Writing Beginner’s Guide to Eco Renovation started as a labour of love and ended as total fascination and, some might say, obsession.
As readers of this blog will know, we retrofitted our 1901 Victorian terrace house to make it energy efficient and future proof. It was a huge adventure, immense learning curve and a true education. As a result, we reduced our energy usage by 75%, improved the EPC from D to B and increased the value of the house against its counterparts by £90k.
The eco worrier
I’ve been an eco-worrier since the early 70’s and I manage myself by looking for the next action I can take. Doing something useful eases my anxiety. It uses that dread energy, upset and frustration to good effect.
Retrofitting the house was a perfect example. We wanted the house to be a legacy for the future. A place that didn’t ‘cost the earth’ while providing us with a warm and comfortable home. And the comfort of knowing that the people who follow us would also live more lightly on the earth.
Why write a book?
We changed our plan mid project when we realised the leaky old Victorian house could never match the eco extension. We would just have to retrofit the whole house. Of course, that meant we didn’t have builders who were familiar with retrofit. They were good to work with and really reliable, but gave little thought to sustainability.
So it was down to me. I ploughed my way through challenging and dense materials looking for the information we needed – understanding some, bemused by most.
A breakthrough moment was when I discovered we were actually ‘retrofitting’. It was so simple. Just having the right terminology opened up the whole new world of information on the web. Now I was really in with a chance.
That experience made me realise that, with just a little help, a lot more people might take the eco-route. If I’d had an ‘idiots guide’ with the key bits of information life would have been so much easier. So in my retrofit zeal, I decided to write the book I had needed.
I wanted to ease the way for other homeowners. To make it easy for them to explore retrofit and to encourage them to put in the extra effort. And, of course, to share the payoffs and advantages.
I went looking for a mentor
I didn’t know enough to go it alone and I certainly didn’t want to lead other novices astray. So I asked around and found Julia Healey, an eco inspired architect who was willing to mentor me. She stretched my thinking, corrected my mistakes and answered my numerous questions. When I moved out of her expertise, I found others who had the knowledge to help me. It was an amazing process and people were extremely generous.
I wanted the book to be an easy read. I’d read far too many dense, even though extremely useful, papers that would put anyone off, So I wrote, one homeowner to another, providing the technical basics plus stories of our successes and failures.
So now you can easily find out:
- What U value means
- Why only some insulation is sustainable and why it matters?
- Why we need ventilation
- What it means to be breathable
- What an air source heat pump is like to live with
- Why airtightness is important
- How to manage all waste produced without loading landfill
I want the reader to be armed with enough knowledge to hold a sensible and informed conversation with their providers/suppliers.
Now we just need the builders on side
No more ‘trust me, I’m a builder’. With this book, the homeowner can be a more active member of the team. That way we can hold the building profession to account, increasing the number of houses that are retrofitted and pushing retrofit and sustainability high up the agenda.
Not to mention saving 75% on the energy bills. And if that isn’t a great incentive then nothing is!