Progress...


... has been fairly rapid during the long days of a Scottish summer. Since pouring the floor slabs the timber frame has gone up in a matter of weeks, with work now starting on building up the old dairy's stone walls another 400mm to roof eaves level so our guests will have plenty of headroom upstairs!


Construction design is similar to the house, using an insulated timber frame clad with woodfibre board on the outside for extra insulation and to reduce thermal bridging. This keeps the wind out and, with the help of fancy tapes and membranes on the inside, the heat in. Heating is to be from a ground source heat pump and solar thermal panels, with solar PV offsetting electricity use. Inside we just have underfloor heating on the ground floor which will keep things cosy during the chilly winter months!

Over the next couple of months we should see the roof windows in and the roofs slated, then hopefully, the windows and doors will have have arrive so the cottages can be wind and watertight before the cooler and wetter months...roll on Autumn!

Holiday Cottages Underway

So here we are starting a new and exciting adventure at East Cambusmoon. Three years ago we moved into our house, beautifully designed and immensely energy efficient, see here. We adopted a very low energy approach to the design and the construction detailing which focussed on significant levels of insulation, a high standard of air-tightness, strong passive solar design and a ground source heat pump for the heating and hot water, supported by a small PV array and mechanical heat recovery and ventilation. When we were at the design stage 4 years ago this approach was not widely taken but, even in the short time since we moved in, more people and architects are looking more broadly at how homes and buildings are managed environmentally. We joined the AECB and adopted their Silver Standard for energy use and carbon emissions. In truth the house has far out-performed this standard and even in the last particularly cold winter was warm all day every day at very low cost.

The main difference between the projects are that the house was a new build and the holiday cottages are a conversion of two very tired farm buildings. Notwithstanding our intentions to replicate some of the approaches we took with a brand new building we are very aware that we are renovating an old dairy and byre and will certainly be retaining the architectural features the buildings; the red sandstone which was quarried locally, the arch over the doorway and the window recess with wooden lintel. Here we are creating two adjoining holiday cottages, one of two bedrooms, one of four. As we are in Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park we hope that some of the year-round visitors to this stunningly scenic area might like to come and stay in the cosy warm luxury of our holiday cottages. As you can see we're just starting the conversion works and we'll do our best to record the journey on this blog.

The building story so far has been one of rapid change. The roofs have fallen in and the rubble cleared out; in the stone building (which will have two bedrooms) the 'hole' for the sliding patio doors has been punched through and the stone stockpiled for reuse; in the larger unit, which was brick built in the 1950s, the walls collapsed so extra blockwork and labour will be required; floor levels were equalised as existing floors sloped. Then we get into the first stage of serious insulation - the floor. So much heat is lost through the floor, don't waste it!


In the past week 200mm of polystyrene and polyeurathane insulation boards have been laid throughout the buildings and on top of this will float 30 tonnes of steel and concrete in the 4 bedroom unit and 15 tonnes of the same in the two bedroom unit. Before the concrete is poured the underfloor heating pipes are installed; this is done by fixing the pipework (large diameter polythene pipe ideal for use with heat pumps) to the steel reinforcement mesh with tie-wraps. This approach works well with ground source heat pumps which have lower operating temperatures than the more frequently used shallow tray form of underfloor heating. The concrete provides the thermal mass necessary to stabilise the temperature and keep those cottages lovely and warm when needed.We're using Anderson Floorwarming for the underfloor heating, hot and cold water systems, installation of the ground source heat pump and solar. We are happily working with the same builder, subcontractors and architect as we did on the house so its nice to see familiar faces back on site.

The Next Phase - Renovation of the Dairy

Welcome to your new holiday home..........needs a bit of work to get that roof sorted out but you can see the potential for the restoration of the stonework arch. We've been working on the design for the two holiday properties we're going to create out of the former dairy and these have been through the planning process so now the detailed drawings are underway before a building warrant application is submitted. We've used the same architect Thomas Robinson Architects (see links) because we like their ethos and design approach. The renovation will continue the low energy principles, using high quality materials and a sympathetic but contemporary design.
The design for this south elevation makes the most of the existing stone arch as the main entrance to the house and also brings some more light into the property with full height glazing both on and adjacent to the door. The stonework will be cleaned up, the slate roof completely replaced using the existing slate alongwith the slate we retrieved from the original farmhouse and there'll be a small area of larch cladding to tie in with materials on the adjoining holiday house and the main 'new' house. This is the East elevation - the stone building on the left is the one whose elevation and entrance door are shown above. The large doors on both holiday houses will open onto patios and terrific views across the fields towards the Campsies. So this is where I envisage guests may be sitting munching their cornflakes in the morning sun planning their day ahead!

We are in!

No news is good news..and also reflects the lack of an internet connection.

We are in! Hurrah. The recent glorious weather has provided the best of starts with the sunshine emphasising how fabulously light this house is right through to late evening. Its not properly dark for many hours in this part of the world as we approach midsummer so the changing light outside is a constant delight.

Lots of building info to convey but the detail will have to wait a few more days, as will photos. Time and attention is devoted to our business and family needs at present. Unpacking is a slow process but we have everything we need. Having lived in a caravan for 9 months it is clear that our lives don't need most of the 'stuff' we have packed away in boxes so there's no urgency in that area. We've been concentrating on making sleeping and eating areas comfortable.

Quick info for today's blog;
1. We are SO pleased with our house. Satisfaction and feel good factor is high.
2. The quality of the architecture and the build is superb.
3. 3 points to resolve for building control i) one step on the patio is of a different height to others, ii) lashing eyes are to be provided for a window cleaner to clean the large first floor bedroom window and iii) on the same window there is ongoing discussion whether an internal barrier/rail needs to be put in front of the window - its a fixed light but the building control officer is considering this point, more later on that
4. Externally we live on a rather rough looking plot - plenty of work in the years ahead.
5. The apple trees are in blossom and look stunning.
6. The poorly hen has recovered completely and the hens are completely free range now that the chances of being run over have diminished. About 5 eggs per day are being produced.
7. The temperature in the house is pretty even despite it being hot outside and the MVHR is at its lowest setting.
8. The slate floor is particularly terrific in terms of appearance.
9. There is some snagging but not much except relating to the windows which have a good number of small issues to resolve. The supplier is currently proving slow to deal with them despite our first contact being around 2 months ago now.
10. Phone line being connected on Friday allegedly.

Still raining in Scotland

Where to begin? Like many 'phone conversations and chats if you speak to someone often enough you catch up on lots of news but if you haven't spoken to them for a while you can't think of a thing that you've done. As we've been in our friend's house for a week and have now moved to a holiday house nearby we're not on the internet so blogging has been sporadic in the past 10 days. Activity at the farm has been considerable so we'll let photos explain where we're at.
One of the past day's issues is the internal wallhead height in the upper rooms. As the house is 1.5 storeys the trick is to achieve a well-balanced room which is usable without looking like a triangle and providing lots of awkward corners. The architect has proposed 1.55m wall head in the master bedroom but we personally have huge difficulties 'wasting' all that floorspace behind the joinery/plasterboard. The elevation shown looks west; here we've agreed with the joiner not to put any internal joinery on that side, other than boxing out the flue which can be seen, but to reduce the wallhead on the east elevation to 1.35m. This still entails the 'loss' of floorspace but provides proper walls for placing a bedhead against. The second photo shows the framework in place for that. On one of the landings we're creating an eaves storage cupboard. We're hoping to achieve optimal usable floor space and create a desirable room.


The second photo looks east and shows the framework now at 1.35m, this will be plasterboarded imminently.


Downstairs and the hallway looks a little less finished.



Tomorrow the heating guys return to start work on the heat pump installation in the utility room. Jim, the electrician is connecting the last elements of the heat recovery ventilation system upstairs and will then move downstairs. The wood burning stove arrives tomorrow and the final long lost window arrives. The slates were finished last week and look grand.


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