Eco-Renovation, The Insight

This article was originally published in The Insight lifestyle paper in Brighton, July 2004.

Home by Claire Truscott

Q&A Local Heroes; James Lea and Fiona Williams

James Lea and Fiona Williams live atop the 'Muesli Mountain' in Hanover, in their two-bedroom Victorian house. Conforming to the adage that change begins at home, they have fostered the local green spirit, spending the past two years turning their des-res into an eco-home.

Has living in Brighton influenced you?

Fi: My dad was in the Green Party in the eighties, but it wasn't until we moved here and met so many very like-minded green people, that it galvanised us into action.

So what have you done with the house?

We have a low-flush rainwater toilet. It has two pipes, so when you flush, if there's rainwater available, it will use that instead of mains water. And we have a Sunpipe fitted, which is shiny, like a perfect mirror, and draws in light from the outside. It's a really good system for getting more light into a dark room. Also things like the shelves are reclaimed wood from Morley Street, the stair flooring is Hessian matting and we've got sheep's wool instead of that plastic-y foam insulating the roof.

What's the overall result?

Fi: It was a cave of dankness before, and at the same time as renovating we've introduced all these green measures.

Jim: I think you can use green eco-renovations to improve the value of your house if you want.

Does it cost more to go green?

Jim: The rainwater toilet was about £300. The new boiler was £2,500. It's really efficient, 95% compared to 70%. We got a small grant from the Big Green boiler scheme. Our sheep's wool insulation was £200.

But you save money on bills?

Jim: Definitely. Water was about £200 a year, now we have a water meter, we could save one third of that. I don't think there's any step we've taken in terms of being green that's caused us to lose money in the long-term compared to doing the conventional route.

Is an eco-home any less comfortable?

Fi: You don't have to be a martyr to be green. The underfloor heating is really nice as well as being energy efficient. It's not cold like a normal bathroom.

Jim: Thermostatic taps save water because you don't have to mess around with then. You set the temperature. You just get under it and get going.

So what next?

Fi: We're going to CAT (Centre for Alternative Technology) and it's likely to reap new projects. We'd really like a wind turbine fitted to our roof. That would be ideal, more so perhaps than a solar panel. You can get really quiet ones. And more growing in the garden, fruit trees up the wall, making use of the vertical space.

Any other tips?

Jim: Buy energy efficient lightbulbs from an electrical wholesaler, they're about £2.50 each compared to £7 from B&Q. And we use Eco-paints from Villa Natura in the North Laines. You can paint all day and not feel sick. Because it's just water-based, it's totally non-toxic.


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-- (c) James Lea, www.GreenLiving.co.uk, 2005 - 2007 --