New build of a sustainable eco friendly house
Bearna Tri Ri, Kilchreest, Co. Galway Click Image to Open Gallery


This three bed room family home set on an acre site was designed by Paul Leech an Irish member of Gaia Ecotecture in 1999. The challenge of this deeply sloping site with its breath taking views to Croagh Patrick, The Burren and Connemara was to link it to the landscape without destroying its natural beauty. The brief was for 1900 sq. foot energy efficient, dwelling on one level with a self –contained work area in the basement which allowed the owners to work from home. This compact structure of exposed brick and stone, both inside as well outside, has an understated, almost austere presence which allows it to merge with its quiet surroundings. Yet, at the same time, it is designed to offer a rich, complex and dynamic living experience for the owner and his family.

As we cleared the topsoil from the site we came upon brown conglomerate sandstone close to the surface. Michael Coy a retired builder from the locality informed us that at one time a small quarry operated in an adjacent field and stone from it had been used in the building of the local church. The stone was stockpiled and used to clad portions of the external walls, boundary walls and to build the two feature fireplaces. The house is designed to maximize passive solar gain while the chimney is located in the centre of the house and acts a thermal store. The saw tooth roof which is clad with natural slates allows light to pour into the centre of the dwelling, even when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky. The garage is located in the basement underneath the South facing patio and as a result the site is free of any sheds or outhouses. Cellulose insulation made from recycled paper pulp which allows the building to breathe was used in the walls, attic and roof. Double glazed cedar wood doors and windows were fitted throughout. A wood burning stove with a back boiler which burns waste wood heats the radiators.

A key part of the design is that the home is Lifetime Adaptable. The Lifetime Homes Standard is a series of sixteen design criteria intended to make homes more easily adaptable for lifetime use at minimal cost. The construction of this house was phased over a three year period.


This is a very practical house which is fully accessible, energy efficient and has a low carbon footprint. The brick, stone, slate and cedar wood windows make this house almost maintenance free externally.


If you want to build a sustainable home try and keep it smaller rather than larger. Build what you actually need and not a house exceeds that the needs of your family and you immediate future. Don’t fall into the trap of building rooms and spaces that you rarely or never use.