The Gaia House

We live in Gaia House in Ashton Hayes and our home is often referred to as the “carbon neutral house” – though it is actually a low carbon emissions house!

Let me tell you a little of our story…………. My husband and I and our two children moved to Cheshire in 1992 and lived in South Warrington.  Once our youngest child went to University we decided to fulfil a life time dream and build an “eco-house”.  My husband stopped working for 6 months and eventually found two dilapidated semi-detached cottages in Ashton Hayes that were not suitable for an economic eco makeover but were perfect for demolition and development.  It was a real “collision of worlds” with the village hoping to become carbon neutral, the builder wanting to build a house of this type and all of our ideas and knowledge.

We first saw the cottages in July 2006 and it took 6 months to develop plans with the help of an architect and the planning department and then to obtain planning permission. Demolition and construction work commenced January 2007 and we moved into what we named Gaia House on the 20th November, 2007

We have built a comfortable and highly functional family home including a myriad of eco features including

  • High grade insulation in the walls, under the floor above the loft and between every room including the ceilings. Rooms not in use can be left unheated as the fresh air circulated through them by the ventilation system is sufficient to keep them aired
  • A ground source heat pump that heats the whole house via low temperature under floor heating and meets all our hot water needs. Every Kw of energy put in to drive the pump releases 3.5-4 Kw of heat!
  • 20 sq metres of photovoltaic cells which generate electricity, the surplus of which we sell back to the grid via Good Energy.  We don’t generate enough to be carbon neutral but our costs are substantially reduced
  • Sealed glass fronted  wood burning stove, set into the lounge wall which takes its input air via a pipe to the outside, which runs underground to pre-warm the air in the very cold weather
  • Rain water harvesting holding some 6000 litres that is used for flushing the toilets and also a hosepipe for the garden. This is a 1/3rd of our water
  • Triple glazed windows with a 30 year guarantee. The pine frames are aluminium clad and look like a well finished wooden windows but require minimal decoration and maintenance. We have floor to ceiling windows on the SW aspect and thus benefit from a lot of solar gain in the spring and summer helping reduce the heating bills
  • Mechanical ventilation system that runs 24 hours per day and costs £10 per year to run. This controls airflow and the house far exceeds the draft control standards required for new builds. The ventilation system includes a heat exchanger to warm the incoming air, using the heat from the outgoing air 
  • Light pipes light the hallway and upstairs landing
  • Sensors on many of the lights to turn them off when the room is left unattended for any period or the ambient light is already bright enough
  • A vegetable plot which supplies much of our basic vegetables and is a recipient of all the household waste we can compost. Also we have planted a small fruit tree orchard.   Most of all though we have created a family home which is comfortable and practical to live in, that is warm, light and free of dust mites!
  • We have tried to use natural products throughout the house and where possibly to select products from sustainable sources.  However we have also considered in the selection, the whole life implications of such products and their eventual renewal and the carbon effects compared to more modern products.

One of the aspects of our house which we thoroughly enjoy is that we are a registered “power station” because we generate electricity. It is great fun on a sunny day seeing how much electricity we are selling back to the grid and also knowing that whatever we use in the house is free.  On a sunny day we do loads of washing and ironing……well in theory……… doesn’t always work out that way!  We also have had many visitors to the house – which we always welcome – we have been filmed by BBC News, been featured in Cheshire Life, Clare Short MP visited the house and enjoyed a meal with us…..the list is endless and if we can inspire anybody to embark on a similar project or just alter a few features within their own house we are always happy to make a cup of tea and offer some home made cake or scones and give you any helpful hints or advice.

Rosemary and Ian Dossett