Who Are We?
And Why Skye?
We are Mike Coe and Lizzie Stoodley and this website will document the creation of our new home in Portree. It should be the first truly passivhaus dwelling on the Isle of Skye - if no one beats us to it (for an explanation of what a passivhaus is and how it works, see the Design pages).
This isn't our first building project. We moved here from Worcestershire, where we built one of the UK's most energy-efficient homes, The Cropthorne Autonomous House . For a highly experimental first build, with rainwater-harvesting and composting toilets in addition to the non-standard passivhaus building techniques, it was a great success. There were no 'Grand Designs' style disasters, the house performed very well and there was nothing we wished we'd done differently. It was a delightful house to live in. We said, many times, that we would never again want to put ourselves through all the stress, hard work and uncertainty that goes with building a house. And yet, here we are...
For a progress report see the short blog on this page slideshow of recent highlights. We will post updates of any significant events on Twitter (see below). The - almost in real-time - Live Webcam has ceased recording the build now, but 'watch this space' as it will be moving to a new position on the roof of the finished house and will become the (almost) live CuillinsCam.
And, for an image timeline of the build, with captions, take a look at the Photo Diary.
April to June 2021
Above is a slideshow of recent pictures
(on mobiles and smaller devices scroll to see all images).
So... has Building Control signed off the house yet and have we moved in properly?
Not yet, we're sorry to say, but we're very close now....
We've been delayed by the lack of anyone to sign off Mike's electrical installation. The electrician who said he would do it at the beginning of the project has let us down and instead we've had to find someone else willing, qualified and with time spare to do it.
Our (three-year!) building warrant expired in mid May and unfortunately we've had to extend it.We've also applied for a temporary occupation certificate to allow us to officially move in before building control sign the house off. That'll be a relief as we're currently inhabiting a no-man's-land between the bungalow and the new house.
Back in early March, Mike made all the final connections and switched on the MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) unit, which delivers fresh air into all the living rooms and bedrooms and extracts stale air from bathrooms and kitchen. We ordered it right at the start of the project to beat a price rise and were afraid we might find it wouldn't work - but it came on straight away and has been working well ever since.
The MVHR extracts heat from the outgoing air and uses it to warm the incoming air. The system we're using here also has a small 1 kw heat pump on the incoming air duct, so we can slightly pre-warm the incoming air in very cold weather.
When we first switched the system on we needed that temperature boost, as the internal temperature was just 11.9°C. The temperature began to rise immediately - slowly at first - but within a fortnight it had reached a comfortable average of 18°C.
Thanks to a few sunny days, and the fact that we have been spending more time in the house, our body heat and activities have also contributed to the mix. The house is currently averaging 19°C to 20°C - with peaks on sunny days of 21°C. A passivhaus holds onto the heat that is put into during the day, storing it in its core, so they don't experience a temperature drop overnight.All that attention to detail with insulation and airtightness tape is paying off!
Outside: construction of the disabled ramp, steps and patio are almost complete - just a little rendering, pointing and tidying up to be done. We're not sure when the builders will be back to do that.
Likewise, there are still one or two snagging issues around the windows to be finished and we're still waiting for the replacement for the cracked pane in the south-facing windows.
The construction of the garage is still on hold.
We've been able to do some planting, which is a good feeling - getting the land around the house back into some semblance of normality.
General progress update: the project has moved much more slowly overall than we'd hoped. Unfortunately, the building company's resources have been stretched between our house build and work on a large local hotel extension that started at around the same time. Our mid-September 2019 completion date in the original contract came and went, and at the beginning of March our project was running just over five months late. Work on the hotel was winding up and April should have seen the start of a big push to finish our house, with all hands on deck....
...unfortunately, the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus took the whole world by surprise. The first UK lockdown was announced at the end of March 2019, building supply companies closed, and all construction work ceased. Mike continued to do what he could on our house, installing cables, wiring junction boxes, and doing any electrical jobs that he could find. He then moved on to building a mixing desk for the new studio, using upscaled shuttering-ply and timber offcuts. Then he built the support frame in the attic for the water tank and the timber framework for a wall in the storage cupboard in the kitchen.
On May 29th it was announced that Scotland was entering Phase 1 of the easing of lockdown restrictions. Construction was allowed to restart if everything was in place to ensure a safe working environment. Work slowly began to restart in June, but we were then even further behind.
At Christmas 2019 we assumed we'd be in well before Christmas 2020.
Now, who knows? Watch this space....
In the second video report Mike shows you the Isle of Skye from his own unique perspective, and explains all about the site and what drew us to it. Plus, there's a full rundown on the design of the new house. But not everything in the garden is necessarily rosy...