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GALLERY/TIMELINE Click on an image to enlarge it and for slideshow
Pictures coming soon
At the start of September the stonework on the south-facing wall is almost complete and the house is beginning to look very nice indeed.
A large delivery of roof insulation has arrived.
A spell of rainy weather shouldn't have been a problem now that the roof is covered. But an unfortunate mistake made by one of the roofers (drilling a hole at the western end of the roof to let the water out), led to a disastrous flooding of the cavity, down into the room that will be Mike's studio one day...
The flood caused a strange discolouration and hardening of some of the insulation around the window. Once the cavity has dried out, this will have to be removed and replaced with new insulation before it is boarded in.
Breaks in the rain mean that roofing can continue: 300mm of insulation is installed on top of the membrane.
As the insulation batts come in set sizes, three layers were needed to make up the 300mm.
After installing the insulation, the 'upstand' is insulated with a thinner layer of flexible insulation (white) and then the final layer of Alvitra roofing membrane (grey) is applied. The membrane laps up the sides and over the top of the 'upstand' to help keep water out of the cavities.
The Alvitra has a special adhesive backing that bonds with the the insulation beneath it and provides a tough, fully watertight covering. It is often used as the final covering on flat roofs; ours will have soil and grasses on top.
Now that the roof boards are on, and the upper floor has a ceiling, it's beginning to feel like a proper room - a very big room...
It's now easier to see the shape of the room and get a sense of how it will look when it's complete. The ceiling in the main living area slopes down towards the west window, which looks out over the croft.
Only one part of the roof remains uncovered - the space left for the roof window over the stairs. It's a difficult feature to have in a passivhaus, as it will require careful attention to detail to get the insulation right, but it will bring a welcome bit of natural light into the lower stairwell.
Outside, the stonework on the north wall has reached roof height. The warm tones of the sandstone are starting to soften the look of the exterior.
Back on the roof, Iain and Aran are boarding the 'upstand' around the edges.
As it's to be a green roof, the construction differs from a conventional tiled roof. An insulated, watertight 'container' has to be built, which will hold the soil.
The top of the 'wall' around the roof will be capped to prevent rain getting into the cavities.
This picture shows what happens without the cappings: overnight rain has infiltrated the cavity on the east wall.
At the end of an exciting day: the south-facing windows have been installed at last.
Each of the window sections has a sliding door, which will open onto the balcony. The internal wooden frames have been treated with an oil containing a small amount of white pigment that will stop them turning yellow with age.
Installation seems to have gone smoothly, without any major issues, and we're very pleased with how they look.
The kitchen door is last to be installed; it will open onto a small south-facing patio area.
The stonemasons have done the first section of pointing (in the centre of the picture)...
Now that the upper floor is watertight, Mike can start installing back boxes for sockets and light switches...
Having channelled out the blocks, lengths of conduit are installed to protect the cables. As it's a passivhaus, the wall behind any metal boxes like this, which is attached inside an external wall, become penetrations in the airtight layer (formed by the internal plaster). To remedy this, the cut-out behind the box is given a 'parge' coat of plaster (Mike used leftover floor-tile adhesive). Silicone is squirted into the screw holes before installing the screws too.
... and install conduits in preparation for cable installation.
Now that the roof has been boarded, the roofers can get to work. First, they apply a waterproof membrane directly to the boards. This isn't the main waterproof layer, but it provides an extra layer of protection.
The membrane has an adhesive backing and must be applied to a dry roof. The roofers use a heat gun to dry the roof and also to help the adhesive stick. A soft broom is used to brush out any bubbles and wrinkles and smooth it down flat.
Meanwhile, the final window - the large west-facing unit - is installed. Now the upper floor is completely enclosed.
A view of the west side of the house with all of its windows in place.
Mike discusses the progress of the south wall with Nick Thomson from Rural Design. The heavy concrete blocks, which were causing the steel beam to bow, are being replaced with a timber frame. Blocks would be preferable as they provide thermal mass, but there was no alternative at this stage in construction. Hopefully this shouldn't compromise the thermal properties too much as there is plenty of mass in the rest of the building
A similar timber frame is being constructed above the other south-facing window
The window in the east-facing wall of the kitchen has been installed
This will be the only east-facing window on the main living floor and is non-opening. It's held in place by wooden battens; the window reveals will be built up to it to hold it securely in place. The deep reveals will be splayed to help let in more light
The north wall with its waterproof coating of black bituminous paint is ready for blockwork to begin. The upper floor porch is under construction
The stone for the cladding arrives on site. We had to order the whole lot in one go, without seeing it first, to get it at the best price
It looks promising, but we won't know if it's right until we see it on the walls...
Inside, the south-facing wall is looking more complete with the timber-frame sections boarded in
Meanwhile, the complex job of building up the external south wall continues.... Above the massive steel beam a timber structure has been constructed to hold the insulation and complete the wall to roof height
Now that the stone is here Frankie and Fela the stone masons can get to work. So far, so good! The double layer of concrete blocks support the stone and will be under the soil
The stone masons are fast workers and the quality of their work is excellent. Here, Fela is checking levels to get a perfect edge - not easy when you're working with 'random' stones
Meanwhile, Frankie is selecting and preparing the next stone
Within a matter of days, the results of their efforts are beginning to show - it's beautiful work
A neat edge and nice detailing where the cladding meets the kitchen window
A beautifully rounded eastern corner
Meanwhile, blockwork on the south wall is almost complete
At the weekend, Mike is back on insulation duty on the roof
First he cuts pieces of waterproof membrane...
...these pieces of membrane are attached to the rough ends of the i-beams to protect the airtightness layer from damage
It's slow and tedious work, but important to make sure that the airtightness barrier is unbroken and the insulation installed correctly with no gaps
Back inside, the next window to be installed is in the west-facing bedroom on the upper floor.
Seen here from the viewpoint on the Scorrybreac path, the house is really beginning to take shape. It's a good place from which to see the progress on the stone-cladding
The big south and west facing windows will be next to be installed. A few tense moments as the telehandler lifts them into the house
One of the lower-ground bedroom windows newly installed. The frames are clad externally in a dark grey aluminium, but the protective coverings will be kept on until all the stone-cladding has been done and the scaffolding removed
The south wall is given a black waterproof coating ready for stone-cladding
Mike discusses the next steps with Frankie and Fela the stone masons as they move on to the west wall.
A close-up showing the beautifully sharp edges and neat lines of the stonework on the north-west corner
Another close-up of the west wall. The pointing will be done at a later stage
As July comes to a close, the marine-ply roof boards begin to go on
Although we've been blessed with some good dry weather, it's good to get these boards on, as it marks the beginning of getting the house watertight
As Iain and Aran install the boards, Mike works his way around the edges making sure that the airtight membrane is taped to the i-beams...
...this is particularly tricky at the corners, where several layers intersect. Gaps or damage equal air leaks that can affect the passivhaus performance, so it's important to check these areas
The arrival of the roof timbers at the start of June signalled the start of the longed-for process of getting the house water-tight
With much of the messy blockwork complete and what remains to be done on hold until the roof timbers are installed, we now embarked on a much-needed process of cleaning, checking and covering the insulation. This is the west window cavity
Ideally, the insulation would all go in as the wall is built up, and be kept clean throughout, but sometimes it's necessary to add it later - no matter how awkward....
...and no matter how high up...
...or how low down - or wet and midgy the weather
This is an example of how filthy the insulation can get if not protected - mortar 'snots' and general building dust, plus over-exposure to the elements, could lead to the insulation failing. It all had to be thoroughly vacuumed off, mortar 'snots' removed, gaps filled and in some cases replaced or reinserted correctly
Insulated cavity below the west window - cleaned and protected... for now
External view, showing the progress made with the mezzanine walls
Before the roof timbers can be installed a wide strip of airtightness membrane is attached to the steel beam to act as a thermal barrier. As this can't be done in one continuous strip, Mike has to check that all joins and corners are properly taped and sealed
At evenings and weekends, Mike's work channelling out walls for sockets and switches continues
Mike takes on a new assistant
Roof timber installation begins
The roof timbers, or I-beams, need to be able to take the weight of the green roof, taking into account the added weight of rainwater at times. The beams are spaced quite close together and, in some cases, two are joined together for extra strength
Care needs to be taken at tricky corner junctions to make sure the airtight barrier isn't compromised
The distance between the beams is carefully measured before fixing into position
The main slope of the roof is quite impressive
Looking down from the eastern end of the roof
With the roof timbers on, the large open-plan living space looks immense
At the apex of the roof, looking down the line of I-beams
With the roof timbers in place, Mike gets to working cleaning out the wall cavities and installing the final layers of insulation up to roof level
A fine view of the Cuillins from the apex
Will Mike's new assistant measure up?
One evening, towards the end of June, a trailer loaded with strange packages arrived....
... the windows have arrived!
The inner wall above the south-facing windows was to be built from concrete blocks, but.....
...it soon became clear that the blocks were too heavy for the steel support, which was starting to bow and another solution would have to be found....
In May the brick-layers, Tommy and Steve, get to work on the north and east walls of the house
To ensure that the slope of the wall is correct requires a lot of careful measuring...
...and then a lot of messy angle-grinding.....
...as well as careful placement of the blocks....
...but the end result looks quite impressive
The house is beginning to look quite interesting from the Scorrybreac Path
Preparations can now be made to build the internal supporting wall, which separates the main room from the upper floor bedroom and entrance hall and also helps to support the roof timbers. A steel beam is already in place; the strip of black membrane provides a surface that the mortar can bond to
At one end, the central wall connects with the west wall of the house. In a passivhaus, the walls are only considered airtight once they've been plastered internally, so where the blocks meet, the wall is 'parged' with a thin layer of mortar to ensure an airtight seal
Before the central wall could be built, an extra length of structural steel had to be inserted, as the original was not long enough. Where it penetrates the wall an airtight membrane was wrapped around the end and then mortared in to prevent thermal bridging
The central wall under construction
After the block-layers had gone each day, if Mike found any mortar left over, rather than let it go to waste he'd use it up in the lower ground floor rooms. The junction between the walls and the beam and block floor is another potential thermal bridge, so 'parging' around this area contributes to the airtightness detailing
The central supporting wall will be shaped to follow the slope of the roof. It incorporates a steel lintel to support the blocks above the opening where the hall and stairs will be
A view from the north-west corner: the central dividing wall is on the right; the opening on the left will be the way through to the front porch; in the centre will be the entrance hall and a small toilet; the stairs will be on the right and the way through to the main room
Standing in the unfinished porch, looking through what will be the entrance hall and on into the main room you can see that you will get a tantalising glimpse of the view as you enter the building
The eastern end of the central dividing wall also forms one wall of a storage and services cupboard near the kitchen
The finished dividing wall, sloped to match the external walls
Work begins on another internal wall. This one separates the stairwell from a short corridor in the upper floor bedroom and en suite
This wall will form the 'entertainment' zone of our open-plan living/dining/kitchen space, where the television and hi-fi equipment will be. Now that the wall is finished....
....Mike can return to his favourite pastime of channelling out the wall for the many sockets that an 'entertainment' zone needs...
With the beam and block floor in place at the start of April, work can begin in earnest on the construction of the upper walls
The north wall of the house: the inner leaf is built up first, followed by the outer leaf. Insulation is inserted as it's built. Ideally, the insulation would be protected from mortar 'snots', dirt and dust and the weather - something that we have to be vigilant of throughout the project as it's an important element of a passivhaus
This close-up of the north wall shows the gap left for the upper porch and 'front' door
Inside, looking west, as the walls go up
The south and west window walls
Once the scaffolding has gone, the view we'll have through the south-facing windows will be wonderful
Looking west from the living area - all the views are beautifully framed by the windows
Standing at the north-west corner - almost at it's full height now
While the wall building continues up above, Mike takes care of another passivhaus detail down in the utility room - insulating around the MVHR intake and exhaust tubes that he installed back in January
Every penetration of the walls in a passivhaus constitutes an air leak or thermal bridge, so the MVHR tubes are packed around with insulation, internally and externally
Any gaps too small to fill with insulation are sealed using expanding foam - as can be clearly seen around the services pipe to the left of the MVHR tubes
The wall-building is moving on swiftly now - here you can see the upper porch under construction
Mike stands in the eastern end of the upper ground floor, where the kitchen will be. As the walls go up, the unusual shape of the house becomes easier to see
The Scorrybreac Path offers a great overview of our progress so far
As the electrician on this build, every completed wall means another channelling out job for Mike
Sockets channelled out in the west wall
With the walls at the western end at roof height, work continues to build up the walls at the eastern end
As the roof slopes, the walls at the eastern end are higher and contain a mezzanine floor
As the eastern walls are built up, the slope on the steelwork begins to make sense
With the walls at the eastern end of the upper ground floor almost complete, preparations can be made for installing the beam and block floor
Th eastern end of the upper floor sits on the ground, so this section of the floor was poured concrete; the rest of the floor sits above the lower ground rooms, so beam and block construction was chosen. The beams are installed first
Blocks are slotted between the beams to form the completed floor
The ends of the floor beams rest on the inner leaf of blockwork, held in place by mortar
With the floor now in place, work begins on the west wall of the upper ground floor. The large hole in the centre of the floor is for the stairs down to the lower floor
As the house isn't a perfect rectangle, the beams extend beyond the wall in some places and will need to be cut back
With the beam and block floor in place, the lower ground floor rooms are now darker and more enclosed. This will be the utility room
The utility room only has one small window, but will get some extra natural light through the glass doors of the lower porch (the opening on the right)
In it's current state, Mike's studio on the lower ground floor is dark, damp and uninviting
Dark and uninviting as it is, Mike's onerous task of channelling out the walls for the electrical wiring continues
Looking across the kitchen end of the upper ground - the remainder of this floor will be beam and block construction
Looking across the utility room towards the bedrooms
Utility room: MVHR air ducts in position and protected ready for unit to be installed later
First indication of the view we'll have from the main living area
In this detail of one of the windows, the light-coloured insulating blocks can be seen - part of the passivhaus detailing. These are used on the outer walls around all the window/door openings
The wall cavities are packed with Kingspan insulation, which must be installed properly and kept clean for it to function correctly. One of our jobs throughout the build will be to check the quality of the installation and put it right where necessary
Mike is the electrician on this project and, as the lower-ground walls are now built, he can start the unpleasant task of channelling out the walls ready for light-switch and socket installation. First, he has to mark the positions...
Having marked the position of the switch or socket he then uses an angle-grinder to define the edges of the area to be channelled out - a noisy and dusty business
The channelling out is done with a chisel bit attached to a drill - also noisy and tedious....
Here's a switch he channelled out earlier - it's a pretty neat job...
Work has now begun building the walls at the eastern end of the upper ground floor
Looking down on the site from the Scorrybreac path
December 2018-January 2019
The builders have taken a well-earned break for Christmas, but that doesn't mean all work on site stops. Mike can now start work on installing the ducts for the ventilation system
The MVHR (ventilation) unit will sit in the utility room, but it has two penetrations to the outside: air intake and exhaust. First, holes must be made in the blockwork
With the ducts in place they can now be packed around with insulation to prevent them becoming cold bridges
Everything must be measured carefully so that the ducts marry up with the holes in the top of the MVHR unit when it's installed
The ducts will be left covered until the building work is finished. Externally, they will be just below ground level, but will be connected to more ducting which will lead to an air intake tower and exhaust vent above ground
Snow in January contributes to a delay to the builders return after Christmas
There are always plenty of side projects to occupy Mike if he's not working on site - such as constructing the wiring for the doorbell
The structural steel sections arrive
Scaffolding starts to go up ready for steel installation; upper ground floor foundations prepared
A tele handler lifts the largest of the structural steel sections into place
The steel forms part of the support structure for the roof
The steel sections also take the weight of the blocks above the large south and west-facing windows
Mike watches the steel installation from what will be the kitchen end of the open-plan living area
Viewed from the Scorrybreac Path above, the steel is an impressive sight
Final prep for the kitchen concrete pour: a steel reinforcement grid sits above a waterproof layer on top of insulation
Before the concrete is poured, flexible ducting is installed for electrical wiring and drainage for the kitchen sink
Mike surveys the finished floor
Mike stands on top of a pile of concrete beams, which will form the rest of the upper ground floor
As the lower floor starts to take shape, work ceases on site for the Christmas break
Viewed from the north-west corner, the inner block walls are almost complete
A view along what will be the south-facing wall cavity. Metal wall ties are commonly used to 'tie together' the inner and outer block walls, which conduct heat out of the building and cold in. In a passivhaus these are made of a non-conductive material
The lower-ground floor is built partly into the slope of the hill, so an earth-retaining wall must be constructed. The ground is prepared ready for the shuttering
Mike in front of the finished wooden shuttering
A digger is used to transfer wet concrete from the lorry over to the shuttering
View from above after the concrete has been poured into the shuttering
The finished wall with the shuttering removed
The earth-retaining wall with its black 'tanking' - a waterproof coating. Work has begun on the lower-floor walls
Meanwhile... a large delivery of insulation arrives
MVHR system is delivered and stored in former cow byre
Mike and Roddy install a new sheep-retaining gate and fence
Lower ground floor underfloor insulation is installed
Lower ground underfloor insulation
A blinding layer sits beneath the underfloor insulation; ducts for electrical supplies, water and waste are in place
A layer of waterproofing material sits on top of the insulation; water and waste pipes are insulated to avoid thermal bridging (one of many ways heat can escape from a building)
It's November now, with fewer daylight hours, so the concrete pour has to continue after dark
A vibrating poker is used to remove air bubbles from the newly poured concrete
The lower ground floor the day after the concrete pour
Mike sanding the door to the former cow byre. A useful storage space, it doubles as the site office/tea room
Planting a mixed hedge to provide a natural barrier between old and new properties
Painting the repaired cow byre door; neon orange mistake being tamed by a more sedate green
The groundworks begin....
First topsoil layer removed; Mike looking, and feeling, very small at the start of a very big project
Topsoil set aside until later - will be used as soil for the green roof
Cutting and marking out foundations: lower floor and earth-retaining wall
No rotten rock found on site, so the search begins to find some (required as base layer under foundations)
Making the road to the rotten rock supply on the croft
Temporary widened access road created in front of bungalow to accommodate large lorries
New car park created for bungalow and site vehicles
Creating the new driveway
New driveway ready to receive site traffic
February 2017-July 2018
Our (on site) home for the duration of the build
Our (on site) home for the duration of the build
The empty site, looking up from the south
The empty site, looking up from the south
Same view, looking up from the south, with artist's impression of the finished house
Same view, looking up from the south, with artist's impression of the finished house