Ecological, Environmental and Green are modern terms applied to a specific architectural genre. But, really, all architecture should have this value at its core. There are various ways for architecture to be regarded as â€˜ecoâ€™. It can be a heavy old stone building that will last for years and years, or it can be a more â€˜lightâ€™, transient architecture, as evidenced in the camps of reindeer herders in Russia. They pack up their tents after a few weeks and move on and no one would be aware a community had lived there. Islayâ€™s owner at RMN Architectural Services , Rachel MacNeill, is working on a project on the Oa for Mina and Alasdair Carmichael which embodies the former.
Rachel: â€˜We have taken an old, ruined dwelling on Mina and Alasdairâ€™s farm, and are rebuilding it as a family home. 'This project embodies eco architecture on many different levels - socially, materially and energetically to name but a few. 'We are using traditional lime mortar to pick and repoint the walls. Combining this with sheep wool insulation on the inside will allow the walls to breathe. 'This is a very old way of working, but sheep wool insulation nowadays is a very modern product. It is clean and carded and processed into soft, aerated felt. 'In contrast, we are using the most up to date boiler system which links a wood burning stove with solar panels, and uses both to power the under floor heating. The stove will heat in winter and the solar panels will come into their own in summer when the stove is not required. Continue reading....
'We are reusing the old well and combining it with a rainwater harvesting system to supply all the drinking, washing and cooking requirements of the house. 'What makes a building eco friendly, is not that it has all the latest â€˜green machineryâ€™ but, that it interacts with its environment in the most efficient - and usually this will be the simplest - way. 'In the same way that a person is happier if they maintain good social relations with those around them, the better a building interacts with its surroundings the healthier it is.'
In the past, houses were built from the materials to hand in a specific location, local elements of stone and wood, rushes or heather. A house was part of the landscape because it was made from the landscape. In this project we are reusing the existing stone walls, we are also reusing the lovely old granite lintels to make a feature in the new sitting room. 'The word â€˜HOUSEâ€™ can be a verb. To house; - itâ€™s an activity. Buildings live and breathe. They expand and contract with the weather. They creak and groan in the damp like we do. They evoke memories, not just in the people who know them, but in the people who relate to their atmospheres. 'This is a lovely project to be involved with. We are local clients, local architect and a local builder and we are rebuilding an old Islay ruin in the tradition Islay style - what can be more â€˜ecoâ€™ than that?'.
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.