Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Grand Designs series: The Eco-house, Suffolk by Channel 4

video topic: architecture, eco and human connection
entry type: documentary
entry no: 22

video title: Grand Designs: The Eco-house, Suffolk
video series: Grand Design
architect featured: Neil Winder
presenter: Kevin McCloud
producer: Talkback Thames
series host: Channel 4
run time: 50 min
size: 520 mb

official website:


description and preview:
(click "read more" below)

Rob and Alida not only wanted to build their new house from scratch, they wanted to change the way they live: to be true, in their day-to-day lives, to their commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment.

They found an ideal green-field plot in October 1997, in the heart of Suffolk, and received planning permission after three months' tense wait. Rob and Alida paid £45,000 for their half-acre plot and spent about £99,000 on the build.

Rob hired an architect who had built his own eco house. To minimise the use of concrete, the manufacture of which is very polluting, the architect came up with a design involving a timber frame made of special beams. These beams, imported from Sweden, rest on a ring-beam of hard reclaimed wood which, in turn, is supported by concrete pillars.

The roof incorporates solar panels and its pitch is such that there is minimum penetration of the sun in the summer and maximum penetration in the winter. Because of this, and because the house is very well insulated, heating can be provided solely by wood-burning stoves. The outside of the house is clad in larch and Douglas fir weatherboarding.

Rainwater is collected for the washing machine and a tap in the utility room, and 'grey water' is recycled by means of a natural cleaning plant involving stones, bacteria and reeds.

A Clash of Opinion

Kevin McCloud liked the use of sustainable materials but wasn't so sure about the visual impact. 'It's a very tall building compared to the others around it,' he said, 'and what with the startling blue paint, I think it sticks out rather uncomfortably.'

Not surprisingly, the couple didn't agree. 'It's different; it's unusual; it's just beautiful,' said Alida. 'It's going to be a very lovely environment to live in. It will also be a very healthy environment to live in. I think I just feel more at peace knowing that there are no harmful emissions from my home.'


Grand Designs returned to the house in October 2000 to see how the final stages had gone and if the couple had managed to live up to the ecologically sound design of their home.

The major new addition was an all-weather veranda. This involved some compromise: the roof, for the time being at least, is made of polycarbonate sheets rather than solar panels, and there are plastic light fittings. Inside, non-eco paint was used on the stairway. 'I don't think I've changed philosophically, but I have become more pragmatic,' says Rob.

The water recycling plant is working well, but the idea of using composting toilets was abandoned. According to Rob, 'Alida in particular couldn't really stomach the idea of that as a domestic facility.'

So how are the couple enjoying living in the building? 'It's a lovely, comfortable home to live in,' says Alida. 'It's just easy. Life's easy. I love it. I still hanker after the old Suffolk farmhouses, but this is a lot easier.'

'We're spending sweet Fanny Adams on heating,' adds Rob. Water and electricity charges are also incredibly low.

And what about the project itself? All the hard work? 'It was very difficult, but that's over now. I don't even like thinking about it any more,' says Alida.

Rob agrees it wasn't easy, but feels the experience was positive overall: 'We pushed our own envelope a bit, and we came back from it. And we're better people for it.'

This low-energy build has a utilitarian feel, but every thought has been put into ensuring a minimal impact on the environment. Take a tour and find out more about easy ways to save energy around the home.


rapidshare links:

depositfile links


involved personnel:

Here are the suppliers for the Suffolk Eco House

Neil Winder
01379 641592

Project Management And Construction
The Suffolk Ecological Building Co-operative Ltd
01986 781772

John Allen Associates
01474 872274

General Building Supplies
J Cliff Building Supplies
01986 872205

Solar Energy Technologies
Energy Development Co-operative Limited
Tel: 0870 745 1119

Masonite Framework (Distribution)
Fillcrete Ltd
01482 223405

Foundation Concrete
Lafarge Redland Aggregates Ltd
01707 356024

Warmcell Insulation
Excel Industries
01495 350655

Passivent Ventilation
Willan Building Services
0161 962 7113

Nordal Aluminium Rainwater Goods
Dales Fabrications
0115 930 1521

'Aquatron' Water/Solids Black Water Separator
Elemental Solutions
01594 516063

Biotec Minitec P004 IPS Foul Water Treatment Plant
Titan Pollution Control West Portway
SP10 3LF
01264 357666

'Ceramicplus' Low-Flush Toilets, Sinks And Shower Tray
Villeroy Boch Bathrooms
020 8871 4028

Clay Roofing Materials
Sandtoft Roof Tiles Limited
01427 872696

Exterior Paints And Finishes
Keim Mineral Paints Ltd
Tel: 01746 714543

Damp-Proofing Material
Zedcore Ltd
01993 776346

Larch And Douglas Fir Weatherboarding
Hargham Estate Wood Yard
01953 887306

'Tim-Bor' Borax-Treated Battening
Pattrick & Thompsons Limited Timber Centre
01603 898989
Swedish Window Company Ltd
01787 223931

Furniture And Home Accessories
020 7354 8817

Furniture And Home Accessories
020 7636 1666

Furniture And Home Accessories
Cargo Home Stores

Q Lawns
01842 828266

Additional Framework Design
Sidney Palmer
01750 725228

Structural Engineers
John Allen Associates
01474 872274

Water Management Consultant
Eastwood Services
01502 478165

Eco Builders Merchants
Joe Hilton Eco Merchant Ltd
01795 530130

Solar Panels
Solar Energy Alliance
01502 515532

Masonite Framework (Representation)
Panel Agency Ltd
01474 872578

Concrete Reinforcements And Formers
Prepour Services
01449 722181

Bitvent Insulation
Hunton Fiber (UK) Ltd
Tel: 01933 682683
Rainwater Recycling Unit
01947 600033

'Wisy WFF2' Rainwater Filter
The Green Shop
01452 770629

Naylor Clayware
01226 790591

Wellbutt Grey Water Recycling System
Water Dynamics Ltd
01622 873322

Jado Taps
West One Bathrooms
020 8870 2121

Cedar Roof Shingles
John Brash & Co Ltd
01427 613858

Interior Paints And Finishes
Auro Organic Paint Supplies Ltd
Unit 1 Goldstones Farm
Ashdon Saffron
CB10 2LZ

Recycled Hardwood Ring Beams
Ashwell Recycling
01375 892576

Reclaimed Timber Floorboarding
Mitchel Timber
01603 632976

Jeld-Wen UK Ltd
01302 394000

Shielded Electrical Cables
Kelverdeck Ltd
01908 371288

Furniture And Home Accessories
020 7255 2545

Furniture And Home Accessories
The Pier
020 7436 9642

Furniture And Home Accessories
Viaduct Furniture Limited
020 7278 8456


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