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Featured Article

International selection
Moy Isover International awards
Innovative low energy construction is rarely recognised on a European scale. The Isover Energy Efficiency Awards are one exception — here are nominations from across the continent that were celebrated at the European awards ceremony in Barcelona on 2 June

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Official magazine of EascaEasca
Eamon Ryan's eco upgrade E-mail
Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Architecturally, whilst the street façade is extended to match the existing brick and balance the neighbour’s extension, the rear of the house differentiates old and new with rendered masonry, a sedum roof and large triple-glazed openings relating to both the garden and the wider view. The reconfiguration of the house at the rear was to provide a kitchen/family room and utility space. The internal design of this mediates between the different levels of the site using this step between house and garden to create a fireplace, seating and a log store. The new family room was designed to take advantage of the view to the garden and spatially to open out to it. This created the issue of large areas of glazing to the north and west elevations which we could only justify through the use of triple glazing. The extension’s walls are 425mm thick honeycomb terracotta blocks beneath a timber roof insulated with 250mm of thermo-hemp insulation, giving the extension a feeling of solidity that contrasts with the glazed openings.

Victoria chose the lower section of the garden as the site for the workspace – it’s sufficiently detached and invisible from the house but is nevertheless a flight of steps away. Access to this lower section of garden was fairly restricted for construction purposes and it was decided to form the studio largely from timber frame, again with a sedum roof, as this fifth elevation was clearly visible from the upper garden. The ability to work from home was complemented by bike stands erected on the front drive to formalize and secure the main mode of transport in this house.

Aside from the live-work scenario and bike parking facilities, it is the energy strategy that is most innovative in this project. Initial discussions with Eamon helped establish the parameters, which we fine-tuned with the help of Colm Byrne of Glas Energy and Michael Meehan of Ecosave. Energy demand reduction was achieved firstly in the existing house through blown mineral fibre cavity insulation, insulating in the pitch of the roof for the new attic space and upgrading through replacement of all the existing windows and draft sealing. The extension, as noted, utilises insulating terracotta block work and triple glazing as well as high levels of insulation in the roof. A gasifying log boiler provides space heating and hot water back-up, whilst 60% of hot water demand is met from a solar thermal roof top installation. The fuel for the boiler is sourced from forest thinnings in County Wicklow, while the storage of these logs is integrated into the architecture of the house. An additional smaller wood log stove for localised heating of the family room is provided when heating of the entire house is not required.

Both the extension and studio have sedum roofs that soak up rainwater, helping to reduce drainage requirements
Both the extension and studio have sedum roofs that soak up rainwater, helping to reduce drainage requirements

We took further advantage of the southerly aspect of the roof to place 8.7m2 of photovoltaic array that provides a substantial part of the household’s electricity demands – particularly as this household is not burdened with electricity swallowing appliances and utilises a triple A-rated fridge. Excess is exported to the grid and under-production supplemented back from the grid.

In further terms of harvesting the site’s flows – and with an eye on water metering – rainwater is collected from all north-facing roofs and stored in an above-ground insulated Tricel GRP cistern from Killarney Plastics. A Tricel Eco flow header tank gravity feeds the garden taps, toilet cisterns and supplies the re-conditioned washing machine. This reduces electrical consumption and also gives the extra comfort of having sufficient water storage during a power outage. Low flush toilets are utilised and low flow sanitary ware installed throughout.

This well-built 1950s Cosgrove house has now successfully entered its second phase of existence, catering significantly better for its energy requirements and with the new design enhancing the usefulness of the building as a home and workplace. 

Period-look double-glazed windows were installed at the front of the dwelling to preserve the original design of the house
Period-look double-glazed windows were installed at the front of the dwelling to preserve the original design of the house


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