Contrasting Eco Houses: Open House London

Open House London is the weekend when almost 600 buildings are open to the public. This year sustainability is being highlighted and some special eco-homes are on view. This new private house (above) has won several awards for sustainability and is a good example of clean and attractive design based on ecological principles. The floors are made of recycled teak from a village hall and maple from squash courts and have under-floor heating. In the walls there is 8 inches of sheep's wool insulation to make life really cozy. There are solar panels on the roof, which is quite low-tech--constructed of plywood with patinated copper shingles. Each floor has a balcony with wonderful views overlooking the city. The staircase curves upwards and floats thus allowing the heat to rise from the basement.

As in many English houses, the basement is the heart of the house, with a kitchen table top made of recycled yoghurt containers on a wood base. The counters are made of teak from an old school lab. The living area opens out to a garden, with a patio made of old bricks from the original house, and a vegetable patch. The front path is also made of bricks and bits of stone.

A study in contrasts, this semi-detached Victorian house (1870) is outwardly very conventional and traditional looking but has been transformed for the 21st century. This year, through their ecological renovations, the architect owners have reduced the carbon footprint by 60%, compared to other similar houses. Sustainable features include solar panels on the rear extension and rainwater and grey water saving techniques.

They insulated all the walls with 4 inches of tongue and groove wood fibre board and covered it with clay plaster. The original window frames have been retained, but windows are sashed and double glazed. The floor boards were lifted, insulated and replaced with a new oak floor from sustainable sources. They inserted a light pipe which provides natural light in a dark hallway.


On an entirely different note, a prefab timber house, made in Slovenia and assembled in London in 10 days. Made of Siberian larch, these two houses, and an artist's studio are located on a small cul-de-sac, off a busy street. This is a tight, dense site and the design of the houses has been driven by the need to maximise light without loss of privacy. Living spaces and roof terraces are at the top of the houses with the bedrooms and bathrooms placed on the ground floors. The high windows are well above street level.The interiors are all made of wood, with stone carpet or resin flooring and a bamboo front door. There is a glass light well from the top down to the second floor and a balcony. :: Open House London

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