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PRELIMINARY TECHNICAL REPORT

Report Date: 22/7/1999



Re: Preliminary Research on Eco-Cottage (
Rev.1 990911)
( Systems, Conservation & Rehabilitation )


    1. Introduction

      1. Project: Eco-Cottage (Tourism Development) Project
        c/o Mr. Eamonn Looby, Ronga, Clogheen, Co. Tipperary.


      2. Terms of Reference:

        1. To carry out an information search, product & systems review in order to determine the most appropriate mix of alternative energy systems, pollution control, and conservation and rehabilitation methods to be used in the Eco-Cottage (Tourism) project, within the available budget, and most importantly, that conditions 2 & 31 of the final grant approval notice 20th Nov. 1998, from the Management Board of the European Fund for Tourism, are complied with : -

          .Condition 2 - That the architectural integrity of the building be preserved;

          Condition 3 - That the environmental issues be fully addressed as planned.

        2. Specifically, the systems research areas are as follows :-

          1. Lighting
          2. Heating
          3. Water Supply
          4. Sanitation
          5. Washing / Grey Water Disposal
          6. Insulation
          7. Cooking
          8. Conservation, Repair & Rehabilitation Techniques

        1. Identify the fore-runners in each of the above sub-categories for discussion and agreement within the Eco-Cottage management group re - inclusion in the project.


      1. Limitations:

        1. Fuller details of the various systems chosen and alternatives on offer to be detailed later in the Final Report.


      1. Terms & Conditions:

        This report which is normally produced for the private and confidential use of the client for whom the report is undertaken, may be reproduced in whole or in part on the understanding that it’s recommendations are specifically intended for the project to hand, which being a pilot project is subject to experimentation, and may or may not produce results with wider applicability. The project will however facilitate a learning process, the results of which will be made available for third parties use. However, use and adaptation by third parties, of the information provided, is beyond our control and therefore is carried out at your own risk.


      2. Function of Prelim. Report:

        Having researched the available data, to set out the stall for the project,:-

        the Concepts;
        Justifications for choices;
        and Strategy to be adopted.

        To explore and set out the Concepts ( e.g. Eco-aware, design & build), Justifications (e.g. Tourists - who are the paying guests - generally love old, quirky buildings, add to that the opportunity to experience living simply, in the physical surroundings of our fore-fathers, tempered by Eco-aware technology & design influences), & Strategy ( e.g. Scenario - buffered design ) to be followed in rehabilitating for the Eco-Tourism market segment, a derelict cottage at Ronga.


      3. Layout:

        I will use throughout the remainder of this report, the six S’s2 (Site, Structure, Skin, Services, Space Plan, Stuff ) as a means of conveying an understanding of the different layers that make up a building, and as a basis for building up a clear, logical & consistent approach to it’s conservation, repair and rehabilitation as an ECO-TOURISM Project.


      4. Significant Labels: As a further aid to clarity, the significant labels underlined above need explanation here and now as to the meanings attached to them in this report.

        1. Eco-Tourism - Eco representing the environmentally aware (Greens) potential tourism market segment, drawn not just from within Ireland, but also from across Europe and the world.

          However, this initially, limited market can be easily broadened out to include the presently much larger conservationist tourism market segment, as the conservation and environmental movements are siblings from the same root.

        2. Conservation - The Americans call it Preservation, and have developed an intelligent set of guidelines in “ The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation (Appendix. 1). ” These have had a direct influence on this report.

          As of May 1999, with the launch of the “Grant for the Conservation of a Protected Structure” we at last have a real incentive to back up the requirement for people to conserve important structures and features of listed buildings. To quote the notes appended to the application form “ ...the method statement should emphasise, as far as possible, repair of existing elements rather than facsimile replacement. The works should follow the conservation principles in the Dept. of the Environment and Local Government’s Conservation Guidelines ( currently available as 16 no. free booklets, from the Dept. of the Environment & Local Government).”

          Further in the Explanatory Memorandum on the grant, the objectives of the scheme are set out as “ ....to assist the owner or occupier of a structure which is protected because of its architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural3, scientific, social or technical interest to undertake conservation works on such structure”.


        3. Repair - The significance, positioning and role of this word is best understood by quoting A.N. Didron4 , French archaeologist, who in 1839 stated the slogan that still guides all conservationists: -

          ”It is better to preserve than to repair,
          better to repair that to restore,
          better to restore than to reconstruct.”


        4. Rehabilitation - Could best be described as seeking an “adaptive “ use, that is born out of “respect & sensitivity”, yet guided by a “pragmatic interest” in the “long term viability and survival of the building.”


        5. Restoration - Unfortunately, this word has become fouled by the all too common practice of stripping out the original, authentic, historic materials, and replacement with facsimile copies; or even more commonly with inappropriately chosen materials, which leads to a severe degradation of the original.


        6. Scenario planning5 -....the product of which is not a plan, but a strategy. Where a plan is based on prediction, a strategy is designed to encompass unforeseeably changing conditions. A good strategy ensures that, no matter what happens, you always have manoeuvring room. Scenario Planning leads to a more versatile building, capable of “adapting” to a number of end uses (scenarios), where a programmed approach suffers from the major limitation of “overspecificity to immediate desires”.
    1. Site :

      Boundaries, site clearances, entrances and store etc. are the subject of a separate budget, and do not come under the terms of reference of this report, although informal advices given.

      1. Condition 2 - That the architectural integrity of the building be preserved;

        Since the original site layout had at some point been reclaimed back into the adjoining field, there is nothing existing to work with, therefore the site will instead be replanned around the new site entrance, new cottage entrance, seating out areas, and reed bed treatment area.


      2. Condition 3 - That the environmental issues be fully addressed as planned.

        Reed bed waste water treatment. Focus on planting a selection of “seed saver” endangered species. Planning and planting will be influenced by low maintenance and permaculture techniques.




    1. Structure / Skin : Conservation & Rehabilitation


      1. Condition 2 - That the architectural integrity of the building be preserved;

        The Property (Details & Condition):

        1. Type -Traditional vernacular building, built early 20th century.
          Landless labourer’s cottage built adjacent to the verge of a minor road. Front and back doors directly opposing.
          2 main ground floor rooms, and a sleeping loft c/w ladder, over one half of the building. The ground floor bedroom possibly formerly sub-divided with a lightweight screen centred between the 2 central adjoining doors entering the room. Traces of former outhouse remains, present. Garden boundaries long since bulldozed away.


        2. History - Built in the early 1900’s by “Jamsie Cahill” the great grandfather of Mr. Eamonn Looby as a house for a farm hand. The slate came from a Co. Cork quarry, in a 2 day round trip involving 2 horses and 2 carts. Last occupied circa. 40 years ago, the house has survived miraculously well and unchanged, ensuring the survival of the interior. The O’Brien family were the last occupants for 6 or 7 years. Prior to that the house was vacant for 5 or 6 years. Prior to that again the house was occupied by the Cleary family for circa. 30 -35 years. They were a family of seven.


        3. Building Condition Report - Roof of quarry slates, defects present, but generally weathertight, although due to age and rust, the remaining useful life of the iron nails is likely to be short.
          There are 2 gable end brick stacks, one is a dummy, both are taking in moisture.
          No gutters present.
          Original external single coat traditional dash, widespread failure.
          Original external joinery items severely decayed, but adequate remains present to indicate styling and type, with partial conservation / repair feasible.
          Cottage externally enveloped in ivy and briar overgrowth.
          Cottage with localised areas of high external ground levels.
          Cottage below road surface level in front corner.

          Roof structure exposed internally, consisting of machine cut common rafters with regular arrisses, in good condition; one principal rafter truss, with a high collar, centred over the single masonry dividing wall (runs between front and rear wall) built up to the underside of truss, slight spread has occurred in the external walls due to the roof detailing and lack of collars or ceiling level restraint.
          Internal joinery frames severely decayed at floor level, but conservable.
          Original packed dirt (?) floor replaced in concrete.
          Rising Damp readily apparent at base level on interior surfaces of all walls.
          Original traditional textural, pigmented limewashes in place.
          Original pigmented paint to joinery items.
          Small inglenook fireplace internally.
          Defunct national grid electricity connection board in-situ.
          No insitu Stuff (furniture) of the period remaining.

        4. Options - What to do???

          Obviously, it stands today a poor, dishevelled time worn building, it’s fate balancing on a knife edge. This is the crunch decision time for the cottage.

          Conventional wisdom would suggest that demolition or restoration is the best road forward at this point.

          Demolition would completely defeat the fundamental purpose of finding a worthy, productive, “adaptive use6 ” for all the other neglected buildings scattered around the Irish countryside.

          Restoration, would involve gutting and reworking of the interior and exterior to such an extent as to remove all traces of time and history from the building, which in turn would destroy it’s appeal to the combined conservationist and green tourist segments. For an illustrated example of this see : -

          “ Death of a Cottage “, How Buildings Learn p.92-93.

          However, to a building conservationist, the cottage as described, presents a wonderfully uncorrupted, and all too rare example of a vernacular building, uncorrupted by years of misguided “improvements”, which can so corrupt a building that it becomes unfeasible to rehabilitate in the manner appropriate to the essence of this tourism inspired project.

          H.B.L. -“ What does preservation (conservation) preserve? You might say it honours peculiarity, specific to the building and to the locality. It fights the invasive uniformity ......”

          H.B.L. -” Freed of fashion a building can become honestly interesting in it’s own right.”

          It is our cultural responsibility to seek a means e.g. adaptive use, to sustain these simple vernacular buildings true to their origins, and to recognise and set aside whatever psychological barriers e.g. “shame” at our all too recent escape from the past that they represent, that may lie at the root of our disrespect for these simple buildings.

          H.B.L. -“Old buildings embody history. they are worlds; in old buildings we glimpse the world of previous generations”.

          The cultural historian Ivan Illich remarked once, “ History gives us distance from the present, as if it were the future of the past. In the spirit of contemplation it releases us from the prison of the present to examine the axioms of our time.”

          Enter the Eco-Cottage ( Tourism Development ) Project, with it’s return to a simplicity based on knowledge, transposed on a cottage, the product of a culturally simpler and far more technologically innocent period.

          H.B.L. - “ The bond between old buildings and tourists is absolute and venerable. Think of any famous city in the world and you view a mental slide show of the characteristic look of the buildings vernacular to that place from an earlier time. Tourists have helped revive or save many a building or neighbourhood that was ready to be discarded by locals. Of course no one respects tourist opinion (though they should). What they respect is tourist money.“

          H.B.L. - “Conservationists may be thought of as tourists in place. They bear a pilgrim’s veneration for the local ancient buildings whether ‘ ancient ‘ is measured in decades or millennia.... They are passionately interested in the question, ‘ What makes some buildings come to be loved?’ and they act on what they learn. the result is a coherent, still-evolving ethical and aesthetic body of ideas.”

          H.B.L. - “Traditional materials like brick, stone, stucco (plaster), slate and wood show age attractively, whereas recent materials such as aluminium, plastic, and exposed concrete age ugly.”

          To quote Stewart Brand in How Buildings Learn, “Poverty ( & Neglect ) Stop Change,7. The best preserved downtown in America - Charlestown, South Carolina - was saved by a combination of calamity and tradition. The calamity was the Civil War (1861-65), which impoverished the American South for decades. Poverty is the best friend of preservation, when property owners don’t have a lot of money, they’re no longer potential customers for the aluminium...salesman or the fly-by-night contractor hawking the latest fad. In Charlestown, which was full of the townhouses of plantation gentry, the tradition was to to keep the home in the family no matter what - no improvements, few repairs, and hang on. When the city came back to economic life in the 20th century, it found itself with 3,600 suddenly priceless historic buildings. The buildings had survived that crucial period when a building is out of fashion, out of repair, and most vulnerable to demolition”.

          The survival of the simple vernacular building at Ronga, owes much to similar reasons. A reversal of farming fortunes, the building falling into disuse and disrepair as for whatever reasons it remained fixed in time, unadapting to changing family requirements, it in time became no-longer suitable as a residence. Only it’s strong family links and history, saving it from demolition, long enough for a new tourism related role to appear on the horizon.




      1. Condition 3 - That the environmental issues be fully addressed as planned.

        1. Eco-Design Criteria
          Consider the following:

          1. Natural warming sun rays should be allowed to permeate the cottage interiors more.

          2. Ideally roof lights should be incorporated on the East pitch to bring in morning light.

          3. Ditto for the West slope to draw in the evening sky and allow the max. natural sunlight and ambient light penetration of the interior, with the movement of the sun in the sky being traceable throughout the day, producing constantly changing light and shadow patterns internally as the light changes direction throughout the day.

          4. Star gazing and movements in the night sky, should be clearly visible from the interior through the roof lights, once the low powered interior lighting levels are extinguished, and the blazing embers of the fire gradually fade away. This is something we in the country can take for granted, but which is generally unavailable to the inhabitants of well lit towns and cities.

          5. Fortunately the cottage is approached from the North gable, so that the service area is sited on this side, while a sheltered sun trap area is being created on the South elevation.

          6. Electrical wiring and power from the Hydro-Electric system approaches the cottage from the optimum Southern side. Internal wiring to stretch out radially from the South elevation. No closed loops to be created. Wiring to be twisted or screened or demand switched in bedroom areas to control or eliminate EMF fields in the critical sleeping areas.

        1. Conserve & Repair: Conservation and Environmentalism share a common environmentally positive outcome. Conservationists in seeking to maximise retention of authentic and historic materials, will seek to repair the defects rather that replace with facsimile copies; e.g. wood decay in external joinery and doors in occupied buildings, will typically consume no more that 5% of the total wood in the unit. Conservation and repair of this 5% defect, will thus conserve the “embodied energy” in the remaining 95%, drastically reducing the level of waste going to land fill, and avoiding the ecologically disastrous effect of clear felling of the tropical hardwoods usually used for replacements of sensitive features.

          A similar decay and conservation repair scenario occurs in relation to structural timber beams, trusses and all wooden floors above ground floor level.

        2. Salvage & Re-use Policy: A high level of re-use of 2nd hand and locally sourced materials is envisaged, right down to a pair of iron forge gates if available. New materials will be chosen from the locality, in preference to further afield.

        3. Waste Policy: Our aim is to carefully think through and manage waste disposal, so as plan for it’s re-use on site where feasible, to cut down on the extent of stripping out required; and to conserve as much of the existing timber building components, and applied internal wall finishes as feasible.

        4. Lumber from Sustainable Resource: Lumber where suitable, will be purchased from the farm of Mr. Eamonn Looby, who has a stockpile of felled trees, sawn on site with a mobile bandsaw, and stickered in a farm building for several years. A stockpile of oak planks is also available for finishes in the cottage.

          Eamonn maintains a 6 acre maturing coniferous wood on the farm, planted by his father, and further trees will be planted around the cottage site. This is an old and venerable idea, of replanting trees to replace those used for lumber in a building.

          One Oxford college in the last century on discovering that the oak roof beams were structurally riddled with Death watch beetle, were pleasantly surprised to discover that they owned an oak forest that had been replanted at the time the oak was first cut down to build the roof. The forest was planted in the fore-knowledge that one-day those oak beams would fall foul of death-watch beetle and need replacing, and sure enough several centuries later, it came to pass.

          In a modern example, Linacre College in Oxford, awarded the Green Building of the Year Award 1996, purchased an area of Tasmanian Eucalyptus Forest to offset criticism of the CO2 emissions (over which they had no control) resulting from the production process of components used in the construction of their new brick building.

          Eamonn, in maintaining and managing his forest as a resource is therefore in very good company.

        5. Green Building Handbook8 : The Green Building Handbook will be relied upon as a guide for technical advice in the selection of the “ best fit “ green products available within the budgets.

        6. Wall Insulation: Up-grading the U-values of the existing wall structures through insulation, presents the trickiest dilemma to be resolved, because of it’s knock on effect of altering the interior finishes and space within the cottage so drastically. Also the suitability and cost of available eco-friendly insulating materials for location at low level on the solid masonry walls, built without a DPC or damp proof course, raises several contra-indications at this time. ( A late breaking tip off, led me on a flying visit to view a plaster of petrified Hemp and Hydraulic lime. I am most impressed with it and expect it to become a fore-runner on this cottage.)

          However, returning to 1st principles, and the proposed function of the house as a holiday cottage, suggests a restricted period of use each year, possibly in time extending from late May to early September. During these months, while the Irish weather may not be brilliant due to the effects of wind, rain and cloud cover, the mean day air temperatures tend to increase significantly, (May /16; June/18; July/21; Aug./19; Sept./17 deg. C, see Appendix 2) with the result that internal surface temperatures (while lagging behind air temp.) will increase in parallel with mean air temperatures, thus reducing the dis-comfort causing effect of radiant heat loss from the human body, to low temperature wall surfaces, typical of winter.

          Actual Temperature recordings 2.45pm 26/7/99:
          ( Pre-start-up of Rehabilitation Works - Windows shuttered )
          External temperature - 24 deg.C
          Internal temperature - 17 -18 deg.C
          Lowest internal daytime surface temp. - 15.5 deg.C

          The cottage, could therefore be made reasonably comfortable during the letting season, by incorporating an efficient wood burning stove, increasing passive solar heat gain through highly insulated roof lights fitted with reflective blinds, and highly insulated breathing roof structure, passive ventilation, and controlled air infiltration, thus retaining any passive solar gains each day within the envelope for night time benefit, and tempering of the external night-time temperature drop off, which averages 9 - 10 deg.C below day temperature.

          In addition the heavy mass of the cottage walls will act in a thermal flywheel effect; once initially warmed up, temperature changes are slowed, between night and day, and from day to day.

          Finally, overall embodied energy saved by retaining the structural walls, should still well exceed over the design life-cycle of the project (min. 10 years as a tourist facility) the annual heat energy loss during the letting season multiplied by 10 years.

          While the above represents a compromise, on balance the need to retain structures such as this cottage as working reminders of our past, and in a form attractive to the target market, outweighs the other considerations in this instance.

        7. Roof insulation: Roof insulation may use local wool, recycled newsprint (fire retarding cellulose fibre), or cork.

        8. Floors: Existing rough concrete floor to be broken up, recycled and re-used for hardcore. A new concrete all-in-one slab to be laid over a Radon venting hardcore base.

        9. Plasterboards: Ceiling slabs will be manufactured of natural gypsum; Fermacell or equivalent gypsum / cellulose fibre slabs are the preferred choice for the best blend of organic qualities, however difficulty of obtaining same in Ireland, may write them out of the picture.

        10. Plasters & Renders: Internal and external plaster repairs / renewals will use hydraulic lime and sand mixes or lime rich cement / lime / sand appropriate to the location.

        11. Existing Limewashes: Existing layered lime washes will be retained and repaired where feasible. A cue will be taken from the existing and former colours uncovered during the works, for the final walls colours, using compatible colour pigments used in organic paints.

        12. Preservatives: Preservatives used on in-situ timbers will be based on non-volatile Boron compounds.

        13. Joinery: Existing joinery items will be carefully assessed re-suitability for conservation and repair. Repair sections, salvage items and new softwood joinery components, will rely on thorough detailing and best available glazing compounds, to keep moisture out of the wood, thus preventing the fundamental cause of all softwood joinery deterioration.

        14. Paints & Stains: Paints and stains will lean towards the non-toxic, organic finishes, final selection and decision will be based on assessment of examples in-situ around the country.

        15. Rainwater: Rainwater storage will be considered as a resource and available for re-use.

        16. Reed Bed: Grey water from shower and sinks will be treated in a horizontal reed bed.

        17. Toilet: A composting toilet is the preferred option, but a reed bed design sized to cope with outflow from a septic tank, has been obtained to allow for scenario switching.




      1. Prelim. Conclusions - The following represents my analysis of the best routes to follow with the works on the structure / skin of the cottage in the light of :-

        a) Condition no. 2: That the architectural integrity of the building be preserved;
        b) Condition no. 3 - That the environmental issues be fully addressed as planned.
        c)
        the focus of the project, Eco-Tourism;
        d)
        the need to make the product as attractive as possible to a reasonably wide cross-section of tourists.


        1. Scenario buffered design strategy, that allows for a number of eventual use options.

        2. Conservation rather than demolition or restoration.

        3. In line with Mary Hanna of the Heritage Council’s suggestion, seek exemption from planning as works of repair & renewal only / argue not a material change of use / residential.

        4. Retention of the maximum amount of authentic materials, finishes and textures.

        5. Alterations to be undoable, to minimize their destructive effects on the interior, and to ensure retention of the maximum flexibility with regard to re-organising the space plan internally in the future.

        6. Only carefully chosen conservation grade specifications to be used.

        7. Seek clarification on appropriate fire standards and means of escape suited to this building and the proposed end-use.

        8. Ensure exemptions have been obtained where relevant, and that all applicable codes are complied with.




    1. Services : Environmentally Friendly Options

      1. Condition 2 - That the architectural integrity of the building be preserved;

        1. Services will be installed with max. sensitivity and concern for the building.



      1. Condition 3 - That the environmental issues be fully addressed as planned.

        Prioritised Services Research Areas,
        requiring alternative eco-friendly approaches. The detail of this information is being excluded from the Prelim. Report in order to avoid swamping same and will be provided later in the Final Report.


        1. Energy
          Alternative to mains electricity required for :

          Lighting - Interior & Exterior.

          Services - Radio, Space heating circulating pump, & possibly a Fridge.

          Heating - As a means of utilizing excess power during vacancies & out of season, and to provide background heating. As a means of using up when available, “dirty power” i.e. power unsuitable for sensitive equipment.

          Options :

          1. Hydro-electric : The option we chose to run with, as the stream provides good all year round flow, suggesting that the power plant will run at max. efficiency, 24Hrs / day / 365 days / year, possibly generating between 1 & 1.5 KW. No other alternative system offers such consistent power output for the sum invested.

          2. Solar - Thermomax water heating panel : Ideally it would have been good if the budget could have stretched to including an example of this technology for water heating purposes, as it would match the summer-time load for hot water extremely well. However, we will endeavour to design in a link, to allow for possible future connection of this technology.

          3. Solar - Photo Voltaic : Very expensive technology at present, a 1KW output system costing £12,500 - £16,500 to install. A non-runner at this time on the larger scale required, but smaller, units being looked at for other pumping tasks.

          4. Solar - Passive : Possibly a small overall solar gain, but a much more significant psychological benefit to be gained from our efforts to bring the healing influence of sunlight into the interior, through well insulated roof-lights, entrance door glazed panel.

          5. Wind - Windmill : Lack of wind records for site, but local site knowledge suggesting a sheltered site, which would require a substantial battery bank. Environmentally the relatively short battery life, and need for disposal and renewal of battery bank, were significant contras in this instance.

          6. Bio-mass : A future option actively being developed by the Tipperary Energy Agency, with significant potential for the future.


          7. Mains - Demand switch circuits & Bio-Cable: Mains power not considered for this project. However where houses are on the national grid, demand switches offer a means of significantly reducing EMF fields in bedroom areas. We will garner data for the final report on these switches, and on their potential usefulness to this project. We are also actively seeking info on Bio-cable and would appreciate any leads you may have in this area.



        1. Drinking / Washing Water Supply

          1. Drinking Water- Drinking water only.

            Options :

            1. Mains supply connection
            2. Bought in drinking water
            3. On-site purification of mountain water

              All three options are being investigated at this time with on-site purification of the mountain springs fed, stream sourced water a possibility, should sufficient power become available.



          1. Non Drinking Water - Hot water supply system; kitchen washing up; showers; wash-basin supply to bathroom; heating system top up through expansion tank.

            Options :

            1. On-site supply of piped in icy cold mountain water.



          1. Washing - Present needs call for supply of water to sink in kitchen, wash-basin and shower in bathroom.

            Options :

            1. On-site supply of piped in icy cold mountain water.


          1. Sanitation - Composting toilet to be installed so no plumbed water supply required for same. However in order to allow for the possibility of the future installation of a low-flush WC, install adequate supply now to provide for any such requirement under an alternative scenario.

            Options :

            1. On-site supply of piped in icy cold mountain water.



        1. Sanitation

          1. Composting Toilet :
            Considering side by side installation of a dedicated external composting chamber toilet & a modern small composting unit, with seperate low water use, or waterless urinal.

            Additional Requirements for power unit:
            - Power Supply
            - Exterior Compost Bin
            - Spare inner container

            These represent the preferred options, as less polluting, and use well tried and tested technology.


          2. Low Flush WC :
            Additional Requirements
            - Piped water supply
            - Septic tank
            - Reed bed

            Not a preferred option at this time.


          3. Grey Water Disposal - Reed Bed.

            The reed bed is being sized to cope with the grey-water needs but area devoted to it may be sized to allow for future expansion in requirements.



        1. Heat Sources

          1. Wood Burning Stove - An energy efficient, reduced emissions model c/w hot plate cooking surface, glazed screen doors, and fitted with a back boiler is the fore-runner at this time. It can thus provide the hot water and space heating requirements, provide additional cooking surfaces, provide a centre-piece, and the psychological comfort of an open fire, without the energy wastage of a traditional open fire.


          2. Thermomax Solar Panel - Highly efficient solar energy collectors utilizing vacuum flask technology to ensure max. energy collection even on over-cast and windy days. Unfortunately the technology carries a high price tag at this time. It would be ideally suited to providing a high proportion of the summer-time demand for hot water in the cottage. However, the budget is unlikely to stretch to including this technology, as it will not provide for space-heating requirements, whereas an efficient wood burning stove can cover both requirements. If funding allowed, it would of course, greatly ease the frequency of use requirement and fuel usage of the stove.


          3. Radiant Wall Heating - Depending on the availability of funds within the budget, a radiant wall heating panel, forming the dividing wall between the ground floor bedroom and toilet / shower room, would provide the optimum heating solution with it’s high radiant component; low surface temperatures; invisible nature of the heating elements; and resultant freedom from dust circulation, a significant problem with standard radiators.


          4. Radiant Wall Panels - Off the shelf eco-friendly marble/stone panel radiators, requiring significant energy input. To be further investigated when overall energy output of hydro-plant known.


          5. Insulation - Always a significant front-runner in environmentally conscious design, as every possible means consistent with creating a healthy internal environment, should be used to minimise the overall heat loss from the structure. Suitable green insulating products have up to this time ( see NB below ) been limited in range, availability, and very expensive. The cost of insulating structures with green products, has remained one of the biggest hindrances to green conversion of old buildings down through the years.

            It is proposed to use either local wool suitably prepared, cellulose fibre, or cork in the roof space cavities of the breathing roof build up. The dwarf walls in loft will also be so insulated. The insulation of the loft external gable apex wall internally, will be determined once the effectiveness of the dummy brick stack repairs can be judged, as this is currently causing dampness in the top of the gable wall, which should not be covered over.

            In the living space, the roof will be insulated as above, but the original wall finishes will be left and repaired.

            In the ground floor bedroom and toilet / shower room, external wall insulation with eco-friendly products is looking dubious at this time because of a combination of poor range and availability of products and the absence of a damp course in the walls.

            NB - Late breaking contact, looks like resulting in a flexible range of suitably sized cork insulation products becoming available for wall insulation and plastering needs.


          6. Cooking - Produces useful heat as a by-product.


          7. Masonry Stove - In a different setting, a masonry heater would be given a much higher priority than it is receiving this time out. A centrally located, combined cookstove / masonry heater with it’s very high temperature combustion chambers and high overall efficiency rating, would offer a very clean burn of well seasoned wood; a comforting radiating heat to all adjacent spaces without the need for a plumbed heating system; a bake-oven to produce breads and stews etc. like you’ve never tasted before; and a visually and psychologically comforting enclosed fire; with sustained heat output for 18 - 36 hrs following completion of the burn cycles.

            Not appropriate this time out because the cottage has 2 end stacks rather than a central stack.



        1. Cooking
          Holiday cooking tends to be on a much more basic and primitive level, bearing this in mind, the following low energy use methods, offer solutions, capable of turning out mouth watering meals.



          Options :

          1. Stove - Hot plate on room-heater stove.

          2. Electrical Ring - Very much depends on the available power from the hydro-plant.

          3. Pressure Cooking - Makes the best use of available energy, in one pot cooking, capable of feeding a family.

          4. Slow Cooking - By means of an electrical slow cooker.

          5. Steamer - By modern electrical tiered steamer.

          6. Tea / Coffee Brewing - Instead of using a kettle, other cultures, e.g. Spain use a special pot to boil the water, and a modified pot for percolating coffee. Any of the various hot plates could then be used, without the need for a kettle.



        1. Conservation / Repair Systems
          Integrity of building to be maintained at all costs.

          1. Conservation / Structural repair - Where necessary existing roof principle timbers e.g. truss & purlin ends will be repaired in-situ using the Bêta system.

            Wet Rot decay in loft floor joist ends will be in-situ repaired with Remtox Bower Beam plate repairs and / or splice repairs.

            Collars may be installed at high level to reduce the design tendency for spread in this type of roof structure.


          2. Conservation of Joinery - Doors / Windows / Frames, will be conserved where possible, while decay in the joinery will be repaired using the Window Care System.


          3. Conservation of Original Materials / Features - Slates / Stacks / Finishes / Colours / Textures, will be conserved and re-used as far as possible.


          4. Damp Defects - The base of the walls will be treated for the presence of rising damp, using an overlapping system of exterior and interior treatment specifications.

            Penetrating damp defects will be corrected or controlled (in the case of the brick stacks) as appropriate.


      1. Prelim. Conclusions - The following represents my analysis of the best options for installation (assuming budgets allow) of eco-friendly services in the cottage in the light of :-

        a) Condition no. 2: That the architectural integrity of the building be preserved;
        b) Condition no. 3 - That the environmental issues be fully addressed as planned.
        c)
        the focus of the project, Eco-Tourism;
        d)
        the need to make the product as attractive as possible to a reasonably wide cross-section of tourists.


        1. Energy

          1. Hydro-electric

          2. Solar - Passive

          3. Bio-Cable and / or Demand switch circuits


        1. Drinking / Washing Water Supply

          1. Drinking Water- Drinking water only.
            1. Mains supply connection
            2. Bought in drinking water
            3. On-site purification of mountain water
              All three options are still being investigated, awaiting Hydro-Electric available energy details.


          1. Non Drinking Water
            On-site supply of piped in icy cold mountain water.

          2. Washing
            On-site supply of piped in icy cold mountain water plus supply of cylinder fed hot water.


        1. Sanitation

          1. Composting Toilet

          2. Grey Water Disposal - Reed Bed.


        1. Heat Sources

          1. Wood Burning Stove

          2. Radiant Wall Heating

          3. Radiant Wall Panel (possibly as a heat sink)


        1. Cooking

          1. Wood burning stove

          2. Electrical Ring ( slight possibility only )

          3. Pressure Cooking

          4. Electric Slow Cooking

          5. Electric Steamer

          6. Tea / Coffee Brewing - A special pot to boil the water.


        1. Conservation / Repair Systems

          1. Conservation / Structural wood repair - Bêta system. Collars may be installed at high level to over come roof spread.

          2. Wet Rot decay in loft floor - Remtox Bower Beam and / or splice repairs.

          3. Conservation of Joinery - Window Care System.

          4. Conservation of Original Materials / Features - Re-use.

          5. Damp Defects - Remtox Systems + improved building details. Penetrating damp defects to be corrected by improved building details.




    1. Space Plan
      Is the subject of a separate budget, and does not come under the terms of reference of this report, although informal advices given. For anyone wishing to gain a practical insight into the design process, in order to refine their own requirements, and to be better equipped to communicate with professional advisors, I would recommend, “ Be Your Own Architect “ by Peter Cowman B. Arch.

      1. Condition 2 - That the architectural integrity of the building be preserved;

        1. Room layouts and functions will generally adhere to original layout of the cottage.



      1. Condition 3 - That the environmental issues be fully addressed as planned.

        1. Simplicity will be the overall guiding principle, to ensure compatibility as far as possible with the essence of the cottage, and the low energy requirements of the eco-friendly technologies.




    1. Stuff
      Is outside the budget, and does not come under the terms of reference of this report, although informal advices given.

      1. Kitchen stuff

        1. Larder design - A space exists to the right of the inglenook fireplace for a tall all in one, dried food storage, delph and utensils storage unit.

        2. Under-sink unit - An unfitted sink unit fitted into a traditional half height press could best be located to the left of the fireplace.

        3. Mobile (butcher’s block) island unit - A unit could be styled to blend with traditional units, while being extremely versatile as an all important element in the kitchen work triangle; also doubling as a mobile snack bar.

        4. Table and fixed corner seating - Could be fixed in the corner inside the former front door.

        5. Additional seating - Could be provided with fold away wooden slat chairs.

        6. Additional storage - Could be provided with “Shaker” style wall shelf, and hanging rails.

        7. A low power start up fridge - The search is on for a fridge that doesn’t require a surge of power to start up. No ordinary fridge is suitable for the low but continuous amount of power that is likely to be available. Any pointers in this regard would be appreciated.


      1. Bedroom stuff

        1. Bed design - Timber construction, ideally avoiding the use of metal springing. Bunks to maximise room space; or dual bed, with roll out secondary base, stored under a single bed design.

        2. Mattress design - Ideally avoiding the use of internal metal springing. Natural latex mattresses are a premium product, those with 70% natural latex content offering the best support.
          A 2nd grade containing 20% natural latex also available.

        3. Additional storage - Could be provided with “Shaker” style wall boards & pegs and hanging rails.







      1. Flooring stuff
        Requires hard wearing ground floor finishes.

        Options :

        1. Oak end-grain tiles - Making very good use of Eamonn’s stock-pile of oak planks, to create a quality, enduring, warm rustic feel, to the interior. Time consuming to lay and grout.

        2. Quarry tiles - Made in Ireland, one foot square, requires sealing for best long term dirt resistance. Time consuming to seal. Very attractive.

        3. Natural slate - Embedded in a cement screed can be long lasting, however if used throughout, can darken interior and be somewhat oppressive. Could be used to break up quarry tiles areas.

        4. Painted concrete screed - Visually effective, simple low cost solution which can later be upgraded.


      1. Wall & Joinery Finishes

        1. Paints & Stains: Paints and stains from the non-toxic, organic paint companies are readily available from a number of sources. These businesses can also supply traditional pigments with which to colour paints or limewashes in tones reflective of the original wall and joinery colours.



          This brings to a close my Prelim. Report on the ECO-Cottage.


          Should you have any queries on the above, or source tips for system or product supplies, please contact Garry Gleeson @ 052 - 65235 Fax 052 - 65488 or 088 - 2531153 e.mail ggass@tinet.ie


Garry Gleeson Associates 052 - 65235 Eco-Cottage (Tourism) Project


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PROJECT COORDINATOR: TERRY CUNNINGHAM, TEAGASC, CLONMEL, CO. TIPPERARY, IRELAND