Poor insulation is one of the main problems when renovating old homes into modern residences. It results in excessive heat gain during the summer, and heat loss in the winter. Architect Drtan Lm from Malaysia recently completed a renovation of a home where they took an interesting approach to combating heat gain. The house they worked on was quite dilapidated, but it did contain a lot of intact terracotta tiles, which they decided to recycle into a sunshade for the home.
The home got its name from this too and is called Clay Roof House. It is located in Petaling Jaya, Selango, Malaysia, and faces west, meaning that lots of sunlight enters it both in the mornings and afternoons. Since the terracotta tiles found in the home were of a very high-quality, the architects used them to create a terracotta brise soleil, as well as a second brick lattice brise soleil, which work to minimize the home’s solar heat gain, as well as reduce much of the glare.
They also made the terracotta tile shading mechanism fully operable, so it can be opened and closed in order to let it air and lights. The added bonus is that the tiles create a beautiful lighting effect inside the home. The terracotta also glows a warm orange in the sun.
They also left exposed brick, concrete and wood in the interior of the home, which blends perfectly with the lovely terracotta brise soleil. The interior of the home features a large living area, several bedrooms, as well as a piano room, study, two kitchens, and a maid’s quarters. For a home this size, preventing heat gain was of the utmost importance, especially given Malaysia’s climate, and the architects did a great job of offsetting some of the cooling costs with this clay tile shading system.
Renovating an existing building can sometimes be the greenest choice, and this revamping of a traditional worker’s cottage into a modern family home is certainly a prime example of this. The renovation was carried out by the Australian firm A For Architecture and the home is located in Melbourne, Australia. The house was once the home of a local factory worker and was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, along with hundreds of others just like it.
The original layout of the house featured many small rooms, and consequently a lot of walls. They started the renovation by first taking down a number of these dividing walls, to make the spaces more open. They kept the two bedrooms, which are located at the front of the house, but they moved the bathroom from the rear to the middle of the home, where it is now located next to the laundry room and a storage space. It was completely redone and is quite large, featuring a sink, shower and toilet. A third bedroom is located just above it.
The living area is at the rear of the home and opens onto the back garden. They also installed several skylights into the roof here to let in even more natural daylight. Apart from having a good connection to the garden, the clients also wished for a layout that would allow for both privacy, as well as spaces where the family could spend time together.
For this reason the architects kept the original layout of the bedrooms in the front, while the rest of the home is now basically one large space. Glazing was installed along the entire back wall of the home, which together with the many skylights makes the interior appear spacious, aids ventilation and lets in lots of light. They kept the existing brick walls, but added timber and concrete during the renovation to make it more robust and give the home that modern, industrial aesthetic.
All in all, this is a great renovation of an old building, and they managed to keep heaps of material out of the landfill while transforming it into a lovely family home.
Giving old buildings new life is one of the pillars of sustainable living, so it’s always great to see such renovations take place. A great example is this recently renovated windmill in Suffolk, United Kingdom. The windmill is about 125 years old and was just a ruin for a long time, before the local firm Beech Architects turned it into a cozy guesthouse.
The windmill was unused for several decades, during which time it fell to ruin, yet still retained it’s status as being an important landmark in the area, which is why it was not torn down. The renovation took some out-of-the-box thinking and resulted in a guesthouse with a spacious living/dining area, two bedrooms, and a bathroom, some of which are inside the modern, zinc-clad structure at the top of the windmill.
They first had to make the structure habitable, and they started the process by adding insulation panels to the exterior in an effort to keep the interior walls in the original condition, as well as to protect the building from further decay and take advantage of the thermal mass of the structure.
The newly added pod on top of the structure features a machine-cut Kerto timber rib system that is intended to strengthen it against the wind. The Kerto system, made by MetsaWood of Sweden, is constructed out of laminated veneer lumber (LVL). More precisely, it is made from 3mm thick rotary-peeled softwood veneers which are glued together in order to create a continuous sheet. The end result is a very strong and dimensionally stable material. This framework was covered by more than 200 panels of zinc to create the pod. Due to the round walls of the structure all the interior furniture had to be custom made.
The owners live next door to the structure and have plans to rent it out. While it is fantastic that an old structure was given new life here, I have to agree with some of the critics who are saying that it now looks too “alien”. The resulting structure looks nothing like the windmill it used to be, and all the black and metal cladding make it look like something out of a futuristic movie. But that’s a matter of personal preference and aesthetics, and the renovation is an awesome example of adaptive reuse done right.
Gennaro Brooks-Church, the director of the green building firm Eco Brooklyn, is slowly turning his townhouse in a green and sustainable home. The renovations began back in 2008 and they are still ongoing. Just to remind, Brooks-Church is the man behind the recently completed Bright ’N Green complex in Brighton Beach, NY.
Brooks-Church strives to used mainly repurposed, salvaged and upcycled materials in his renovation and other projects, and he followed this same philosophy when retrofitting his own home. For example, all of the wood floors in his Brooklyn home are reclaimed. There are also glass panels set into the floor to allow sunlight to stream down into the lower levels of the home, and this glass was reclaimed from an advertising company. The railings and walkways are made from an old fire escape.
Brooks-Church finds most of the materials he uses by dumpster diving and visiting dumps. The trade-off with using recycled and repurposed materials stems primarily from having to adapt them to a new use, which can be time consuming and costly. Using such materials is also nearly impossible when working to a deadline, since the availability of the materials needed is nearly impossible to predict. This is one of the reasons why the renovation of Brooks-Church’s Brooklyn home is taking so long.
The backyard houses a children’s treehouse, which was built using repurposed materials from a Manhattan water tower and unused wood from a nearby construction site. There is also a natural pool located in the backyard, which is kept clean by fish, bacteria and plants, so that it is also possible to swim in it.
The home also features a green roof, with a stream that flows through it and waters the vegetation. All this is part of a rain catchment system, which effectively recycles this water instead of dumping it into the municipal water system.
The next step in the renovation will be the installation of solar panels, and further improving the rainwater collection and recycling system. This home is definitely a great example of a step-by-step green renovation of a home, which anyone can draw inspiration from.
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