For 30 years Glenys and Paul had enjoyed living in their traditional Victorian home. It was relatively comfortable, homely and suited their needs – even though it could be cold and draughty and they only used half of the rooms.
But when the roof reached a point of no return, after years of battering by ferocious winds, and heat was flying out of the old windows, Glenys and Paul decided it was time for action. ‘At first we considered moving,’ says Glenys. ‘We particularly liked the idea of building our own home, but finding the right plot at the right price was challenging and we really like the location of our house, we decided to modernise it instead.’
At that point they had no idea of just how modern it would become, or how radically they would transform it from a house haemorrhaging heat to one of the first Passivhaus accredited renovation projects of its kind in the UK.
The story began in 1983 when Glenys and Paul moved to Lancaster. They bought it, made the necessary cosmetic improvements and settled down to their new life, making occasional repairs to keep the property up and running. Step forward 30 years and the house had reached the point at which drastic action was finally needed. The roof was ‘shot’ and the central heating system ‘decidedly dodgy’. The kitchen units were falling apart and the bathroom suite had seen better days.
‘It was a bit of a light bulb moment,’ says Paul. ‘We thought, if we are going to renovate, let’s do it properly and achieve exactly what we really want. We both like the Scandi style of house with light, open spaces, clean lines and a minimalist style of living. We also wanted to improve the property’s efficiency. It was gobbling up energy and we realised that if we insulated the house well enough, we could probably do away with central heating all together.’
Through recommendation they contacted eco-architect Andrew Yeats – even though they were not considering Passivhaus status at that stage. ‘We wanted to improve the efficiency of the house and the certification was a by-product of that,’ says Paul.
Together with Andrew, they came up with a design which would open up the dark Victorian rooms to bring more light through the property, turn the basement into usable living space and change the pitch of the roof to accommodate solar panels.
Lancaster planning authority granted the application in late August, 2014, a timescale which the Fergusons turned to their advantage. ‘It gave us more time to plan everything properly and do our research,’ says Glenys. ‘Research and preparation is the key to a successful outcome so we spent hours googling for information – particularly in relation to the insulation which was quite complicated. We were still unprepared for the level of detail, however. We eventually realised that you need to plan backwards from the furnished, completed house so that you know where everything is going to go at the end – including lighting and furniture. That way you have the answers ready when the electricians and plumbers ask where sockets, light fittings and so on will be going.’