NaCSBA member Air Craft Southern has added the innovative Heliomotion system to its suite of heating, cooling and solar solutions. Ideal for any self builder interested in improving sustainability, Heliomotion is a solar power plant for residential and commercial use, that moves to track the position of the sun, thereby maximising efficiency.


Easily installed by DIYers, once in place the configuration follows the sun in two-axes, which means the solar panels can deliver between 30-60% more energy annually, in comparison to a conventional roof-mounted system.

It uses GPS to calculate the sun’s location from its position to maximise the energy produced from solar power. This can be used to power the home, or stored in batteries for later use.


Not every roof is suitable for solar, and Heliomotion is a great solution for those with sufficient outdoor space for this clever alternative to solar generation. 

Produced by Bee Solar Tech, tracking systems can increase productivity, meaning that you can secure the same energy output with few panels than a fixed system. Heliomotion won Best Sustainable Technology or Product category in the 2022 Build It Awards

NaCSBA member Beattie Passive is running a pair of free Passive Haus training events in October to support anyone considering adopting a passive methodology for their new build or retrofit project. One event is curated with self builders in mind and the other is designed to support professionals working in the sector.

Offsite modular specialist Beattie Passive, a member of the Passivhaus Trust, the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB) and the Good Homes Alliance, is holding the Passivhaus events at its offsite factory in Norwich.

The sessions offer attendees an insight into the principles of Passivhaus and how the standard can be applied to deliver energy efficient, net zero homes.

The sessions also include a guided tour of Beattie Passive’s 100,000 sq ft housebuilding factory.


Wednesday 11th October, 10am-12pm, Beattie Passive’s factory at Unit 1, Carrow Works, Norwich, NR1 2DD

This event has been specifically designed for self-builders that are interested in the energy and carbon-saving benefits of Passivhaus.

Attendance is free, but space is strictly limited, so register early to avoid disappointment.


Beattie Passive also has a second event for professionals interested in learning more about passive approaches to building:


17th of October, 10am-12pm, at Beattie Passive’s factory at Unit 1, Carrow Works, Norwich, NR1 2DD

This session is designed for local authorities, housing providers, policy makers, architects, builders, developers, and anyone else with an interest in building new net zero homes to Passivhaus standard (or retrofitting their existing housing stock to EnerPHit standard).


Ron Beattie, founder and managing director of Beattie Passive, said: “These events are part of our mission to promote sustainable building practices. Passivhaus has become synonymous with energy efficiency, and for good reason – a Passivhaus needs as little as 10% of the energy required by a conventional UK home – but we shouldn’t overlook the other benefits, such as thermal comfort, noise reduction and air quality.”

“Passivhaus is a panacea for many of the challenges facing the housebuilding sector – it can put an end to fuel poverty, raise living standards and eliminate damp and mould. At our net zero event, we’ll be paying particular attention to the environmental benefits of Passivhaus, and the role the standard plays in the delivery of net zero homes and retrofit projects.”

The Building Performance Network (BPN) has published three free modules to support a range of stakeholders, including self builders, to help them get sustainability right. The guides are designed to support stakeholders to understand the gap between planned energy performance and the actual reality of living in the home.

At NaCSBA we know self builders often become semi-professional in the level of knowledge they develop as they pursue their own build. As such, while these guides won’t be relevant for all, there will be many self builders researching sustainability who will find them insightful as they work to create an energy home that performs as well as promised.

What is Building Performance Evaluation (BPE)?

BPE refers to the performance of a home and its systems. Understanding  around this area can be complicated, drawing on various data sources, but is necessary to support the emergence of more homes better able to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Building Performance Evaluation modules:

The guides , the first three of five, will support your understanding of what it’s like living in buildings where sustainability has been factored in, in comparison to their predicted performance. This in turn will help you when it comes to making decisions about fabric and systems for your own build, helping you to cut through the greenwash.

The new guides are available at the BPN’s Resource Hub, which is sponsored by Ecology Building Society, and are designed to be entry level for those who are new to BPE and want to understand how to avoid building inefficient homes.


Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems are a big ticket item that work very well in a self and custom build. This is because they can be designed in at the very earliest stages of your project, to work in conjunction with your building’s fabric.

But what do you need to understand about MVHR to ensure that it’s the right choice for you? NaCSBA member Airflow shared some of its experience with the Self Build Portal, to help you decide if investing in MVHR is the right choice for you.


Our changing climate means that homes in the UK need to not only provide heating requirements but also need to stand up to extreme heat for prolonged periods of time. 

MVHR offers your the opportunity to control your internal environment, especially when combined with a fabric-first approach to building. This is because it needs an airtight building envelope to work efficiently, so how you build is as important as the MVHR system itself. 

Efficient energy usage

The heat recovery element of MVHR is an extremely energy efficient process, as no heat is lost, so reducing demand. Conversely, in Summer, many systems bypass this exchange process, to bring cool fresh air in from outside and allowing internal heat to be expelled. Be sure to ask when specifying if your system has an automatic bypass, or partial bypass for Spring and Autumn. 

Used well this allows some degree of cooling, especially as the MVHR system will remove humid air, which can in itself make you feel warmer. Removing excess humidity is also important to reduce mould build up. 


Airflow MVHR function image

How does MVHR work?

Heat recovery captures and retains heat that would otherwise be lost as it leaves the building. MVHR removes the heat from stale air as it is extracted from the building. This is passed through a heat exchanger that transfers the heat from the outgoing air to fresh air entering the building. Incoming air is filtered to remove impurities, such as allergens, heated and then distributed around the building.

This requires good levels of airtightness in your build envelope to prevent air leakage, as well as ducting and the actual unit where the exchange takes place. MVHR does away with stand alone extraction systems, such as hob and bathrooms extractors. 

Air conditioning or MVHR?

In regards to cooling Airflow has some useful insight on comparing the two systems. 

Primarily, air conditioning will cool more powerfully, but it does this by recirculating the stale air that is already in the room. 

Whereas air conditioning is reliant on a unit per room, with associated running costs and local noise, MVHR is a whole house system. This means there is one piece of plant, in the loft or plant room, and ducts in individual rooms, rather than entire units. 

As well as fresher air and a quieter system, this can result in lower energy usage, but check if this translates into lower running costs. 

MVHR is better at maintaining a constant temperature using fresh air, but is more reliant on external air temperatures to secure this. Therefore regulating the temperature early in the day will result in a cooler building. 

A more powerful MVHR system can move larger volumes of air which can help with cooling, so again, speak to your specifier about your expectations for the system.

When to find out more

MVHR needs to considered early on in your plans, and needs to work in harmony with your build model. If you are considering it speak to system manufacturers/installers and do your research in advance.

This can be from neutral sources, such as magazines, as well as supplier websites (although be aware they are promoting MVHR). The Passivhaus Trust and Green Building Store are also good sources of information, and the NSBRC runs several courses on heat and energy. 

If you decide it is for you, ensure that your architect and package manufacturer are planning for it from the get go, and that any follow on trades are aware of the need for airtightness. This needs a ‘fabric first’, whole house approach, and this might affect window orientation and shading and solar gain. For example, trickle vents on windows should be avoided, as they will reduce the airtightness. 

Images: Airflow

Member update – find other members offering MVHR in the Directory

When planning a project self builders should adopt a fabric first approach to the construction. Zero carbon homes are at the top of the government agenda, and combined with the energy crisis it’s never been so relevant to build with energy efficient materials.

Fabric first refers to the building fabric that creates the envelope of your built home, including the materials used to create the frames, structure and insulation, and specifically in relation to heat retention.

Choosing high performance materials, such as Structural Insulated Panels (‘SIPs’) means you are building with energy efficiency from the start. All other decision, such as heating and cooling systems, start from this fabric first approach.

A fabric first approach should consider:

  • High-quality insulation
  • Increased air-tightness
  • Thermal bridging issues
  • Solar gain and
  • Natural ventilation for cooling

Specialists SIPS@Clays, which designs, fabricates and installs the Kingspan TEK® SIPs Building System, shared their insight with the Self Build Portal as to how this approach can make all the difference to the final home, with the example of building with SIPs

Ian Clay of SIPS@Clays explains that as one of the most sustainable methods of construction available, the popularity of SIPs is soaring for environmentally conscious self builders.

These high performance panels are made up of sandwiches of boards bonded together with insulation, with different configurations and thicknesses available for different applications and performance.

The structure can be finished to look like a conventional build, clad in timber, brick slips or render, depending on the customer’s design (as shown in this SIPS@Clay home, clad in sheet metal and burnt larch teamed with render).

The advantage of SIPs is that, because they are structural, they can be used to build the floors, walls and roof. Plus, they have the the added benefit of not needing roof trusses, which maximises usable loft space. 


“There are so many benefits of building with SIPs including speed of build, increased living space, flexibility of design, predictable build programme and exceptional versatility. However, amongst the most important are the thermal efficiencies, low energy living and green construction credentials the system provides. This is why SIPs lend themselves so well to the fabric first approach.

“The ‘built in’ thermal properties of SIPs and reduced thermal bridging, the low U-values and the increased airtightness that the system offers, can reduce the amount of energy used to heat or cool a room by up to 50%.

“In most cases it removes the need for additional technologies or conventional heating entirely, relying on the natural efficiency of the fabric of the building. Of course, additional sources of heating or cooling can be included if desired.”

“Add into this, the off-site manufacturing, minimal waste and low environmental impact, SIPs are the perfect construction solution for all self-build projects, including those being built to achieve Passivhaus accreditation.

So, if you’re at the start of your self-build journey and want to build a low or zero carbon home, ensure you adopt a ‘fabric first’ approach from the outset.

Member update: SIPS@Clays

For more on the Fabric First approach, check out Homebuilding & Renovating magazine and Build It magazine’s features on the subject. Or visit out Build Methods section. 

New research from The Eco Experts finds that solar panels have moved from an eyesore to an asset in people’s perceptions. The research will be welcomed by self builders debating the merits of solar and their visual impact on potential future resale value.

NaCSBA knows that self builders stay in their projects for far longer than average home owners, but eventually move on, often due to personal circumstances, such as downsizing, or to embark on another self build project. So it is reassuring to know that eco-measures that individual’s invest in could well add curb appeal to a project when the time comes to sell.

The Eco Experts’ National Homes Energy Survey found that over two thirds of people (69%) in the UK would be ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to buy a property if it had a solar panel array. This figure is is up from 65% figure from 2022, possibly reflecting a changing mindset as a result of the ongoing energy crisis.

Undoubtedly, the energy crisis has many people reassessing green and micro-renewable technology, and considering the costs in terms of including them in their own project, both in terms of installation and payback. 

The US online property portal Zillow reported that, in the USA, installing solar panels on your property could increase its value by around 4.1%. This fact could help self builders make the decision of whether or not to invest in such technology.

Self builders have traditionally been the pioneers for new products in these markets, with many of the leading suppliers working with owners of one-off projects that pave the way for uptake by the wider housing market. 

Charlie Clissitt, Editor of commented: “It’s magnificent to see solar panels swing from neighbourhood eyesore to a property desirable. The energy crisis has had a big part to play in this, but solar panels have also come a long way aesthetically.”

Find suppliers for your project.

Anyone debating whether to self build or retrofit an existing building to improve energy efficiency will be interested to read that new research has found that ‘greening’ up an existing building requires a far larger investment than previously thought.

The University of Nottingham findings show that retrofitting your home to the highest levels of energy efficiency costs significantly more than the government’s expected average £30,000, with a typical home costing around £68,000.

The research has created a retrofitting roadmap for the decarbonisation of the city’s housing stock, which reflects a major national issue, as 80% of the buildings that will form our future housing stock have already been built. Many of these date from before the 1990s, when Building Regulations had comparatively low targets for energy efficiency.

The Government put up £350,000 to support the “Nottingham Carbon Neutral Housing: Cost vs Carbon Retrofit Roadmap” retrofitting project to address the fact that 22% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from residential buildings, according to the London Energy Transformation Initiative.

Professor Lucelia Rodrigues, project lead and Professor of Sustainable and Resilient Cities at the University of Nottingham said that, “for most homes, it is both more cost- and carbon-effective to first improve the building’s fabric before electrifying heating.”

This fabric-first approach is an essential tenet for all self builds as well, as the effectiveness of any energy efficiency measures or micro-generation is dependent on this principle.

Register for Nottingham Retrofit Roadmap Guidance, once published


Image credit: Image by MVOprp from Pixabay

Scotland is leading the way in the UK with a trailblazing piece of legislation that requires all new homes to meet a new Scottish passive standard by 2024, including owner-commissioned or self build homes.

Similar to the Passivhaus Standard, the new regulations set a minimum standard for environmental design standards, meaning all new build homes must meet set levels of airtightness, insulation and energy standards.

Doing this will offer a better lived experience for residents, delivering high levels of thermal performance and energy efficiency that should help manage energy costs, as well as meet wider climate challenges.

The change is set out in the new Domestic Building Environmental Standards Bill, and it is expected that secondary legislation will be passed in Scotland to ensure the standard is being me by 2024.

Alex Rowley MSP introduced the change through a private member’s bill calling for all new housing to meet Passivhaus standard, or a Scottish equivalent, a direct response to the Scottish Climate Assembly Recommendations for Action around homes.

Jon Bootland, CEO, Passivhaus Trust said, “It is a truly forward-thinking approach by the Scottish Government and a positive response to the 2021 Scottish Climate Assembly recommendations.

“They are to be applauded for taking this crucial step towards meeting their Net Zero/ Climate Emergency goals. Now we must ensure that the Bill is well developed and implemented to deliver the greatest impact on the actual performance of new homes in Scotland.”

Find out more about Passive Haus

Image by Richard Mechen from Pixabay

To reflect the current appetite for energy saving measures, the September SelfBuild & Design South West will feature a brand new Green Home & Energy Efficiency area, dedicated to showcasing eco-friendly products and services from companies that put sustainability at the heart of their business.

At a time when the cost of living and the price of energy is soaring, this new feature will bring together a host of brands with expertise covering many aspects of the eco-home and eco-building.

Attendees at the show will be able to find out more about sustainable building materials and methods, insulation products and heating and renewable energy systems. In addition, they can find out more about and electric car-charging equipment works, especially pertinent as now all new homes must have, where possible, a car charging point. This falls under Part S of the updated building regulations, with many measures now included to ensure that new homes produce less carbon emissions.

As well as exhibitors, there will be a host of Green Homes & Energy Efficiency talks throughout the weekend on green energy, energy efficiency and sustainable building methods, including Dr Richard Lowes advising on how to retrofit an existing building to improve energy efficiency.

With 18 speakers delivering 30 free seminars and masterclasses over the weekend, visitors will also be able to learn more about smart control, tips for working with architects, planning, plot finding and hear first-hand experience of a build from fellow self builders.

Look out for the Green Home icon across the SelfBuild & Design Show website to discover talks and exhibitors who are part of the feature.

The SelfBuild & Design Show South West takes place at Westpoint Arena, Exeter on 10th and 11th September.

Self Build Portal users can register for two free tickets for the show!

NaCSBA member Advanced Housing Systems has come up with what they think might be a first for the self build sector, with a pick-your-own timber service, from Will Benzies’ mature Douglas fir forest in Devon – all local to the company.

Advanced Housing Systems states that buyers can wonder through the forest to chose those perfect trees for their own build, which forester Benzies will then fell and process to create the raw materials for a greenwood post and beam frame, creating a home with a very personal touch. The frame is infilled with Advanced Housing’s panels, which can be integrated with its range of our systems, including its THEPASSIVHAUS PHI certified models.

Advanced launched its THEPASSIVHAUS system in 2021, bringing a passivhaus certified total envelope system to the market. On review, the Passivhaus Institute at Darmstadt system stated that it found it to be ‘the most comprehensive system’ it had assessed to date.

Self builders won’t be the guinea pig for this new service, as Advanced Housing Systems has chosen its own timbers to build its own new facility using this process, which it believes brings together the embodied carbon and the operational carbon figures, which, when combined with passivhaus technology, will create a super green build.

The company works to create Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) systems for both self builders and commercial developments alike, offering a customisable envelope for both the sub- and superstructure. To make life easier, the system can be delivered with joinery and electrical systems in place, that are ready to skim plaster internally and clad externally, saving work time on site.

What is a green wood frame?

Green wood is effectively fresh wood that has not been kiln dried. This type of timber is cut from the forest and used for construction immediately, with no need for seasoning, and is a traditional approach to construction that has been used throughout time. Often, pegs and holes join the frame together, and as the frame dries out naturally these joints tighten and become super strong. Oak is the wood typically associated with building with greenwood, but many woods such as Douglas Fir or cedar can be used – but this often depends on what is available locally.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay