August Update. A Carbon Light Family Home.

What with temperatures soaring to 38 degrees in July as well as having only a handful of downpours since May has given us the perfect opportunity to monitor the performance of the 20% material reduction solar shutters.

Sliding Solar Shutters

Sliding Solar Shutters

The two story sliding shutters have remained closed for the duration of the heat wave hitting Germany this Spring/Summer.   Living life behind the shutters has transformed the house into a comfortable, light and airy cool space throughout the day. Opening various windows in the evening pulls the cool air through the building, in effect dropping the inside temperature rapidly to the outside evening temperatures 0f 18-20 degrees.

Unlike todays usual thermal mass homes (Concrete) we worked with an insulation that reduces the longer time lapse of radiant heat in materials. With this house once the morning returns all windows are closed to trap in the cool air salvaged during the evening. The interior temperature stays below 20 well into the afternoon when outside temperature are rising above 30 by mid morning. The house keeps cool solely by natural ventilation, pulling in the cooled air from under the house by means of the floor vents and using the stack effect to continuously pull air upwards and out through the stairwell roof light, creating a controlled draft to cool down the occupants.

Once the evening returns the house is opened to repeat the cooling. The house has no delay with a thermal mass continuously radiating its heat to compete with. Concrete would still be releasing unwanted heat back into the house a week later. This house has shredded all its unwanted heat by early hours of the morning ready to repeat the cool box effect for the next day without the need of any artificial cooling or energy wasted.

March Update. A Carbon Light Family Home.

The start of the 20% reduction in material Siberian Larch shutters have began. Escalating material & labour costs within the construction industry since the credit crisis is changing the look of design within Architecture. Can we reduce 20% and still achieve a similar performance? Probably. But more so Apocalyptic Architecture has arrived. It couldn’t wait for a natural disaster. 20% Material Reduced Solar Shutters   So is there an architecture that could survive the 21st century apocalypse? Just take a look at some of the necessary characteristics suggested in this post on Survivalist Architecture, via Coffee With An Architect:

  • Energy Efficient Building Envelope – In an environment of scarce resources, the less energy a building requires, the better
  • Passive Solar Orientation – Key to both passive heating and natural daylighting, this is a key element to any survivalist compound
  • Rain Catchment Systems – Let’s face it, there’s no scenario on the table where potable water and sanitary sewer services will remain operational, so a basic greywater system is really a non-negotiable item to any project
  • Green Roof – (Specifically a rooftop garden)  Growing one’s own food is always a good idea, growing one’s own food in a reasonably defensible and concealable location is quite another
  • Solar Power / Photovoltaics – While the likelihood of finding repair parts in a post apocalypse wasteland is slim, the availability of electricity could be particularly useful during the transition period, provided your neighbors don’t know you have it
  • Wind Turbines – Similar to photovoltaics, except everyone will know you have it
  • Long-Life / Low Maintenance Materials – You’re going to be plenty busy dealing with the day to day business of hoarding supplies and scavenging for food, the last thing that’s going to be on your mind is, “When was the last time I cleaned the gutters?”
  • Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) Materials – There’s a significant chance you’ll be spending a whole lot of time indoors, the last thing you need is to be dealing with Sick Building Syndrome at the same time

Further reads on Apocalyptic Architecture 

February Update. A Carbon Light Family Home.

Plenty of work has been going on inside the house over the winter but now spring is arriving fast its time to start planning and fabricating the huge shutters. Four shutters each over 5m in height have been designed to completely close off the whole South Elevation. Mounting of the frames are planned for March. Once up in place a Douglas Fir under construction will firstly be added before i start fixing the horizontal Larch Shutters. This will be a massive step forward in the house’s performance.

A Carbon Light Family Home

 Glimpses of an emerging design




A New Years message with a little European flair feels appropriate for 2014.

Traditional timber frame barn
As most would have worked out I have been working with modern timber frame prototypes for the passed 10 years. 
The knowledge I have gained from this took me from a Low Energy House (KfW-Effizienzhaus 55. EnEV 2009) I designed through to today’s carbon light home which achieved the German Energy Standard for a KfW-40 Haus (EnEV). Our Prototype fell well within the standard, actually achieving a performance of 31 kWh/(m2) year. To put this into perspective the UK’s current average figure for energy efficiency today stands at 150 kWh/(m2) year.
Up until now I have kept a strict line between our two favoured Architectural genres of energy efficient housing and that of historical timber frame buildings.
From this year on I’m going to take everything I learnt and amalgamate that knowledge into one.
I will then take that consciousness and investigate further into European requirements for energy efficiency and conservation planning of historical buildings, meaning I can explore more appropriate ways of protecting Europe’e heritage by means of solar envelopes and other techniques previously only usually seen in connection with modern envelopes to new builds.
Finally by working closely with others I can capture key details in delivering sympathetic restorations. 
By merging state of the art new materials and combining them with old techniques we can hopefully re generate lost craftsmanship skills that would have been lost forever.  We can modernise historical envelopes of buildings, taking energy efficiency to that new level in renovation, but most importantly without ruining the magic of the old. This kind of mindset will hopefully protect some of the best examples in Europe’s heritage for many decades to come.
The charm of a traditional village farmhouse 2014
Historical barn
It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning
– Vincent van Gogh.

Concept For a Green Community: Project Idea

Was interesting to read this week  97-year old Self-taught Structural Designer / Architect Jacque Fresco  in the news concerning his sustainable cities, energy efficiency, natural-resource management, cybernetic technologies and the role of science in society. The Venus Project

Initially when i researched ideas for a self-sufficient community i over looked the work by Jacque and went straight onto Edward Goldsmiths work. Now i’am back studying the  futuristic works by Jacque Fresco and Legends of Visual  Concept Artists, Futurist, Syd Mead and  Ralph McQuarrie who’s work make my dream visions fairly week. Must let imagination run wild with no boarders.

Blueprints for Survival: Ideology for a self-sufficient community. (Originally posted Oct 2009)

The heading comes from Edward Goldsmith’s1972 book: Blueprint for Survival which was a call for a new world order founded not on economic growth but on stable populations of small, self-sufficient communities. (Edward Goldsmith, died aged 80, was an influential environmental scholar)

Architecture cannot escape the social and political responsibility of responding to problems arising in the modern world.


Site plan key:

  1. Rainwater storage tanks: Individual 4000 Litre Rainwater harvesting tanks to each family, plus 3x 4000 Litre community tanks.
  2. Wetland reed-beds: area for grey water irrigation.
  3. Bio-disc sewage treatment plant: A high performance, low maintenance system producing effluent which meets the rigorous quality standards demanded by the Environmental Agency
  4. Wind catchers: (stack ventilators) extremely efficient way to ventilate spaces without using energy. After local climatic patterns have been accessed the stack ventilator idea will be designed to see which is suited best to the community. Climates will very from site to site so an effective study will determine the best choose between wind catcher design through to solar chimney design,
  5. Community hall: Protruding into the lake, a quiet cool space to retire to on a hot summers day. Earth rammed centre courtyard walls with its orientation alignment to the site running due north – South. At the lake side of the aliment the design opens up onto the jetty flowing out into the lake. Either side of the courtyard houses a two-story glass structure hidden behind a wooden hoop style façade offering a shaded walkways. The power plant to the communities’ re-new able energy’s are housed in the communities hall (east wing) where the location of the (G.T.I) grid tied converters from the solar farm and the lakes wind turbines are netted together away from the projects habitable living spaces. The west wing offers the community a botanical gardens space over two floors. Somewhere to sit in winter over looking the lake from behind glass in the surroundings of a tropical landscape.
  6. Photovoltaic solar farm: Located to the entrance of the community. No obstructive buildings or trees to this area. 25,500-Watt Photovoltaic solar array. 150 x 170 watt PV modules. Ground mounted system.
  7. Wind turbine island: 3x vertical axis wind turbines: Quiet revolution QR5. Creates between 4,000 and 10,000 kW hrs per year on a typical site. Need very little wind and silent in running, lake art. Watching 3 turning in the wind over the lake would be an interesting focal point.
  8. Natural Lake: Source in. Source out. The lakes water source flows from the communities managed woodland hills behind the site. Before the project has been started a small water turbine would be fitted to the hills flowing stream. A Mini-hydro electric station tapping into the communities’ water source from the hillside located to the north of the project would produce enough power alone for the power demands. With only the small turbine house visible it would be the least obtrusive design with regards to the in-pact on the environment. A 30’000 euro investment would in return produce on average 12’000 euros a year power supply. Estimating on these figures would supply the community with its own 15 yr private investment scheme supplying and selling all of its energy produced by its solar and wind farm to the grid over a period of 20 years.
  9. Individual rainwater storage tanks
  10. Recreational beach area: Volley ball court. Shaded sun lounge
  11. Local trade wind: After the assessment of the local climate survey the design can get rotated to optimise to its advantage.

When other technologies become widely available the community would be ready to incorporate and integrate future possible amendments into its design. For example it could take full advantage of V2G (vehicle to grid) technology so being ready to offer immediate back-up power solutions.

The concept would allow V2G vehicles to provide power to help balance loads by “valley filling” (charging at night when demand is low) and “peak shaving” (sending power back to the grid when demand is high) for peak load leveling and backup power solutions. The design includes compartmented, insulated garage/workshop areas to each of the higher level zones found in the habitable floor plan area.

Further read on the green community : Design Geographical Alignment