Environmental measures at Happy Vale
The Happy Vale site was purchased in 2012 with this small cottage on site. The original stone cottage, probably over 100 years old had collapsed and most of the purchased cottage was of rebuilt block construction but it was very damp, cold and structurally cracking. In redeveloping the site the dimensions and footprint of the original cottage were incorporated into the new building. The fields purchased with Happy Vale were also suffering badly from rushes, brambles and gorse.
Apart from the cottage dimensions the only original features retained on site are the thorn trees along the stream leading down to the granite bridge. Construction work started in January 2014 and completed in July 2014 with the building contractor Derryleckagh Contracts Ltd. All the kitchens and many furniture items were custom made by BMP Furniture in Mayobridge.
Environmental measures used in creating Happy Vale
The modern buildings have been well insulated gaining a top ‘A’ grade thermal rating. The floors, walls and roof all have high quality insulation and insulating thermal blocks were used the build the inner walls of the cottages. One very simple measure is that every bedroom or living room/kitchen has windows facing South. The only rooms with windows facing North are the bathrooms (frosted glass).
All the cottages have under floor heating with the main heat supplied by a Ground Source Heat Pump. This was fitted by Future Renewables. The GSHP works like a fridge in reverse cooling water underground and using the resultant heat generated to heat the cottages. At Happy Vale two boreholes were drilled 100m deep to access this heat source. The GSHP will heat the floors and hot water if required.
The Wood burning stove in Bearnagh Cottage is also capable of heating the floors and hot water. There is sufficient waste timber on site from clearing gorse and other waste wood for many years.
Solar Photo Voltaic panels on Meelbeg and Meelmore cottages are capable of generating up to 4 KW. They currently only supply about a quarter of the power used on site so the generation capacity needs to increase.
Water heating also by a 60 vacuum tube Solar hot water system.
Each room in the cottage has a thermostat that controls the under floor heat in that area. Liquid Screed was used in the floors to speed up the reaction time of the heating system.
Outside sockets are provided at each cottage for possible charging of electric vehicles.
The tap water at Happy Vale comes from Fofanny Dam just about a mile up the road. It is perfect to drink straight from the tap. All the showers and sinks work at mains pressure. The flow has been adjusted to provide a comfortable shower volume without wasteful excessive flow.
To reduce the use of water on site a natural spring on the slopes of Slievenaman above the cottage is gravity fed to supply the toilets and outside taps. The water in the outside taps is not suitable for drinking.
A very high quality sewage system has been fitted to ensure the cottages are not a source of pollution. The BioRock system uses bacterial action together with gravity and natural air flow to vents to treat the sewage to a level beyond requirements. Notably there is no electric pump required in this system.
Reuse of building Materials
The cottages have been constructed with reclaimed Bangor Blue roof slates that are in keeping with the traditional cottage look while providing a high quality roof structure.
By working in partnership with neighbouring Mourne Hill farmers the fields at Happy Vale are gradually being cleared of gorse, rushes and brambles. Guests have the option of walking up onto the ridge of Slievenaman where there is a wonderful view of the Mourne Mountains and down over Tollymore Forest Park to Newcastle.
Mourne Heritage Trust provided 20 locally sourced Oak trees that have been planted in the hedge rows.
A range of environmentally friendly cleaning products have been purchased from Earth Renewable Solutions. These are proving highly effective, simple to use dramatically reducing storage space and they are great value!