Thursday, May 31, 2012

Latest photos from site - end of May 2012

Foundations for terrace D are now progressing well

We now have the detailed engineering design for the gabion walls, which is much more involved that you might imagine.  The mini-digger is excavating where the gabion will be founded

Air tightness testing underway.  Note the balloons sealing the vents and the fan in the window.  See Luke's previous blog for more about this 
Terrace C has windows (and PV panels on the other side)

Terrace E is now coming on ahead of Terrace D.  Scaffolding about to arrive

Stairs are being installed to the top floor flats, which will make access much easier!

Finally, a close up of the common house roof...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We passed the air-tightness test!

Excellent news from site - our first house passed the air tightness test by quite a large margin. Big sigh of relief from everyone! Passing this test is crucial for Passivhaus certification.

As can be seen on the photo, the PV panels have now been installed on Terrace C. Terraces B & E are also progressing well.

Not much can be seen of Terrace D from the other side of the river, but walls should start rising once the floor slabs have been completed.
The river is fairly low at the moment so I could take a picture from a slightly different angle to normal. It is not quite the same perspective as the artist's impression that we use for our marketing, but I was struck by how close to reality the artistic painting is likely to be.

Note: Apologies for the photo running off-screen, but it really needs to be seen on the larger setting, even if it breaks the page formatting!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Internet access with no weak links

Image (c) Broadband for the Rural North, via their Flickr site here

Last week I went into PC World to buy some ethernet cables. The reception from our Virgin wireless hub has been patchy ever since we moved into our interim rented home in readiness for our move to Forge Bank, and I reckoned that by cabling up every device that I could I might improve matters. The young man I approached for advice asked me where I lived. "In Oxford," I said. "Oh," he said, "in that case you'll be fine with the cheaper ones." I ended up buying the more expensive ones. Here's why.

At Lancaster Cohousing we are making sure that all of our homes are ready for fibre-based internet services. Using optical fibre means that bandwidth is ultimately limited only by the speed of light. However, for this to happen, the fibre has to be run right up to your home (FTTH). None of the major providers (BT, Virgin et al) are offering this to consumers. The best they offer is running fibre to a nearby cabinet (FTTC), and then using conventional cable for the last leg to each home.

If that's what we end up with then I probably should have bought the cheaper cables. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a network's bandwidth is only as wide as the cable with the narrowest bandwidth. And in the FTTC model, that cable is the one that runs from the cabinet to your home.

But we're hoping for something a lot better, thanks to an amazing grassroots internet initative called Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN). This is a community-owned organisation that is mobilising the hole-digging skills and tools already in abundance in rural areas and topping them up with the additional know how needed to lay fibre cable (see video above). Over the summer they will be laying cable just the other side of the river from us, on their way up to far more remote locations, and they have said that they are happy to run a spur off to hook us up too.

Thanks to B4RN our hope is that by the time we are all moved in we will have a fibre to the home internet service ready for us to use, delivering an internet service whose bandwidth is measured in not in megabits but gigabits per second.

There's more. We know that not everybody in our community will want such fast internet services. So we are installing our own fibre network between our offices-to-be in the Mill and our homes. B4RN will connect as far as the Mill, providing as many connections as we want. We will then share these connections out to each of our homes and the Mill offices, enabling some to have a dedicated connection and others to share between two or more homes at a correspondingly lower price per home. We can do this because we are cohousers and sharing with each other is what we are all about.

There's even more. Current convention is that we use wireless routers to distribute the internet through the home. But while wireless internet is great for convenience it is both lower bandwidth and less reliable than cabled. So to enable our superfast broadband to be enjoyed throughout the home, each comes with a ready to use cable network. And the cables used? They're CAT6E, the same as I bought from PC World. This means that if all goes to plan I will be able to get gigabit speed internet by connecting my new cables to any of the network access points in my home.

The biggest risk to our plans is that B4RN fails for lack of sufficient investment. Many of our residents have already bought shares in B4RN, and I urge anyone who believes in the transformative power of grassroots innovation to do so too.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Growing Roofs

I was down on the site yesterday and was surprised to see that our Common House roof is now growing! Our weekly Building & Resources meeting tends to revolve around issues and risks so we don't always get to talk about what is going well.

The roofs on terraces A, B, C & E look almost complete; they now look far more "finished". Also, the scaffolding has been removed from Terrace A, which makes a large difference.

As you know I like my nature shots - so I will finish on a shot of the bluebell woods on the far edge of our land. They are hidden from prying eyes, so you have to know where to go, but are well worth finding. I think the display was better last year, but nonetheless still good this time.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Progress on site - render looking good

A selection of photos from site today, starting with Terrace F where the very last few blocks are being laid and the roof trusses are now in place

The render has to go on in four coats, which has taken some time, in amongst the rain showers.  The banding around the windows has just been started on units 1u and 2 and looks great

All the socket boxes get a parge coat of plaster behind them to ensure airtightness - the blocks are porous and it is the plaster that stops the draughts

The MVHR ducts are finally progressing well, this is the fresh air outlet to one of the bedrooms

Plot 4 has the most advanced electrics - this is the kitchen area.  
Down on Terrace D, foundations are underway now for all 10 houses

The far end of the street wont be quite as narrow as it looks here - the foundation is wider than the house walls will be.  

Terrace E foundations are a bit ahead of schedule

Terrace C roofing is nearly complete

Work has started on the roof of the Common House ancillary building