Billie gives us a translation of the UTUs. Slight confusion over the requirement for the top floor where it states: ‘Potkrovna etaza podrazumijeva visinu nadzitka od 1.20m.’ [translated as ‘Loft space assumes height above the wall of 1.20m.’ ]. We are not clear if this is telling us we must have an attic top floor – ie the roof slope being the ceiling to a wall 1.2m high, or just a minimum requirement, allowing us to have a full-height top floor. Billie introduces us to a most useful contact, Vasko, who is a degree engineer with a wife who is an architect. He advises us to get Elisabeth to draw up a design which we take to the municipality and discuss with the planners. There was a change in the law about a year ago, and now all building projects have to have a qualified engineer (ie degree) in charge – which is why Billie introduced us to Vasko. He fulfils several criteria for us, primarily being local, so that there will be knowledge transfer to local people. Also his wife went on a study tour in 2009 organised by the Austrian Development Agency to Steiermark to look at energy efficient wooden buildings. Elisabeth’s house in Graz was one of the buildings they all saw.
February is also the month when we have our Burns Supper, later than the traditional time around Robert Burns’ birthday of 25 January, as back at the end of November we choose a day when grandson Alec can come out to pipe for us. That is Friday 17th, just at the end of his half-term. Sadly with his GCSEs in the summer, at the start of January a family decision is taken that he must stay and study to catch up on preparation. Our other main organiser, Robin, manages to find a substitute, Graham Neil. The evening itself goes well, although numbers are well down on previous years. One reason is the country-wide state of emergency introduced after extremely heavy snow 10 days before – only essential vehicles are allowed on the streets in Podgorica (buses, taxis, no private cars) which erases our guest list. We decide with Robin that the effort is not worth the result, so this is the last one we will organise.
The following week we fly up to Belgrade for a Green Building Council expo and conference. Snow still on the ground there, and near zero temperatures. Conference excellently organised by our Serbian GBC counterparts (a 3-day event), and we also manage to catch up with friends there, so all-in-all a useful excursion. A serendipity is our meeting with representatives of Knauf, the insulation people, with whom Anke makes a pitch for help with the insulation for our house.