Work is well under way at St Ives

It’s now all systems go at the St Ives ‘Green House’, which is already looking very different, even at this early stage. Contractors Apollo have been very busy on site (behind the recyclable hoarding) preparing for each sustainable milestone of the project…

To date, they have removed the poorly constructed existing extension to the rear and the single storey garage. The bricks and rubble have been crushed and recycled on site and re-used as hardcore. The white render on the front of the house has been removed, as has the chimney structure to the side where the two storey extension will be built. The footings have been dug out to the required depth for the extensions and the rear garden has been prepared for the new plans drawn up by Marney Hall, whilst salvaging and retrieving as many of the existing plants as possible.

RHS and Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medalist, Marney has come up with some incredible plans for a beautiful, ecologically sound, rear garden, which includes a pond, a woodland area, allotment, meadow… all you could wish for in a garden to encourage biodiversity and a sustainable lifestyle.

Just like any other project of this scale and nature, we have encountered a number of hurdles along the way, leading to inevitable delays and alterations to the plans and specifications. We have dealt with these head on and worked had with our HDC officers and partners to resolve these issues.

Firstly, following consultation with the Planning department, the original plans had to be altered before final submission due to the positioning and look of the double storey extension. The side extension will replace the single storey garage and provide an additional bedroom, increasing the size of the property to a 3 bedroom house. Due to the planning preference for new extensions to be set in, set back and set down from the original building, the plans had to be adjusted in accordance with this.

Originally we had planned for an array of 12 photovoltaic (PV) panels to be fitted to the south facing roof, giving us 2.2kw peak, just the right amount of energy for this size and type of property, and to make the most of the Government’s new Feed-in-Tariff (FIT). Following a structural survey, we were advised that the existing roof structure may not bear the weight of the 12 panels so we would have to either reduce the amount of panels or have the roof reinforced. Although it would have been ideal to display the required array to make the most of the FIT scheme, the extra costs of reinforcing the roof would have been excessive. As the main purpose of installing a PV system was to demonstrate the technology for information, education and promotion, we took the decision to reduce the number of panels.

Another setback has been the foundations for the new extensions. Due to the nature of the soil and encroaching tree roots, potentially causing ‘ground heave’, the footings have had to be dug as far down as 2.7m in places. This has caused problems in itself with trenches collapsing and needing to be shuttered off with supports. Also, it was discovered the foundations for the main house were not wide enough to support the new block and beam foundations for the new garage floor so these have had to be widened. To ensure the stability of the neighbouring structure, this work has had to be done in stages to avoid any further complications.

Materials containing asbestos were found at both the St Ives and St Neots properties. If left untouched the materials would have been safe but due to the nature and extent of the refurbishment work, we decided it would be best to remove it. We used an approved contractor to arrange the safe removal and disposal of the asbestos. When it comes to materials that you think may contain asbestos, it is always advisable to seek expert advice.

Some initial work has been undertaken at the St Neots property prior to the main works going ahead. The windows have been removed and boarded up in preparation for the existing inefficient cavity wall insulation to be removed. Connection to the gas network has been installed ready for the new heating system.

It certainly hasn’t been plain sailing so far but we need to demonstrate the problems and issues we have faced, just as any other householders will find themselves having to do when they take on similar projects. We have been able to seek expert advice and have received guidance on all of the issues that have cropped up so far. We hope that if you are embarking on a sustainable refurbishment project, please use our forum to spark a discussion or contact us and we can forward your queries or ‘ask the experts’ on your behalf.

We hope you’ll be visiting us regularly to keep up with the progress on both of the houses. Both properties will be open for viewings late summer/early autumn time.

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