Q&A Interview: Andrea and Dione Miller's Sustainable Estate – A Clean Energy Perspective

Introduction:

In a remarkable personal initiative to move towards clean energy, SAP solution architect Andrea Miller and her sister Dione Miller embarked on a journey to build an eco-friendly estate during the 2020 lockdown. This Q&A article delves into the inspiration behind their project, the sustainable practices adopted, and the architectural skills that shaped their vision.

1. What Inspired the Eco-Friendly Endeavor?

We were driven by a shared eco-conscious mindset and developed the idea during the 2020 lockdown. Dione, the eco warrior of the duo, coupled with my early interest in conservation, laid the foundation for a project aimed at creating affordable and sustainable living spaces.

2. Sustainable Practices and Technologies Incorporated by Andrea and Dione Miller:

In the construction and functioning of the houses, a meticulous approach to sustainability has been applied, integrating various practices and technologies for an eco-conscious living environment. These include:

Airsource Heat Pump by Joule:

Each dwelling is equipped with an airsource heat pump sourced from Joule, contributing to energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

Solar Panels with Battery Storage:

All properties, including the studio, feature solar panels complemented by batteries for efficient storage, harnessing renewable energy for power needs.

Timber Frames and Structured Insulated Panels:

The houses were constructed using timber frames and structured insulated panels, prioritizing extra-thick insulation to minimize heat loss, especially considering Buxton’s colder climate.

Optimized Orientation for Solar Gain:

Recognizing the climatic conditions, living spaces are strategically positioned on the south side of the houses, maximizing solar gain and natural light.

Reconstituted Stone for Exterior:

Planning standards were met with the use of reconstituted stone for the exterior. This sustainable choice involves crushed ‘off cuts’ from quarried stone, aligning with environmentally conscious building practices.

Reuse of Fractured Limestone for Dry Stone Walls:

The excavation through fractured limestone not only served drainage purposes but also facilitated the construction or reconstruction of dry-stone walls around the properties. This approach embraces material reuse, reducing the need for transportation to landfills.

Local Sourcing of Materials and Builders:

Local suppliers were engaged for materials, including kitchens, windows, and bathrooms. Local builders were employed, minimizing travel distances for both people and materials, thereby reducing the project’s environmental impact.

Innovative Package Treatment Plant:

A progressive package treatment plant employs bacteria to break down waste efficiently. The resulting clean water is then drained over a designated area, set to transform into a wildflower meadow.

3. Can you share any specific features that enhance the adaptability of the houses for the future?

Additional Batteries for Power Storage:

 One key feature is the adaptability in power storage. The design allows for the seamless integration of additional batteries, ensuring the houses can evolve with changing energy demands and emerging technologies.

Strategic Solar Gain Orientation:

 On the architectural side, we’ve strategically positioned the long side of the house’s due south. This maximizes solar gain in winter when it’s beneficial for warmth. However, we’ve also considered the sun’s higher position in the sky during summer, minimizing problematic solar gain. This foresight ensures the houses remain energy-efficient and comfortable, even as the climate may undergo changes in the future.

4.  Did your skills as an SAP Solution Architect play a role in shaping this project?

My skills as an SAP Solution Architect provided a valuable foundation for approaching this project from a holistic perspective.

Seeing the Bigger Picture:

 I applied systems thinking to visualize how everything fits together. This involved incorporating the natural lay of the land into the design of houses, the wildlife stream, drainage field, and pond.

Articulating the Problem Statement:

 Navigating the complexities of having multiple family members involved required articulating the must-haves, ensuring clarity in the project’s essence.

Scoping Conceptual Design:

 Working alongside Dione, we quickly assessed potential solutions, laying the foundation for decision-making in the conceptual design phase.

Uncovering the Unknowns:

Researching and integrating new capabilities were crucial, especially in designing the sustainable drainage solution (SUDS) and collaborating with engineers and manufacturers.

Problem Solving:

Faced with challenges like Natural England’s Nutrient Neutrality, my problem-solving skills came into play. Negotiating agreements with diverse authorities was a key aspect of overcoming hurdles.

Focus on the End Game:

Maintaining a helicopter perspective was essential in guiding the team through challenges and decisions, ensuring motivation and progress toward our ultimate goal.

Sequencing Work:

Breaking down the project into manageable work packages and creating a roadmap, considering constraints like selling homes to fund the endeavor, required strategic thinking and planning.

In essence, my skills as an SAP Solution Architect provided a unique lens for addressing the multifaceted challenges of this project.

Conclusion:

Andrea and Dione Miller’s private endeavour stands as a testament to personal commitment to sustainability. Their eco-friendly estate not only reflects their values but also serves as an inspiration for others looking to embark on similar journeys toward a greener future.