Sustainability at the House of the Northern Gate
The house sits in the midst of a delicate Highland ecosystem and is highly sensitive to the climate. In renovating the house we aimed to minimise the impact the house has on our local and global environment during renovation works and in the ongoing operation of the house. We aim to show that it is possible to combine luxury, comfort and environmental consciousness. If you have any ideas of how we can achieve more, please let us know.
Some examples of how we aim to achieve this are below.
Apart from the barbecue and catering stove, everything including the heating at the House of the Northern Gate is powered by zero-carbon electricity. An array of 31 solar panels in the gardens power the house (and when it is not sunny, local wind farms provide the rest of the power needed).
Two ground source heat pumps to provide all heating and hot water for the house by sucking heat out of two 200m bore holes under ground, concentrating that heat and using it to power underfloor heating downstairs, radiators upstairs and our 1000 litres of hot water for long, hot showers and baths after a bracing coastal walk.
We have an electrical vehicle charger for guest use (electric cars including Teslas are available for rental in Inverness).
Power and Renewables
Renovations achieved a "B" rating for energy efficiency (not easy for a house of this size and age) through installation of double-glazing in replica style to the old, sadly unrepairable windows as well as significant amounts of natural wall, underfloor and roof insulation. The exterior walls have been reharled (historic Scottish style of rendering) with natural-highly insulating lime that uses minute glass bubbles instead of sand to capture heat.
Electronic systems monitor and reduce power usage when not required. The whole house has energy-saving lighting throughout and all appliances have high energy efficiency ratings.
Throughout the house, natural materials were used for insulation such as wood fibre and low-VOC paint has been used for indoor air quality (Farrow & Ball). Detergents used in cleaning are mainly Ecover with plant-based, biodegradable ingredients.
In the garden, we do not use pesticides or inorganic fertilisers and we reuse all rainwater.
Recycle and reduce
We no longer provide single-use mini toiletries but large refillable glass bottles from Bramley - a British supplier using all natural ingredients and local botanicals. The water we provide comes in recyclable cartons. And we recycle as much of our waste as possible.
We still have more to do! We need to find a way for guests to be able to compost their waste food and to find suppliers that use less plastic packaging. We still haven't found bin liners made of biodegradable materials that are strong enough for guests. We are also exploring more use of wind turbines on site if we identify small and visually - unobtrusive models.