Jan Alexander - South Leitrim



Bought the land a number of years ago with the view to one day building on it. Jan is the founder of CRANN (people for trees) and works extensively with promoting the proper management of woods and Irish timber.

Looking to build, herself and her partner Gabriel Toolan approached the architect Colin Bell to discuss plans for building. They wanted to build with a low carbon footprint and meant to build a small house but it became bigger as they designed it. She knew that she wanted a house on stilts so that the air could pass underneath it – she likes the feel of that and is how homes are built in her native Australia. They also knew that they wanted to build with wood – and where possible Irish wood – and to use local materials as much as possible. The importance and inspiration for Jan was that her work with Irish forestry would carry on into her home with well informed choices of what wood to use for what job and what wood would create the desired effect.

They have a perfect view of the lake and obviously wanted to include that in the design.


Timber frame build; unique design created by working together with her partner Gabriel Toolan and the architect Colin Bell. Heirclif board and paper insulation infill. Slate roof.


A home designed by its occupants taking into consideration their environment and way of life. Conscious desire to have a low impact on the environment.


  • Design – low impact
  • Rain water collection
  • Solar panels
  • Locally sourced materials
  • Compost toilets
  • Reed bed system with flags
  • Kachel oven

Forbo flooring systems


    The use of wood ties into Jan s life/work and experience.  Working closely with the architect meant a continuous discussion and input from her about the house and its evolvement.


    Colin Bell


    Thomas McSharry


    Timber for Frame Paul Reynolds, Mohill
    Joinery Irish Ash - Clarke Cunningham, Co Down – tree surgeon and carpenter
    Doors, windows, sills Ash
    Floor Pippy oak


    • Wood pellet burner
    • Solar panels
    • Solar Panels
    • Kerkul oven


    Rain water harvesting system and mains.  Doesn’t often need the mains but can immediately tell with the chlorine taste when the rain water runs out.


    Flush compost toilet – system


    • Green house and vegetable plot
    • Extensive tree planting
    • 5 cows as pets


    As some of you know, Jan’s work started in the mid 1980’s when she startled Ireland’s Gay Byrne’s Late Late TV Show audience (the most watched programme in Ireland) on her views on forestry. Her remarks that Ireland at the time was importing all their beloved Ash hurleys from Wales caught the public’s attention and she also focused the interview to the under-explored value of growing valuable and biodiverse rich, native broadleaves in a country that has little understood that it has the best tree growing conditions in Europe (in the main, Ireland’s recent forestry industry has almost exclusively concentrated on non-native spruce plantations).

    To this day, Jan is still stopped by people her saw her speak then and around that time Jan founded and led the Crann tree organisation for 20 years promoting these ideas. More broadleaves were planted but Jan began to realise that Ireland had very little knowledge of managing forests into perpetuity other than monoculture crop farming, clear-fell methods. She is no longer involved with Crann but for the last 8 years she has turned her attention to the important ideas of encouraging foresters, farmers and the country about the Pro Silva methods of permanent, non-clear fell, close to nature, mixed forestry as practiced by leading European foresters.

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