Extended with design touches – The Irish Times (Thursday 22nd October 2020)

57 Patrician Villas offers three beds, a fine garden and 96sq m of space

Alanna Gallagher

The full article from The Irish Times (22nd October 2020) can be found here

57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.
  •  Address: 57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan Co Dublin
  •  Price: € 575,000
  • Agent: Felicity Fox

From the outside, number 57 Patrician Villas looks like many estate houses of a certain vintage. Located just off Stillorgan Park Road, this development is well-served by manicured greens, its own community centre and orchard, and safe N11 underpass access to the shops and amenities in Stillorgan village,

Concrete-built, it was purchased in 2006 as a three-bed property with one room to the front and a kitchen the width of the house to the rear but it was thoughtfully extended and remodelled by Bright Design Architects four years ago.

57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.
57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.
57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.
57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.

The house still retains two reception rooms downstairs, a small living room to the front where you can shut out the world by closing the pocket door, and a large, split-level space to the rear. Here ceiling heights range from a standard 2.4m in the U-shaped kitchen where a marble-topped peninsula doubles as a breakfast bar, to 3.4m in the living area where clerestory windows bring in southern and western light. Underfoot is reclaimed parquet flooring set out in a herringbone pattern, save for a brickbond border in the kitchen.

Large presses

The white units have brass knobs and large presses – including those concealing the fridge freezer and a double-door pantry – are set into space under the stairs. In the hall, the noisy white goods are located in a tiled cupboard with clever cut-out doors to allow ventilation.

57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.
57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.

The new layout facilitated the addition of an internal boot room that leads through to a shower room, giving the house a valuable second washroom. Its walls are papered in House of Hackney’s (HOH) Palmeral, a tropical depiction of palm leaves featuring vivid greens and golds. The owners took these colours as their palette to decorate the property, going as far as asking Dublin-born HOH founder, Frieda Gormley, for the exact RAL colours used in the wallpaper design, information that she generously imparted.  

Granite-paved patio

The kitchen is accessed via another pocket sliding door and steps down into a large square dining-cum-living room.

57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.
57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.

Sliding doors open out to a small granite-paved patio that steps up to a lawned, southwest-facing back garden. This extends to 17m and is home to a couple of sheds, one a former pigeon coop, where the couple store their kayaks, surf and paddle boards. There’s also a zip line, a Christmas present to one of the owners’ daughters.

The risers on the stairs are painted in one of the HOH greens with the treads and floorboards upstairs all painted a soft, Scandinavian white. There are three bedrooms, two doubles and a single which is currently used as a home office. There is also a bathroom with a shower in the bath.

The property, which has a C1 Ber rating, measures 96sq m/1,033sq ft, and is seeking €575,000 through agent Felicity Fox.  

57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.
57 Patrician Villas, Stillorgan: has two reception rooms downstairs.

Working From Home, A Temporary Necessity or Permanent Reality? – The Irish Times (Sunday 26th April 2020)

Up until recently, few of us had dipped our toe into the water when it came to working from home. Overnight many of us have been thrown in the deep end – some of us are sinking but many are swimming happily and can see this becoming a permanent reality. While many of the changes imposed have been difficult there are some more positive and worthwhile aspects which may stay with us and ultimately tilt the scales of the work life balance. The key to successful home-working is careful planning and defining some boundaries. It needs careful planning and consideration.

The first consideration is the type of work to be carried out and the kind of workspace that makes that type of work most productive. Working from home does not suit everyone nor should it. Firstly identify if it is a viable option and then plan for what is needed to achieve maximum productivity. These can be summarised under a number of headings.  

The full article from The Irish Times (26th April 2020) can be found here

Space To Work

Distractions are the main enemy of productivity be it in the traditional office or at home. Having a separate space is always preferred but not always possible. A degree of separation will help to provide acoustic separation from the cacophony of family life. This can take the form of a retreat space such as a converted attic, a dedicated study or a garden room.

However, for those living in smaller houses or apartments this is not always a possibility. This is where a greater level of ingenuity is required and spaces will have to become multi-functional. Often the potential of a nook, a fireside alcove or niche can be exploited. The fundamental point is that it can be hidden away after 5 o’clock so that work life is kept ‘out of sight, out of mind’ of home life. A sliding door or folding wall manages this feat very discreetly but remember that it must be a good bit deeper than the desk if you want to hide the chair also. Another space saving solution is a fold over table top with built in shallow storage. Doubling up on use of spaces and functions are key – tiny homes can often generate big ideas.

To further counteract a shortage of space, clever storage solutions will take on a newfound relevance and become the new ‘must-have’. Where will all of the jigsaws, books and board games go when storage may now be needed for work related files and folders? Every nook and cranny will be utilised to full effect so that clutter is but a distant memory. No valuable space will be left unused – the full potential of attics, extra height around our rooms and the spaces beneath and above beds will all be exploited.

Children however are more difficult to store out of sight! In the longer term it is worth remembering that the largest distraction for many is home schooling. When this passes, working from home will become even more viable but conflicts between school homework space and the home office may remain. What is a certainty is that home workers now have a new appreciation of good house design. A house design with built-in flexibility of use that can adapt to the needs of the occupants over time has always been important but no more so than now.

Of course when the limits of the existing home are exhausted the possibility to extend still exists. Firstly make the best use of what you have before deciding to extend – as you will see below, gardens now have a new importance. The extension often presents an opportunity to re-orientate a house towards the garden, undertake wider renovations and create open plan living while retaining more private or cellular rooms to the front. For those whom moving or building a home is not an option, a well-designed extension for more permanent home working holds the next best solution. Sometimes there is no substitute for extra space particularly for larger households or those with special needs.

The Essentials

Wherever the workspace is located the fundamentals of light, good ventilation and a well-planned space is essential. A space with a window is a must – this provides the necessary air, light and hopefully a view. A window facing north or east will give an even and diffuse quality of light throughout the day without glare and perfect for reading. These rooms will also be less susceptible to overheating when the sun comes out. In contrast, the spaces for living and relaxing are better suited to the south and west facing windows where daytime and evening sun are enjoyed most.

Some level of investment is usually required to make working from home truly work. Aside from creating the extra space, that space needs to be well equipped and organised. This starts with the correct desk or even an adjustable standing desk, good screen and seating ergonomics but it also extends to adequate power and broadband capabilities. A reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN) is also essential to mirror your work computer to your home screen without the expense of doubling up on software licenses. A clutter free and clean space is also essential, again to avoid unwanted distraction.

Home Sweet Home

The most successful home offices will embrace the differences and opportunities that working from home brings. The home office can be personalised to a far greater degree. This might include a pop of colour in the space or some vibrant artwork – think of the backdrop for those virtual meetings. Often some personal family photos add the finishing touch which are often missing from the traditional workplace but expectetd at home. A good home office should combine the best that work and a home have to offer but without the distractions. If it is a welcoming and homely space it will be more conducive to working.

Alternative Co-Working Solutions

Working ‘Almost-From-Home’ may also provide the happy medium in the future. Some of us just need to get out of the house. Be it to engage with colleagues or just to hold a meeting, safe in the knowledge that a disruptive child will not suddenly appear! There is now likely to be an increased demand for small serviced office space.

I spoke with Chad Gilmer, the owner of The Glasshouses – one such serviced-office company based in Dun Laoghaire. He noted that many of their customers come to them ‘looking for this flexibility where they are closer to home yet well connected to like-minded workers – it’s the best of both worlds’.

Think of it like allotments only for working and within easy reach of the home. A small but efficiently planned work-pod within easy commute or perhaps within the local town centre. This form of satellite-working will almost certainly will have an increased demand post pandemic for those who like the taste of the work-life balance but are keen to avoid hours in traffic.

The Garden + Garden Room

The garden or covered outdoor space can provide the extra room most times of the year. At the very least it provides extra space to release the children to. It can also offer a change of scenery from the desk to ‘walk and talk’ or take a well deserved break. Fresh air and nature have well documented restorative powers and the back garden will now assume new importance. The garden will no longer be an afterthought but become central to the life of the home and the antidote to working from home. The correct orientation, design quality and size will become more important. As with the house, the organisation of the garden will be vital – ample storage, dedicated spaces for furniture, work, play and indeed growing vegetables will take on a new importance. Even the smallest of outdoor spaces can make a big difference.

Of course, it also presents the chance to build the perfect garden office. If designed correctly this can incorporate a hidden shed and act as a focal point at the end of the garden. Ideally the main glazing should face north or east to avoid glare and overheating in summer. Whether it is prefabricated or built from blocks and mortar will depend on access, budget and space available.

Environmental Quality, Comfort and Energy

Those now working from home will have a much greater awareness of the energy that their homes consume. Spending increased time at home brings an acute awareness of how warm or cold a house is or how difficult (or expensive) it is to heat and keep warm. Post pandemic there will be resurgence in home insulation retrofitting and thermal upgrades for greater comfort. Equally, home workers are now more aware of the cost of electricity and the increased amount we have been consuming to run computers, charge devices and light our adapted work environments. It is highly likely that there will be a new found interest in photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity and home batteries to store that energy for use after dark. Existing government grants will receive new found interest. More home owners may look to move ‘off-grid’ entirely. The potential to offset additional costs associated with home working against tax may also be a possibility.

Technology + Connectivity

The information superhighway has never been busier even if the roads have never been quieter – it is what is keeping us connected and working from home. Therefore, a reliable and robust broadband service is absolutely indispensable for productive home-working. Homes will be designed to cater for WIFI, as a fundamental requirement, far better than they currently are. Reliable broadband not only keeps us connected but allows for cloud-based filing which is essential to avoid the clutter-effect of office files at home where space is more limited.

The place of Augmented Reality (AR) may take on a new and wider acceptance as a means to create virtual workplaces or experiences from the self-isolation of our homes.

Planning Permission

Would be home-workers need to be mindful of current planning and working legislation that may be relevant. For instance, you should assume that planning permission is required for any building works or any change of use unless specifically listed as exempt. Working from home is not the same as operating a business from home in planning terms. There are limited exemptions for small scale home-based business particularly those which involve visiting customers or which may be a nuisance to neighbours. While an attic or garage conversion may not always require planning, the addition of a dormer to make the attic conversion work will. Single storey extensions less than 40sq.m are usually exempt but this includes the aggregate of any other post-1963 extensions. Garden rooms for ‘enjoyment ancillary to the house’ are exempt up to 25sq.m but again this includes the aggregate of all other sheds and garden structures. In all instances the remaining garden cannot be less than 25sq.m. There are no such exemptions for protected structures. It is always advisable to seek the professional advice of an RIAI registered architect on what planning exemptions you can avail of.

Aside from planning permission, using the home as a workplace also involves health and safety legislation. Not many are aware but the employer has an obligation to provide a safe working environment. This usually means undertaking an audit to ensure that the place of work is fit for purpose and that the necessary equipment for ergonomics and task lighting is provided. Furthermore, the stringent requirements of GDPR do not stop in the office. The use and protection of customer information will those working from home to adopt specific measures and extra levels of awareness.

Conclusion

When it comes to the idea of Working from Home we need to firstly understand the limitations and opportunities. If we plan for it and embrace it we will float and go with the flow but if we lunge into it headfirst we are likely to be swimming against the current and quickly sink. On balance the opportunities can be vast once the limitations are understood and anticipated. At the very least it offers an opportunity to eliminate the twice daily commute and use that extra time wisely for a better work-life balance. However, that work and home life separation needs to be maintained as much as possible otherwise the benefits of one can get quickly eroded by the other.

Alan Burns MRIAI

Bright Design Architects, April 2020

Bright Design Architects / Remote Consultations for Charity

Bright Design Architects specialise in transforming and creating homes and would love to share this expertise. No project is too big or too small.  It might be ideas for a room makeover, a home office, perhaps an attic conversion, insulation upgrades or an extension. Now is a time when people are appreciating that quality spaces bring quality to life. We are available to give a 45 minute remote design consultation and advice on anything to do with your home in return for a donation to Pieta Darkness into Light – Cabinteely. This year’s Darkness into Light has unfortunately been postponed and at a time when mental health awareness is needed more than ever. However they still need funding and nationwide support for the rescheduled events later in the year. 

The steps are simple:

1. Send Bright Design Architects an email to [email protected] to request a consultation 

2. We confirm availability and send back a questionnaire with a link to the Pieta Darkness into Light Cabinteely donation page. Return the questionnaire with the donation ref number. There is no minimum donation (€102 is suggested). 

3. We email a guide and confirm a slot. 

4. The consultation takes place by phone or video call. 

Full details can be found on this short YouTube video : https://youtu.be/aKvJtqnl-NI

The Post-Pandemic Home

The Post-Covid-19 Home

Homes and the way we live tend to adapt and develop slowly over generations based on gradual cultural and societal trends and changes. What is usually a glacial paced change may be shortly be engulfed by an avalanche triggered by Covid-19.

The full article from The Sunday Independent (19th April 2020) can be found here

How might our homes be shaped in the post-pandemic future? The notion of a home as a ‘place of shelter’ now has a new and profound meaning. While much of the overnight change imposed without choice has been unwelcome there are some more positive aspects which may become more permanent and feature in the homes of the future. These can be summarised under a few key headings that we have all become experts on in a very short space of time :

Quality of Space + Light

More than ever homeowners are now realising the inflexibility of mass house design. Mass designed houses have been built by developers for decades based upon ‘selling the dream’ but no one would have ever dreamt of the current nightmare. House design has for the most part been based upon a way of living, dining, sleeping rather than working. Throw home-schooling into the mix and the result can be chaotic. People now have time to deeply reflect on their living quarters – to fully understand what works and what does not for their own circumstances. Not all homes can be architectural wonders but all should be capable of adaptation. Perhaps post-pandemic homes will be offered with an a-la-carte selection of internal layouts that suit the individual rather than the collective – customisable on the inside once the shell is built. What will not change are the basic need for natural light, well-planned spaces, fresh air and a house that functions as a home for the user’s needs. The value of a well-designed home will regain a basic and universal appreciation – beyond the ‘Room To Improve’ fascination.

Size Does Not Always Matter

The first reaction is that we all need more space. The post-Covid 19 home should in fact aim to make better use of the space available. Land and space will remain scarce and the need to densify our built environment will not stop. High density apartment schemes will continue to maximise land use, increase population density and ultimately save energy. This presents an obvious conundrum as far as social distancing is concerned. The future apartment communities will now have to learn from the lessons of the pandemic, to cater better for self-isolation and facilitate home working as an option.

The trend towards ‘open-plan living’ which has gained popularity since the 1960s may now be nearing an end or at least face new opposition. Suddenly people are aware of the need for privacy and the impact of distractions. There has always been an argument for a room to retreat to from family chaos – these days it would be better described as a ‘panic room’. The possibilities of the modest pocket sliding door will be finally appreciated by all. This will allow rooms to instantly open or close up and without the awkward swing space of traditional side hung doors. To counteract the problem of space, storage solutions will take on a newfound relevance and become the new ‘must-have’. After all where will all of the jigsaws and family board games go when all of this is over? Every nook and cranny will be utilised to full effect so that clutter is but a distant memory. No distractions. Children however are more difficult to store out of sight! No useful space will be left unturned – the full potential of attics, extra unused height around our rooms and the spaces beneath and beds will all be explored.

Of course when the limits of the existing home are exhausted the possibility to extend still exists. Firstly make the best use of what you have before deciding to extend – as you will see below, gardens now have a new importance. The extension often presents an opportunity to re-orientate a house towards the garden, undertake wider renovations and create open plan living while retaining more private or cellular rooms to the front. For those whom moving or building a home is not an option, a well-designed extension post-Covid-19 holds the next best solution. Sometimes there is no substitute for extra space particularly for larger households or those with special needs.

Working from Home

‘WFH WTF’ is a new but all too often used expression since mid-March.

Work From Home (WFH) has suddenly become a more acceptable norm and one that most wished they had tried earlier and not under pressure. This is a positive that will now likely have a permanent place in our homes post-pandemic. However, a good home workspace does not happen at the end of the dinner table, on a tray in bed or even by accident. It needs careful planning and consideration.

Ideally the space should be a separate room, defined by function and kept away from the acoustics of family life. A space with a window is a must – this provides the necessary air, light and if lucky a viewt. A clutter free and clean space, well equipped and organised is also essential. A pop of colour, some artwork or some family photos are the finishing personal touches which often are missing from the traditional workplace but welcome at home. It should combine the best that work and a home have to offer but without the distractions.

If a separate room is not possible then the wonder of our new friend, the pocket door, can transform a ‘corner of calm’ or a ‘heavenly nook’ into an ‘office away from office’.

Working ‘Almost-From-Home’ may also provide the happy medium in the future. Some of us just need to get out of the house. Be it to engage with colleagues or just to hold a meeting, safe in the knowledge that a disruptive child will not suddenly appear! In the future there is likely to be an increased demand for small serviced office space. Think of it like allotments only for working and within easy reach of the home. A small but efficiently planned work-pod within easy commute but perhaps within a town centre. This form of satellite working almost certainly will have an increased demand post pandemic for those who like the taste of the work-life balance but are keen to avoid hours in traffic. Combined with the WFH model the best of both worlds may be possible.

The Garden + Garden Room

The restorative powers of fresh air and nature now have a new lease of life. Likewise the potential of the garden for relaxation, recreation and self-sufficiency have been unleashed. In a crowded house, the garden becomes the extra room to use especially for the children. Post pandemic homes will no doubt place a larger emphasis on quality open space – private or communal, small or large. The garden will no longer be an afterthought but become central to the life of the home. The correct orientation, quality and size will become more important. As with the house, the organisation of the garden will be vital – ample storage, dedicated spaces for furniture, play and indeed growing vegetables will take on a new importance. Even the smallest of outdoor spaces can make a big difference.

Energy + Comfort

Future homeowners will now have a much greater awareness of the energy that their homes consume. Spending increased time at home brings an acute awareness of how warm or cold a house is or how difficult (or expensive) it is to heat and keep warm. Post pandemic there will be resurgence in home insulation retrofitting and thermal upgrades for greater comfort. Equally, homeowners will become more aware of the cost of electricity and the increased amount we have been consuming to light, cook and keep us entertained. Post pandemic it is highly likely that there will be a new found interest in photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate electricity and home batteries to store that energy for use after dark. Existing government grants will receive new found interest. More home owners may look to move ‘off-grid’ entirely.

Functionality

Self-isolation was a word that few of us thankfully had to use in the past but which now unfortunately is a stark reality for many. This is a difficult scenario to plan for on a permanent basis however with some creativity and flexibility that scenario could be provided for in homes post-pandemic with a little forward planning. On its simplest level it can be a master bedroom with an ensuite, plumbed with a potable water source. Taken a level further it could incorporate a laundry chute to the utility and a dumb waiter to the kitchen for complete isolation. However, many families have now awoken to the wider potential of the ‘granny-flat’ or to give it the formal title, the ‘family member flat. Afterall, Grandads often need to live somewhere too! This used to be the space to give a family member some independence. Will it be now seen as a self-contained living unit for potential self-isolation? Perhaps homes of the future will be planned to allow for a family member flat addition or adaptation as a standard requirement.

For those without any outdoor space the importance of a space for indoor exercise has become evident. This may be the living room carpet but space for mats and equipment needs to be considered. The home gym will also gain in popularity as will steam rooms and saunas. This can be as simple as appropriating a spare room but will trend towards a dedicated space designed and finished to suit the use.

Technology + Connectivity

The information superhighway has never been busier even if the roads have never been quieter – it is what is keeping us connected and working from home. It is also educating our children and keeping us entertained. Therefore, a reliable and robust broadband service will become even more indispensable post-pandemic. Homes will be designed to cater for WIFI, as a fundamental requirement, far better than they currently are. The trend towards home automation and smart technology will continue. Smart-fridges will become more popular to organise our shopping for us to be delivered completely contactless. The place of Augmented Reality (AR) may take on a new and wider acceptance as a means to create virtual workplaces or experiences from the self-isolation of our homes.

Above all, the houses of the future will need the families that live in them to become homes. Each will need to have flexibility built-in to meet the needs of each occupant and be able to adapt in times of change, not only pandemics. If the avalanche of change sweeps over us again in the future, with a bit of careful planning we may just cope a bit better and return to normality that bit quicker.

Alan Burns MRIAI
Bright Design Architects, April 2020


Bright Design Architects / Remote Consultations for Charity

Bright Design Architects specialise in transforming and creating homes and would love to share this expertise. No project is too big or too small.  It might be ideas for a room makeover, a home office, perhaps an attic conversion, insulation upgrades or an extension. Now is a time when people are appreciating that quality spaces bring quality to life. We are available to give a 45 minute remote design consultation and advice on anything to do with your home in return for a donation to Pieta Darkness into Light – Cabinteely. This year’s Darkness into Light has unfortunately been postponed and at a time when mental health awareness is needed more than ever. However they still need funding and nationwide support for the rescheduled events later in the year. 

The steps are simple:

1. Send Bright Design Architects an email to [email protected] to request a consultation 
2. We confirm availability and send back a questionnaire with a link to the Pieta Darkness into Light Cabinteely donation page. Return the questionnaire with the donation ref number. There is no minimum donation (€102 is suggested). 
3. We email a guide and confirm a slot. 
4. The consultation takes place by phone or video call. 

Full details can be found on this short YouTube video: https://youtu.be/aKvJtqnl-NI

Remote Design Consultations for Darkness into Light Cabinteely

Bright Design Architects are now offering their popular remote design consultations in return for a donation to Pieta Darkness into Light – Cabinteely. This year’s Darkness into Light has unfortunately been postponed and at a time when mental health awareness is needed more than ever. However they still need funding and nationwide support for the rescheduled events later in the year. 

 
Bright Design Architects specialise in domestic projects – renovations, extensions and new builds and would love to share this expertise. No project is too big or too small.  It might be big ideas for a small room makeover, a home office, perhaps an attic conversion, insulation upgrades or an extension. Now is a time when people are appreciating that quality spaces bring quality of life. We are available to give a 45 minute consultation and advice on anything to do with your home. People love to explore the possibilities of their homes – at the very least it might bring a welcome distraction but at best it might make a real difference to a space in your home. It is also a great opportunity to start planning a project to be ready for the return to normality. 
 
The steps are simple:
1. Send Bright Design Architects an email to [email protected] to request a consultation 
2. We confirm availability and send back a questionnaire with a link to the Pieta Darkness into Light Cabinteely donation page. Return the questionnaire with the donation ref number. There is no minimum donation (€102 is suggested). 
3. We email a guide and confirm a slot. 
4. The consultation takes place by phone or video call. 
 
Donations can be made here but please confirm availability first ([email protected]) if you are looking for a consultation: https://www.darknessintolight.ie/fund…
 
We look forward to your support and thank you for your time.

Covid-19 UPDATE

As Covid-19 continues to spread at an alarming rate we want to provide you with an update on how Bright Design Architects are addressing this unprecedented challenge. We continue to provide services and it is business as usual where possible.

We are taking the utmost care to protect our staff, our clients and our collaborators. For the time being only a very limited and staggered presence will be maintained in the office. Most staff will work remotely and we do not envisage a significant disruption to design and drawing services. Face to face meetings on site and with clients and suppliers are suspended. Meetings and inspections that must continue will do so by means of FaceTime, Skype or isolation.

We intend to remain focused and productive during this extraordinary situation. We will also be prepared and ready to take on the upturn in activity when this all passes, which it will. In the meantime, we thank you for your continuous support and understanding. Finally, we commend all of those in the community who are fighting this virus and we wish you good health yourself.

HOME CLINIC: MY HOUSE IS WELL-INSULATED SO WHY IS IT SO DAMP? – IRISH INDEPENDENT (TUESDAY 18TH OF FEBRUARY 2020)

https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/home-clinicmy-house-iswell-insulated-so-why-is-it-so-damp-38964953.html

Finished retrofitted interior with wall vents. Photo:  Matteo Tuniz Photography

Finished retrofitted interior with wall vents. Photo: Matteo Tuniz Photography

Alan Burns

Question: I live in a two-storey detached 1970 property (210sqm) which is heated with oil radiators and a back boiler stove. I have condensation in some of the external walls but a particular room that was converted from a garage is very bad. The walls were pumped about 13 years ago and the attic is insulated and there is double glazing throughout. Would a heat ventilation recovery system solve this problem and how much would it cost? And how do you make an older house airtight?

Answer: Unfortunately condensation is a very common problem in our damp Irish climate. All too often it will develop into a mould problem if not tackled. The source of the condensation is usually poor ventilation, poor insulation or insulation in the wrong places. It could also be made worse by high humidity levels in the house such as drying clothes indoors.

You don’t mention whether your problems started or got worse after your insulation works but it’s safe to assume that they did. Many people embark on insulation upgrades without fully understanding the potential pitfalls.

Firstly, when insulating a house, you need to do so as completely and evenly as possible. Heat moves from hot to cold areas. When a house is unevenly insulated, the weaker areas will actually have more intense heat loss than they did before. This often lowers the surface temperatures in these areas below the critical dew-point temperature, and condensation is the result.

If you pump your wall cavities, the consistency of insulation fill is unknown because of unseen obstructions in the cavity itself, and it will have weak points or ‘cold bridges’ around windows and doors.

External insulation is always a better solution as it has fewer cold bridges if done correctly, but it is always much more expensive. The good news is that you would have had to pump your cavities before externally insulating anyway so that option remains open to you in the future.

Your former garage may be more problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly, I expect that it has more external walls or roof area to lose heat from than other rooms – and this will be even worse if it faces north or east.

Finally, it is also likely to have a concrete flat roof – there is a common misconception that 1970s flat roofs leak. Of course, some do but most often the problem is condensation rather than rain. If your concrete roof is cold or insulated from below, then any humidity from inside the room will find a dew point and condense within the concrete only to drip back down into the room.

Concrete roofs are best insulated from above with a good vapour barrier on the warm (or room) side of the insulation – this requires a re-roofing. If it is a timber roof construction, then it’s possible that it is inadequate ventilated.

Adequate room ventilation, typically a 100mm (4 inch) wall vent, will often prevent condensation but may not always fully eliminate the problem. As your house dates from the 1970s, there is a good chance that not all the rooms have wall vents. It would be a good idea to check that you have them, and that they are not blocked with old socks or scrunched up newspapers!

Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) would probably solve your condensation problems, however, it would be costly to retrofit and expensive to run. A HRV works on the basis of extracting warm, stale air from humid areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, and replacing it with balanced fresh air delivered to bedrooms and living areas.

The heat from the stale air is used to warm the incoming air which reduces the amount of heating needed overall. However, the system is best suited to new build houses or deep retrofit projects where the level of air-tightness and insulation is extremely high. Otherwise, the system is sucking in external air through the gaps in the walls, floors or windows and then filtering and heating it at a significant strain to the fan and at a high energy cost.

A better solution for a retrofit with lower levels of insulation and airtightness is a Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV) or Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) system. Both are much cheaper and easier to retrofit. They also ensure a good number of air changes that should keep condensation and mould issues under control.

Typically they run continuously in your attic space using a 13W motor which is relatively cost effective to run (less than €30 a year). I would estimate that on your house a DCH system would cost about €2,500 – €3,500 to install, including electrical work. It will depend on the number of fans you need – a typical unit can serve up to four wet rooms, for example, kitchen, utility or bathrooms).

A PIV system should be significantly cheaper than this at about €1,200 – €1,500 but, to my mind, would be less satisfactory as it pushes cooler attic air into the house and forces air changes through the gaps in the walls and floors and so on.

It is important to understand that no house should be entirely airtight. That would be unhealthy. Instead a house should have controlled levels of ‘planned ventilation’ instead of leaks and draughts throughout. This is difficult to achieve on an existing 1970s house unless undertaking a deep retrofit.

While hard plaster on walls is quite airtight, your windows will most likely be quite leaky. Your floors and attic may also be ventilated which often leads to draughts within heated spaces. To achieve decent levels of air-tightness usually involves replacing windows, using membranes on the floors and external ceilings which means re-plastering and re-wiring too.

I know that the above might not be exactly what you wanted to hear. However, once the source of the problem is clear the solution will follow more easily. As always I would highly recommend that specialist advice is sought from a local registered architect who has inspected your house. Often the problem may be from a number of interrelated issues which all need to be addressed for a successful outcome.

If you are considering changes to your home, work with a registered architect. Find one on riai.ie, the registration body for architects in Ireland.

Alan Burns, MRIAI, is a registered architect and co-director of Bright Design Architects; brightdesigns.ie

Do you have a design dilemma we can help you with? Email [email protected]Advice provided is for guidance only and readers are advised to seek professional assistance for any proposed project.

Online Editors

IT’S A HOT TOPIC – CHOOSE A STOVE TO SUT YOUR LIFESTYLE – SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (MONDAY 3RD OF FEBRUARY 2020)

https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/its-a-hot-topic-choose-a-stove-to-suit-your-lifestyle-38915277.html

'The stove you select depends not only on the type of build and level of insulation of your home, but on the type of fuel to be used'

‘The stove you select depends not only on the type of build and level of insulation of your home, but on the type of fuel to be used’

Q: My wife and I have just purchased our first home and it comes with a space for a fireplace stove but it has been left to us to choose and install. What are the options available and are there any other decisions and issues to consider?

A: Fire in the home has been a ‘must have’ since the dawn of mankind. The need for heat, light and the mesmerising flicker of the flame has always drawn us to fire, especially at this time of year. However, the once simple decision to install a fire has never been so complicated, particularly when energy efficiency and our carbon footprint are considered.

The open fire has all but been extinguished in new houses, and the accepted norm more often than not is its room-sealed or glass-fronted cousin. The stove you select depends not only on the type of build and level of insulation of your home, but on the type of fuel to be used. Different considerations will apply to a new build versus a retrofit and to gas versus solid fuel.

Location is the first decision to make. Your investment needs to deliver not only warmth but that ”wow” factor. Selected and placed correctly, a stove can transform a room. It can provide a missing focal point or open up the potential of a neglected corner. However, put it in the wrong place or size it incorrectly and it may compete with a television for attention, and often provide too much or too little heat.

The next decision is to choose the type that is right for you and your lifestyle. While chimneys may be great for Santa, they are equally great for unwanted heat loss and draughts. With modern new house constructions being reliant on insulation and air tightness, this is a challenge that a room-sealed appliance can overcome.

Solid fuel versus gas is the next conundrum. Often you will have no idea what type of house you want, but be in no doubt that you want that house to have a log stove. A log stove will certainly give the best heat output and is more eco-friendly than gas but it comes with baggage.

Firstly, you will need a good supply of quality kiln-dried firewood and plenty of dry storage space close to the fire and elsewhere. While you might be imagining a wonderful crackling fire, don’t forget the labour involved with ash removal. In a modern insulated home, the output from a log fire can easily overheat a room and, generally, it can’t be turned down or off – the real effect of modern insulation and airtightness are often overlooked.

On the other hand, gas is less labour-intensive and you can exercise a greater degree of control with lower heat outputs. Gas also has the benefit of a balanced flue that can use a chimney or go horizontally out through a wall like a boiler. This means that it can often be located away from an external wall and freed of the constraints that come with a chimney which requires height for a good ‘draw’. The range of styles and models to choose from are also extensive – for example, freestanding or built in. However, as gas is a fossil fuel, it does nothing to help the environment or your carbon footprint. Bio-ethanol and electric flame-effect fires are also low heat alternatives to solid fuel or gas and do not require a flue or chimney. The most important consideration, though, is safety. With air-tight buildings, the requirement for ventilation becomes vitally important. Fires need oxygen and will starve a room unless provided with a direct air supply or dedicated room vents.

Equally, a carbon monoxide alarm is essential. Solid fuel fires also require non-combustible hearths to protect against sparks, just as a traditional fire does. Current building regulations take all of the above into consideration and your chosen installer should take this into account and provide certification of safe installation on completion. A full survey by a specialist supplier will advise on these issues in advance to give an accurate quote for the works before proceeding.

Finally, and to recap, choose the type of stove to suit the location, your lifestyle and the level of heat needed. Engage the technical advice of a specialist and think safety.

Alan Burns, MRIAI, is a registered architect and co-director of Bright Design Architects; brightdesigns.ie

If you are considering changes to your home, work with a registered architect on riai.ie, the registration body for architects in Ireland.

Sunday Independent

Best of Houzz 2020

Bright Design Architects Awarded Best Of Houzz 2020

The Annual People’s Choice Award from the Houzz Community Highlights Home Renovation and Design Professionals with Most Popular Designs and Top Ratings

Bright Design Architects has won a “Best Of Houzz” award for Customer Service on Houzz®, the leading platform for home renovation and design. The Best Of Houzz badge is awarded annually. Customer Service honours are based on several factors, including a pro’s overall rating on Houzz and client reviews submitted in 2019.


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Gym Fit Out Approaching Completion