From stone walls to Passivhaus

Jason and Emma had recently moved into Ballacraine Cottage in Langtoft. A largely stone cottage with inherent damp (enough to encourage the occasional frog to share the space with them) and a collection of rather tumbledown outbuildings very much made it “a project”…

A Posh Shed that needn’t cost the earth

When I was approached by Ian about an office in his garden he was asking about a “posh shed” – the home/office things you see in glossy magazines; just crane them in and off you go. But Ian wanted one that was somewhere around Passivhaus levels of performance and built using sustainable methods. My initial […]

Narrating the Process of Design

I’ve been having conversations in my My Future York work about how designers can engage with the public around the process of design – not the outcomes from it, the “early sketches”. But the process which leads to these – which is where the challenges of the brief get addressed, where compromises are considered, and […]

Passivhaus and Wellbeing

During the summer I and a few of my Passivhaus clients made videos for the summer Passivhaus Open Days – transferred online thanks to Covid-19 – and during these it was notable that wellbeing cropped up. Life in a Passivhaus was described as “like being on holiday” – there was something subjective beyond the U-Values […]

Back to Black & White

As a student in the seventies and eighties, I had a nice camera – a Nikon FM – which encouraged me to walk my neighbourhood looking around me carefully. I kept it – and still have it, although time has not been good to the mirror damping, and the viewfinder screen is dotted with annoying […]

A conversation about skills and the future

I was interviewed recently by a researcher on behalf of CITB/BEIS, as part of a project looking at how construction training needs to respond to future change. This is a massive chunk of work which – starting with an industry that is short on skills to begin with – needs to examine how it will […]

Design in the Time of Coronavirus

A few days after lockdown was announced in the UK I got an enquiry about a possible job. The client wanted a small-ish rear extension, she was an artist; could I take this on without actually visiting the site or seeing the building? Well, these are strange times and we’re all learning new skills so […]

A Room with a View (added)

Neil & Susie live next door to Robert & Catherine; their home is similar in layout but – in the tradition of Victorian houses set behind identical facades – there are differences beyond the handing and mid/end terrace issues. But the similarity is that both had kitchens and living spaces separated from their pleasant, enclosed […]

Tales from the Tesla

The Tesla Powerwall is pretty much a fit-and-forget piece of kit – beyond an isolator it has no physical controls and it just sits more or less silently on the wall, pulsing with green neon light when it’s doing something useful like charging or discharging. But the battery links to a phone app. In addition […]

York’s first Custom Build Plots – and one of them *was almost* a Passivhaus

City of York Council has flirted with custom and self build for ages – the city has run a register for people interested in doing it but for many years was unable to respond to this with anything particularly helpful. All that changed with the appointment of a Community & Self-Build Housing Officer (hello Tim […]