Monday, 13 September 2010

Bristol Green Doors: A Greener Option

The idea was simple. For one weekend across Bristol, homeowners opened their front doors to the public, welcoming them to see how they had taken steps to a more eco-friendly and energy efficient approach to home life. 
If you were expecting cliches of 'Green Living', Bristol Green Doors quickly dispelled all notions of stereotypes at the porch.
The eco-friendly homes of the initiative emphasised the eclectic mix - the varied and diverse aspects - of ethical approaches to everyday living for real people. By 'real', I mean people that have kids, jobs and mortgages.
The hosts were warm, but quintessentially down to earth.
Sitting in the Sarah's living room (York Road, Montpelier), I was envious of her draught-proofed french doors, sky lights and huge windows that let in streams of light from the densely green garden.
It turns out that whilst the builders were fitting the under-floor insulation with Celotex (, she was heavily pregnant and accessing the adjacent kitchen via an obliging plank.
Clearly, undertaking an environmentally sound & energy efficient building project does not only require bundles of admirable vision and determined forward-thinking but nerves of steel.
I could empathise with anyone who left a selection of the homes feeling thoroughly underwhelmed. Most measures taken are largely invisible - insulation in the walls is undoubtably a wise, cost-effective and eco-friendly method of keeping your home warm, but you can't see it. Resin between the cracks in wooden floor boards to keep out up-lifting drafts - smart, certainly, but no show-stopping extravaganza.
But in Subtly's defence this is, perhaps, a positive thing. This weekend, ethical living and eco-homes have been offered forth, blending in very neatly with the original architecture and existing lifestyles of the houses and their occupants.
But everyone loves a spectacle, and Bristol Green Doors does not disappoint.
Ushered through to the dappled sunlit patio of Simon's garden (also York Road, Montpelier), his emphasis on ethical living is placed here. He does this for a living ( but, among many things, he's made a working studio on a raised platform with a rooftop garden - notably sporting pumpkins, beans and sunflowers. Naturally, it's complete with solar panels to supply the water pump.
The final property I visit is owned by Footprint Building ( (Lansdown Road, Clifton) who are currently renovating the Victorian house with modern eco-friendly building methods and materials. Judging by the kitchen and the finished en-suites, these certainly haven't had a negative impact on style.
Al, Director of Footprint, enthused me with his energy. "Weekends like these are heightens the reality that there is a rapidly growing market for sustainable construction and energy efficient living."
Shamelessly ear-wigging others' conversations, a couple walked in and seemed to confirm Al's confidence; they are renovating their own home and were "going around, asking questions and getting more ideas."
The Bristol Green Doors weekend made it abundantly clear, in these well-loved homes, that there are simple measures that can make a big difference - for everyone.
It's a wonderful penny dropping moment when you encounter a good idea in practise and think, 'Oh! I could do that!'


  1. Darn, wish I'd visited the 'Footprint Building', but only just had time for the York Road house.

    It really was an eye opening event and, much to my surprise, seemed quite popular too. One house we visited were shocked at the number of people that had turned up!

  2. Hi - I missed this event because Bristol is so amazing I was doing ten other things.

    But this great blog has somewhat made up for it.

    I feel I was there.

    And it has reinforced my mission to attend in 2011!

    PS Resin in floorboards. Of course. Genius.