How do you sympathetically retain the period features of Victorian houses and apartments, while upgrading the fabric to make them warmer, less draughty and with at least a 50% reduction in energy costs?
This just about sums up what this blog is about. My name is Michael and I am undertaking a ‘green conversion’, to achieve the above goals in our London Victorian apartment. Internally, on close inspection the home will look almost the same as when it was built in the 1890’s. Changes which may not be initially apparent include high levels of insulation, wiring for home automation (to transmit the A/V signal around the home) and ductwork for mechanical heat recovery ventilation, all of which are hidden behind the walls and suspended ceilings.
My family are bravely remaining in occupation while the works are undertaken. With the exception of plumbing and electrical works, all works are undertaken by me – I look on it as ‘slightly advanced’ DIY.
I gained the knowledge to undertake the works through my profession as a Chartered Surveyor (i.e. cost consultant). In relation to the increasing the performance of the thermal fabric, I am influenced by Passivhaus. I will touch on this from time to time in my updates, and most of my Twitter feed is in this area.
I was just about to start renovating and insulating when my wife announced a baby daughter was on her way.
The journey really began in 1994, when myself and Gina (my wife) purchased our apartment – reception room, breakfast kitchen, separate dining room, large entrance foyer, long hallway, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a guest WC – last refurbished in the early 1980’s. At the time we were impressed by the spacious rooms, the high ceilings, original period features, the fireplaces (six in total!), the residential location and the solid construction.
We viewed and purchased the apartment in spring/early summer – but during the first winter we began to realise how much energy we were using to keep the place warm. Clearly, heat was escaping through the 500mm thick external brick walls, due to the absence of any thermal insulation. Due to the draughts, it was also apparent that the air tightness (or to be more precise, the lack of) needed to be addressed.
The absence of insulation and the draughts were not an issue when the apartment was built in the 1890’s. During that time, if the occupants were cold in winter, they would have basically put ‘more coal on the fires’.
I started researching how we could increase the thermal properties of the building fabric on and off over the next few years. I was just about to start when Gina announced that a baby daughter (Philippa) was on her way.
This put things on hold for a while, and work started in earnest in 2004.
To date 4no rooms have been completed – Philippa’s bedroom (by the way, acknowledgements are due to her as she will be editing the video clips for this blog!), a hallway, an entrance foyer and our dining room. I have described the works undertaken in each room historically, before works commence on the next room (the reception room).
The end result will be a traditional looking Victorian apartment converted to modern standards of thermal comfort and home automation. I personally get quite a lot of pleasure from converting our home. I hope that you will join our journey, and that it will influence you to enjoy the same levels of winter comfort as us.