Eco-Home Chic: Michaelis House
As part of Open House London, some people open their homes to a limited number of visitors through a pre-booking system. We booked the Michaelis House, knowing that Alex Michaelis had renovated Conservative Party Leader David Cameron's house and made it greener. He is the society eco-architect of choice for the rich and environmentally concerned. Little did we know, when we arrived in a lovely area of Kensington that it was the house of the great one himself that we were visiting. Standing at his front door in bare feet, and looking like George Clooney (if he had been an architect), Michaelis welcomed us and invited us to look around, take photos and wander anywhere.
And what a place it is. You enter through a gate in an old brick wall and walk down a ramp to a white and picture-windowed house. The ground floor is a combination dining room, kitchen and living room. The decor is white, all white, with the stone floor being a unifying theme throughout. The furniture is sleek and modern, with Saarinen dining room chairs and a black leather italian modern sofa. The knick knacks are artfully placed. And it all looks wonderful. At the back it opens out to a courtyard with the same clean stone flooring. A stairwell with steps on one side and a slide on the other (for the three children) leads downstairs to the indoor swimming pool and 5 bedrooms. The pool is insulated with single glaze glass so that the heat rises. It is kept at 28 degrees, and the children take baths in it. Lightwells, from the roof and side walls make the top and bottom levels bright.
The energy saving systems include a solar water heater, photovoltaic panels and an intricate balance of heat pumps, heat exchangers and humidifiers to maintain a consistent indoor temperature. A borehole has been dug 110 metres down. It pumps water up that is 14 degrees and a heat pump does the rest. A passive-filtered fresh air supply system with indirect heat exchange provides fresh warm air to all habitable rooms, minimising energy consumption and reducing the risk of asthma and other chest infections. The solar awning also houses photovoltaic panels, providing electricity to both the house and the electric car. With all the systems working together this home will only require minimal electricity, its only utility, from the grid over the year.
Because the council ruled that his house could be no higher than the surrounding 6 foot wall, he dug down 4 metres to achieve invisibility from the street. Walking by, one can only see a flat grass roof which is planted with meadow flowers and has a sculpture by a local artist. There is an electric car plugged in to a socket in the driveway.