Two designers from London, looking to create an ideal out-of-town family home have been called ‘restoration heroes’ on prime time TV for their uncompromising stance on quality.
When Alison and Matthew Grey decided to purchase a Victorian pumping house in Newgate Street village, near Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, they agreed to allow Channel 4 to follow the project’s progress for the TV series The Restoration Man.
The programme aired at the beginning of January and followed the Grey’s throughout 2013 as they struggled to keep costs down, whilst restoring the pumping house in ways which retained the design integrity and allowed them to create a modern, family home.
Alison Grey explained:
“Our biggest challenge was deciding how to replace the windows, which are a major feature of the building. George Clark, the presenter called us restoration heroes because we spent almost half our allocated budget on steel window frames which were much more sympathetic to the original design than the UPVC ones we inherited.”
The couple’s angst over the cost of metal versus plastic or wooden window frames did take up a lot of the programme which unfortunately meant that the Grey’s focus on renewable technology was not covered in as much detail as they wanted:
“We filmed quite a bit on why we had chosen to install an Ecodan heat pump for our heating, photovoltaic panels to help generate electricity and a Lossnay heat recovery ventilation unit, but most of this ended up on the cutting room floor.”
In fact the couple had spent almost as much time researching renewable heating as they did on the windows, it was just that the choice of heat pump was much easier to make.
“We knew that heating a building of this size would be extremely costly without some form of sustainable energy. When we spoke to our installer about heating and looked at the options on the market, there was only one clear winner. Ecodan was streets ahead of other heat pumps on the market in terms of performance, flexibility and support from the manufacturer.”
The Grey’s sought the advice of Tony Owen of AOS Solar, installers of renewable technology across Hertfordshire, Essex and North London. AOS Solar is an approved Ecodan installer and has vast experience of both heat pumps and photovoltaic panels. Certified under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), AOS Solar customers are also eligible for any available government funded grants, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).
Built around 1888 on Darnicle Hill, the pumping station drew water from an aquifer, via a 250ft bore hole to serve Cheshunt and the surrounding area. It was decommissioned in 1970 and passed through various owners before the Grey’s bought it for £750,000 in 2012.
The late Victorian industrial building retains many of the original features and is constructed in stock brick with rubbed red brick window and door arches, terracotta dressings and decorative console brackets supporting the cast iron gutters.
The redevelopment is taking place in two phases, with the family initially living in the old boiler room part of the building, which had been converted by the previous owner. Phase one saw the complete renovation and refurbishment of the building’s pump room and the Grey’s started by stripping everything back to the bare brickwork.
Alison, who project managed most of the renovation, whilst on maternity leave following the birth of the couple’s second child, said:
“Our first step was to take everything back to basics and see what we could retain and incorporate to give the building the credit it deserved.”
The original glazed brickwork and sandstone detailing around the windows were renovated by experts to make a feature out of them in the new, clean modern designed home. This is one of the simple things that The Restoration Man presenter George Clark felt showed that the couple were ticking all the right boxes to get a sympathetic, but modern restoration.
The Grey’s have designed the main body of their home on two levels with a split across the tall, arched windows to provide light on both floors. Upstairs, the roof beams were cleaned and renovated to provide a beautiful feature and downstairs, the couple rescued two huge sandstone blocks – used to anchor the steam pump engines. These were cut up to provide floor tiles for the new downstairs bathroom, which helped retain some of the history of the building.
After spending almost £80,000 on a new roof and new sewage facilities to make the property habitable and then adding 14 Photovoltaic panels, two solar thermal panels and the 5kW Ecodan unit for the hot water, the couple had originally planned to spend £60,000 for the basic build of phase one. In reality though, they spent £30,000 on the fittings, £30,000 on the windows and around £80,000 on the basic build, meaning the Grey’s had to re-mortgage halfway through the project.
George Clark called them true restoration heroes because of their refusal to compromise on design and quality of both the windows and the detailing. He presented them with original prints of the inside of the pump house when they held a party to celebrate the completion of phase one with family, friends, suppliers and the Channel 4 crew.
The new home utilises a 14kW Ecodan for the underfloor heating and the 5kW unit for the hot water supply. Alison Grey is confident that the heat pump system will pay for itself within a couple of years:
“The heat pump and under floor heating system combined did cost more than a traditional carbon-based system would have cost to fit, but the running costs will be less than half of an oil or LPG system and we are also eligible under the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive.”
RHI payments are guaranteed for the next seven years, so it will not only provide the Grey family with what could be hundreds of pounds every three months, it also helps to significantly reduce the payback period for the heat pump.
The story of the pump house renovation can be seen online at the Channel 4 website: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-restoration-man/4od.
For further information on the complete Ecodan range visit the company’s dedicated website at www.heating.mitsubishielectric.co.uk.