31 Jan 2017

Stommel Haus helps couple achieve Canadian-inspired home

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When in search of a comfortable, healthy, bespoke and energy-efficient home, Aberdeenshire couple Vic Kirwan and Teresa Green felt that a self-build was going to be the best way to achieve their criteria.

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"A stay in a Canadian log home while on holiday in the Highlands near Beauly inspired us to create an eco, timber home,” explains Vic. “This satisfied our vision for the type of home we both wanted.”

Subsequent research led Vic, a retired Broadcast Engineer, and Teresa, a Dental Receptionist, to premium manufacturer of off-site eco homes, Stommel Haus, which the couple felt offered a holistic approach to house-building, providing comfort and high levels of insulation.

Having decided on a ‘type’ of house to build, selecting an appropriate location and plot was the next priority for Vic and Teresa. “Initially we looked far and wide, but we soon narrowed our search to the Deeside area of Aberdeenshire. We wanted access to local town amenities, a bus route and a serviced plot with countryside views. After a year of searching, we found an ideal plot in the village of Aboyne that satisfied our requirements,” enlightens Vic.

Design and planning

Stommel Haus put Vic and Teresa in touch with its UK Agent, Barbara Fischer-Clark, and the couple were invited to visit the Stommel Haus factory and show house in Germany.

“We worked with them on our design, going through many design iterations with Stommel Haus’ architect before reaching our final design,” explains Vic.

“The planning application was obtained after three and a half months and the building warrant was obtained after a further three and a half months, inclusive of preparation. We had two main contractors and Stommel Haus provided a project manager to oversee the build and the majority of the interior construction, whilst I provided the local end project management.”

Keeping it local, Vic and Teresa used another Aberdeenshire Builder, George MacDonald, for the foundations and groundwork.

Energy efficiency

The house itself is literally produced from a renewable source; it has been constructed from the heartwood of the Arctic spruce from FSC-certified forests in Finland, which explains Vic and Teresa’s choice in name for their new custom-built home – ‘Heartwood’.

The stunning three-bedroom home is insulated using recycled newspaper and recycled glass whilst the interior features untreated wood, providing high levels of insulation and energy efficiency. Heartwood also incorporates three renewable energy features – thermal solar panels, PV solar panels and a heat pump using ground-breaking Solar Ice Tank technology by Viessmann.

Viessmann’s Heating with Ice technology uses ambient heat and solar thermic energy. This heat pump technology recovers heat from renewable sources only, such as the sun, air and ground, to heat, cool and provide hot water for the building – a system that makes Vic and Teresa’s home the first of its kind in Scotland.

While drawing energy from ice to heat or cool a house is a new concept, over the past four years, Stommel Haus has installed many such systems in its eco houses in Germany. The ice storage system, which consists of an underground water tank, in combination with solar air absorbers, supplies energy to the heat pump that in turn generates hot water for taps and baths as well underfloor heating on all floors of the house, and also cools the home in summer months.

The heat pump extracts energy from the water stored in the ice storage tank. The energy used to provide the heat slowly turns the water in the underground tank to ice. Freezing is an exothermic process so, as liquid water changes to solid ice, crystallisation energy, known as latent heat, is released. This latent heat is retained in the ice store system and releases additional usable heat – hence the term ‘ice store’.

A heat source management system integrated in the heat pump draws energy from either the ice store or solar air absorbers on the roof. The ice store also draws energy from the surrounding ground to regenerate heat.

In summer, Heartwood’s ice store can be used to provide natural cooling and at the end of the heating season, the water in the store is turned to ice. The ambient summer heat around the store, the solar thermal energy and the heat that is drawn from the system via an extraction heat exchanger melt the ice in the ice store and cool the heating circuit of the house.

Vic and Teresa will now enjoy a warm house regardless of the weather and a comfortable ambient temperature with minimal running costs. In addition to the heat pump function, utilising energy from the sun, ground and ice, photovoltaic panels on Heartwood’s south-facing roof will generate more electricity than required by the house.

Home sweet home

With 216m² living space, Heartwood features a double-height dining room from which you can see the vaulted timber ceiling with views over the beautiful rolling hills of Deeside.

“Our home has an open-plan living space, incorporating the kitchen – supplied and installed by a local company, Drumoak Kitchens – dining room and living room on the ground floor. This space is overlooked by a gallery on the first floor, which has a balcony looking out to the picturesque hills and River Dee,” explains Vic.

“It has three bedrooms, one of which is a multipurpose room which doubles up as an office and small gym. There are also three bathrooms, one of which has a sauna and the other a wetroom, alongside a utility room and a larder.”

Heartwood nestles in perfectly with the surrounding woodland and neighbouring houses. “Our new home is going to meet all of our hopes and expectations,” comments Vic.

“We still have the groundworks to be completed and we have also planned for a sustainable lock-block drive, stone paving around the house and a patio at the rear. Whilst the garden will feature a pond and fountain with meadow grass winding its way around the silver birch trees.”

When asked if he would consider taking on a self-build project again, Vic commented: “Maybe in another 30 years we would consider another self-build project! My advice is ‘patience and persistence’ – it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I would also highly recommend Stommel Haus, they will not disappoint and their UK agent will be with you all the way.”

An award-winning design

Heartwood has not only impressed Vic and Teresa through its energy efficiency and timber frame design, it has also been crowned as a winner by a campaign run by structural defects insurance specialist, CRL. CRL’s Venturous Builds campaign is an inspiring new web series that is showcasing Britain’s inspiring self-builders and their construction achievements.

Commenting on Heartwood’s achievement, Vic said: “It was always our dream to build a timber home that was highly energy-efficient and we look forward to moving into our new home. Thank you to CRL for recognising how unique and energy-efficient Heartwood is.”

Barbara Fischer-Clark, Vic and Teresa’s UK Agent for Stommel Haus, commented: “Heartwood is a fantastic bespoke home and we are delighted to be named as one of the Venturous Build winners. What sets this property apart is the owners’ eco-commitment. Vic and Teresa have used ground-breaking technology to ensure it achieves the highest in energy efficiency, while working with a German partner to deliver the home of their dreams.”

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