The National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC) in Swindon has launched a new event called Market Day, where many of its exhibitors will be encouraged to be on stand to chat to self builders in a relaxed and informal setting.
Kicking off on Friday 8 March, 10am-3pm, the Market Days will be on the second Friday of each month. The event is being organised following requests from visitors, to give people the chance to discuss projects in detail away from the busyness of the traditional show days.
Plus, visitors will be able to join a free guided tour of the NSBRC’s new-build educational zone at midday.
A list of exhibitors who will be on stand for the next upcoming Market Day is available on the NSBRC’s website, so you can plan you trip to speak to the right companies for your project.
Find out more about the NSBRC’s Market Days
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.
All new builds must comply with Building Regulations, which set the minimum standards for new housing in England*. Many self builders build far beyond this standard, but it is important you know what each standard is in relation to your own build.
Part L of the building regulations sets the standards for energy performance for new and existing homes. The 2021 changes put more emphasis on the performance of the building fabric and minimising the impact of thermal bridging, with your build route having an impact on how you achieve the standard.
The changes meant that new homes have to have a 31% reduction in carbon emissions in comparison to the old Part L standards.
In terms of building with brick and block, the Self Build Portal asked Ali Riza, Technical Manager at H+H, manufacturer of Celcon Blocks, how high-performance building materials, such as aircrete, can help you meet building regulations.
H+H produces aircrete blocks, which have inherent thermal properties that make them a good choice for energy efficiency. Ali explains more about the Part L implications.
When planning your build, you need to consider cold bridges in any materials. A cold or thermal bridge is an area in the building envelope which allows heat to pass through more easily. This usually happens where there is a gap in the insulation layer or where an element such as a joist crosses the walls.
As the industry now insulates buildings to much higher levels, such thermal bridges become a critical pinch point that can lead to significant heat loss. In fact, they can account for as much as 30% of a build’s total losses, compromising the energy efficiency of your home.
Therefore, the regulations advise that you choose materials or systems that minimise thermal bridging. Using a product like aircrete can significantly reduce the thermal bridge effect at junctions, as it has better thermal resistance than denser materials.
The 2021 amendments to Part L made recommendations regarding building fabric for masonry construction, suggesting the same material should be used to build the foundations and external walls. Aircrete can be used in both foundations and external walls with H+H Foundation Blocks offering self-builders a simplified groundworks solution.
Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) calculations are used to demonstrate that your build meets the standards set out in Part L of the building regulations. A SAP calculation establishes the energy performance of a dwelling and are a requirement for new builds in the UK.
As a self builder you should engage with an accredited SAP assessor as early as possible. The assessor will generate your SAP calculation based on your design, which takes heat lost from junctions and thermal bridges into consideration.
Once built, your final SAP calculation is submitted to building control by the assessor for what has been built, rather than what was proposed. If your build varied from the original plans significantly then a new SAP calculation is needed, and this could show your home is not compliant with Part L. This is why it is important to plan ahead, and stick to your plans.
To mitigate this risk engage with your assessor at the design stage to get advice on meeting Part L. You need to follow their advice and assess build quality regularly throughout the build to ensure you have suitable evidence that your self build complies with the regulations.
There are many guides and resources available about Building Regulations, including H+H’s own free resources for anyone building with aircrete.
Find out more about building with H+H Celcon Blocks at www.lifetimehouse.co.uk
Many self builders make the mistake of thinking about their landscaping at the end or their project, rather than planning for it as part of their build. But this often results in it not being budgeted for. Self builders easily overspend on their journey, sometimes due to the unexpected, but sometimes as they upgrade elements or choose renewables that require upfront investment.
The result can be that landscaping can be an afterthought, but why let your build down when you’ve invested so much money and time to create your perfect home? Plus, your planning permission may include a reference to the completion of landscaping too.
Planning early will ensure you have a ring-fenced budget for landscaping and can also ensure that any heavy lifting or tree planting can be done while you’ve the right machinery on site.
We caught up with NaCSBA member Arbour Landscape Solutions, which has in-depth knowledge as a trade landscaping supply company with more than 60 years in the industry.
Richard Bickler, MD of Arbour, filled us in with this guide to getting started with garden surfaces, as he explains:
Hiring a garden designer is always the most efficient way to get the garden you want, and they will be able to advise on the right garden surfaces for you. But on a self build where all costs are carefully monitored this might be beyond your budget.
However, when it comes to purchasing materials, self builders can register as customers on Arbour’s site, which gives you the advantage of being able to buy landscaping materials at wholesale prices.
When it comes to garden surfaces the preparation of the ground is vital on a building plot, where compression, rubble and contaminants can all be an issue. Time spent managing and preparing the ground – and looking after it during a build – will be well worth the effort.
It helps to keep a tidy site and ensure trades are clearing up after them and that skips are used for waste that cannot be reused on site.
Many selfbuilds are knock-down-and-build opportunities, and planning can often require materials to be reused as much as possible on site. In which case consider crushed brick or concrete to create sub-levels for surfaces, but these need to be the appropriate size and properly compressed – so always seek professional advice if this is what you plan to use these materials for.
One final consideration is that architects on high-end houses love taking an internal material outside via level thresholds, so a stone floor flows straight onto a terrace to create a seamless look.
This needs careful specifying in terms of levels and drains, as well as the type of stone, so again get professional advice if this is a detail you are hoping to achieve.
Check out Arbour Landscape Solutions’ guide to materials:
The instant appeal of a turf lawn, or the more economical seeded lawn, is a great solution for large areas. It is economical, quick and easy to work with, and can be easily removed for landscaping projects that are planned for the future when money has eased post build.
Ground care is important, as is levelling, and you can choose from different grass mixes to improve biodiversity, create interest or manage tricky areas, such as more shade tolerant plants. Shady or small areas can be hard to maintain for a lawn, so again choose the right product for the location.
Beloved by all, natural stone can often be reasonably locally sourced and makes a garden bed in with its landscaping relatively easily. Stone comes in a range of colours and textures, from inky-black slate to buff sandstone.
If you’re building with sustainability in mind consider where your stone is coming from, and also consider the finish. Highly polished stone can be slippery when wet, so may not be practical on steps or by pools.
Porcelain is one of the most flexible materials in terms of finish, as it offers colours, textures and patterns not available in other garden materials (see main picture). Stain resistant, stylish and durable, it creates a sharp look that works brilliantly in modern gardens.
Specifying is important – external porcelain should be winter-hardy by default if sold in the UK, and you can specify textured or matt finishes for extra grip.
There’s a lot to choose from so do your research, and think about how it will be used. On steps it can have hard edges that can be chipped, so consider the final design and use of the space.
Much is imported from abroad, so when researching ask about availability and lead times for orders – and ensure you order sufficient, with extras, so you have spares in case a line is discontinued or some are damaged during storage.
Gravel can be used beyond the drive to create interest and an easy-to-maintain surface for your garden, ideal if you’re future proofing your home. Used with membranes you can still plant in it and keep weeds to a minimum, and it is ideal for sloping, exposed or high-traffic areas where a lawn would struggle.
Plus its permeable, meaning more water is absorbed across the garden, unlike with solid pavers or porcelain.
For paths or seating areas you can opt for self-binding gravel, which can be compacted to make a more resilient surface, but it won’t stand up to car tyres.
Whether you choose timber or composite, decking remains a popular choice for patios. Composite is available in range of colours and is very low-maintenance, and is often made from, or partially from, recycled materials.
If a natural material is more important, only use FSC certified timber and opt for good quality preservatives or pressure treated wood, but be aware that these are chemical processes. Also, if you’re considering hardwood decking do your due diligence about where these are sourced from and if it is sustainably sourced.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Modular building gets referenced a lot by government as a solution for building more housing more effectively, but how does that relate to self build?
NaCSBA member MMC Build is a team that offers professionals services, such as project managing, and works exclusively with modular projects. As a specialist, MMC Build is ideally placed to share the benefits of the model, helping you decide if it is the right choice for your self build.
Also called prefabricated homes, modular builds are factory fabricated in sections, with the system quickly constructing the house’s structure once on site.
At this stage the homes are erected to weathertight stage, and in most cases this shell is then handed over to the self builder to commission the remaining trades. However, some companies will also take the house to completion, so it’s important to ascertain at what point the home is handed over to you when researching firms.
Working in the modular field means that MMCBuild is able to relate to the wider benefits of building with MMC, and put that into the context of self build. These include:
Building in a factory is an efficient process in terms of materials (usage and purchase), labour and streamlining, and this can make these homes cost effective. However, while standardised design makes this more affordable in a speculative market (ie regular housing at scale), for one-off homes this saving can be eroded. So discuss cost implications of complicated designs with your modular provider early on. While a single modular home might not be as cheap as a whole estate of modular homes, it often stands up very well when compared to other self build models.
Modular homes are quicker to build than traditional homes, and are especially quick on site due to the factory lead-time. This means there is less disruption locally due to a prolonged build, and less vulnerability to bad weather, which is ideal for self builders. On-site assembly is completed in weeks rather than months, but short on-site times need to be weighed up with lead times for busy companies.
Most people tend to think that MMC homes must be identical for the method to work, but modular homes have a wide range of design options. Modules are customised and arranged in various configurations to create unique floor plans. They can also be clad in a variety of materials to give different aesthetics, including brick or brick slips to give the appearance of a traditional ‘brick-and-block’ build. However, as with all self build, simple designs are cheaper to build.
Modular homes are specifically designed to be energy efficient. They use energy-efficient materials and components, and the factory fabrication ensures they are airtight and keeps waste to an absolute minimum.
Again, the controlled factory environment ensures precision and a carefully-monitored process.
Overall, the modular construction allows for speed and efficiency, the reason why government likes MMC so much, as it holds great scope for getting more homes built quickly. In the self build arena there are many companies operating as modular providers, and MMC Build’s Rhys-Evans Edet has the following advice for self builders:
“Do your research to find a reputable modular home builder with experience of the UK market. For example, Dan-Wood House sells 1,000s of modular homes a year across Europe, and delivers many of these in the UK.
“Experience of building in the UK means that the company will be familiar with working to UK building regulations and standards, as it’s ultimately your responsibility as a self builder to ensure your contractors are building to the correct standards.
“Also, check that professionals, such as consultants and follow on trades, are familiar with the build method. Most modular companies will be able to share contacts that are trusted for the build out of the home.”
Rowallan Castle Estate (image) in Scotland includes modular custom build homes, as well as other plot opportunities. MMC Build is working with the enabling company to provide project management and health and safety for the site.
When sourcing suppliers for your custom and self build, getting the right knowledge about products and services is vital to empower you to make the right decision for your project. All NaCSBA members sign up to its Code of Practice, meaning there’s a level of trust you can relying on when it comes to specifying. We asked Ali Riza, Technical Manager at H+H, manufacturer of Celcon Blocks, about aircrete – one of the most popular building blocks for a variety of builds.
He shares ten reasons why aircrete could be the ideal product for your home, from on-site practicalities and thermal performance to the comfort and safety of your finished project.
“Masonry has been the go-to building method in the UK for decades,” says Ali. “Robust, resilient and high-performing, masonry homes are a fantastic option for self-builders.
“Aircrete is a lightweight masonry building material made from cement, lime, water and Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA). It has long been a popular choice for its combination of strength, durability and thermal efficiency and the ease of use that comes with a lighter material.
“So, what benefits does aircrete bring self-builders and why should they choose it for their homes?”
Should you choose to build your house with aircrete, you will get a solid house that meets every aspect of the building standards within the UK. Aircrete has excellent thermal insulation properties to help keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer, leading to lower energy bills and a more comfortable living space.
Celcon Blocks are also perfect to accompany energy saving technologies, like underfloor heating and air source heat pumps, that many self-builders are now factoring into their home’s design.
For self-builders, delays to construction can be particularly costly, so speeding up your build by using aircrete makes sense. A report by market research consultants, Emergen Research found that aircrete blocks help reduce construction time by about 20% versus other forms of dense masonry.
Aircrete offers fantastic acoustic insulation, reducing the transfer of sound from room-to-room and helping block out unwanted noises that might come from outside a home.
Unsightly and unhealthy, damp and mould are the last things you should see in a modern home. Aircrete is resistant to moisture and sulfates, and the effects of freeze/thaw cycles. It will not rot or warp and cannot be attacked by pests such as termites, insects, or vermin.
Compared to market alternatives, aircrete offers superior fire resistance. Celcon Blocks provide excellent fire protection and are classified as A1, non-combustible in accordance with BS EN 771-4. H+H aircrete block walls built using our 100mm blocks offer up to four hours fire resistance.
Unlike many other masonry blocks, Celcon Blocks can be cut on site with a hand saw. This makes it easy to achieve the detailing needed for elements like spandrels and gable ends. It also means site wastage can be kept to a minimum because special shapes and infill pieces can be easily cut.
Building walls with H+H aircrete can reduce heat loss in a home and achieve impressive airtightness. Aircrete walls can have extraordinarily low U-Values and are able to meet and even exceed Passivhaus requirements.
Aircrete is an extremely versatile building material. It can provide cost effective solutions for wall, floor and below ground construction, including aircrete foundations.
In fact, Part L of the building regulations recommends using aircrete foundation blocks where aircrete is being used in the construction of external walls. This is to ensure continuity of insulation levels within the building fabric.
H+H aircrete is manufactured using Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA), a by-product from coal-powered fire stations. Celcon Blocks are made from up to 80% of this recycled material, while waste aircrete generated from the manufacturing process is recycled as an aggregate back into the process.
When you’re building your forever home, you want it to be built to last. H+H aircrete has a lifespan of over 100 years providing a resilient home for you and for generations to come.
For stockist of Celcon Blocks and to discover more about building with aircrete, visit lifetimehouse.co.uk.
NaCSBA member Allan Corfield Architects (ACC) recently celebrated reaching its 500th project over 15 years. A stalwart of the self build sector, the practice designs self build homes and extensions, and works to educate the public through its How to Self Build Successfully seminars*.
Based in Scotland ACC also operates out of the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon, fulfilling self build commissions across England and Scotland.
Many of these are replacement dwellings, offering the residents a modern home that suits their needs. Frequently this includes future proofing to enable residents to stay living in their home should their personal circumstances change.
The seminars cost £40 per person, and provides a detailed overview of the self build process. This includes finding land, funding the project, the design process, structural considerations, low-energy solutions and consultations.
Velfac’s new website offers a host of features to empower you as you make decisions about the windows and doors on your project, including a visualiser.
When specifying windows and external doors it’s important to be aware of the choices on offer. Not only do these features set off your overall design, but there are material and energy-related decisions that you need to make.
Materials, design and the types of glass and hardware all need to be considered to ensure that not only does your choice look good but that it offers the thermal and acoustic performance and durability that you need.
VELFAC windows and doors have durable external aluminium facing paired with natural, internal timber, and the new inspiration area shares self builders’ experiences and photos of their own projects, showing the products on real projects.
Window and door specialist Kloeber has expanded its aluminium entrance door range with the launch of UberFront (main pic: Madison UberFront door).
Your front door is the defining feature in your new home, the first thing that greets every new visitor, so making an impression is important for many self builders.
The new addition to Kloeber’s bespoke door range comes in a range of choices:
The UberFront is the perfect choice for a contemporary build, with flush door panels that come with a low-maintenance, thick-textured powder-coat finish and a multi-point locking system.
The robust doors come with an insulated core, advanced weather sealing and quad glazing (where relevant), which achieves a U-value of 0.8W/m2K. Prices start from £2,695+VAT.
Matt Higgs, Kloeber’s Managing Director said, “We are excited to launch UberFront, our top of the range, aluminium entrance door. We are a company that focuses on continual evaluation, research and development of our product range and we know that UberFront will appeal to those desiring a high performance, aluminium door with WOW factor.”
To experience the range of Kloeber’s windows and doors visit its showrooms in Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, West London and West Sussex or its stand at the NSBRC in Swindon.