Page last updated at 06:52 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 07:52 UK

Sheep help retain farmhouse heat

The farmhouse has been designed to blend in with its surroundings in the south of Scotland as much as possible

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

It is highly unusual for anyone to welcome being "fleeced" during the building of their new home.

Yet that is one key part of a green farmhouse scheme which has recently been approved in southern Scotland.

Among the elements which will make the Cairn Valley farmhouse near Moniaive "carbon neutral" is using the nearby sheep to help keep the humans warm.

Their wool will be used to provide insulation in a scheme which is proud of its eco-credentials.

Dumfriesshire farmer Neil Gourlay, 49, said the project had been a "lifelong dream".

He said he was keen to do "something different" that would also be environmentally friendly.

The one advantage of being a farmer or landowner is you do have access to quite a lot of materials which another person would have to buy off the shelf
Neil Gourlay

One element he was particularly keen on was to use sheep's wool as insulation rather than selling it for what he described as a "pittance".

He admitted: "I'm a miserable Scotsman in some respects.

"We could do a lot more with reclaimed materials that are just as good as brand new."

That means that wool sheared from his sheep will be used as insulation - a practice he hopes might catch on with other farmers.

That is not where the use of elements from the Dumfries and Galloway landscape ends.

Locally reclaimed timber is intended to form part of the farmhouse design.

Existing external dry stone walls will be extended to come into the building.

While the sloped roof to the main living area will be covered in turf and also feature a variety of low-growing plants.

Sheep shearing
Wool from the farm will be used to provide insulation for the house

All of which, the architects hope, will ensure the roof will be "barely visible against the hill behind".

In addition to utilising local materials the building is also intended to make the greatest use possible of the energy sources available.

Solar panels and a wind turbine will be used to help provide electricity.

And rainwater collected from the roof will be processed to be used in the building.

The south of Scotland project has been designed by London-based Waghorn Gwynne Architects.

Mark Waghorn explained: "The task of finding innovative approaches to sustainable living is becoming ever more urgent and requires collaboration between experts in many different fields.

"Our aim is not only to deliver a high quality design but to make this a living project that will serve as a learning resource for the future."

The efforts to minimise energy use will extend to the inside of the building.

Clothes will be dried in a ventilated, glazed area linked to the laundry while a store has been designed to take advantage of cold nights to keep food fresh.

Mr Gourlay admitted that all these elements do carry a significant price tag.

"Green projects don't come cheap," he said.

"But the one advantage of being a farmer or landowner is you do have access to quite a lot of materials which another person would have to buy off the shelf."

Water collection

When the building is complete, Mr Gourlay said it should also start to prove more cost-effective.

"Once you have built it you are not connected to any services at all," he said.

The wind turbine should produce more electricity than the house needs, allowing it to generate about £5,000 a year in revenue.

Water will be collected from the roof and heat provided by a system which requires only a few logs and waste packaging to run for a day.

Initially the house will be run as a kind of eco-guest house but Mr Gourlay hopes it might ultimately become a home for his son.

Construction work will get under way next spring with a completion target about the same time the following year.

Which should give more than enough time to give local sheep the short, back and sides necessary to provide some farmhouse insulation.

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