This phase of the project prompted an uncomfortable question: can ground works ever be green? At first glance, the answer would seem to be a resounding ‘no’. But in this case, will the end result justify the means?
This is the 13 tonne baby that arrived in Lewes recently to start excavation. Standing like a great hulking Transformer, it was hard to believe it would ever make it up the steep hill. Joe, our Project Manager, and his team had to walk the beast up on tyres to protect the road surface from its metal caterpillar tracks. Have a look at the video clip to see what painstaking work it was. Starting off with gusto, the team slowed down as they hit the gradient and hairpin bends along the way. There’s something very exciting about the hum of a huge digger – we know the shaping of the landscape will start for real and the birthing of Sky House Sussex has properly begun.
So why did we need such a big digger? This house will be partly earth sheltered, offering lots of energy advantages. Don’t be worried, this doesn’t mean our guests will need extra sweaters during an overnight stay at Sky House Sussex – quite the opposite. A key advantage of being a partly submerged house is that the guest accommodation will benefit from the consistent and naturally warmer temperature of the earth (geothermal heat) as opposed to the ever changing temperature of the air. We felt this offered some ‘green compensation’ for needing to use a large digger. The average ground temperature just below the surface in the UK is between 8ºC and 13ºC and this temperature remains constant throughout the year. This in turn means energy savings: the energy used to bring the temperature inside the house up to a comfortable 20ºC will be proportionately less. (For more info on geothermal energy, check out British Geological Survey)
So whilst our ground works in themselves couldn’t be green – let’s face it, even eco projects are destructive before being constructive – there is a green rationale behind the scale and purpose of this excavation.