When we made the decision not to go to Wales and do our thing under the Welsh One Planet Development planning, I felt rather guilty, even though we had found a fantastic place here in Northern Ireland. A year of planning, meetings, travel, and making new friends, as well as a commitment to a low impact way of life. Somehow buying land with existing buildings seemed, well – a bit of a cheat really, and not terribly low impact at all. Now that we are on the land and getting stuck into renovating the cottage, I’ve changed my mind completely – its very low impact.
At the heart of the idea of low impact building, is that materials should be sourced as locally as possible, and that organic materials with low or zero embodied energy are a good thing.
Well although this cottage has been ‘improved’ over the years, at its heart is a completely organic structure. Its walls are made from granite found on the site, and bonded together with earth and in places, lime. It is build directly onto the rock, and it’s roof frame is made from the same roundwood larch that we used to build the roundhouse frame. There are still some larch growing around the site, too. The roof is made from split laths, over which are laid turf, – most likely cut from the land here too, which is peat bog, and on top of that, a mixture of reed and wheat thatch, depending on which bit of the roof you look at.
Chipping away at the concrete render, removing 1950’s hardboard ceilings, and bits of old tin roof, is like time travelling – the removal of each layer takes you further back in time.
Soon we will be able to take the cottage forward in time, but using natural materials – lime hemp plaster, local hardwoods, that will (hopefully) see it through another couple of hundred years.

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