It’s this economic underpinning that needs to be challenged. Homeownership should be about quality of life, not about profit or the risk of negative equity. After all, there are plenty of examples of abandoned oneoff houses. Are most of the savings to be found in economies of scale? The self-build sites would be free up front and would be fully serviced so that’s the main saving; economies of scale would also apply when hiring builders and tradesmen – it seems builders are happy with seven per cent guaranteed profit as long as there is no financial or planning risk for them. The cost of servicing the site would be included in the ground rent to be paid over time. Broadband, electricity and water connections would be cheaper and septic tanks would be eliminated in favour of anaerobic digestors co-located with pyrolysis reactors that would also take agricultural waste from local farmers. The community could benefit from cheap local biogas, electricity or hot water as appropriate. Residents could car pool or at least run only one car instead of two and reliance on school buses could be reduced if not eliminated. Even more important for social cohesion some social housing can be included so that no one who wants to join the community would be excluded for the want of wealth, means, old age or disability.
PULSE Homeowner’s view: “Planners implement policy. Politicians decide it. The current options for housing in rural Ireland: 1. Buy crap house built for profit. 2. Buy overpriced derelict house that needs deep renovation. 3. Buy/ build in the countryside. Where are the modest serviced sites in villages?” @paulkenny79 on twitter Planner’s view: “It’s currently harder to get planning permission to build a house in an urban area, whether it’s an infill or brownfield site, than in the open countryside, even though technically the development plans want to encourage urban development.” Aiden O’Neill of Coakley O’Neill, Co Cork SURVEY: The ROI average one-off house size is roughly 240sqm. How big a house would you need for a family of four? The answers, gathered on twitter and via our Facebook group SelfBuilders & Home Improvers Ireland, showed that most people felt that between 150 and 200 sqm was an adequate size. Interestingly, the ‘less than 150sqm’ category got more votes than the ‘more than 250 sqm’.
How feasible is it to finance? The Community Land Trust model requires a significant upfront cost to buy land and service it. Public or charitable land where the owner is willing to accept payment over time would be very suitable. Land in rural areas, even in villages, is relatively cheap because of low demand and insufficient infrastructure. Government grants and low cost finance is available for the infrastructure for the right schemes. Credit unions or pension funds might also be happy to finance the land purchase of the completed development when the ground rents are fully underway and demonstrably secure. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 99
DESIGN / WHY HIRE A DESIGNER
Do you really need an architect? The short answer is no, but you do need a qualified design professional to help you on your self-build journey. Words: Andrew Stanway & Astrid Madsen
he term architect is widely, and wrongly, used to mean building designer. It’s important to know that until 2008 anyone in ROI could call themselves an ‘architect’ but now, as in NI, the use of the title is legally restricted to those who are on an official register. In NI all architects are required to register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) and in ROI with the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI). So what you do need is indeed an architect or someone else who is qualified to design you a house or extension that’s fit for purpose and tailored to your site and local conditions.You will need them to prepare the sketch elevations and drawings required to achieve planning approval and 100 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
help you with statutory requirements. You’ll also need them to provide you with detailed (construction) drawings, valid certificates confirming that the work is being completed in accordance with the planning permission and to the level of stage payments required by your lender. The designer often inspects the build at regular intervals during construction and beyond. If they don’t carry out this role directly they may still be available to provide an impartial design input where necessary. Just how much actual hands-on supervision they’ll do will depend on what you and they want. Some designers don’t like doing anything much at all (leaving this work to a professional project manager, or to the contractor himself) but others greatly enjoy keeping a watchful
eye on things throughout the build. This latter approach gives the designer an ongoing input into the changes that inevitably occur, especially on domestic projects. When your build is finished you’ll need a Certificate of Compliance, confirming that the work complies with the planning permission and with building regulations, and you’ll need a Building Energy Rating (ROI) / Energy Performance Certificate (NI). This is usually carried out by an energy assessor employed by your lead designer. If you don’t use an architect, a qualified building designer could take the form of an architectural technologist, building surveyor or an engineer, either directly employed by you or by your turnkey building provider. These professionals are qualified to design and administer the construction of your project, so it is up to you which you wish to hire depending on the peculiarities of your design and how they interview (see next article). The description ‘architectural technologist’ without the preface ‘chartered’ is not protected so check the individual is a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT). It has chartered members with registered practices in NI and ROI. Different but similar to the technologist is the architectural technician but this type of professional doesn’t offer services directly to end-clients. In a nutshell, here’s a list of what you can reasonably expect your designer to do:
The design. This is what we all first think about but, of course, there’s much more to decide than how your new home will look. How will it work? What do you want it to do?
WHY HIRE A DESIGNER / DESIGN
BOOK OF PLANS
How about designing your house from existing plans? Even though using an existing set of plans saves time and tends to cost considerably less than employing a design professional for a bespoke solution, it is essential that you adapt them to your site conditions (and to your particular needs) which will inevitably require some input from a professional. Books of plans are therefore often used to inspire and inform design. It can be really useful to have looked through such plans before going to see your proposed designer (see the next article). One benefit of using existing plans that have been approved by a local authority – preferably yours but check for this – is that planners are mostly concerned about issues such as ridge heights and dormer windows which will have been addressed in the design. The internal layouts are also usually extremely flexible and newer versions also allow for individual specification of exterior doors, windows and finish. The plans should also have been prepared to satisfy most building control requirements but you can’t take this for granted and they’ll still need to be cleared, and planning permission obtained, with the help of a design professional.
Working out what to do. A good designer won’t just take your ideas at face value and start drawing. They’ll help you think very carefully about what you say you want and why. This is invaluable.
Getting planning permission can be a real headache and is an area that can waste huge amounts of time, energy and money if you’re not familiar with it. And planning really is a sort of game. There are ways of getting results that professional designers know, partly because they know the individuals, know the development plans and have gone through the process before. This can make all the difference between obtaining planning permission and not.
Rules and regulations. These dog all modern building work and need to be taken into account from the very first day you start on your dream. Few people have any idea about these things and can easily get carried away with foolish, impractical, or even frankly illegal concepts that then waste lots of time and money to put right. A good designer simply won’t allow this to happen.
When things go wrong, you’ll be pleased to have a neutral professional to settle disputes.
Designers and building control For Building Control (NI only) purposes, the builder needs to be able to estimate quantities from working drawings as drawn up by a qualified individual. In NI you need both planning permission and building approval from the Building Control office before you start your build. During the build a Building Control inspector will visit the site at various pre-agreed stages to check that work is being carried out in accordance with the approved drawings and will liaise with your designer if alterations are necessary. In ROI you can ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’ of appointing an Assigned Designer (AD) and Assigned Certifier (AC) to your building project (see selfbuild.ie for your guide to opting out of the building control requirements in ROI) – at this point in time only architects, chartered engineers, chartered quantity surveyors and building surveyors are eligible to be appointed as an AD or AC. Some lenders require an AC to be appointed to release the stage payments on a self-build mortgage. Design by a self-builder with architectural flair in Co Carlow
Supervision. However capable you think you may be, or however simple you think building a new home should be, it’s far harder than you’d imagine. Having someone at your elbow to manage the project somehow is vital and usually saves its cost many times over.
Ger Lawlor, gerlawlor.com
Making the team work. Building a house is rather like creating a oneoff factory to produce a single (prototype) product. This involves assembling many members of a team who will, ideally, have to work together seamlessly to get a good result. A good designer or architect will be able to make this happen in ways that are hard for most non-professionals to match. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 101
DESIGN / CHOOSING YOUR DESIGNER
Speed dating How to choose your designer Words: Andrew Stanway
lthough it’s possible to design your new build completely on your own, it’s almost certainly a false economy and a decision that could cost you dearly in time, energy, stress and money. But how to choose that essential designer to help you on your journey? Before you even go to meet the designer you hope might be The One, there’s some essential homework you’ll need to do so you can get the most out of the meeting and then, eventually, make a good choice. With your list of expectations of what you’d like your designer to offer (see previous article) it’s now time to sit down and consider what you’re actually going to talk about when you get to meet him or her. For this, you’ll have to have done some careful thinking and quite a lot of homework. Without this preparation you’ll waste both your time and the designer’s and get off to a bad start. Some people like to take along clippings from magazines or photos on a computer or phone to show the sort of thing they have in mind. Things you’ll need to have given careful thought to include: � What you want. This may not be the same as what you need. Have you thought through the difference? � How will the new house reflect your lifestyle? � What sort of place do you live in now? How will your new home differ from this? � Do you have strong views on what you are trying to achieve? � Rank the importance of having an easy-to-maintain home, one with green credentials and one that’s future-proofed (designed for old age or life changing events) � Have you ever done anything like this before? 102 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
� What is your budget? On what does this depend? � Who will make the decisions in your family? � Who will liaise with the designer? � Are you thinking of a self-build or of supervising a contractor to do the work? � What do you want your designer mainly to do? � How much time will you be likely to have to devote to the project?
‘Remember that building a house is a craft, not an intellectual game.’
Trying to find the right designer for your project is rather like dating. You’ll need to make some life-changing decisions pretty quickly and think on your feet as the initial meeting progresses. It’s best, if you can, to go with a partner or helper, so you can later pool your thoughts and observations. It can be a lot to take in at one meeting. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that this meeting is every bit as much the designer interviewing you, as it is about you deciding on whether he or she is right for you. The very best way of finding a possible ‘good date’ is personal recommendation. If you trust the person making the recommendation, then you’re much more likely to get over any initial hurdles when you yourself meet the proposed designer. You won’t be starting entirely from scratch. The most important thing to decide is whether or not they seem to be the sort of individual you can trust. Putting so much money and emotion into any relationship
CHOOSING YOUR DESIGNER / DESIGN
tests trust but if you’re also working in a field that’s unfamiliar to you, trusting your designer can be the most important feature of the whole project. On a practical note it’s important to raise the issue of what he or she has done before. They should be happy so show you examples and, of course, be prepared for you to meet previous clients. Any good designer will furnish you with their CV. Take this home and read it carefully. Are they really right for your particular job?
Over your time working together – which could be a year or more – you’ll have endless decisions to make and numerous sources of conflict and confusion. What sort of personality do you have? Will you, at such times, be prepared to hand over to the pro and say, ‘You do this all the time, just do what you think is best’? Or will you be ready to dispute a decision in an effort to retain control over the smallest details? A good designer will, on first meeting, ask you a lot of questions. He or she will be trying to get a feel for you and what it’ll be like working with you. Have you done enough homework to make this meeting sensible? This will teach him or her a lot about how you’ll tackle the whole project. This get-together could also help you
decide whether you actually need a fullservice architect, or whether some other sort of design professional would be more suitable. As you talk, see how he or she listens to you. Are they empathic, or ego-centred? You don’t want to make the wrong choice but neither do they want ‘the client from hell’. Ask the designer what they find is their worst type of experience with their clients. This is very instructive as it’ll teach you about what they can or cannot tolerate. If these issues could be a problem for you – knowing your own personality as you do – then it might be best to bow out. How do you deal with crises? There’ll probably be several of them and it makes sense to choose someone who you think will be an ally rather than exacerbate things by reacting in the same way you do. Think about any previous bad experiences you’ve had with building and builders. Talk these through with the designer. What insights can he or she bring that could assure you matters will be better handled by them?
Don’t be secretive. Be absolutely straight about how much money you have. This is where many people go wrong at such meetings. They want, whether consciously or unwittingly, to impress and
so over-estimate how much money will be available. Watch how the designer deals with this. You will almost certainly have dreams that are way above your budget. Everyone does. How does he or she manage these expectations? Whatever they do now will need to be done time and again later in the project. This is also a good time to address the contingency issue. This may mean scaling back on the original budget to make room for this financial safety net but will mean you are less likely to fall out with your designer later when the money runs out. Most people at this first meeting haven’t really sorted out their needs from their wants. A good designer will start on this journey at the first meeting. See how they handle this tricky topic. Your designer will want their own needs to be met too. Once he or she gets started they’ll see your new home as ‘their’ project. All kinds of other professionals will feel it is ‘their’ project, as well. When choosing someone to work with this intimately on something of such importance to you, think about how happy you’ll be to share its ownership. Remember that building a house is a craft, not an intellectual game. It involves the skill and care of many people all working together. Many of these people are not intellectual but skilled individuals with a wealth of practical experience. Discuss this with proposed designers and see what they think about this. It might give you an indication as to whether they see your home as an ego trip to add to their portfolio or a craft-centred project.
Testing the relationship
But even if you get on really well at your first meeting, with the best will in the world it’s near-impossible to be certain how things will go in the future. As with any relationship, you’ll be testing one another from time to time and will need to listen empathically to one another’s point of view. No designer will pretend to know everything about everything but the truth is that they’ll know vastly more than you do. This needs to be honestly addressed in the way you deal with them. Some of the worst situations with clients occur when they second-guess their professionals the whole time. This cripples the way they can work, reduces trust and makes for expensive and delayed buildings. Just how many potential designers you decide to see will be up to you but you’ll probably get better at choosing as you meet different ones. In fairness you, too, will probably become a more discerning and realistic client in the process. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 103
P R O J E C T / C O O F FA LY
Like clockwork Self-builders aspire to have the products and the people they need when they need them. But that’s often a far cry from reality. Words: Astrid Madsen
he way I see it is, if there are any major surprises on a house building project then I’ve failed in some way,” says Mark Feely of Co Offaly, a carpenter who built his own house through his rapid build company Semi-SelfBuild. Delays on site seem inevitable, whether it’s due to the windows not arriving, ordering materials from the builder’s merchant too late, or trades not showing up. But even though it is impossible to plan for a risk-free project, project managers aim to prepare for most eventualities with a schedule that’s flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances. “To save money on a self-build you need to be extremely organised,” Mark explains. “You need to have every single element lined up well ahead of your needing them.” Mark had the portable toilets and excavators at the ready the moment he got the go-ahead from building control’s approval of his commencement notice. “Before we broke ground we’d done work on the site, which means it was cleared and ready to dig for the foundations as soon as we were allowed to start building.” “At this point we also ordered the windows, which we’d picked out much earlier on. The lead-in time for manufacturing and delivery was six weeks and we knew that by that stage we would have the walls built awaiting to receive the windows.” There was no need to store the windows on site either as the timing was exact and there were no delays with delivery. “Same goes for the tiles, the order was placed very quickly so they arrived early on. This saved us time because we were able to load them through the house’s large openings (windows and doors hadn’t been delivered yet) without having to manoeuvre 104 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
C O O F FA LY / P R O J E C T
through doors,” adds Mark. “You have to do this with every material you need on site. Plan and order in advance thinking of when you’ll need them and how you will get them where they need to go.” “It took us two years to design and pick out what we would need for the project, detailing and choosing everything down to the taps, before we set foot on site. It can take quite a while to decide on what may seem like the simplest of details, like an internal door.” Whether you call the method lean construction, or just-in-time, the premise is the same: the schedule is clear and has a built-in flexibility to adapt and adjust as circumstances arise. Reducing waste is another key tenet which, combined with forward planning, will lead to considerable savings (see Summer 2017 issue). “We made sure to design around standard lengths to reduce the amount of offcuts,” adds Mark. “We have our method of construction well planned, with every step clearly laid out for everyone on site to keep track of.” “We kept in touch with the key tradesmen to be there when we needed them and kept them in the loop if we were running ahead schedule, which can be as costly as running late because you have guys on site waiting around before they can move on.” Mark built his entire house in 80 working days, employing his signature stick frame method with spray foam insulation. Stick frame is often favoured by self-builders as it’s a quintessentially DIY method consisting of putting together the timber structure on site. “It’s quick, airtight and vapour permeable – on our house we achieved an airtightness level of 2.5 m3/hr.sqm at 50 Pa
[the Building Regulations specify a minimum of 7] and got an A3 on our building energy rating without installing airtight membranes,” adds Mark. The end result speaks for itself, but how did he manage to secure planning permission? “We wanted to design the house to look like a castle upon approach, and have two wings at the back in a conventional style but hidden from view,” he explains. “The planners objected to this design, they said they didn’t want the building to look like something from the past so they ended up giving us the ok on the curved outpost which contains the master bedroom, walk-in wardrobe, makeup room and master bathroom. The planners referred to the redesign as a New Age castle!” Because the house is shielded from view and near a two storey and a dormer, the height wasn’t an issue. “The house is on a
split level site so it works with the ridge lines. We wanted to go higher but the planners capped it at the eight meters it currently is.” Mark is a fan of contemporary architecture but not his wife Clare so a lot of work went into combining two styles. The compromise was for the interior to be finished with antique fittings and furniture, lending a sharp contrast to the modern exterior. As for their favourite features, it’s the large window at the bottom of the tower, with a view of the parish church for Mark. Clare loves the semi-circular, polished concrete step in the hallway that leads up to the living area. In terms of advice, she says it’s important to focus on the functionality of the living areas. In her case the spacious walk-in pantry and the utility / cloakroom makes the day-to-day running of the house simple. But is there anything they would change? “In the future we could better utilise the flat roof and build a rooftop garden for 360 degree views,” Mark comments, “as it is a fabulous space up there.” When asked if they would undertake a similar project again, Clare said she would in a heartbeat. “It turned out even better than how Mark and I had imagined.”
Suppliers Design and build SemiSelfBuild, Co Offaly, tel. 057 9362800, semiselfbuild.ie Slates and cladding Tegral Rivendale slates on the roof and Cedral weatherboard on curved feature wall, tegral.com
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I N T E R I O R S / C I R C U L AT I O N
The art of getting from A to B Hallways, corridors and access points may not be the most glamorous part of designing a home but they’re crucial in achieving the ‘flow’ Words: Caroline Irvine
ynonymous with flow, circulation is the architectural term given to the way that people move and interact with a building, be it horizontally via entrances, hallways and verandas or vertically, via stairs and lifts; in whichever form, good planning and the observation of universal design principles will meet your functional needs. As anyone living in a home will attest to, the quality of a space and our experience living in it has little to do with size and everything to do with how it is structured. The home must work as a whole to meet the requirements of its occupants, rooms and spaces must connect and relate to each other to accommodate everyday activities.
Externally, many designers identify entrances by structural means: canopies, porches and oversized doors can be used (in any number of materials), in combination with colour, lighting and landscaping. But a subtle front door can often belie what lies beyond and reveal interiors that make impressive first impressions, here the use of contrast will create a sense of interest and surprise. However, it must always be remembered that ease of movement (both entering and exiting a dwelling) is paramount as anyone who has negotiated a narrow front door with suitcase in hand, or exhausted themselves pushing a door open that is too heavy, can testify. Many small spaces can appear airy and spacious without the need for an extravagant design statement such as a double height ceiling with chandelier, simply by being well organised or because sympathetic decorative choices have been made to dispel the feeling of any of the rooms being small or cramped. Mirrors and neutral colours can help to achieve this effect.
For hallways and stairs, an important element is unity; using the same colours and textures will add not only continuity but will also reinforce a sense of cohesion and direction to these areas. Being more of a thoroughfare than an actual room, it is important that the entrance hall is free of clutter and doesn’t become a collection point for school bags, sports kit, stray shoes and other oddments of clothing and equipment. To avoid such eventualities, well planned and accessible storage solutions should be incorporated at every opportunity to ensure a smooth-running household. All areas should be examined for their 106 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
Go with the flow Tips to ensure your home provides ease of access for all people regardless of age and ability.
Make sure you have a level entry Step-free entrances facilitate not only people with buggies but people with mobility aids and the visually impaired.
Think long term Minimise the need for expensive changes or retrofits to meet the needs of particular groups at a later stage, e.g. include a wheelchair friendly access / doors and downstairs bathroom. Also consider that larger toilet areas facilitate parents accompanying small children as well as people using walking or mobility aids.
Arrange your furniture so that it doesn’t impede circulation within, or to and from rooms.
Maximise light and ventilation, particularly with the help of rooflights.
C I R C U L AT I O N / I N T E R I O R S
RULES OF THUMB
James Carney, jcarneyphoto.com
Some basic design principles
Minimum clearance When approach is not head on and the corridor is only 900mm wide, the minimum clear opening width of a door should be 900mm. Robert Logan Architects robertloganarchitects.co.uk
storage potential: stairs that double up as drawers, cubby holes, wcs, small offices or even play dens make ingenious use of this space. Ideally storage accommodation can be provided by way of a cloak/bootroom. Additionally, console tables not only provide a great opportunity for decorative flair with flowers and vide poche but for storage too: look for a narrow but wide design that has drawers and shelves or even a pull out desk so it can used as a temporary office space. Hallways and landings areas are often underutilised: incorporating alcoves or nooks for sitting and reading or simply a table and chair will add a sense of dimension but may also provide opportunities for storage, by way of a window seat for example.
Lighting is an essential factor in defining spaces and setting the mood but circulation areas must be lit primarily for safe passage. Great drama can be provided in some entry ways and hallways through the use of chandeliers, pendant fixtures and sconces. In some homes long hallways serve as gallery spaces and these are well served by accent lighting as well as ambient lighting. In other cases hallways and other circulation spaces will benefit from a simpler approach of lamps and track lighting. Because circulation spaces are designed to facilitate movement, the location of switches and controls provided must support this movement. This will require providing switching at the top and bottom of a run of stairs and at each end of a hallway for example.
Accessibility Provide 1.5m diameter for wheelchair users to turn. Design the stairs so that a stair lift can be accommodated in future, and identify a space for a lift if the need for one were to arise.
Obstruction free Ensure that doorways and opening sections of windows do not create hazards for users of passageways and circulation routes. External routes to clotheslines, bin and fuel storage areas should be free from steps and adequately illuminated.
As areas of high traffic, entrances, stairways, hallways and landings are prone to more daily wear and tear than other rooms in a house. While a visually rich, substantial looking floor will reward visitors and make an impactful first impression it must also be practical. Slate, stone, and porcelain meet this criteria, but note that a high gloss finishes can be hard to keep clean. With wood, use a durable hardwood board (with appropriate finish) as soft woods may dent and scratch; don’t use carpeting as it gets dirty with traffic and avoid vinyl unless it is a high quality luxury variety. Homeowners may wish to set off the area in a different material than adjacent rooms and hallways. But choosing one common material for several rooms produces a feeling of continuous flow and makes smaller rooms appear larger. In addition, high-traffic areas will also
benefit from rugs, runners and, entrance mats which can also enhance your home’s décor as accent pieces, and can be replaced as necessary. Make sure these are securely fixed or gripped to the floor with matting, otherwise they may become a slip or trip hazard. When it comes to paint colour, you can either go for bold statement hues or choose a welcoming and soothing palette. Neutrals will obviously ensure that your hallway feels light and airy and grey will provide a timeless shade. Heavy traffic areas, entrances, stairways and hallways will require the use of a washable paint so that signs of wear and tear, scuff marks, fingerprints etc. can be erased without compromising or altering the colour of your walls.
Slips Trips and Falls Hallways that are likely to get wet should have non-slip finishes. Light fittings and fire alarms to be located so that there is safe and convenient access for changing bulbs and for testing. Particular care should be taken not to locate fittings in the vicinity of stairs and over voids to avoid risk of falls.
Fixtures and Fittings Switches, sockets, ventilation and service controls should be at a height usable by all, i.e. between 450mm and 1200mm from the floor. Extracts from ROI Department of Housing Quality Housing for Sustainable Communities
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INTERIORS / IRISH DESIGN HEROES
The modern masters Inspiration for your self-build project from modernist Irish influencers Eileen Gray, Francis Bacon, Cedric Gibbons and Michael Scott Words: Marion McGarry
Eileen Gray (1878-1976)
Villa E1027 via Cap Moderne, capmoderne.com
Self-taught and fearless
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She moved to Paris in 1902 and was quickly seen as one of the leading designers of the new style of Art Deco. In 1922 she opened her own gallery and worked as an interior designer, most notably for Madame Mathieu-Lévy whose home was transformed with a collective of lacquered panels, matt gold cushions and a burnished boat shaped day bed (the ‘Pirogue’), finished with silver leaf. It was a highly luxurious interior but was so finely balanced it did not tip into vulgarity. Gray’s work took on a modern look with her use of chrome, steel tube and
Villa E1027 via Cap Moderne, capmoderne.com
erhaps the most iconic of our modernist Irish design heroes is Eileen Gray. Her round glass table, her cosy padded chair and distinctive style are modern classics still popular in interiors today. Gray is now deservedly on every Irish design college’s design-history syllabus and qualifies as a design hero because she was self-taught and fearless in a profession where women were the minority. She was also a modernist designer of immense influence in her own right. She was born to a wealthy family in Wexford and at age twenty entered the Slade College of Art in London to study painting. She began to work with lacquer, then a dying craft, and the reward of producing mirror like surfaces meant meticulous work and hours of sanding layers of real shellac. Gray’s lacquer screens and panels proved popular and she began cabinetmaking.
‘...she was quickly seen as one of the leading designers of the new style of Art Deco.’
IRISH DESIGN HEROES / INTERIORS
Bibendum chair and E1027 glass furniture, as well as rugs. She became a self-taught architect and designed two houses in the south of France. The most notable is called E1027, an L-shaped, simple and pure building with minimalist decoration and use of industrial materials which were ahead of its time. Self-builders can take much inspiration from E1027: it is a model of spatial efficiency, is compact and highly functional and it is responsive to the ever-changing natural light. Gray hated clutter and ‘decoration for decoration’s sake’, so everything in her home was influenced by this: her stairs had storage located in each riser for example. Much of Gray’s best known furniture was designed for the house. As E1027 was essentially a holiday home, her furniture for it emerged from a lifestyle of leisure, devoted to function and comfort. The E1027 table which was said to have been designed to allow breakfasting in bed, was height adjustable for the user’s comfort. The Transat chair was based on the design of deckchairs on cruise ships. The dressing tables had drawers that cleverly and conveniently pivoted outward. She created a tea trolley with a cork surface, to reduce the sounds of crockery rattling. The Bibendum chair, an amusing homage to the Michelin man, is despite its unusual form, surprisingly comfortable. Gray’s furniture began to be manufactured under licence by Aram in 1976 and has been in production ever since. In France she is regarded as something of a national treasure: E1027 has been recently restored and is open to the public.
Francis Bacon is acknowledged as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, best known for his often emotionally charged images. Born in Dublin to Anglo-Irish parents and raised in Kildare, he spent most of his life outside Ireland with few fond memories of the country. Bacon’s grandfather, a policeman, was often a target in the conflicts which overtook the country at that time. In recent years Bacon has been reclaimed as Irish, and his studio was bequeathed to the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane by his companion and heir John Edwards in 1998. Bacon left Ireland aged 17, going first to Berlin, then to London, and he spent many years as a penniless artist before becoming one of the most acclaimed (and now most expensive) artists of the modern era. During a trip to Paris in the late 1920s, he would no doubt have been exposed to the work of Eileen Gray who was famous on the Parisian scene at that time. Later he would acknowledge the 1920s French style on his early design work. What is often overlooked is that Bacon started out his creative career as a furniture and interior designer. In his early years he experimented for a short while in this craft and like Gray, he began to design tubular steel and glass furniture and abstract patterned rugs which certainly showed her influence. He published his work in the 1930 edition of The Studio, advertising himself as a furniture designer and offering interior design services. His rugs were made by Royal Wilton and he also designed lighting. His creations of this era reflected the influences of international modernism, and the smooth, stylish look of the interwar years of the Bauhaus and DeStijl. His career in interiors was short, and not long after publishing his work he abandoned design and threw himself into producing art. Because of this, examples of his design work are few but those that survive are surprisingly accomplished and confident. His tri-fold screen is like those of Eileen Gray’s early career: the screen is essentially used as a blank canvas for pictorial elements, painted with shadowy abstract figures rendered in a late cubist style, with muted colours and classical elements. His broken classical columns perhaps signal a breaking of tradition with conventional furniture design. A stool designed in this era, described
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2018. Photo: The Estate of Francis Bacon
The one who could have been
Francis Bacon (1909-1992) Outside “Farmleigh”, Abbeyleix, Co Laois, Ireland, c. 1924
‘...his output showed enormous talent and understanding of materials.’ as ‘rare and important’ by Christie’s, is made from laminated wood with a painted finish. It looks strong and comfortable and was possibly designed with stacking in mind. Its lack of extraneous elements is in keeping with the minimal aesthetic of modernism. Although Bacon’s design career was abortive, and the artist later tried to disown his early works, his output showed enormous talent and understanding of materials. It offers us a tantalising glimpse into what ‘might have been’ had he opted to pursue design instead of art. Somewhere in a parallel universe, Francis Bacon is an Irish design hero. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 109
INTERIORS / IRISH DESIGN HEROES
How to get the modernist look in your home In order to achieve the look of these modern masters it is essential to acknowledge that they were reacting to the over fussy traditional designs of their time. Here are some pointers:
Pare everything back. Figurative patterns are out, avoid too much colour, textiles, fitted carpets or wallpaper. Opt for minimalist tones with shades of white on walls.
Choose polished surfaces. Industrial materials such as metal, concrete and glass can be offset with natural materials such as wood, marble, and stone. They will amplify light and provide a glamourous feel.
Let there be light. Let in as much natural light by using blinds on windows instead of curtains. In your lighting schedule, combine uplighters with metallic or glass feature artificial lighting.
Warm it up. A modern interior can feel cold and noisy when overdone so counterbalance this by adding strategically placed textiles such as rugs and cushions. Architectural house plants such as the cheese plant (Monstera Deliciosa) or mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria Trifasciata) give structure and help ‘humanise’ all those manmade materials.
Art Deco personified Although the son of an Irish architect and an English mother who emigrated to New York at the turn of the century, Cedric Gibbons was regarded by many as Irish. He trained as an artist and worked in his father’s architecture office before beginning work in 1915 as a painter at the Edison Studios in New York. He later became the art director of Goldwyn Studios and between 1924 and 1956, he supervised art direction on nearly every MGM film. During the Depression, the golden age of Hollywood offered an American dream of wealth, leisure and exotic travel to audiences at cinemas across the world. Gibbons’ set-designs provided a backdrop to this. They asserted luxury but never vulgarity, offering audiences a stylish window into a shiny fantasy world. He often chose extravagance for his set designs even if the screenplay did not require it. His early work was in the decadent visual language of Art Deco and this look became associated with the very design and architecture of cinema at the time. Gibbons favoured highly lit, threedimensional scenery. His chief innovation was to do away with the unrealistic painted backdrops that had traditionally been associated with film sets: instead he brought in actual furniture and built realistic props. These consisted of high-contrast geometric solids combined with exaggerated recesses which were suitable for black and white films. They were supplemented by all-white walls with polished floors; mirrored and crystal surfaces; motifs such as zig zags, sunbursts,
Adorn it with art. Modernist homes are a great backdrop for artwork with abstract patterns working especially well.
Screen shot from Grand Hotel (1932)
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Cedric Gibbons (1890-1960)
and abstract patterns, and luxury textiles and venetian blinds. Through this ‘Gibbons look’ audiences would be aware they were watching an MGM production. He lived his life in this very aesthetic and designed his own stylish home in the Santa Monica Mountains which he shared with his glamourous spouse, silent film star Dolores Del Rio. In 1928, Gibbons was commissioned to design the gold coloured Oscar statuette whose design remains relatively unchanged to this day. His legacy is that through his work on Hollywood movies he was profoundly influential in spreading the language of Art Deco around the world. This extended far beyond his film sets: cinema theatres began to use Art Deco in their architectural styles. Even in small cinemas in Irish regional towns a taste of glamour was achieved by inclusion of Art Deco motifs, a style that was championed by this Irish design hero.
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INTERIORS / IRISH DESIGN HEROES
1930s Michael Scott house in Sandycove
‘...a monumental presence softened by the curvature of its prominent windows. .’
Michael Scott (1905-1989)
One of the many mosaic designs in Busáras
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Photo by Chris Power Smith ©2018
Michael Scott is considered the most important Irish architect of the twentieth century. Although other Irish design heroes in this series were based outside the country, Scott practiced in, and brought modern architectural influences, to Ireland. As well as being responsible for the design of many pioneering modern buildings, he also raised awareness in Ireland of the work of influential and internationally acclaimed architects. In the late 1930s in his capacity as the President of the Architectural Association of Ireland, he brought many key figures in modern design to give talks to architects in Dublin, notably Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus in 1936. Scott’s habit of keeping abreast of trends in design and not keeping to one single aesthetic throughout his career meant he educated his clients on current fashionable styles. Scott was born in Louth and initially trained as an artist. Before pursuing architecture full-time, he was an actor and under a stage name toured with the Abbey theatre (he later designed their new theatre building). His interest in the arts was often reflected in his architectural projects, with artistic elements often being used to soften some of his relatively unadorned designs. This is best demonstrated in his 1939 Ireland pavilion for the New York World’s Fair. This project saw his work critically acclaimed on a world stage in an arena with future architectural luminaries like Oscar Niemeyer and Alvar Aalto. Scott’s 1930s house at Sandycove, Dublin, inspired by the nearby Joyce
Martello tower, was one of the first houses built in this country using mass concrete throughout and was designed in the International Modern style. The concrete is rendered externally and painted white, a stark simplicity complemented by the flat roofs and large windows. In keeping with this style the house resembles a cruise liner with its curved bays, balconies, decks, railings and portholes (pictured above). Scott’s most famous building is Busáras, Dublin’s central bus station. He headed the design team for what is noted as being the first major office building in Ireland to begin construction after the Second World War (it was completed in 1953). It was one of many of his commissions for CIÉ (Córas Iompair Éireann) and on this project he collaborated with the renowned British engineer Ove Arup. In post-war (or post Emergency) Ireland it was a powerful statement of modernism and optimism for the future. Scott is also noted for his collaboration on the design of the American Embassy in Dublin, with the American architect, John M. Johansen in 1964. The building is circular in shape which allows it to face in all directions, a monumental presence softened by the curvature of its prominent windows.
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INSIDE TRACK / CONCRETE HOMES
Concrete built is better built Gordon Best of the Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland on why building a concrete home is a sustainable, low maintenance option.
FACTSHEET Concrete and quarrying in Northern Ireland The annual NI demand for aggregates in is approximately 24 million tonnes; a new house requires some 50 tonnes of aggregates. The quarry products industry employs around 5,600 people in NI.
Sustainability has become an increasingly wide-ranging term, as our understanding grows of the many impacts that a project and its materials may have over their lifetime. Architects and home buyers must consider a long list of factors – embodied impacts, in-use performance, longevity and upfront costs against those of maintaining the building over its lifetime. Environmental impacts and benefits must be weighed with social and economic issues, all without losing sight of the essential functions that a house needs to perform such as providing a comfortable, safe, robust shelter. Whilst concrete has a relatively high embodied energy (the amount of energy required to produce it) this needs to be weighed against its inherent performance benefits: � Robustness and security High strength and impact resistance allow concrete products to provide exceptional levels of safety and security. It is very difficult to penetrate a concrete product either accidentally or deliberately. � Fire resistance Concrete is not 114 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
The turnover of the quarry industry is approximately £400 million, 1.75 per cent of NI GDP, which directly supports the construction industry that employs 80,000 people and is worth some £2.4 billion to the local economy. There are around 160 quarries and sand pits in NI, 75 per cent of which are in areas designated by Government as Targeting Social Need.
capable of igniting, burning or spreading fire. Concrete requires no additional fire protective coverings, chemical preservatives or paint systems that may release volatile organic compounds affecting internal air quality and which can require ongoing maintenance. � Durability Concrete structures have a very long life span and offer long-term construction solutions. � Thermal mass The unrivalled high thermal mass of concrete can be used as an integral part of passive design solutions which reduce the need for air-conditioning in the summer and maintain the levels of heating required in the winter.
� Acoustic performance Concrete’s mass absorbs sound and it relies little on finishes and materials that can have a short lifespan. As a result, less material is used and potential waste is avoided. � Flood resilience In contact with water concrete retains its structural integrity, resulting in minimal waste of materials following a flood. Concrete and masonry structures can also readily be designed to resist water penetration. For further information about the QPANI Concrete Development Group and its initiatives contact Gordon Best, Regional Director QPANI on 07876136929, office 028 9082 4078 or email email@example.com www.qpani.org/CB_IS_BB1809.htm
Concrete products are essential to our standard of living and quality of life in Northern Ireland. We have been using concrete for centuries and it continues to be the construction material of choice.
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MAINTENANCE / GARDEN
Outdoor care Although many of us are concerned about maintaining the fabric and contents of our home to look after our biggest investment, some don’t bother too much with the outside. But these areas shouldn’t be neglected. Words: Andrew Stanway
imber needs protecting from the rain (rotting) and sun (fading). If you’ve taken on the task of sprucing up your fence, the first step is to clean it thoroughly. Pressure-washing is by far the easiest and most effective method but it’s vital to be careful or you could damage the timber. When pressurewashing, use it on the low setting with wide-angled nozzle keeping the tip of the wand at least 300mm away from the surface and keeping the wand moving the whole time. Failure to do these simple things will mean the timber could be torn by the high pressure and you’ll do more harm than good as you open up its fibres. It’s kind to alert your neighbours before cracking on with pressure-washing. They wouldn’t thank you for you speckling everything their side with moss, dirt and fencing stain. If you get on well it’s even worth discussing doing the job together, so
both sides of the fence get treated at the same time. On a good day, but not in full sun, and certainly not if it’s going to rain, apply your chosen stain or protective treatment with a brush, pad or even a spray. This could be a time to rethink your fence colour, too.
Before you start recoating your decking, clean it really well. If you want to change the colour of the timber you’ll have to get rid of the old stains and paint using a belt sander. Obviously, this won’t work for grooved boards. Decking cleaners and revivers are designed to restore the natural colour of your wood, remove moss, mould and fungus and make it easier to apply the paint, oil or stain. Use a scrubbing brush to apply and work in the cleaner and then leave it for 20 minutes. Rinse everything off thoroughly, ideally with a pressure washer at a low setting. Leave the boards to dry
On a good-weather day take a careful look at the structure of your fencing.
Maintaining your decking l Take a careful look at the condition of your decking. There’s no point cleaning and staining it if it needs repairing, or even replacing. Take all the furniture and pots off and give it good sweep to remove obvious debris. l Use a garden blower or a wet vacuum cleaner to get at the small debris a brush can’t remove. l Check the supports and fixing by putting pressure everywhere you can reach to stand on. l Look at the all the edges, steps and where posts are inserted. This is where damage is most likely to occur. Repair or replace where necessary. l Is there actual rot in any of the boards? If so, replace the affected parts.
Consider metal protective caps if the top of posts don’t look sound.
Check gate hinges and catches and replace any broken parts. Grease hinges and other moving parts to protect them from the weather.
l Clean out all the gaps between the boards.
Tend to any panels or boards that are not securely fixed.
Are the posts sound where they enter the ground? Poke the timber with a large screwdriver. Is it solid? Give each post a hefty pull and see how stable it is. If it isn’t, the next big wind could bring the fence down.
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l Are there any raised screw or nail heads?
Ivy and brambles may grow through or on the fence. Talk to your neighbour if anything is coming from their side. After all, they’ll want to keep the fence in good condition too. In an ideal world, no plants should touch the fence. This counsel of perfection can rarely be attained.
Chris Heffernan from Efficient Lawn & Garden
GARDEN / MAINTENANCE
for at least 24 hours before applying paint or stain. Your chosen coating can be applied with a brush, roller, pad or spray. Brushes are great (and probably essential) for difficult areas but rollers and pads cover much faster. Sprayers are best of all but many people don’t feel confident using them. They really come into their own on large areas. Don’t shake the container to mix the paint or bubbles can form in the finish. This doesn’t apply to oils, which can be shaken or stirred well before use. If you’re not confident about your colour choice, try a small test area somewhere not too obvious, then let it dry completely before doing the whole deck. Start in a corner and work your way backwards, away from the area you’ve just painted. Paint only one or two boards at a time, from end to end, trying to avoid overlapping. Apply only as much stain as the board can easily soak up. Don’t flood the timber. Only apply liberally in areas where there are splits or damage. Read the instructions to see what your particular product suggests about recoating.
Maintaining your paving and patio
The secret of maintaining a great-looking paving is prevention. Too many people leave it for years without any attention then find it’s near-impossible to clean or that when they do remove the lichens and other similar highly-adhesive growths, they are left with nasty-looking pale patches.
Whatever type of paving you have, be sure to brush it regularly, even if it doesn’t look all that dirty. This removes surface grime to some extent and also gets rid of spores and weed seeds. Keeping on top of actual weeds is also vital. They’ll grow in between un-pointed slabs and in the joints if you have sand or mortar filling. Weeds are largely just unsightly - though they can root under slabs and cause real trouble - but letting algae grow can quickly make slab paving very slippery and dangerous, especially for the old and the young. Get down to the detailed weeding and remove even very small weeds before they take root. Once they get too large, removing them takes out the sand or other material in your pointing and can even destabilise the paving itself. Weed-killer (herbicide) is frequently used to keep on top of things even though
it’s not the most environmentally friendly option. A typical herbicide will have three types combined to kill the weeds already in place (contact herbicide) and then provide longer protection with residual herbicide (applied only twice a year). Both systemic and contact weed-killers work when they are in contact with the foliage; residual herbicide stays in the soil and it will affect the germination or kill the plants from the roots. Be aware of the need to protect children and pets if you choose herbicides. An alternative is to use road salt to prevent weeds from growing, it works very well on seedlings and it’s very cost effective. Once you’ve got rid of the main mess by sweeping thoroughly, you’ll then need to get down to serious washing. Some people swear by simple bleach, though this needs copious amounts of water to wash it off and lots of care to ensure that neighbouring plants don’t get damaged by the run-off. There are also many proprietary algicides and other paving cleaning fluids. Be guided by the nature of your problem when choosing these. For a really deep clean there’s little to beat pressure washing. This is fine if you have an attachment that is made specially for the purpose, or you can use the ordinary wand. If you go the wand route, be careful about washing out your sand or other pointing materials. If you find you’ve done this, replace the grouting as soon as you can or weeds will grow. It might make sense to use your deep-cleaning session to think about repointing anyway. Because most slabs, or even natural stone (such as sandstone), are so porous, they absorb water and then, in turn, sustain bacterial, mould, fungal, lichen or weed growth. There are lots of patio sealers on the market but be certain to choose the correct one for your natural stone or concrete type. The wrong sealer could harm its surface. But doing all this is a waste of time if you then leave the area for another year or two. Keep up with the sweeping and regular, gentle cleaning with a hose and a scrubbing brush. Anything you can do to keep dirt, leaves, soil, dripping water, food, and leaky, staining pots off the surface will prolong its good looks and delay the next major clean.
Additional information: Tanguy de Toulgoët, Dunmore Country School, Co Laois, dunmorecountryschool.ie, tel. 057 873 6578
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 117
BASICS / GREEN ROOFS
Images: Moy Materials, moymaterials.com
Green roofs An overview of how to add some life to your building’s roof covering.
here are two types of green roofs: Intensive roofs can include lawns, flowerbeds, shrubs and even trees; landscape variations are practically limitless for both design and use as it is possible to create an environment at roof level similar to that of any garden. The plants used require maintenance, irrigation and management throughout the year to ensure the upkeep of the landscape and allow the vegetation to flourish. An extensive roof, meanwhile, is a lighter weight option with self-sufficient grasses or succulents. Some systems use low maintenance sedum planting (a type of succulent 118 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
plant) to provide excellent cover and increased protection of the waterproofing system. The plants are grown on a ‘blanket’ that is harvested like turf and installed by rolling out on top of the waterproofing and any other landscaping layers. The blankets are very lightweight, easy to maintain and provide instant greening to the roof. The single biggest driver in urban settings is rainwater attenuation, in rural settings the aesthetic is the key reason to install a green roof. Note that extensive green roof systems are not intended for general access or leisure and are primarily there for ecological benefit or aesthetic appearance.
Cost A green roof tends to be more expensive than those for slates and tiles, working out at around £5 or between €4 to €8 per sqft excluding VAT for the extensive kind. Intensive roofs tend to be much more expensive because they’re more complex to build, and heavier. They may also have significant additional costs associated with providing safe access and fall protection.
Due to the need for water tightness, airflow underneath the green roof system must be carefully designed as timber support beams and trusses need regular airflow to avoid dry rot setting in. The correct procedure is contained in the Building Regulations for both normal and green roofs, and current practice is for your builder to build this structure for you. Constructing your roof to be of warm construction is the most convenient way to tackle the condensation risk. From the waterproofing layer on you’ll need a specialist company; in fact many green roof systems are offered by companies specialising in the supply of flat roof membranes
GREEN ROOFS / BASICS
Penetrations With any type of living roof great care is needed with the waterproofing, making absolutely certain that any penetrations are correctly sealed. These should therefore be kept to a minimum; for instance ventilation ducts can be directed to the side of the building.
as water tightness is an equally important requirement for these. Joins in membrane materials and provision of seals around protrusions such as chimney and ventilation ducts are critical. Both green roof types will be heavier than a regular roof, in large part to due the roof retaining water, but there is a big difference in structural demand between these two systems. Whilst it is possible to construct a timber roof for small
spans and lighter roof coverings, for an intensive roof you may require a concrete deck base with waterproofing in the form of root resistant modified bitumen, insulation, drainage and reservoir board, geotextile fabric and finally soil with a mixture of sedum species, grasses and wild flowers. The insulation on top of the concrete deck in a warm-roof construction gives a U-value practically at Passivhaus standards and the combination of materials
that are layered drain well and provide a medium for the grass to thrive in. Extensive roofs can be built on top of appropriately sized timber rafters with OSB3 sheets above, which are an ideal substrate for the waterproofing and for use externally in structural roofing.
For intensive roofs the growing plants need to be fed and access may be awkward, but be careful with fertilisers as these may contaminate the storm water system. More frequent inspection and cleaning of guttering and downpipe systems is paramount to avoid debris from the roof becoming lodged in the drainage system. Most suppliers will provide advice and assistance in the ongoing maintenance. Sedum roofs often surprise homeowners when the lush green colour turns red for winter. Another aspect to consider is that different varieties are planted to ensure that the species with the best fit for your specific roof’s solar exposure, shade, wind, takes over. This may lead to some bald spots in the first year.
‘Note that extensive green roof systems are not intended for general access or leisure and are primarily there for ecological benefit or aesthethic appearance.’
Images: Moy Materials, moymaterials.com
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 119
Images Â© Unique Home Stays www.uniquehomestays.com +44 (0) 1637 881183 120 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
CO CORK / PROJECT
The sky, and sea, are the limit The last thing on most self-builders’ minds is to rent out their home. But as an alternative source of income it’s becoming increasingly commonplace, especially for those who have alternative accommodation or who have built their house as a holiday retreat in the first place, as was the case of Lyons and Nicci O’Keeffe Words: Astrid Madsen Photography: Mark Watts
What materials did you use to build your home?
Our architect’s design, fusing modern architecture with minimalist style, was entirely executed with reinforced concrete to cope with the large spans and the building’s seaside location. The roof is poured reinforced concrete with reinforced concrete vertical support pillars filled in with concrete bricks and PIR insulation; all windows are triple glazed. Then the whole structure, walls and roof was clad in Black Kilkenny Limestone.
How long did it take you?
It took us two years, from 2009 to 2011 to build the home due to the complexity of the building. The most important thing for us was to get the design and execution absolutely right.
When building your home, did you consider the possibility of home exchange or letting it?
When we built the house it was to provide a long term base for the family. We were living in London, unsure where we would end up, but really wanted our kids to have a permanent ‘mooring’ in Schull. So at that point, it didn’t feature in the thinking or design. Everything we did was to produce a beautiful house that maximises the view in this stunning location and not with any commercial considerations. SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 121
PROJECT / CO CORK
Which of your home’s features do you think are most attractive to renters?
It has to be the extraordinary views from the bank of enormous floor to ceiling windows. The weather on the coast is constantly changing and sitting back watching the systems marching in from the Atlantic is a real pleasure. The light and height of the living area means you can be indoors all day without ‘cabin fever’ – helpful in West Cork in December! Likewise the ability to open the huge sliding doors brings the outside inside during the summer. The black Kilkenny limestone exterior adds to the drama of the setting. The house is also very private and discrete.
Self-builds tend to feature the newer technologies such as heat pumps and solar panels. Do you find that you need to give extra help to familiarise people with using these? We have solar panels and a very efficient boiler with little interaction required from people staying. The only heating is underfloor which gives such a lovely quality of soft heat. We have a state of the art electronic programmable Aga which definitely needs the instruction book! Switched on or off however, it is one of our favourite bits of ‘furniture’.
What advice would you give others considering renting their home?
It helps if you actually want to do it! We are treating this as a really exciting business project rather than ‘having to have people in to help pay the bills’. We are very much thinking ‘boutique hotel’ and that level of service rather than ‘holiday let’. That’s why we chose to partner with Unique Home Stays. We think it is really interesting to have this as a separate business with clients rather than spending our time worrying about the house and its contents.
Do you sometimes live in the property? How many years have you been involved in this?
We have never lived at the property although in the past we visited almost every month. We started to rent a year ago, since then have made lots of improvements to the interior look and feel.
SIZE House size:
Lyons and Nicci’s house is available to rent on uniquehomestays.com; renting this house costs £2,000 to £3,000 per week with Unique Homes Stays taking care of the bookings, handing over of keys and enquiries.
122 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
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ASK THE EXPERT / SELFBUILD Q&A
Ask the expert You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. And if we don’t, we’ll find out by scouring our Facebook group, calling help lines and talking to the experts. Q. How can we get rid of Japanese Knotweed, my understanding is that if I try to remove it, there is a risk it will further spread, and so treating it is the best solution? A. Don’t dig it as it spreads by roots, not
seed, and any disturbance just makes it regenerate quicker. It’s very difficult to get rid of but with time it can be dealt with. The conventional way to treat it is with chemicals, but that can take a spray in spring and again in summer for up to three years to completely kill off. Some companies do stem injections which work faster but it’s laborious and costly. If you cut back now and wait a few weeks until it starts to regenerate then a spray will undermine more of it as it will have expended lots of energy to put up new shoots. Chemical free options are to keep cutting it back to ground level every few months to burn up its root reserves (the stalks and foliage are compostable and even edible – a delicacy in Japan and a medicinal source of resveratrol in China). The final option is to starve it: cover it with weed membrane, tarp, polythene, old carpets — whatever will keep the light out. If it has no sun it can’t photosynthesise and so has no energy to grow, after a year its roots will start to wither away and it won’t be able to regenerate.
READER QUESTIONS Homeowners answer your questions about the projects we’ve featured in past issues of Selfbuild magazine. Q. I love your glass stairs. I’m just wondering is it practical to keep clean? Is it in anyway dangerous with the glass? Would you recommend it? A. We’re very happy with it. We have a
two-year-old (and another on the way) so safety and cleanliness were important to us. We find the glass stairs very safe and solid and in fact maybe safer insofar as children can’t catch their necks in timber divides. Kids can mess up the glass with their hands but they lose interest in it after a while and a simple clean wipe sorts it. A small price to pay for the addition of light and feeling of space.
As seen in the Spring 2018 issue.
Q. Did this house get built builder’s finish for 160k and then add things like kitchen, bathroom, tiles and stairs down to the skirting architrave and doors? Lovely, bright and airy house! A. We had a tight budget of €160,000 to build and finish the house as in the photos in the
magazine. What sometimes people don’t see is that I have done all foundations and footings and sub floors and all groundworks myself which probably saved around €20,000. We also spent roughly €10,000 on planning, architect, legal fees, etc.
Fiann Ó Nualláin @holisticg
Photo credit: Picture taken by gerald_at_volp_dot_ com. Child in foreground is about 90cm in height. Via Wikimedia Commons 124 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
As seen in the Winter 2016 issue.
SELFBUILD Q&A / ASK THE EXPERT
Spray foam insulation 101 Q. What’s the difference between breathable and air permeable? A. Even though they sound similar they are two very different things and, when it comes to
Q. I’m currently building my house but how do I register for my new postal address? A. In NI Building Control issues the new
address after you’ve submitted your plans/ application to your Building Control Officer. In ROI An Post is responsible for creating a postal point for a new property – you need to ring their customer service to request a new address tel. 01 705 7600 or email customer. email@example.com with subject line EirCode. The email needs to include your name, contact number, address of new house / which property it’s adjacent to. - SelfBuilders & Home Improvers Ireland Facebook group
Q. I’ve heard a lot of talk of cost per sqft but what’s included in this? I’m going to start building in the Munster region. A. The cost of building now is about €80 to
€120 per sqft which is for basic finishes so tiles or anything fancy is extra but it includes plastered and painted walls, electrics, plumbing and finished stairs. It does not include landscaping.
insulation, they are both equally important. Breathability has to do with allowing moisture and water vapour to pass through. This is important because you don’t want to be trapping moisture, which can eventually result in structural problems. Low air permeability is about limiting the amount of draughts, preventing air to move from inside out. In other words, the more airtight the home the better it is at retaining heat.
Q. Do I need to ventilate above spray foam insulation? A. Check that the spray foam product you use is certified and for which types of applications.
Generally in a sloping roof the foam is applied directly to the membrane with the air gap on the outside between the membrane and tiles/slates. If you need to spray directly onto your roof’s membrane, make sure to check that the foam supplier’s certification says it’s appropriate and adequate to do so for your specific circumstances. In advance of the work being carried out, the roof must undergo a condensation risk analysis to determine if a vapour control layer is required before applying the foam.
Q. What’s the difference between open and closed cell spray foam insulation? A. A typical light density open-cell product forms into a soft and flexible, yet airtight seal, and
therefore vapour accommodates a building’s normal structural movement and shifting over time. As a vapor permeable application, open cell tends to provide better sound absorption than its closed cell counterpart. Open cell also uses a water-based blowing agent for application. Closed cell spray foam is higher density and offers higher thermal resistance, impact resistance, and its hard, rigid texture increases racking strength. Closed cell may be used for external applications, commercial, industrial and agricultural buildings and tend to be more expensive. - Gerry Sheridan of GMS Insulations Ltd, icynene.ie
- SelfBuilders & Home Improvers Ireland Facebook group
Q. In a new build can I combine radiators with underfloor heating? A. Yes, but radiators should be able to deliver the heat required in a given room with the same flow temperature as the underfloor heating system. To achieve this, radiators should be oversized and be preferably made of aluminium. - Xavier Dubuisson, xdconsulting.eu
For more Peer to Peer advice join the SelfBuilders & Home Improvers Ireland Facebook group, facebook.com/selfbuild/groups
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 125
PLANNING PERMISSION / APPEALS
Appealing your case What if you or your neighbours disagree with a planning decision made by planners in your local authority; can anything be done? Words: Stuart Blakley & Brendan Buck
‘It is often best to revise the project to address the refusal reasons.’
f your new home or extension is refused planning permission, though you may disagree with the decision, it is often best to revise the project to address the refusal reasons. If this option has been exhausted, or you don’t want to make revisions to your project to try to convince local planners, then you can make an appeal. This is known as a first party appeal. Know that if the site had outline permission for a dwelling, on the basis of which you would have applied for full consent (or ‘Reserved Matters’ in NI), and you are not entirely happy with the full consent/permission, unfortunately it is not possible to appeal against any aspects of the decision which were previously dealt with at outline stage. 126 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
All appeals are brought to the appeals body, in NI it’s the Planning Appeals Commission (referred to as PAC or the Commission), in ROI An Bord Pleanála (referred to as ABP or the Board).
First party appeals
In NI applications must be lodged within four months of the date of receipt of the planning authority’s decision (date of receipt of the decision). There are two types of appeal procedures, each with two variations: written representation with an unaccompanied or accompanied site visit, and an informal or formal hearing. Both the planning authority and you as appellant are asked which you would prefer; if one party wishes to have a hearing, the Commission will generally facilitate that route but reserves the right to decide whether it’s formal or informal.
An informal one is better if the issues are relatively straightforward as it can be a more effective and efficient method of gathering information in a less intimidating atmosphere. PAC may also unilaterally decide a hearing is necessary. In most cases it’s generally sufficient to have a written representation, which is the quickest route (in 2016/2017 an average of 20 weeks as compared to 29 weeks for a hearing). The submission of advanced written evidence within specified time limits is required for each procedure. Check the PAC website for the full checklist which will include a list of documents and relevant maps. The fee is £126 and must be paid within 14 days of the application. You can apply online or post in your application. The case will be evaluated by a Commissioner and may be ruled upon by him/her or by the Commission which will issue a collective decision. In ROI you must apply within four weeks of the local planners’ decision (not the date it was sent or received). This will include the grounds for appeal along with details of the original application and the fee: €220 to appeal the council’s refusal (or to dispute council contribution conditions) and €660 for retention. The planning appeal checklist is available on An Bord Pleanala’s website outlining the documents you will need to submit. Optional is the submission of revised drawings and details containing proposed changes, but the
APPEALS / PLANNING PERMISSION
Board does not have to accept these unless it chooses to do so. Any party to an appeal has a right to request an oral hearing, but it would be unusual for one to be held in the case of a single dwelling or extension. The planning appeal will be assessed by an appointed Planning Inspector who will visit the site to make a recommendation to the Board. Board inspectors are independent and cannot be contacted. In the case of a house or extension a three-person board will hear the case and will either decide to accept this recommendation or not. If it does not, it will briefly explain the reason in its written decision. An Bord Pleanála has a statutory objective of assessing appeals within 18 weeks. Almost one in ten appeals in ROI are considered invalid because they do not comply with statutory criteria. For instance remember that you must apply in writing and not by email and if instead of posting the appeal you choose to deliver it yourself, do not place it in the letterbox, instead hand it to an employee (but not a security person) between 9.15am and 5.30pm Monday to Friday. Not paying the exact/correct fee at the time of applying will also invalidate your request.
The grounds on which to appeal
The written submission should only include relevant planning points (nonplanning points will be dismissed). NI has a limit of 1,500 words. There is no word limit in ROI. Include all details with your appeal statement – in ROI you are not permitted
to clarify, elaborate or submit any part of it at a later date, even within the time limit. You won’t be in a position to clarify, elaborate or make further submissions unless invited to do so. However in NI there will be an opportunity to respond to the Council’s submission, and if a hearing is involved then some discussion and elaboration will be permitted, although the extent of this will always be at the discretion of the Commissioner. It is important that you address each reason for refusal (or condition under dispute). You need to say why you think the reasons for refusal aren’t justified or why the conditions are not needed. The report of the local planner can explain the basis for decisions and that basis can be questioned. You should examine any policy documents which the planning authority has referred to, as well as any other planning guidance which you think helps build your case. If there have been any objectors, deal with each issue raised which has not been covered in your response to the planning authorities’ comments. Rather than enter a tit-for-tat argument, rely on planning grounds and quote from relevant policy guidance for your locale. The appeal will be determined by the Board as though the planning application was submitted to it in the first instance. In both NI and ROI appeals are determined on the basis of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area as well as the effects your planned house would have on the environment. Other material considerations include local development plans, Ministerial and regional planning guidelines.
What are your chances? How An Bord Pleanála ruled on self-builds cases (decision year 2017)
First party appeals
Third party appeals
Planning permission granted with conditions Refused planning permission
Source: Selfbuild Freedom of Information request to An Bord Pleanala, April 2018, for single houses. Figures shown exclude invalid and withdrawn cases; also excludes first party applications relating to conditions granted by the planning authority. Figures shown include outline planning permission cases. Rulings of cases decided in 2016 are broadly in line with those decided in 2017 (similar ratios).
Whose party is it A ‘first party’ is the proposer of the planning application, the ‘second party’ is the planning authority, and the ‘third party’ is an individual or community that objects to the application. Note that there are no third party appeal rights in NI.
Third party right of appeal (ROI only)
If your neighbour or other third party doesn’t believe your house or extension should be built, s/he can object in writing to local planners in both ROI and NI. If that decision is appealed in NI third parties can contribute to the process but they themselves cannot initiate or file an appeal with PAC. In ROI the formal letter acknowledging receipt of an objection to a local planning application gives the objector the right to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála. The process is the same as for a first party appeals. For those who failed to object locally it is also possible to lodge an appeal with the Board but they must be a landowner/ occupier adjoining the application site. In that case, you can apply to the Board for leave to appeal the decision of the planning authority but this may not necessarily be granted.
Appealing the appeal
The only way to overturn the appeal authority’s decision is to challenge it on a point of law. In other words the courts will not adjudicate on the merits of a proposed development from the perspectives of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area and/or effects on the environment, but instead will only deal with ensuring that the decision was made following procedure and in accordance with the law. In ROI, you need to apply for judicial review within eight weeks of the decision and in NI you can make a formal complaint to PAC and apply to the High Court for a judicial review within three months of the decision. Additional information: David Donaldson BSc Hons MRTPI of Donaldson Planning, 50a High Street, Holywood, Co Down, BT18 9AE, tel. 90423320, donaldsonplanning.com
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 127
OPINION / PLANNING REFUSED
Planning refused How my parents’ plan to self-build on the family farm couldn’t get the green light because of the unsafe speed limit on our stretch of road. Words: Mélina Sharp
hen my parents moved to Ireland in the 1970s they bought a derelict cottage which they renovated. They subsequently acquired land nearby, nestled into the wooded hillside of The Burren in Co Clare, to plant an orchard and raspberry fields. This allowed them to safeguard a small corner of Burren woodland and karst landscape from getting bulldozed. The orchard has since matured, along with the dream of living and working on the farm. Planning permission for a farm house was secured in 1996 but lapsed before any building began due to uncertainty regarding the upgrading of electricity power lines nearby. Since then my parents had to move, and for the past 23 years have been living 44km away and commuting a one and a half hour round trip, often daily to feed cows, along a very taxing stretch of road.
Once the power lines were upgraded, my parents went for planning permission for a second time in 2013; as I’m a trained architect I helped with the timber frame design and it was during my recent studies at the Dublin Institute of Technology that I was able to elevate it to Nearly Zero Energy Building (nZEB) standards.
Out of sight
The first signs were encouraging. The planning report stated that some small adjustments to the percolation area would satisfy the Wastewater Treatment Section. As my parents spent years campaigning, even as far as the EU Parliament in Brussels, to get adequate wastewater treatment for the seaside village where they now live, wastewater treatment was naturally high on their list of priorities. However Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), then known as the National Roads Authority (NRA) was involved due 128 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
PLANNING REFUSED / OPINION
to the site access being located off a secondary national road. According to them, ‘The proposed development, located on a national road where the maximum speed limit applies, would endanger public safety by reason of a traffic hazard and obstruction of road users due to the movement of extra traffic generated.’ Their aim is to reduce the amount of access along the national road network. My parents had already built the site entrance 20 years ago, according to the specifications of the original planning permission granted in 1996. It is in use every day, not only for my parents to safely access the farm but more significantly, as a haven for road users, including large vehicles which physically cannot pass each other on this narrow stretch of national road. Unfortunately the planner in 2013 downgraded our site entrance from residential access to agricultural access. The TII insists that this road, the N67, forms part of the main connection from Cork to Galway and therefore a speed limit of 100km/hr must apply. However the road is nowhere near 7m wide nor does it have any verges or bicycle lanes, all of which are specifications for building new national roads. The road is in reality a narrow winding Scenic Route with picturesque Burren stone walls and large mature trees. More and more tourists are travelling it, yet due to its obvious dimensional constraints and less obvious protruding stones, combined with the inappropriate* 100km/hr speed limit up, incidents occur every day on this eight-kilometre stretch. We appealed the county council’s decision to refuse planning permission but
Ground Floor Plan
An Bord Pleanála adopted this agricultural access classification and unquestioningly took the Council and the NRA’s view. Although fees for an oral hearing were accepted, we were later told that it is not the intention to facilitate oral hearings for such small issues.
Speed limit review
Much to our relief, in 2012 a national initiative was set up by then Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, the Speed Limit Review. This set out, amongst other goals, a five-year cycle of speed limit auditing by local authorities and the TII along with a new appeals mechanism for inappropriate* speed limits. Four long years of campaigning to reduce the speed limit to 60km/hr have passed. In our eyes this is more realistic for this scenic yet punishing stretch of legacy road. With ever increasing traffic it has proven extremely difficult to communicate the urgency of this matter with the TII, council engineers and elected members. The campaign covers many locations along the N67 where inappropriate* 80 and 100km/hr speed limits have been placed within villages and directly before a series
of severe bends. Over one thousand signatures have been collected locally and countless letters have been sent to local politicians, County Councillors, Ministers of Transport, the Road Safety Authority, An Garda Síochána, members of tourism and transport associations and to the Taoiseach himself. Although rumour has it that the TII are proposing yet another blanket solution of reducing the speed limit to 80km/hr for roads less than 7m wide (most of the N67), this simplistic solution does not improve safety for the more dangerous stretches of road. Special Speed Limit Bye-Laws have been drawn up in some areas, but not all. It is my understanding that they are concerned about the legalities and about upsetting planning policy. Now we can see only several demanding options open to us. The first is to continue to be patient with the Speed Limit Review which should have concluded its first cycle last summer. The second, having faith in the Councillors to draw up Special Speed Limit Bye-Laws for road safety. The third and fourth, to provide third party evidence that traffic cannot travel at speeds legally permitted, probably combined with representation. The fifth and sixth, the costly route of legally challenging the Council and/or the TII. Our hope is that the Speed Limit Review will be thorough enough to eventually reduce the speed limit on our stretch of road, and consequently remove the barrier to obtaining planning permission.
* ‘Inappropriate’ is a term used to describe speed limits on roads and signage placed in locations where they provide little information about the characteristics of the road or no warning of the hazards ahead.
SUMMER 2018 / SELFBUILD / 129
SCRAPBOOK / MONOCHROME
Some monochrome inspiration for your self-build
Brise soleil Adding texture house From concept to completion, the theme of this conversion project is ‘morphemes’: the stepped wall, the curve, two doors (one pink and one green) and the striped surface of the floor. Hypnotic. Architecture: Fala atelier, falaatelier.com Photography: Ricardo Loureiro
130 / SELFBUILD / SUMMER 2018
Photography: Adrián Mora Maroto
Architecture: Ruben Muedra Estudio de Arquitectura, rubenmuedra.com
Instead of adding a shading device to your south facing elevation, why not design the building so that it structurally shields you from the summer sunshine in the first place?
Forget black and white, monochrome is now all about colour! Check out these bright interiors from visual artist CJ Hendry’s exhibition in New York for inspiration on how to paint your house in primary colours. cjhendry.live