‘No oil, gas or diesel needed – it costs nothing’: north Dublin house years ahead of its time in energy efficiency

Donerea Address: Balscadden, Balbriggan, Co Dublin Price: €895,000 Dealer: Sherry FitzGerald Cumisky Kelly (01) 841 3000

lwyn and Tom Horan are the type to respond to ‘seven years of itching’. Seven years after completing a carbon-neutral home, ahead of its time, in Balscadden, Balbriggan on Dublin’s north coast, they are ready to move on. According to Olwyn, “it’s time for the next adventure.”

Tom explains: “We spent seven years in an apartment in Bray, moving here in 2014, and just over seven years later we moved back to Wicklow, which is close to where my family lives.

Donerea is a five-bedroom home with views of the ocean including Clogherhead and the Morne Mountains. Built on the land of the Olwyn family, it can be reached by an avenue from the road.

“We started the planning process in 2012 when we completed a topographic survey of the area,” says Tom. “This determines the highest score with the best views.”

From the very beginning they wanted the building to be as passive and sustainable as possible while making the most of the views. This presents challenges. “How do you get an A- BER rating while at the same time having a glazed, north-facing accommodation: that was our conundrum?”

It was 2012, in the depths of the building’s collapse after the accident. “At the time, we contacted a few architects and chose the Kilkenny architect, Gordon Chisholm. His work reflected what we wanted and we felt he had the right vision for the project,” said Tom.

“We visited his home in Kilkenny and liked what we saw. Gordon established the initial concept and laid the groundwork for everything that followed.”

The building was overseen for completion in 2014 by Skerries architect Terry Woods, after Gordon Chisholm returned to teach at the Waterford Institute of Technology.

Olwyn works in marketing and branding and her husband is a technician. “I come from this area,” she said, “and this place is home. While I wanted something modern, I also wanted it to be local.


Tom and Olwyn Horan with their daughters Samantha and Hayley

“I didn’t want a building to stand out. Gordon, our architect, was great in that respect. The front of the house you might call ‘bungalowesque’ while in the back it’s characterful. more architecturally adventurous”.

Tom worked closely on the technical side to deliver the most passive results possible. This includes installing heat recovery systems, heat pumps, underfloor heating, thermostatically controlled heating and triple glazing on all windows.

The effect of glazing will be well tested by a floor-to-ceiling corner window with a northwest view.

In 2019, the addition of photovoltaic solar panels with battery storage, along with smart chargers for electric vehicles, means the house is well prepared for the spike in fossil fuel prices.

“No oil, no gas, no need for petrol or diesel,” explains Tom. “We use electricity at night to charge the battery, and when the sun is hot, the excess electricity will overflow to charge the electric vehicle.

“As I’m telling you now, the sun was shining outside and we had to charge the car while the washing machine and dishwasher were running, all for nothing.”

Sod was introduced to the site in February 2014 and Horans moved in in November 2014, the whole project took 256 days. Tom said: “It was a busy time, we got married in 2013, built and moved in 2014 and our daughter Samantha was born in 2015.


Aerial view of the house

The house is a double-façade dormitory-style structure built to make the most of the coastal area extending to 0.75ac. The front facade is partly clad in stone while the rest is plastered. On the side of the entrance is an integrated garage with rolling doors.

Under the pitched roof top surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, the main door opens onto a large hallway with double-height ceilings. A solid oak staircase with glass balustrades leads to the upper level via a landing overlooking the lower part.

The hallway gives way to an open plan area paved with black slate that covers the common floor space of the lobby, kitchen and dining room.


Kitchen and dining area

Fitted with Darren Langrell appliances and granite worktops, the kitchen is fitted with a Neff oven and grill, a 5-ring induction hob, a Samsung American refrigerator and is served by a large pantry.

Hardwood countertops form the breakfast bar and divide the cooking space from the rest of the open plan area.

The dining area shares space with the kitchen and is illuminated by a feature window that opens to one side and overlooks the garden.

Beneath the dining space, in the lower part of a split level, is a seating area accessible by a short flight of stairs. This is illuminated by the floor-to-ceiling corner glass window while the floor-to-ceiling stone chimney with wood-burning stove forms the room’s central feature.

On the opposite side of the hallway is a compact living room/TV room with doors leading to the front garden.

Among other rooms on the ground floor is a convenience with furnished units as well as facilities for dryers and washing machines. Two bedrooms, one currently being used as an office and a tiled bathroom with WC are also located on the ground floor.

The master bedroom with walk-in closet and en-suite facilities is located on the first floor. It has an interior balcony that overlooks the living area and offers views of the ocean through the corner window and en suite bathroom. There is a corner shower.


The master bedroom has its own bathroom

There are two smaller bedrooms and a family bathroom on this floor. A large rear garden is bordered by a laurel hedge and has a wooden cabin, which is currently used as a gymnasium.

“We have two kids now, 6-year-old Samantha and 4-year-old Hayley, and we can’t forget Kodi, our golden retriever. I suppose when we were building, we thought of the house as a place to entertain friends and family.

“It has proven to be great for kids. There is also a secure garden in the back and plenty of space to play and we were just next to the sea. ”

This is the next seven years and the next adventure.

Sherry FitzGerald Cumisky Kelly is looking for €895,000 for Donerea.

https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/new-homes/there-is-no-oil-gas-or-diesel-needed-it-costs-next-to-nothing-the-north-dublin-home-that-was-years-ahead-of-its-time-on-energy-efficiency-41434766.html ‘No oil, gas or diesel needed – it costs nothing’: north Dublin house years ahead of its time in energy efficiency

Fry Electronics Team

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