The house is all about sustainability. There’s none of that Grand Designs nonsense involving wildly expensive materials shipped from thousands of miles away – as much as possible will be locally sourced, created or re-used.
The aim is to not only produce a carbon neutral house in day-to-day running, but also a house as near carbon-neutral in its construction as possible. We aim to take out as much CO2 from the atmosphere in the creation of this house as we can, and expend as little as possible in new materials.
Huge amounts of the building process will involve re-used materials – salvaged bricks, old car tyres and rejuvenated metals. Straw bales will be used to make the walls and we’ll be mixing fly-ash into the concrete to keep the use of that decidedly energy-expensive material, cement, to a minimum.
Construction will involve low embodied energy and the house’s solar panels, biomass heating and passive solar energy capture will ensure low energy use once everything is up and running.
The original structure was a rusting Dutch barn from a neighbouring farm. We dismantled the frame, sandblasted and re-sprayed it (using water-based paints) and then, like a giant Meccano set, put it all back together again.
The frame will sit on foundations made from 500 old car tyres filled with gravel (to allow for drainage). The tyres provide stability and, because they’ll be buried underground, there will be no UV to degrade them. It’s a great way to re-use items that would otherwise grace a landfill.
The compressed straw bale walls – from the on-site farm – will form the external walls. The internal walls will be made of bricks reclaimed from an old Victorian railway bridge nearby. And the roof will be lined with a material that allows for the water created by condensation to be collected.
Even the site itself is a symbol of our desire to fight back against waste. Where once was the village’s ash and general rubbish dump (used from Victorian times right through to the 1950s) will stand a modern, energy efficient house that blends perfectly with the beautiful east Leicestershire countryside all around it.