>Sustainable Rating for property SP0176

SP0176 - Unique eco-house in west of Ireland.

We have given this property a rating of 4 on our Sustainability Rating. This is based on the following answers to our questions. Please note that the answers are given by the owners and are not validated by us.

Modern bolted post & beam timber frame sitting on concrete piers which extend down to underlying rock. Method inspired by Walter Segal, designed for maximum strength and utility from minimal timber cross-sections; e.g., roof is designed with 150mm overall thickness but has an insulation value equivalent to 225mm of fibreglass. If a conventional non-breathable roof had been used, it would have needed twice as much timber to provide sufficient depth for inferior insulation and venting requirements.

Features of the design:

  • Minimal overall embodied energy content(Embodied energy is the total energy used to extract, fabricate, package, transport and install any product).
  • Light footprint. Pad foundations use a fraction of the amount of concrete used in conventional strip or raft foundations. The house could be almost totally recycled at some point in the future, and the site returned to its wild state.
  • Zero radon risk. The vented 'undercroft' prevents any risk of radon seeping from below ground into the house. It also allows free flow of air, keeping the timber at low moisture content.
  • Minimal risk of rising damp. The main structural posts sit on pads of lead, which prevent damp from rising up through the frame, and are far more effective than the timber sill plate used in conventional timber housing. This method feeds lead salts into the end-grain of the posts if water is present, preventing rot.
  • Ring mains and high-demand electrical circuits located away from living/sleeping rooms. Water and electrical supplies run in a 'spinal cord' which can be accessed easily and 'futureproof' the house for upgrades.
Breathable construction

Moist warm air migrates naturally in a controlled manner through the walls and roof because of positive internal air pressure. The heat is retained in the house, thanks to the high-spec insulation, but the stale air is 'wicked' away to the outside. Both wall and roof construction are designed to vent this air away.

  • Walls sheathed in Bitvent, a vapour-porous sheet material which is an eco-friendly product manufactured from forest wastes. The production process also uses waste materials (resulting in no net carbon gains to the atmosphere). The outer skin of board & batt vertical timber conceals an airspace which allows this moist air to vent away to the atmosphere.
  • Both roof and external walls are counter-battened horizontally on the inner face, reducing cold-bridging by over 90% in comparison with conventional stud-frame construction. 2 layers of plasterboard are used to control vapour permeability and to increase thermal mass.
Passive Solar Design

  • House is orientated along an East-West axis for maximum solar gain.
  • Windows are placed according to a standard formula which increases gains and minimises heat loss.
  • House no more than 2 rooms deep for best solar efficiency and high daylight levels.
  • Layout and placement of vents promotes natural convection of air-warm pre-heated air in winter and cooled air in summer.
  • Sun room designed to retain solar-heat using an insulated concrete floor for thermal mass and a solid, highly-insulated roof.

Roof 'felted' with Tyvek Pro, a heavy-duty microporous breathable membrane under concrete tiles, with Volint breathable paper on internal face.

Roof and walls insulated with EcoCel (similar to Warmcell), professionally installed, which is fire-safe, non-toxic, and with 25% better overall energy efficiency than fibreglass. Ecocel has 20-40 times less embodied energy than mineral fibre insulation. Kingspan beneath the floors downstairs, installed in 2011.

All doors and windows custom-built to classical proportions. Sustainably-grown softwood used. Construction is traditional wedged through mortice & tenon using a high quality external adhesive (Cascamite).
Draught-stripping is built into all windows and external door frames. Window opening sashes employ cantilever hinges so they are pulled into the frame in order to prevent draughts.

All doors and windows custom-built to classical proportions. Sustainably-grown softwood used. Construction is traditional wedged through mortice & tenon using a high quality external adhesive (Cascamite).
Draught-stripping is built into all windows and external door frames. Window opening sashes employ cantilever hinges so they are pulled into the frame in order to prevent draughts.
Rooflights are all Velux brand products.

Double glazed, designed to maximise passive solar.


Heating House:?
In addition to solar gain, the house is centrally-heated by a Morso multi-fuel stove (installed 2017), designed to reduce emissions by a second burn. Stove sits in a dense concrete chimney-breast with slate hearth and acts as the main thermal mass in the house. Hearth has integral fresh-air vents to prevent draughts and to ensure proper combustion. It is built at the heart of the house, rather than on an external wall, for minimal heat loss.
The land includes well managed woodland and the house has been self-sufficient in logs for the stove since 2014 (mostly birch, which is the recommended wood for Morso stoves).

Heating Water?
Back boiler on Morso stove runs 5 radiators, 2 towel rails and hot water. An electric immersion heats water in summer.

Cooking method?
Calor gas hob. Electric cooker

Mains. The roof lends itself well to solar panels but these have not been installed and the land lends itself well to geothermal. Winds in this part of Ireland tend to be strong and gusty and domestic wind turbines can be problematic.

Collected rain water system with water filtered through sediment and carbon filters and a UV panel. Reverse osmosis system in kitchen. System can be easily expanded.
A separate tank collects water for the garden, which can be pumped over to barrels by the polytunnel.
A 350ft well was bored in 2010 and can be put into use again. The well pump can be sold with the house.

Food production?
Organic vegetable beds and a productive 25ft polytunnel. Well established fruit (blackcurrants and native and traditional varieties of apple).

Food production - %?
25% but easily increased.

Income possibilities?
Excellent opportunities as a teaching centre and for herbalism.
The house lies immediately adjacent to a protected Natural Heritage Area so the surrounds are safe from development. The current owner is a PhD botanist and ecologist and she has maintained the land to enhance its biodiversity. It is home to red squirrels, otters, hares, hedgehogs, the EU protected marsh fritillary butterfly, some rare lichens and the wonderful royal fern. The owner has complete scientific records of the flora and fauna which she has compiled with the help of experts, including 135 species of moths, some of which have been recorded only once elsewhere in Ireland.
The current owner is also an herbalist and she has enhanced the native medicinal flora by protecting and carefully managing specific habitats. Currently, there are 70 native medicinal plant species growing on the land. The cool dark pantry in the house is perfect for storing herbal medicinal products.
Several Buddhist teachers have stayed in the house and taught here. One highly renowned Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche described the house and land as good for 1000 years.
Foundations have been laid in the south corner of the land for a cabin for teaching or accommodation purposes.

Owners opinion on sustainable features:
This is a lovingly maintained property which has become increasingly self-sustaining over the last 11 years. It offers many opportunities for projects : to go off grid; to make use of the small river at the boundary, and to use the land for teaching purposes. It is not ideal as a small holding because intensive grazing by animals could easily damage some of the microhabitats, but it is perfect for herbalists and for teaching purposes.

The directions to Derrynaneal are by the little bridge with metal railings, beyond the lake and half way along the windy lane, which is typical of this rural part of Ireland. The name, Derrynaneal, means 'oak forest in the clouds' in Irish and marks what was known as one of the most sacred parts of the Great Forest of Aughty which stretched from the north to the southeast borders of County Clare in years gone past. With no deer in this area and as a result of the owner's land management the progeny of that vast forest is slowly regenerating with oak saplings appearing across the land. This is a place for people who love trees and working with wood.

Most things feel slow and quiet here, yet the vitality of the land touches you as you walk down the short track to the house; the 3.25 acres are home to over 70 species of native medicinal herbs, red squirrels, otters, hares and the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. Living here, you will be rewarded by an orchestra of songbirds in the spring, the magnificent flight of hen harriers and the occasional glimpse of white tailed eagles which live on nearby Lough Derg, one of the most mystical of Ireland's many lakes.

The current owner is a botanist and ecologist and she has worked the land to enhance its biodiversity. The front garden is laid to organic vegetable and fruit beds with a large productive polytunnel; the woodland ( birch, beech, ash, rowan and oak amongst others ) provides year-round fuel for the stove, and an almost unlimited supply of filtered rain water serves the house. There is also a disused well, bored 11 years ago, which could be brought back into use. Currently, there is a dual broadband system, both fixed line and satellite providing fast and reliable internet access. For someone interested in projects, electricity is all that's required to make the house self-sufficient.

Rural and tranquil it is, but isolated it is not. Ennis, the bustling county town is 25 min. drive; Galway and Limerick less than an hour; Dublin 2 hours and international Shannon airport with direct routes to the US and the UK is only 40 min. The glorious coast line and unique Burren landscape is a beautiful hour's drive across the hills. This is a perfect home for home-based professionals, writers, herbalists and naturalists who can appreciate the wonderful wildlife; the glorious soft light in the house and the peaceful ambience of the environment.

For those who want nearby amenities, the local town of Tulla is flourishing with a new secondary school and soon to boast state-of-the-art sports grounds and fitness tracks. East Clare is more cosmopolitan than many parts of Ireland, people from all over Europe and elsewhere are drawn here by the Steiner school; by Irish Seed Savers which has one of the largest collections of native and traditional apple varieties in Europe; for opportunities to live light carbon footprint lives, and for the pleasure of the many local lakes for fishing, kayaking and wild water swimming.

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