Tenant Views

Mr & Mrs Watt moved into the house in March, and have given us their feedback so far on how they've found living in a low energy retrofit house.......

26 May 2011

"So here we are, two months after moving into what our local radio station dubbed “Stoke On Trent’s most Hi-Tech House”.  A little about ourselves may be useful to place us in the frame… We are a married couple, in our 50’s, both working in the electronics industry. We work extremely varied hours, and appreciate our home life. We were greatly anticipating our move to St Luke Street, and were pleased to have had the opportunity to have input into the project almost since it’s inception.

On first sight of the project “drawings”, our greatest concern was that the dimensions of the rooms, (necessarily curtailed by the addition of copious amounts of insulation), would give the house a claustrophobic feel. However, by selecting light colours for the decoration, and avoiding over furnishing, we feel that we have a pleasant, and airy home, with an open feel. The cleanness and simplicity of the design belies the technology and effort that has gone into making it happen.

From an occupiers perspective, there is little to discern the house from a “normal” home. True, the central heating & DHW “boiler” is nothing short of enormous by conventional standards, but it simply gets on with it’s job without complaint. The programming is somewhat complex, and there would be many people who might find it daunting. Some simplification here might be worth considering.

Likewise, the air recirculation system just operates quietly in the background. The controller is a simple “set & forget” unit which might perhaps have been better located within the boiler cupboard. We would like to see the re-circ’ control system feature humidity sensing, in which case the re-circulation system would operate entirely without user input. Overall, the system works well, and is un intrusive. We have chosen to sleep in the room immediately adjacent to the “heart” of the system, and during the night, (on “overnight” setting), it’s virtually inaudible.

On cooler days, the heating can be a little slow to bring the house up to a comfortable temperature, presumably due to the small dimensions of the radiators. But once it’s up to temperature, the system has no problem keeping it constant. 

Unfortunately, the sound insulation to adjacent properties is disappointing. The ability to hear next doors clock ticking through the walls falls short of what one might expect of a modern home, which this effectively is. On the other hand, the triple glazing and well fitting openings ensure that noise from the street is very well attenuated indeed.

The kitchen is clean and spacious with plenty of storage space, (which I know gave the designers some headaches). They needn’t have worried - the area is convenient and practical - cupboard space is not a problem at all. The kitchen features water saving taps which really don’t work for us. The flow rate is quite low, so there’s a tendency to walk away from the sink whilst it’s filling, only to return find it over full. Also, because of the long pipe run between the boiler & the kitchen sink, hot water takes some time to arrive at the tap, effectively wasting both water and heat. The large roof lights provide ample lighting during the day, but in the hours of darkness, the single fluorescent light does need to be supplemented. This is also true in the bathroom which, due to it’s shape, badly needs a second light. The shower is nothing short of superb, with good flow and a constant temperature.

So far, (according to the controller) the solar panels have contributed 153KW/h to the domestic water heating. A very welcome saving, both in money and emissions. 

The house has been provided with copious electrical, phone and TV aerial sockets, which are extremely useful.

I’ve commented on a number of areas that might provide opportunities for future improvement. However most of the comments refer to fairly trivial matters that will I’m sure be easy to address in subsequent projects.

Finally, we should comment on the standard of workmanship, which is excellent throughout. The design of the house makes excellent use of the available space and it’s an “intuitive” place in which to live. We’d like to thank all of the Team, who went out of their way to include us in the project, and never once laughed at our suggestions.

After our first two months here, we love our eco-house, and enjoy living here, and it’s good to feel environmentally responsible without having to make vast lifestyle changes."