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We're so proud of our little house. We bought our home over 3 years ago because of its proximity to all that Bristol has to offer! Excellent schools and parks, Ashley Vale and the city farm, great access to downtown and the view what a view! We thought it would be a perfect house for our growing family. Of course it needed a lot of work, so sensitively we began the careful restoration of the lower floors and redeveloped the new loft into an exciting and practical space for our three children.
We undertook the renovation to bring the house into the 21st century, but employed some traditional techniques to help us along the way. With an understanding of building science and help from some amazing experts, we managed to create a remarkable eco-home!
The house was suffering when we bought it. A damp ground floor, leaky roof and walls, it was draughty and dark. Our mission was to make the house warm and airtight, yet vapour permeable. We did this using a number of techniques drawn from passive house design and natural building. We used a humidity-variable vapour retarder and airtight membrane along with lots of insulation on the floors and roof, and tied it into hempcrete cast onto the internal brick walls. Hempcrete was chosen for its hygroscopic properties; it bonds directly to the brick and avoids interstitial condensation, which can cause mold growth in conventionally modernised buildings. The result is a home that is warm and able to manage internally-generated moisture in a safe and effective way. Natural ventilation and daylighting techniques were also employed to provide a fresh and comfortable living environment.
On the ground floor, the wood floorboards were lifted, insulated and refinished. The kitchen was dug out and insulated with an insulating expanded glass hardcore and a limecrete pad with in-floor heating. Loft space was increased with a full-width dormer and punctuated with natural sources of light. We divided the space into private and public spaces, where the children were able to have wide open space, or close off their personal space with large sliding doors. There is a generous bathroom that can accommodate many bodies at once. The floor is not precious, and has seen its fair share of paint and pens splatter, but has hosted gymnastics events and theatre productions, sometimes en plein air!
A mixture of lime plaster, custom carpentry and storage space provides a distinctive interior. The original external limestone and brick walls have all had a layer of hempcrete added, covered in a fine lime plaster finish. The cornice in the living room was restored, and wet, crumbling walls are now dry. Initially, internal humidity was over 80%. That now is more balanced, ranging from 40-60%, depending on the season.
Externally, the limestone faade was restored, new steel roof and gutters were added and a mixture of Shou Sugi Ban larch and cedar siding provides the rear rainscreen for the loft. The mudroom provides access to the private, landscaped rear garden and the loft features a beautiful balcony, with a vista overlooking St. Andrews and Montpelier.
The eco-house is modern and stylish. We expanded our living space from a four bed 150m2 to an impressive seven bed, approx. 220m2 with stunning panoramic views. We used reclaimed and recycled materials where possible, employed energy saving appliances and fixtures, and diverted over 50% of our construction waste from landfill. All this employed with the help of experts and highly skilled trades. We were lucky to be a part of Bristol Green Doors 2019 to share with other homeowners our experience with restoring this fine Victorian home.
We never managed to complete our build to how we envisioned. Because of a job relocation, we had to leave our beloved Bristol and our new home before we wanted to. The hot water cylinder is solar ready and the raised garden beds needs some vegetables.