Developing an Eco Home

An adventurous couple in Derbyshire have turned the largely 18th century Goosehill Hall — parts of which date back to the 17th century — into a four-bedroom home in extensive gardens which are watered by a rainwater harvesting system. In the house there are heated stone floors and the decor is a mixture of original features, contemporary style and 21st-century high-tech fitments. Zoffany wallpaper decorates Goosehill Hall’s ladies’ parlour room — in which the ladies of the house once sipped tea and enjoyed gazing out on the scenery — but the house also has an electric charging point for cars.

“We could not believe the beauty of the surroundings and realised we could restore the hall in keeping with its former life — as well as convert the courtyard buildings into holiday lets.” Later they realised the whole project could be eco-friendly, although this planet-friendly endeavour involved considerable extra expense. The eco-initiatives required spending around £55,000 for a heating system and £17,600 for the solar panels. However, the couple say that the Feed-In Tariff, fuel bill savings and Renewable Heat Incentive “will recoup the costs in six or seven years and [we will] look forward to lower energy bills thereafter.”

light-bulb-solar-pv

Sustainability has been built into the renovation.  In particular technology has been used to reduce the use of fossil fuels and its impact on the environment and the following renewable energy systems have been used:

The courtyard buildings are now holiday cottages, and opened for visitors this month. Peveril Castle, an impressive ruin, is close by and there are views of local beauty spots such as Mam Tor, Win Hill, Lose Hill and walks to Castleton’s famous caverns. However, the Whitfields are not finished. They are planning to complete a pool house — which has 65 solar panels on its roof — for future holiday seasons and create two more cottages from the barn. The cottages are being let out for between £450 to £705, depending on the season.

The property cost the couple £1.35 million: it required new heating, plumbing and electrics and other substantial renovation. Although it would have been easy to carry out the work at the lowest possible cost, Helen and John, a former partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accountancy firm, decided to make “choices based around the best option for the future of the building”.

“We looked at how to invest for future benefits — not just to gain an Eco Proficiency badge,” John adds. “It was easy to build the eco measures into the overall plan. It would have been more difficult to retrofit them into the existing infrastructure of the house or the holiday lets.” As a result, the once draughty rooms of Goosehill Hall now remain at a steady 21 degrees.

This strategy of investing for the long-term also extended to the timetable for restoration. The Whitfields decided to be thorough and painstaking, rather than to proceed as speedily as possible. As John puts it: “At all stages it was important to do things right — the project was never a sprint race.” They also chose local companies, such as H&W Sellors, a builder from Bakewell, businesses that had proven experience of conservation in the Peak District.

Renewable energy and heating systems

A local company undertook the design, supply and installation of the renewable energy and renewable heating systems.

Approved by the Microgeneration Certification ShemeWhen choosing a renewable energy systems installer it is advised that those accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme – their website offers a helpful search for an installer function to find approved companies near you.

The nature of the Whitfields’ project meant that their decision to proceed at a steady rather than a breakneck pace paid off. John says: “Planning timescales are longer than you would want. The conservation officer can visit at any time to monitor what is being done. This is because of the safeguards, which surround the planning, and outcome of repairs and alterations to listed buildings and the national park. You need a lot of patience.”

After the granting of listed-building consent in 2013, the work began. Immediately, however, a problem appeared: the gateway to the manor had remained the width of an old carriage for centuries, so there was no access from the road for standard-sized vehicles, skip deliveries, or the drilling rig. Fortunately they were given permission to widen the gateway, so this was the first job to be carried out.

Throughout the project, the couple lived in a ramshackle barn, rather than staying in the house — a wise decision as the kitchen wall collapsed because of poor original building work and decay over many centuries. The workmen were forced to down tools just in case other similar defects emerged.

“The rest of the house was taken apart to inspect for other hidden troubles. It was pretty demoralizing to see our beautiful home reduced to a shell. On the plus side, our local workers were knowledgeable about dealing with the emergency and helped us gain retrospective planning permission. They also understood the Peak Park planning and Listed Building requirements,” says John.

For the ground-source heating, drilling took place “ten hours a day, for weeks, leaving mud everywhere”, as holes were bored deeper than 100 metres into the limestone bedrock. After the installation of the heat pump, the underfloor heating was switched on to dry out the new lime plaster and bring life back to the house.

Renewed and revitalised, it now blends 18th-century charm with 21st-century eco-chic.

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