Residents of Brighton and Hove are fighting back against climate change and an over-reliance on fossil fuels brick by brick.

This weekend the doors on some of the city’s most innovative and environmentally-friendly buildings will be flung open in the hope of inspiring more to live the green way.

Neil Vowles reports on this year’s Eco Open Houses Tours which start this weekend.

“From the outside it looks like a small brick box, very unassuming, but inside it had two large glazed skylights that looked absolutely beautiful, the quality of the light was incredible.

“It was dark and dingy and still smelled horrendous but the light was outstanding and so I thought that’s something we could work with.”

The regeneration process began by removing damp and mouldy timbers and disinfecting the site 20 times to remove the musty and damp smell that came with the former public convenience being locked up for years.

A previous attempt to renovate the site had seen a lot of features stripped away and removed before they could be reused.

But the team were able to give a new lease of life to toilet cistern brackets as shelf brackets and peel away old tiles to reveal the original terrazzo surface.

New life was breathed into the site with the use of paints by Arundel-based Reborn Paints who recycle unused paint which would have ended up in landfill.

The building has ground-floor insulation, food growing sites and rainwater collection.

The office furniture in the building is also rejuvenated golden oldies with a gym horse converted to a table, a row of aircraft seats which will be converted into a sofa and a 1940s kitchen cabinet which was bought from the Emmaus charity shop for just £40.

Claire said: “The kitchen cabinet didn’t need anything more than a clean-up, it was cheaper to buy than any kitchen unit and will last much longer because its better quality.

“It’s great to show that upcycling doesn’t have to be rough and ready, it can have a very high finish.

“Imagination and time, that’s the two biggest things.

“It is easy to go to a DIY store and get what you want quickly.

“Upcycling takes time but that’s also the fun, the fun is in the hunt and then the imagination is in changing what you have bought.”

The toilet block is in the last throes of construction, with visitors coming this weekend seeing it at about “97% completion”, but it is hoped that it will be completed by next weekend.

Claire said: “It will be lovely to show people what is achievable from something that started off very unpromising.”

In total, 19 proud homeowners, architects and visionaries will be opening the doors of their buildings of radical thinking over the next two weekends.

This year’s event will see a selection of seven new-build eco buildings and twelve eco home retrofits included in the trail.

Organisers claim the homes featured in Eco Open Houses achieve an average reduction in energy use of 69% and typically have lower water bills and smaller carbon footprints than the average UK home.

The event will give residents another opportunity to step inside the ground-breaking Waste House in Grand Parade, Brighton.

The building made entirely from waste sourced by Freegle pioneer Cat Fletcher and designed by architect Duncan Baker-Brown has gained international repute after it first opened its doors for this year’s Brighton Festival.

Participants in the tour will be able to see how 20,000 toothbrushes, two tonnes of denim jeans, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs and 2,000 used carpet tiles were reborn in the building.

Equally eye-catching is the Earthship Brighton – a community centre in Stanmer Park made out of old car tyres and rammed earth and the first Earthship built in England.

The award-winning Earthship Brighton was designed and built by Low Carbon Trust as a project aiming to create a model passive solar, low carbon building for use as Stanmer Organics’ community centre.

The building is an off-grid self-sufficient green building which uses nature for all its utilities – rain for water, solar energy for heat and power with the ability to heat and cool itself.

Mischa Hewitt, director of the Low Carbon Trust and one of the founders of Eco Open Houses, said: “This year’s event is our biggest ever and we are really excited by some of the new homes we have on the trail.

“With fuel bills rising and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, Eco Open Houses is an invaluable way for people to see first-hand how to make their homes and offices more efficient and less costly to run, as well as better able to cope with future changes to the climate.”

Mick and Sue Paskins say they became the proud owners of their energy efficient home in Preston Park Avenue, Brighton, almost by accident.

Mick said: “We were living in central Brighton and we were satisfied with the house and the location but it became increasingly noisy.

“We have been very interested and very concerned about carbon emissions for a very long time.

“We found out about this back garden that was available to purchase for development and we decided if we were going to build a house, we wanted to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.”

The house is designed by award-winning eco architects ZED Factory and is designed to maximise the amount of sun it receives with high levels of insulation and heavyweight internal materials storing the sun’s energy.

The house is very airtight and has a ventilation system with heat recovery to provide fresh air in winter.

The house is clad in Sweet Chestnut, which needs no treatment to preserve it and is grown in Sussex, and has a green sedum roof that attracts insects and other wildlife.

Mick said: “The house is performing very well.

“My heating and electricity bill is £350 a year while my income from the photovoltics is £1,400 a year.

“I like to joke that my central heating boiler is 93 million miles away.

“At our previous house we did a lot of rebuilding work but we missed a lot of tricks simply because we didn’t know.”

The house has featured in the past four years of Eco Open Houses and Mick said those visits had been an inspiration to other people.

He said: “I know this has happened because some people as a result of going round the house they have been inspired to do things on their house and hopefully we can spread the knowledge about what can be done and what is available.

“What we have done with our house, I think every new home should have as a matter of course.”

Tours of the Eco Open Houses will take place on over this weekend and next.

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