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Building Opinions: Robert Nemeth previews Eco Open Houses 2014

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The weekends of 18/19 and 25/26 October will see environmentally-friendly buildings across Brighton and Hove open their doors for Eco Open Houses 2014. The line-up is better than ever.
This year’s programme features nineteen buildings, including some of the old favourites such as 15 Lloyd Close in Hove, the Earthship in Stanmer Park, and the Smart House in Brighton, plus several new ones. One of the new entries, 201 Portland Road in Hove, was still a building site when I visited but it will be ready for 18 October, Claire Potter assures me.


201 Portland Road was built as a public toilet block, perhaps during the 1950s. When Claire began leasing the red-brick single-storey structure from Brighton and Hove City Council two years ago, it was derelict and contained not a single toilet. The ladies’ toilets were once on the right; the men’s on the left. The main dividing wall had been removed already, which creates a space that is just the right size for Claire’s design practice. Her team of four or so, which specialises in interior architecture/design, landscaping, graphics and branding, will fit inside perfectly.


Remnants of the old toilets such as their terrazzo backdrops (which are to be polished) and their wall brackets will live on in Claire’s new studio, which is a theme in the project generally. All sorts of items have been recycled to make the project happen in a less harmful way including scaffolding planks (now serving as worktops, partitions and cladding), an old stool (now serving as a sink pedestal) and a kitchen sink (now serving as, well, a kitchen sink). Parquet flooring has been reclaimed from a church in Hastings. Even the paint, from Newlife Paints, has been recycled.


The most distinctive internal feature is two glass roof lights which are single-glazed. Replacing all of the individual panels would be prohibitively expensive, so secondary glazing is to be used. 150mm Celotex boards have been used to insulate the concrete roof internally, and 100mm on the floor. Outside, new planting (in scaffold-plank planters) includes golden sage, garlic chives, lime mint, apple and roses.


If Claire’s partner Mark, and his father, Roger, keep up the pace that I witnessed on my visit, I have no doubt that all will be ready for 18 October. It has to be worth visiting, just to see if they make it within the deadline. See www.ecoopenhouses.org for details.


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robert@buildingopinions.com

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