Saturday, October 10, 2009

Daintree in Open House Dublin

Today The Daintree Building was participating in Open House Dublin, presented by the Irish Architecture Foundation. I'd agreed with the architects, Solearth, that I'd allow people into our apartment as part of the tour to give them a perspective on the community aspect and what it's actually like to live in such an ecologically green building.

A Solearth staff member did the main part of the tour, first bringing the group up to the solar terrace, giving a short talk about the construction and external finishes, then into their offices on the first floor to talk further about the construction process, energy systems and internal finishes. That included looking at what they called the 'truth wall' which is a cutaway wall showing all the layers of construction and insulation, including thick grey sheep's wool. After going along with the group for that I then took people into my apartment, gave a short talk in the living room and said a little more on the balcony, from where people could see the solar panels and the layout of the courtyard, including the recycling and composting shed.

I did three tours, about 75 people in all, including about 30 on the first tour. I'd agreed to just do the first hour of the three hours of the open house afternoon, kind of as a bonus to those who came early, but ended up doing two hours as each tour took about 30 minutes, and frankly I was enjoying it. It was actually great fun. It was good to hear even more from Solearth about the technical aspects of the building and the learning process of developing it. For example, that they'd decided not to do the underfloor heating throughout the building due to cost and not as I'd thought partially to do with floor depth and use of space. Also that the external wood covering is Donegal cedar and that the main beams in the offices are glue laminate, one of the few places where that is used.

It was interesting if slightly odd to show large groups of strangers into the apartment, but also really encouraging, feeling like I live somewhere that is actually of interest to the public from an ecological perspective. It's motivating to feel that where I live can possibly be a bit of an inspiration or simply provide an example of a more ecological way of building and living in Dublin. That seemed to be the case from the questions and interest that the tour groups showed, including asking about heat transfer systems, whether there was a selection process to live here, or asking how it worked on a community level. Many of them also went out of their way to thank me for opening up my home and to say how nice the apartment was. And one I think would definitely have moved in if she could!

One visitor asked about accessibility, something on which I'd also recently questioned the architects, as unfortunately we don't have a lift. Apparently the size of the building means that full accessibility was not legally required, while obviously desirable, though I can imagine cost was another factor. The building is 'ambulatory accessible' which means there are landings on the stairs about every 1.6m rise in height. I talked about the extremely low running costs for electricity, how water heating is provided by the solar panels and space heating by the ground source heat pumps, and how hese but these costs are included in the management fee, a fee which is actually the same as other similarly sized apartments elsewhere in the cit that don't include heat and hot water. In general I mentioned the high ceilings, well insulated walls, natural paint finishes and energy-efficient induction hob, the latter being something that didn't come as standard.. In two of the tours people asked whether the apartment was more expensive – I estimated it was 10-20% more expensive than a similar, non-eco flat, but it's hard to really know, given its location and high specifications.

After I'd finished my participation, I called into the cafe for a brownie and bumped into an ex work colleague who'd come for the Open House. I was relieved that he hadn't been on any of the tours I'd given – somehow it feels less exposing to open your home to total strangers than to people you vaguely know but wouldn't invite over in the usual run of things. I'm sure people took photos in the flat while I was on the balcony talking about the solar panels, and after one of the tours the bedroom door was ajar, despite being supposedly off-limits, but hey, it was all pretty tidy anyway and people's curiosity is limitless. It was quite liberating to simply open up my home, and feel proud of how it's built, how we've chosen to decorate it and what's in it, and affirming in return to have people openly admire a painting, a chair or the overall style of the place. Which one interior design and architecture student described as “eclectic”...

Some questions and conversations with visitors also reminded me that what we're doing here, the place that I live, is different and innovative, and perhaps most importantly for me, it means living in line with my values. It's feels positive to live in a place that was specifically designed to be ecological, to minimise the energy used in construction, to create note solely low energy usage solutions but to do so using low embodied-energy materials instead of high-tech, high embodied-energy options. It's an innovative, unique building in Ireland, and I think a valuable example of a mixed use urban development that is a good place to live, work or eat out, and in the process that creates a very positive but in no way intrusive community atmosphere.

It made me remember that it's not everyone that lives somewhere that's featured in Open House Dublin, in a place that can actually be of interest beyond those who live or work here, and it's easy for me to forget that and fail to recognise that choosing to live here is something different, and perhaps more positive, than living in a typical apartment or house in Dublin. The Daintree Building has always seemed to me to be a living demonstration of some great things that can be done in an urban location, rather than the rural settings or large one-off houses that are more commonly the focus of ecological design. Seeing people's obvious interest, hearing people use the words 'oasis' and 'beautiful', and having people ask questions to inform their own house projects or plans, all helped me to feel even more positive about a place I love to live.

More information:
Irish Architecture Foundation Open House Dublin
Construct Ireland magazine article about The Daintree Building
Notes about the timber frame on the building


Blogger yvonne c said...

Enjoyed this. Would like to live there and your post made that clearer to me so thanks for it!

Sunday, 4 December 2016 at 19:17:00 GMT  

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