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...
You can follow the build - almost in real-time - on the Live Webcam (see this page) and in the slideshow of this month's highlights (see this page). We also try to post regular updates on Twitter (see below).
And, for a full image timeline of the build, with captions, take a look at the Photo Diary.
Below is a slideshow of recent pictures
(on mobiles and smaller devices scroll to see all images).
For a selection of images, with captions, from earlier stages of the build see Photo Diary.
It's March now - have we moved in yet? Not quite, but we have begun to move in some furniture....
Inside: all of the decorating is complete, except for the upper and lower porches, which had damp issues and are waiting for final threshold details to be completed and and ventilation grilles to be installed (these are outside the airtight passivhaus envelope of the house). Carpet has been installed on the stairs and mezzanine floor (the only carpet in the house, as it would act as a barrier on the concrete/tiled floors, stopping them from warming up sufficiently).
Mike has installed all the lights, switches and sockets and the kitchen hob, ovens and dishwasher. He's now working his way through the remaining electrical jobs, such as internet and aerial connections, and then he'll move on to connecting up the MVHR (mechanical ventilation with heat recovery) unit, which will deliver fresh air into all the living rooms and bedrooms and extract stale air from bathrooms and kitchen.
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 heat pump on the incoming air duct, so we can pre-warm the incoming air in very cold weather. We'll need to make use of that in our first few weeks in the house as the structure has not warmed up yet and the internal temperature currently stands at about 12ºC. Once we've moved in we'll begin putting heat into the house via cooking, computers, television - and our own body heat. Sunny days will also contribute, of course, and as we go into the summer the core of the house will begin to warm up, storing that heat until well into the following winter.
We're still waiting for the water company to connect our supply - months after the pipework was installed - but we do now have an electricity meter, so there's less chance of blowing a fuse....
The deep clean of the rooms is well under way. As soon as that's complete we can move more of our furniture in - and perhaps even ourselves....
Outside: the landscaping has been largely completed and the final surface of the drive (tar planings) has been laid - although we're (still) waiting for a roller to become available to roll it flat.
Construction of the disabled ramp, steps and patio began at the end of 2020, but work came to a standstill just before Christmas and hasn't yet restarted - we're not quite sure why.
We're also waiting for the proper downpipes to be fitted and one or two snagging issues around the windows to be finished. There's also a replacement for a cracked pane in the south-facing windows to be fitted, which we understand is on order.
The foundations for the garage (behind the house) have been laid, but construction of the garage itself is on hold until funds allow.
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...