Welcome to our green loft

The LED lights, triple-glazed dormer window and mega-insulating blind
Yes, this is a "blog" – that means you need scroll down for earlier stories about the building work and initial design. The pretty pictures of the finished space are up here.

So... was it all worth it? Unequivocally yes. The disruption was awful at times – especially because as a parent and a home-worker I couldn’t just walk out of the house and go to work somewhere else for the day. But now that it’s finished, it’s a truly lovely space to work or relax in. It will make an excellent home office over the coming years and ultimately who knows which member(s) of the family may co-opt it as a bedroom. There’s a great sense of peace up here, with only rooftops and clouds for company. And it's wonderful knowing that, despite the huge airy room, it won't add loads to our heating bills or help destroy the planet.

Want to know more about the final result? Click on read more…

Going solar at last

The discreet solar panels on the roof, reflecting the sky
The loft conversion's new flat roof was the perfect time to fit solar panels. We don’t have a south-facing roof (for maximum sun), so popping panels on the flat roof and tilting them up to face south was the way to go. The big decision was between photovoltaic (PV) panels for generating electricity and solar thermal panels for heating water.

Want to find out which we chose, how it went and how much money we’ll save? Click on read more…

No, it’s not air conditioned!

OK, it does look a bit like an air con unit...
One of the first things people say when they enter the new loft is “Ooh, it’s got air con!” Wrong, but it’s an understandable mistake, because our air source heat pump uses the same technology in reverse to warm the room.

Want to know more about this incredibly energy-efficient way to heat your home? Click on read more...

Splashing out less

Clever click - a mixer tap that saves 50% water
An eco shower was one thing, but how else could we save water in the wetroom? According to research by Ideal Standard, we each use around 150 litres of water a day, mostly in the bathroom, and nearly a third of it runs straight into the drain without even being used.

We were committed to turning the tap off while brushing our teeth. But what else could we do? Click on read more…

The guilt-free shower

The water-saving Visage Digital
The wetroom in our loft conversion raised an interesting question. Aren’t wetrooms naturally eco-unfriendly? Traditionally they involve massive shower heads and body jets that use an obscene amount of water. This was not for us – we just wanted a shower room in a small space. It was a wetroom simply because we didn’t have enough room for a shower enclosure!

Want to know more about the water-saving shower we found? Click on read more...

Yes, even the tiles are recycled

The tiles, complete with neat diagonals!
When I looked for ideas to make the loft conversion greener, I didn't know there was such a thing as eco-friendly tiles. But, it turns out some tiles are greener than others. We found ones that are made in the UK, in a very environmentally conscious factory, partly from recycled ceramic materials.

Want know where to source eco-friendly tiles? Click on read more...

At last, decent eco lightbulbs

Our fab new lights will last years and use just 7 watts each
Like everyone, I've been frustrated in the past with eco-friendly lightbulbs that splutter into life and then take minutes to brighten up. So I was looking for something different.

Want to find out which new technology genuinely rivals conventional lights without using much power? Click on read more...

The big blind

A PR picture showing off the Luxaflex Duette Shades
You need a really good quality blind if you want a single one to cover a nearly 3m x 2m window and work day in, day out. So we were pleased to discover Luxaflex Duette Shades (from £64). They’re made from a double pleat of lightweight fabric, stuck together to form a honeycomb structure that traps a layer of air to insulate the window.

Want to know how much money you can save with an eco-friendly blind? Click on read more...

The window that fell off the back of a lorry

After: the repaired window, all's well that ends well
We naturally wanted the large dormer window to be triple glazed too. It wouldn't cost much more than double glazing. And as well as the insulation benefits, a big window like this (nearly 3m by 2m) would shut out even more road noise thanks to the extra layer of glass.

We settled on Rationel, a Danish company with over 50 years experience in making windows. But the time crunch was on: we had to order it urgently because being triple glazed, it would take 13 weeks to arrive. We didn't want to delay the build and we knew (from friends and from watching too many episodes of Grand Designs) that window problems always delay builds.

Our story was no different. Want to find out how disaster stuck with our window? Click on read more...

Triple, no trouble

The smaller Fakro window, in our wetroom
Triple glazing reduces energy loss and massively reduces noise, even compared with double glazing. So if we really wanted to match our excellent insulation (and defeat the noise from a nearby main road) then triple it had to be!

We plumped for a couple of roof windows from Fakro. This German brand is less well known than a rival who will not be named (but begins with V), but it has a good pedigree for making timber loft windows, loft ladders and more. I especially like its new balcony window design, but it wouldn't have worked in our space.

Want to know how the installation went? Click on read more...

The “Weetabix” insulation

The jigsaw of wood fibre insulation on the loft wall
Insulation is an important part of any eco-friendly build. Done right, it saves on energy bills in the winter and also prevents overheating on hot summer days. We were looking to do two things: insulate heavily with a material with a high “thermal mass” (so it’s slow to heat up or cool down) and create a space that was airtight but breathable (a bit like Goretex but for houses, breathable membrane lets you conserve heat but avoid condensation).

Want to know more about the innovative, eco-friendly insulation we used? Click on read more...

The paperwork mountain

A plan view showing loft room, stairs and wetroom
If you manage a project like this yourself, there's a lot of paperwork. Our architect drew up initial plans and passed them to our builder for a quote. Meanwhile we needed planning permission. Or did we? If your house hasn't already been extended and you don't live in a conservation area, a loft conversion usually counts as “permitted development” - follow some straightforward rules and you won't need planning permission at all, although you can apply to the council for a certificate that proves that it's legal, reassuring future housebuyers.

Want to know more about the paperwork you need for a loft conversion? Click on read more...

The only way is up!

The empty loft space before starting building work
Like most Londoners with a young family, we needed a bigger house. Two babies in quick succession meant that our house was no longer big enough for both of us work from home and still give everyone a bedroom. We needed more space, fast, without the expense or stress of moving house. The only way was up!

But why go green? And wouldn't it cost a fortune? To find out, click on read more...