Friday, 27 January 2012

Experiments at home

So, still no action on site.

Still no contract either but after an argument about a (lack of) payment schedule we might get one soon. We're waiting for the final drawings to be done and while this keeps being pushed back it really can't be long, can it?

Passiv or not?

When we started out we wanted a house that would keep us warm for little cost because of its efficiency (along with a lovely design by Rob and some big triple glazed windows of course!) and found that the technologies needed to produce that efficiency seemed to be given a lot of lip service in the industry at shows and in chats with keen architects with little experience in the long term benefits.

We found someone for whom that isn't the case and although we live in the shadow of a hill, the house will utilise Passivhaus strategies- and if we're not careful he may be trying to make us completely passiv, a priority that, given our location, would probably compete with our timetable, design, and budget! He built this place, which is claimed to be the first certified Passivhaus in the UK - I've only visited it in the dark but it is rather amazing: Y Foel and the pictures confirm daytime to be stunning! Mark has live monitoring of tempertaure and relative humidity in and outside too...

 “A Passivhaus is a building, for which thermal comfort can be achieved solely by post-heating or post-cooling of the fresh air mass, which is required to achieve sufficient indoor air quality conditions – without the need for additional recirculation of air.”

The idea that the fabric of a house is already something that exists and effects and is effected by its environment so can be harnessed to assist the functions of a modern house is quite exciting. It seems very sensible to use solar gain, solar panels and pv as something our environment already provides presumably without the more violent extraction processes needed for the electric ventilation needed to keep the pumps going...

But a bit of me is a tad concerned about the flipside of the Passivhaus - being sealed off in our 'envelope', for example. We have the groundsource to back it up but the same bit of me worries about if/when a pipe needs fixing, do we dig up the garden? I've been reading an article about Maria Kaika about modern houses' tendency to bury and hide hybrid and natural and cultural processes (delivery of water, sewerage, waste collection etc) in the hope that we can achieve some sort of mythical privacy/autonomy from our social and natural environments ("Interrogating the Geographies of the Familiar: Domesticating Nature and Constructing the Autonomy of the Modern Home" in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 28.2).

The Passivhaus idea seems to both harness the recognition of natural processes (in solar gain, for example) and require an intensified potential for separation from the outside world. I think I want the dogs and the mud to be welcomed (see below) so home isn't a clearly demarcated line between in and outside, and really did want a composting loo (lost out to design on that one) which surely is one way of embracing hybrid natural/cultural processes! We have had the Passivhaus idea pooh poohed by one architect as inappropriate for wet Wales but it is quite exciting too - an experiment for us at least!

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