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54 George's Street Lower
Dublin, County Dublin,
Ireland

01 5585205

Award Wining Architects based in Monkstown, Co.Dublin and working in all surrounding counties.

Specialising in sensitive contemporary design for domestic extensions, renovations, new-build houses and interior design.  We also design and build custom joinery.

RIAI registered architects, project managers & interior designers

Dublin Architecture Blog

Hofler Architects Dublin  - Our Blog of our news and views.

Filtering by Tag: Sustainable

So How the Hell Does a Heat Pump Work?

Paul Mulhern

It’s a complicated process!  A miracle of science!!  And of course you’ll need to know all about the laws of thermodynamics to really understand it…

…but here’s how a heat pump works, in a nut shell.

Layout for a ground source heat pump - tapping into the sun's heat stored in the soil.

Layout for a ground source heat pump - tapping into the sun's heat stored in the soil.

It's starting to get colder out there, so we’re starting to flick the heat on indoors.  We’re currently working on a some new-build houses in Dublin and Meath and are assessing options for heating and the efficiency of these systems through the use of renewables.  Often when we talk to people about how heat pumps can keep your home warm in winter, they get a look of bewilderment on their faces and ask how can that be possible.

People don't usually tell us that they're confused about how a fridge or air conditioner works, even though it's the same exact process - moving heat from a cooler area to a warmer area.

Heat pumps transfer heat by circulating a refrigerant through a cycle of evaporation and condensation.   The refrigerant is the medium that transfers the heatA compressor pumps the refrigerant between two heat exchanger coils. In the first coil, the refrigerant is evaporated at low pressure and absorbs heat from its surroundings (outside). The refrigerant is then compressed as it passes to the other coil, where it condenses at high pressure. It then releases the heat it absorbed earlier in the cycle - usually into the water of your heating system.

But this is Ireland.  It’s winter.  How on earth does it get heat from the outside air?

As the ground and air outside always contain some heat, a heat pump can supply heat to a house even on cold winter days. In fact, air at –18°C contains about 85 percent of the heat it contained at 21°C.

Heat flows whenever you have a temperature differential.  Maybe it’s that we have blinkers here due to our experience with cold outdoor temperatures. When we go outside in winter, our bodies will have a much higher temperature, being at about 37°C, and we then experience cooling. We’re always cooled off by cold outdoor air, so it is hard to imagine that that same air could ever heat anything else up.

The basic physics here is that heat will flow from something warmer to something cooler.  The answer is that, through the physics of the refrigeration cycle, as long as you can lower the temperature of the outdoor air, you can extract useful heat.

The vapour compression cycle

A heat pump exploits the fact that a fluid’s boiling point is affected by pressure. Lowering the pressure lowers the temperature at which the fluid evaporates, changing from liquid to gas: raising the pressure raises the temperature at which it condenses, changing from gas to liquid.

  1. Refrigerant in the evaporator is colder than the heat source. This causes the heat to move from the heat source to the refrigerant as it evaporates.
  2. This vapour moves to the compressor where its temperature and pressure are increased.
  3. The hot vapour now enters the condenser where it rejects heat as it condenses.

The refrigerant then moves to the expansion valve; drops in temperature and pressure; then returns to the evaporator.

The basics of the Vapour Compression Cycle.

The basics of the Vapour Compression Cycle.

Ground source heat pumps

Use a 'closed loop' system of water/anti-freeze to collect the soil heat. Air/water heat pumps collect heat from the outside air. Generally, air temperatures are moderate in Ireland but due to natural frosting of the air heat exchanger during heat collection, it is necessary that these pumps use a small amount of energy to defrost. This leads to a marginal decrease in performance which is offset by a low installation cost.

The initial capital costs of installing a geothermal heat pump system is usually higher than other conventional central heating systems. A large proportion of the outlay will be for the purchase and installation of the ground collector. The system is among the most energy efficient and cost effective heating and cooling systems available.

Typically, 3-4 units of heat are generated for every unit of electricity used by the heat pump to deliver it, and the payback is typically about 8-10 years. The life expectancy of the system is around 20 years. Once installed a heat pump requires very little maintenance and anyone installing a heat pump should speak with their installer regarding a maintenance agreement. Heat pumps operate optimally when a system design approach is taken. It is important that the heat collector and heat distribution systems are correctly sized/installed.  (Refer to top image).

Air to water heat pumps

The evaporator collects heat from the outside air, which is then drawn into the unit by the fan through the evaporator fins and expelled through the front grille. The evaporator has liquid refrigerant passing through it, which is at a considerably lower temperature than the outside air, therefore the air gives up its heat to the refrigerant, which then vaporises.

This preheated vapour now travels to the compressor where it is compressed and upgraded to a much higher temperature.  Cooler water and the now cooler refrigerant returns to its former liquid state but still under high pressure from the compressor.

This high pressure is then released by passing the liquid through the expansion device and from there it returns to the evaporator and the cycle starts again.

Compared with central Europe (where air source heat pumps are already very popular), Ireland has a relatively moderate winter climate. With average winter temperatures of around 5°C, seasonal Co-efficient of performance ( or Efficiency) comparable with ground source (or Geothermal) heat pumps are achievable, without the additional cost of expensive ground loop systems having to be installed in the garden.

What Hofler Architects can do…

We regularly specify heat pumps and other renewable systems for the new-build and domestic extension projects we undertake.  Early in the design stage of a project we are considering which type of renewable technology will work best with the particular needs, the budget and the short and long-term costs.  We will carry out a number of BER studies - (Building Energy Rating) to look at all combinations of systems to determine which solution works best for you.

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Read an eloquent client testimonial here and what the Irish Times have said about some of our sustainable domestic renovation and extension work here.  

If you are planning to extend, renovate or build a new dwelling - Talk to us about your project.  You can contact us at any time here.

Return to our homepage or view our blog articles index page.

SP ACIOUSArchitects, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. 01-5585205

Tel: 01-2809322

WORKING WITH US ON YOUR HOME EXTENSION, RENOVATION OR NEW-BUILD PROJECT

Paul Mulhern

A GUIDE FOR PUTTING TOGETHER IDEAS FOR YOUR DESIGN BRIEF.

This is the first in a series of Guidance Posts we’ll be writing.  Intended for those commencing a domestic building project who have not worked with an architect before on the design, planning and construction process - we’re beginning here with putting together the brief for your project.

 

The project brief is your wish list that will help guide the entire process.  It will assist you in bringing together the right criteria to brief us whether you are planning a renovation, extension or a new build.  This will give us all a starting point for the direction of your project, and make sure that your ideas; needs and wants are clearly communicated at the outset.  We will help you develop the brief as we work together, and often the brief may well change along the way. 

Distilling your thoughts and dreams for the project in your own time at the outset will be extremely useful and help ensure you get what you want.

Everyone is different of course and some people will have less time or inclination for this than others.  The information listed below details what you might consider in full or in part.

Remember that when we sit down with you to commence the project we will be developing this with you.  If you don’t have any idea what it is you want other than badly needed additional space, we will ensure that your needs and wants are discussed and explored thoroughly at the start of the project.

 

SOME ISSUES TO THINK ABOUT:

The type of project?  Are you planning a new-build, to knock down and re-build on a site, or to renovate and extend?  Or you may be mostly looking to make internal changes, or preparing for a complete interior makeover?

Bear in mind that even issues as fundamental as this may change when we start examining them together.  We have in the past shown clients that it would be more feasible retain an existing structure rather than demolish and rebuild, or that remodeling their house can meet their needs rather than extending. Our professional advice is centered on the client’s best interests (even if that leads to a smaller project for us).

What about the site or existing building?  The site is always a strong driver of house design – location, views, wind, sun, access, constraints, overlooking, rural, urban, suburban, etc. Get a feeling for the site by spending time on it at various times of the day. Look at neighbouring property to see if it casts shadows or affects any of your ideas.

We will do a full site analysis and measured survey once appointed so you just need to consider principals.

Are you fixing a problem or creating anew?  If you have been living in your home for a time, you may have a list of issues that you want to address. Alternatively you may be looking to add more space as an extension or to improve the energy efficiency of your house by upgrading insulation or windows and adding renewables.

If you are planning a new-build consider as many of the reasons, needs and wants and list them out.

What’s the outcome you hope to achieve?  These are your broad goals. If you have more than one, prioritize them.

For example: Long-term family home for 3 children / Live-in home for 4-7 years / Sell with capital gain & then build a dream home / build that dream home / downsize for retirement to a more manageable and energy efficient home.

General concept or style?  Think about how you could best describe what you want?  Remember, these are just ideas and can all change.

For example; Sustainable home, free flowing on the site / Light-filled contemporary design / Sensitive and modern extension to a period home /  Beautifully crafted traditional house /  Subtle, thoughtful home built on a budget.  We can help you with them all.

Your list of priorities:  This is a list of critical items that you really must have. You may also like to list approximate sizes for these areas:

4 bedrooms, 2 living areas, laundry, eat in kitchen with walk in pantry / Master en suite bathroom and walk-in wardrobe / Family open-plan area opening to garden with sun and views / Private quiet space for home office or study / Garage with storage / Room to expand in future / Guest bedroom / Double-height entry space / Courtyard with Zen fern garden / Passive House or NZEB (Near Zero Energy Building) standards.

Be sure to consider any specifics that your new build or extension must accommodate.  From particular pieces of furniture to your collection of artwork, over-size pigeonhole storage for school bags to etc.

We will work through all this with you and make suggestions.

Images and Scrapbooking:  Collect images of things you like. They can range from ‘big picture’ ideas to the fine details as inspiration. They will give us an idea of where you are coming from and what type of house and design you like instinctively.

Use a folder to collect images from magazines or save them on Pinterest and share your board with us.  Check out this 'Pinner' who is collecting inspiring images for his barn renovation project.  "A Sense of Home" is another inspiring Pinner collecting images of everything that makes a soulful home.

Remember it is Information collecting only at this stage – we will help you to find the common thread and tie it all together into a cohesive whole.

Collect your ideas and inspirations on Pinterest...

Collect your ideas and inspirations on Pinterest...

Materials:  Images you have collected will give you a guide on what materials you prefer (both inside and out). Budget will be a determining factor as to what you end up having on your house. Affordable cladding options can be made beautiful with our careful detailing, and more expensive materials can be used selectively where you will see them the most.  

Sustainability:  Items to consider that are not usually part of the look of the building, but should be considered from the beginning, are the energy rating you would ideally like to aim for.  The Building Regulations set out a ‘minimum standard’ that will be increasing in the near future.  We can advise you on the implications of designing a Passive House or NZEB house, the cost implications of these and what it is like to live in these types of houses.

Budget:  The build budget will normally exclude VAT, which is to be added to construction work at 13.5%.  Other costs to be considered include Architect, Quantity Surveyor and Engineer fees, planning ‘contributions’ (which can be significant depending on your location), Site survey, testing and certifying, interior design, utility connection fees, contingency, etc. 

We will be writing a detailed guidance post on domestic construction costs in the near future and will link to it from here.  In the meantime, feel free to contact us for further information.

Architects are not trained as cost experts, Quantity Surveyors are engaged to advise on the current material and labour rates (which change frequently). We will warn our clients if their scope is looking a little high and will help them refine it. Then after exploring early ideas with plans, elevations and sketches, we recommend that the preliminary design is costed by a QS so that we all know that the project can be built within budget or whether we need to tweak it further for before moving forwards with the firmed-up design.

What We Do:

Proposed House Extension Project in Naas, Co. Kildare.

Proposed House Extension Project in Naas, Co. Kildare.

Our particular specialties lie in creating sustainable site-specific homes and bespoke renovations and extensions that comfortably accommodate your everyday life and give families room to grow.

We also design residential new builds, alterations, extensions, interiors, from both small to large commercial and residential projects.

We design sensitive contemporary homes using materials with warmth that add soul.

We offer unique, professional tailored services to suit your brief and budget. We take client care seriously, and will work to ensure your project brings your dreams to reality within time and on budget.

We are happy to arrange one-off initial consultations with you to discuss the inception of your project, even before you have made any final decision or commitment to the project.

We usually agree a fixed fee for domestic work and will spell out clearly what is included.  Our fee agreements are flexible, open and clear and are based on the RIAI Client-Architect Agreement for Domestic Services that sets out all terms and conditions for both parties.

We are fully professionally indemnified for all of our work and undertake regular continuing professional development and remain up to date with best practice and all changes to relevant regulations.

Most of all we are friendly, approachable and love working with clients who are excited and passionate about quality architecture and homes.

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Read an eloquent client testimonial here and what the Irish Times have said about some of our work here.  

If you are planning to extend, renovate or build a new dwelling - Talk to us about your project.  You can contact us at any time here.

Spacious+Architects+Dublin.jpeg

Return to our homepage or view our blog articles index page.

 

TRADITIONAL BUILDINGS ON IRISH FARMS

Paul Mulhern

ALTERNATIVE USES FOR OLD FARM BUILDINGS

Traditional long, narrow, single-storey farm buildings on the slopes of Knocknafreaghaun. Image via www.geograph.ie

Traditional long, narrow, single-storey farm buildings on the slopes of Knocknafreaghaun. Image via www.geograph.ie

A publication by the Heritage Council.

"Built by local builders, or the farmer himself, of readily available local materials and are truly vernacular architecture – We might even say that farm buildings of this type were sustainable before the concept was even considered".

A farm building reuse project we are working on in Carlow.

A farm building reuse project we are working on in Carlow.

ALTERNATIVE USES FOR OLD FARM BUILDINGS

The current focus on rural development provides an opportunity to see old farm buildings as an asset in finding alternative income for farm families.  A range of small-scale uses for old buildings may be possible without substantial alteration.

  • Unoccupied houses in working farmyards may be inhabited by a member of the family rather than converted to agricultural use
  • Old farmyards can be converted for craft workshops or tourism and self-catering; this may be especially viable in suburban areas or close to tourist or walking routes
  • Small-scale manufacturing industry, such as cheese- making, small-scale engineering, furniture making, and car maintenance offer other possible uses
  • Extending dwelling houses by incorporating adjoining farm buildings is sometimes possible without undue removal of cross walls and other elements of the buildings
  • Use of converted outbuildings for dwellings, holiday and self-catering accommodation may be permitted by the planning authority depending on the policies in the development plan.

Guidelines for the Repair and Maintenance of Traditional Buildings and Farmyards:

Ballinacarrig Farm Proposals, Carlow  - Hofler Architects

Ballinacarrig Farm Proposals, Carlow  - Hofler Architects

Consult your local authority conservation officer for advice on the repair of ‘listed’ farm buildings (those included in the RPS) and any grant aid available for such work.

Continue to use old farm buildings where possible

Avoid ‘gutting’ old buildings as this erases much of their historic value

Carefully site new buildings so as to avoid damaging an old yard

When repairing old farm buildings, like for like should apply.  Therefore similar materials to those used historically should be employed. These include stone, lime plaster and lime mortar, clay/mud, thatch, stone slates or flags, corrugated iron (round profile)

  • Retain old roof structures – these are all too easily lost during re-roofing
  • Retain old windows and doors
  • Protect buildings from fire by ensuring that electrical installation is to modern standards
  • Keep all stone walls in good repair, using stone similar to that in the wall if it needs to be repaired, and lime mortar with flush or recessed finish. On older buildings, it is generally not a good idea to use cement-based mortar or render to repair or plug gaps in old walls
  •  Retain cobbled floors and yard surfaces where these survive
  • Maintain and repair old timber and iron gates along with their piers and flanking walls
  • Keep old farm machinery under cover to protect it from the elements
  • Use traditional colour schemes and roof forms to help new buildings fit more easily into the overall complex
  • Keep corrugated iron roofs and claddings in good order by painting with appropriate paints
  • Keep a good source of water close by for dealing with fire
  • Keep all wells and springs free of pollutants 

Download the Heritage Council publication "Traditional Buildings on Irish Farms"

National Rural Network - "Conservation of Old Farm Buildings" - Ireland

Contact Hofler Architects to discuss conservation and alternative uses for your farm buildings here - Hofler Architects

Read about the Rock Farm Straw Bale Project here