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Observer Ethical awards Winners 2011

Learning From Pioneers

Learning from pioneers

When discovering something new it’s great not to have to reinvent the wheel, and there are plenty of people who’ve transformed their homes into low carbon havens. Not only are they snug, comfortable places to live. They are recouping their investment in lower energy bills. And they have minimised their carbon emissions.

Lots of these people are generous enough to make what they’ve learned available, making life much easier for those of us that follow.

Here are few of our favourites:

The Yellow House, Oxford
George Marshall’s story of how he and his family ‘took a very ordinary 1930s terrace house and set out on a limited budget to turn it into their dream eco-house: comfortable, clean, healthy, beautiful and a model for low impact living’. George gave himself a two year crash course in envirnomental design using the local library and bookshops, then visiting other eco-buildings. The section I like most, and find most useful, is his principles of eco-design . Like his book, Carbon Detox, this website is practical and really easy to read.

Old Home Superhome
This is a network of people who have renovated their old home to reduce its energy use, and associated carbon emissions, by 60% or more. They open their homes to the public so others can learn and be inspired to follow suit. The network aims to transform Britain's existing housing stock, by showing people how it works in practice.

The Ecohome, Nottingham
Penney Poyzer and Gil Schalom’s retrofit upgrade to their Nottingham house is one of the best known. While their site isn’t as easy to navigate and get tips from as The Yellow House, it is well worth a read. They give a room by room, and step by step house tour, of what they did. The footnotes give practical advice and suggestions. The features at a glance page does what it says on the tin.  

Tony's House
A fascinating,detailed, warts and all look at Tony's very low energy self-build house. Given that learning often comes from mistakes, it's useful to read his 'things that went wrong' section.

The Green Tomato Ecohome
Tom Pakenham and his family are converting a Victorian terrace in west London into a 'seriously low energy home'. You can follow their progress on Tom's blog, and see if they achieve their aim of reaching Passivhaus status. Loads of step by step detail and pictures.

The Grove, Lincolnshire
Dave Clough, a retired deputy head and physics teacher, and his wife Liz, have installed a ground source heat pump, underfloor heating and solar panels in their 350 year old stone cottage. His website gives information about the system and statistics of their performance. 

EcoDIY, Clacton-on-Sea
This site is excellent for people who have time, but not much money, and who are prepared to do lots of the work themselves. Chris Southall, a self sufficiency expert writes about his experience converting his house. He and his family are doing it all themselves, from recycled materials where possible.

Viridis, nr Cambridge
Clarke Brunt's energy tips and information about his solar hot water and electricity.

Windysolar1, Norwich
Lloyd Fairweather has taken a do it yourself attitude to renewable energy. He’s got a wind turbine and solar pv tracking the sun’s journey. He uses video to share what he’s learned on his YouTube site.
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