Gail Halvorsen

Renewable energies CPD

Earlier this month I organised a CPD to unravel the complexities – claims and counterclaims – around the renewable energy sector. Several independent experts gave their views on how to sort through the issues and provided us with much food for thought. Thank you to all who contributed to an enlightening afternoon.

100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings

I recently attended the book launch of “100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings” by SEDA (Scottish Ecological Design Association). I strongly recommend it to everyone. As Robin Harper (SEDA’s patron) said “It is a celebration of new ideas, of ingenuity, imagination, philosophy and art, a tribute to creativity, joyfulness, human scale design, an expression of our dedication …

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Woodland to playground

Halvorsen Architects have just completed phase I of a new playground at Happy Days’ Eskbank nursery school. All the oak and larch trees were sourced from nearby woodland – trees that otherwise have no commercial value and were due for clearance. A tree lorry carrying all the wood just sneezed through the nursery gates and …

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Tree columns bring wildlife into nursery

Tree columns bring wildlife into nursery

Horntails, or wood wasps, have made their nests in the internal oak trees supporting the roof of Halvorsen Architects’ recently completed Happy Days nursery extension, along with several other species of insect! Rather than be alarmed at their new, uninvited guests, the creative and environmentally-friendly nursery has embraced the chance to study wildlife indoors and set their under fives a …

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Extension to Happy Days Nursery, Dalkeith

Extension to Happy Days Nursery, Dalkeith – Phase I

client Genesis (J&T) Ltd (Trading as Happy Days Nurseries) engineers Gordon Eadie and Iain Thew contract value £150,000 area 48 sq. m. new build, 30  sq. m. refurbishment This is the first phase of the expansion of Happy Days pre-school nursery in Dalkeith, Midlothian. This phase includes a dining room, craft room and toilets. The …

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Restoration of Georgian House, Gorebridge

Restoration of Georgian House, Gorebridge

client private 14 Main Street is a listed Georgian house in the heart of Gorebridge’s old town. It falls within a conservation area that is part of the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funded by Historic Scotland and Midlothian Council to help in the restoration of buildings. Halvorsen Architects acted as architect for phase I …

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Beauty and elegance

At last a skyscraper that is not yet another phallic symbol.  Herzog & de Meuron, architects of Tate Modern, have designed Beirut Terraces, a residential tower in the Lebanese capital. This beautifully elegant building is made of staggered floor plates with large overhangs breaking the relentless pursuit for the sleekest vertical tower. How refreshing to have a tower …

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Whole tree structure – first in UK?

This is an abridged version of an article for the next issue of Association of Scottish Hardwood Sawmillers. If I had known how difficult this project was going to be, would I have still done it in the way I did? – absolutely! Genesis (J&T) Ltd., owner of a successful pre-school nursery chain in Midlothian asked me …

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Woodland nursery

Planning permission has now been granted for a new nursery building that we have designed for Happy Days, in Eskbank, Midlothian. Midlothian Council planners refused to give consent last December, but the Local Review Body (comprised of Midlothian councillors) overturned their decision earlier this week. Happy Days moved in to Hardengreen House – a large …

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Newbyres castle conservation

Despite the bitter cold over 20 volunteers and archaeologists turned up this week to spend a day clearing vegetation around the little-known ruin of Newbryres castle in Gorebridge town centre. Newbryres castle was ‘adopted’ by the Adopt-a-Monument Scheme run by Archaeology Scotland last Summer. Last week saw the first community volunteering day, led by myself …

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Sick buildings

I organised an afternoon of CPD talks last week entitled ‘Breathability and low energy retrofit’. The session, organised for ECAN and a joint event with CIBSE, was held at the RIAS, in Rutland Square Edinburgh  and attended by about 30 architects, engineers and academics. It turned out to be a thought-provoking afternoon with some excellent speakers (see …

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Branched tree posts – first in Scotland?

Last week I spent another glorious day surveying trees in woodland near Abbey St. Bathans in the Scottish Borders. These are to be used as posts and beams in two new buildings that I am designing for Happy Days, a nursery in Dalkeith. But we’re not just looking for any old posts and beams – we’re …

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Huts planning guide celebrated

Last night the Thousand Huts campaign launched its ‘New hutting developments: Good practice guidance on the planning, development and management of huts and hut sites’ at the Scottish Parliament. It is a comprehensive document with many seductive photos of huts, both old and new, to help planners and hut builders respond to the emerging opportunities for …

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New build at Eco-Nursery using natural materials

Halvorsen Architects was recently granted planning permission to enlarge Happy Days nursery near Edinburgh, for a design that reinforces the pre-school facility’s green ethos. The client, Genesis, which owns and operates several nurseries across Scotland’s central belt, chose Halvorsen Architects after seeing our timber building projects with local primary schools. Genesis promotes a healthy lifestyle …

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RIBA House of the Year – my winner

I was slightly disappointed when the 2015 RIBA House of the Year was announced in December last year. The winner is worthy – Flint House by Skene Catling De La Pena – but I was seduced by the less iconic but more subtle short-listed Vaulted House in Chiswick, London. At first glance it is not so alluring …

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Sunshine on Leith

A recently completed extension to a Victorian house in Leith, Edinburgh, this project was designed to maximise the light coming in from the client’s south-facing garden. It’s a large, single room for sitting, dining and showing films. The new multi-purpose room is pulled away to the rear of the original stone building with a three-metre wide link, …

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Old dairy restoration

45 Main Street is a listed Georgian house in the heart of Gorebridge’s old town. It falls within a conservation area that is part of the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) funded by Historic Scotland and Midlothian Council to help in the restoration of buildings. No. 45 used to be the town’s dairy. Halvorsen Architects acted as architect for the …

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Hempcrete – a natural building material

Marijuana may be great for getting high, but the architectural value of cannabis is in the industrial hemp that forms a vital ingredient of products including hempcrete. Hempcrete is low-tech natural building material made from the chopped stalk of the hemp plant and a lime-based binder. It is carbon-negative in that it absorbs carbon dioxide …

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Passivhaus Studio, Edinburgh

Passivhaus Studio, Edinburgh

client private engineer CRA Ltd. contract value £70,000 area 55 sq. m. The client lives in a listed 1950s, Morris and Steadman house – the ‘Upside Down House’, and needed more room for an expanding family. After looking at various ways of extending the existing house in a bold manner, sympathetic to the original design, …

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DNA sculpture, travelling UK

DNA sculpture, travelling UK

Poet Melissa Bailey asked me to collaborate with her on the design an installation that represents DNA and it’s unchecked mutations that can lead to cancer. She wanted a sculpture related to her poetry and also a place where one could listen to the poetry. We asked genetic scientist Fiona Moorman to join our team to advise how best and …

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