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19 April 2010

Eco homes: a vision in green

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Claire Alderson's stunning new seaside eco-home is finished and the family has settled in, but the final stages had some fraught moments

Waking up with the curtains open to see the sun rise on the horizon from our bed and watching the moon twinkling on the sea from our glass living-room door last thing at night. These are the greatest, of many, pleasures from our new five-bedroom eco-home in south Cornwall – and something I have done every day since moving in nine months ago. I often feel like I am on a permanent holiday.

Three years ago, my husband Andrew and I bought a Sixties bungalow with sea views to die for, hoping we could demolish it and build a "dream home" for us and our daughters, Jessica, now 19, and Louella, 16. Planning permission and fine-tuning the detailed plans meant that work started 18 months ago. The main build took just over nine months but, after moving in, we have spent the same amount of time ironing out teething problems and landscaping.

Through this six-part diary of an eco home, I have likened our nine-month build to giving birth – with all the highs and lows that go with it. What I had not expected was that even once "the baby" had arrived – and we were living in our home – the similarities would keep cropping up.

Just like having a baby, when we finally moved in last July there was a real feeling of euphoria. But then came a dip with the realisation that there was still a lot of work ahead. The garden was a mud bath and the three-metre-high sliding doors in our living room arrived 15 centimetres short. This meant corrugated plastic replaced glass while a new set of doors was ordered. The builders were still working around us, tying up loose ends. We had no internet access, BT cut off the wrong telephone line and we could not get a television signal. Then the NIBE air-source heat pump, which supplies our hot water and runs our underfloor heating, kept cutting out. There was a moment when we wondered if we had done the right thing by investing in new "green" technology.


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