Have you ever wondered why old houses seem to suffer less from poor air quality than our modern homes? Well it is usually to do with the construction process and materials – not just the gaps in the windows.
Old houses are typically built using natural materials – brick, stone and timber. They don’t ‘breath’ in the human sense, but the analogy neatly describes the exchange of air and water vapour from the walls to the atmosphere. In this way, any damp can dry out naturally and harmlessly, while allowing for the slight expansions and contractions that buildings tend to make over the years.
In contrast, modern materials such as cement, gypsum plaster, and non-‘eco’ paint prevent both this ‘breathability’ and this movement. If moist air gets trapped inside the walls and cavities, it either forces its way out by ‘blowing’ the plaster and blistering the paint, or worse festers undetected leading to material decay, dry rot and other problems.
Limecrete Ltd is a company that looks to the past for its inspiration. Established in 2006 by Myles and Louisa Yallop, it has developed among other things a creative solution to one of the world’s most environmentally unsound building practices. In Myles’ words, “throwing concrete into the ground.”
So, what is limecrete and why is it a better material to use than concrete in your floor? An insulated floor slab, it is composed of natural hydraulic lime and a lightweight aggregate whose thermal performance can often beat modern equivalents.
Just like natural materials such as timber and straw, it is very breathable: any water vapour in the room can escape (literally) through the floor. It also re-absorbs some of the CO2 released during the manufacturing process, and can even be recycled at the end of its working life. Cement (one of the main components of concrete) on the other hand is one of the world’s biggest producers of carbon dioxide. Its production is growing by 2.5% annually and may increase CO2 outputs by as much as 4.4 billion tons by 2050.
Many homeowners have adopted the use of limecrete for environmental reasons, but of course it is also one of the ways to ensure older properties have a much longer life.
For more information about our projects that have used limecrete please contact us. Or for more information about Limecrete Ltd visit, www.limecrete.co.uk
The benefits of ‘greening’ your home
5 things to do to improve your home naturally
We often look at our gardens merely as an outdoor space but looking after them properly will increase the quality of our whole home environment – from air quality to water management and aesthetics.
- Permeable paving – It is worth doing some research before you pave over your garden. What may seem like an easy low-maintenance option is not always the most beneficial in the long term. Going for non-permeable paving not only often requires planning permission (we all know how tedious and long this process can be) but can also increase the risk of flooding, as the sewers and water channels become overloaded with excess rainwater. Permeable paving not only allows water to soak back into the soil quickly and easily, but avoids planning permission altogether.
- Increase garden habitats – Bees and other insects such as moths, butterflies and ants are vital for our urban environment. They pollinate the flowers, and provide food for wildlife such as the hedgehogs and birds that we see as a fundamental part of our gardens. Although unpopular to gardeners, even slugs have their rightful place in the food chain! Setting aside areas in your garden, whether flower beds or old trees, as natural habitats for these insects and animals will discourage them from nesting in the comparative warmth and safety of your home instead. Regular checks of your roof, walls and downpipes will help prevent some unpleasant surprises!
- Insulate inside & out – There are many simple and efficient ways to insulate your home, and so prevent heat loss, lower your bills and save energy. Since heat rises, a lot of your energy will disappear through the roof. Try to check your roof twice a year: once in the spring to check for cold weather and frost damage and once in the autumn to identify any draughts and repairs before the winter sets in. You should also check the seals around the windows, doors and pipework to minimize cold air movement since this is the primary cause of discomfort, rather than low room temperature. And of course, don’t forget that climbing plants (if carefully controlled) and hedges can also provide ‘green’ insulation to the exterior walls, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Maintain your gutters and pipes – Come autumn, piles of leaves can block gutters, drains and gullies, while in the longer term growing roots can disrupt the underground pipework. Keeping an eye on your drainage system will help to regulate water flow and reduce the risk of flooding in both the house and garden. Where you can, avoid putting aggressive chemicals down sinks and drains. It is often just a case of emptying the contents of the trap or gulley every now and then.
- Install a living wall (or plant trees and shrubs) – London gardens are notoriously small but you can still introduce plants even when the floor area is tiny … by building vertically. A ‘green wall’ provides all the goodness of improved air quality, insulation and homes for wildlife, and can be a really beautiful addition to your home. Scotscape Living Walls provide fantastic designs to fit any space.For more information on our residence management services please contact Marie.
We see green!
We talk with Rocio Lereah, head of Architectural & Interior Design, about using colour in your home.
So how do you approach the colour palette with your clients?
Colour is a powerful tool. It helps to define the mood in a room, it can affect the way we feel, our emotions and behavior. At the beginning of a project it is very important to discuss the client’s likes and dislikes and how the room will be used. The natural light must also be taken into account. As a general rule we tend to be very conservative when selecting a scheme for our own homes so I always try to encourage clients to be brave in areas where they don’t spend too much time, such as corridors, cloakrooms or guest bedrooms.
Can you tell us about a recent project where colour was at the heart of the brief?
The first time we met, the client mentioned that she loved colour and actually needed it around her. The reception room had a sofa with a beautiful pattern that she wanted to keep so we used this as a starting point, integrating the wonderful greens and turquoise tones into the new scheme. Green is the colour of balance and harmony, it is an emotionally positive colour and a natural peacemaker, so it made sense to use it on the reception room walls – a place to relax and escape to from our busy lives.
What colours would you ‘marry’ with green and how else can you introduce it?
For this project I went for the analog colours: yellow in the gold details, green-blue for upholstery and neutrals for the wooden floor and off white for the ceiling. Tint, shade and tone are very important. Almost every hue we see around us has been ‘toned’ up or down to make more appealing combinations. The key is to match the undertones of the other colours in the room, to keep that sense of harmony.
Another way to introduce green is by using plants, both metaphorically and literally. The fashion at the moment is to have big banana or tropical leaves on wallpapers and botanical prints for upholstery, bedding and accessories.
For patios, gardens, or even interior areas with good natural light, a ‘living wall’ can make a great feature in any home. In addition to the visual benefits, these green walls can improve thermal and acoustic insulation as well as help the environment by purifying the air. [See previous article]
Can you explain to me what an ‘Eco’ paint is and what has driven the change?
In 2004, the EU paint directive reduced the proportion of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) allowed in paints and varnishes to reduce environmental damage and public health problems. To conform, paint manufacturers cut back on organic solvent content, or turned to water-based products. Although a very positive step forward, paints with minimal levels of VOC aren’t strictly speaking ‘eco’ paints.
‘Eco-paint’ is a generic term used to talk about clay, chalk and milk (casein) paint that uses ‘natural’ pigments and binders. They can be trickier to apply but are breathable i.e. transfer moisture and are better for those with allergies. There are many brands on the market including Farrow & Ball and Little Green paint, which we use regularly. When buying paint read the ‘ingredients’ on the back of the tin to see how eco-friendly the paint really is.
Tea Time at Chelsea
The Royal Horticultural Society actually held their first flower show in Chiswick in 1833. It was moved to Kensington in 1862, then to Temple Gardens, before finally settling in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1913, where it has been held ever since.
The show in numbers –
- 157,000 visitors each year (a cap was placed on the number of visitors in 1988).
- The great pavilion, with an area of 11,775 square meters is large enough to park 500 London buses.
- Of the firms that exhibited at the first show in Chelsea in 1913, three can still be seen at the show today.
- All the show Gardens are built from scratch in just nineteen days and dismantled in five days.
- Until 2013, gnomes were banned from the show, although exhibitors would often try to smuggle them in and hide them amongst the foliage. They apparently bring good luck to your garden!
Something for your diary:
Special events, walks, exhibitions will take place this year to celebrate Lancelot Brown. To know more, visit www.capabilitybrown.org
Chelsea Flower show will take place this year from 24-28 May 2016 https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show
Isabelle has always had a great love for plants and flowers. After a career in the pharmacology industry in France, she moved to London, where she spent three years at the Royal Horticultural Society studying for her diploma. In 2012, she set up her consultancy Les Pouces Verts, (The Green Thumbs).
She describes her approach to gardening as ‘soft’ landscaping, often promoting the best of what already grows well in a garden before considering whether to strip plants out or start from scratch. Her scientific training is also a prominent feature of her gardening style and has encouraged her to look at garden management in all its details – the pH of the soil, the variations in sunlight, the volumes of rainfall and how much water the soil retains.
For clients who want to learn how to look after a garden themselves Isabelle will guide them through the entire process, from how to take care of their flowers and plants, to when and how to prune trees and the best tools to use. One of her recommendations to new gardeners is to invest in a reliable pair of secateurs: the Felco brand is a good one.
Isabelle’s support doesn’t stop there. She provides a complete inventory and plan of your garden containing sketches, ideas, planting options (including where to buy them) and will follow your progress month by month. Her services, including consultancy, garden assessments and coaching are already used by some of our clients.
To commission Isabelle is therefore not just a matter of asking a gardener to trim the hedges or weed your flower beds but the opportunity to acquire a passion for gardening and to truly understand the rhythms and cycles that dictate the health and wellbeing of your plants.
When asked what the most rewarding part of her job is, she answers without hesitation: to see her clients take ownership of their gardens. Marie, who is new to gardening looks forward to taking ownership herself.
For more information visit www.les-pouces-verts.com