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Village Features

The eco dream

Posted on October 19 2011 at 12:54:57

Ineke and John's new home

Couple’s carbon-neutral creation enjoys a smooth birth, despite its grand design . . .

Most of us have watched Grand Designs from time to time and marvelled at the achievements of apparently ordinary, although clearly mad, people who not only take on the impossible, but also invite Kevin McCloud’s erudite deconstruction of their efforts for millions of viewers.

Ineke and John Berlyn’s home in the countryside between Lickey End and Blackwell would, on the face of it, have been a perfect project for Kevin to follow.

The creation of what their architects bill as “possibly the first zero carbon dwelling in the district” in an old barn found by chance while walking their dog, Ella, is a great back-story.

Then there’s the design, specified so that John, who admits to being a far from practical man, could project manage and get his hands dirty on the conversion after a lifetime at a desk as an accountant and financial director.

Even better, it had to include a large studio where Ineke, an internationally renowned textile artist, could work and hold classes, as well as providing bed and breakfast facilities for some of her international students.

And . . . but . . . as Kevin might intone, there was one big snag – there weren’t any. It all went smoothly and took just six months from buying the barn to moving in, the day before John’s 60th birthday – and the first of Ineke’s classes beginning at 10am prompt that morning.

There would have been little point in setting up the time-lapse camera to film clouds speeding overhead and the months rolling by as it barely took two seasons. The only good bit of telly might have been early on when John failed to check that the lighting in the barn was supplied by an independent electricity supply.

It wasn’t and for a while it looked like costing a large chunk of their £160,000 conversion budget to have one laid, until their neighbour come to the rescue and allowed the cabling to come across his land.

But that was pretty much it. The reality was six months of hard graft recladding the structure and installing the insulation to meet their green requirements. Even the fact that the concrete floor sloped 10 inches from front to back didn’t create any drama – it is hardly noticeable, so they just live with it.

With triple-glazed windows, photo-voltaic panels on the roof to generate and feed back electricity and a biomass boiler, the building is actually carbon-negative, achieving minus-0.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Ineke and John are indebted to their friend and architect, David Edwards, of Blackwell, who was able to design the project so that it could all be achieved so smoothly and on budget.

And the result . . . a really lovely home that on the outside blends in perfectly with its surroundings, retaining an existing structure as far as possible – even the roof is the original corrugated cement. Its insulation and other eco-friendly features mean it will help the wider environment, while totally sealing out the thrum of the nearby M42.

For John the accountant, the features were cost-effective as well as achieving the green credentials wanted by Ineke.

For Ineke it fulfils a dream: “I’d always dreamed of having my own studio. When I saw this building, I could just see it and knew exactly what it was going to be like.”

All of that, and so little drama – it’s a good job Kevin was busy elsewhere.

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