Open days enable Self Builders to experience energy-efficient Passivhaus homes

Passivhaus

The Passivhaus Trust is supporting the International Passivhaus Open Days scheme in the UK, offering aspiring Self Builders the opportunity to experience these unique, sustainable homes in person. Between 8-9 November 2019 a range of homes across England, Wales and Scotland will be opening their doors, sharing their owners’ and designers’ Passivhaus stories for anyone considering a Passivhaus approach to a build project.

What is Passivhaus?

Passivhaus is a construction method that delivers a high level of comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling. They are rigorously designed and construction according to principles developed by the Passivhaus Institute in Germany. Construction includes high levels of insulation, high performance windows with insulated frames, and, crucially, an airtight frame combined with a mechanical ventilation heating recovery system.

This year NaCSBA member the Green Building Store is coordinating the open days around Yorkshire with three local Passivhaus homes throwing open their doors, including Denby Dale Passivhaus (below left), Golcar Passivhaus (below right) and Kirkburton, as well as housing free Passivhaus talks from its Heath House Mill base near Huddersfield.

 

Denby Dale Passivhaus
Golcar Passivhaus

 

NSBRC Passivhaus weekend

On the 22-23 November, the National Self Build & Renovation Centre in Swindon is running a weekend of events in conjunction with the Passivhaus Trust, with talks, workshops and demonstrations aimed at selfbuilders interested in Passivhaus.

Booking is essential for all the free Passivhaus talks, events and open days.

MyPlot brings together key services for novice Self Builders

MyPlot

New tech platform MyPlot has launched in the Self Build market, aiming to make the process of building as simple as possible by bringing together a range of services to assist novice builders on a single platform.

While self-build is on the ‘bucket list’ for many, it has yet to become a mainstream housing solution in the UK. For some would-be self builders, the process can appear complex especially for those with a full-time job and family obligations, or without any construction know-how.

While finding a plot remains a significant barrier for some, for others navigating the complex planning system, sourcing trusted contractors or securing finance for the project can be key challenges. For those without a property background these obstacles can feel insurmountable, and many will return to the established homes market, which leaves their self-build ambitions unfulfilled.

Navigating the process

To help remedy this, MyPlot has been created to assist aspirational self-builders with the process. Users can find their ideal plot, and source contractors from the directory on the platform to interview and appoint the entire team to take their home from concept to reality.

From planning consultants, architects, building contractors and mortgage advisors, the experts listed, are all experienced in delivering self-build projects, and are carefully selected by MyPlot to give novice self-builders the confidence in their choices.

The company aims to grow the number of self-build homes in the UK from under 10% of new housing in the UK, which currently creates around 12,000 homes per year. In contrast, The Self Build Housing Market Report Analysis 2016-2020 revealed self-build rates in Austria, Belgium, Italy and Sweden are as high as 70 per cent.

NaCSBA research indicates that in the first seven months of the Right-to-Build registers opening, 18,000 people had signed up, jumping to 40,000 by December 2018, so demand is definitely there.

MyPlot Director, Paul Smith, said: “In Europe, it’s much more straightforward to source a plot of land, and the planning system is less onerous – there’s also more support for those embarking on the process.

“With MyPlot, we’ve looked at the issues and offered a solution, filling the gaps and removing the complexity by providing a directory of self-build experts on a single platform.

“The government has been very supportive of self-build, particularly in recent years, introducing policies to oil the wheels and make it more attractive financially, but it’s often the practical considerations that put people off, such as financing the project and living arrangements during the build.

“What’s more, the assumption that self-build is something only wealthy people do has to be challenged – we hope that MyPlot helps to encourage people to at least be open to the idea, rather than dismiss it out-of-hand.”

 

Credit: Flo Pappert on Unsplash

 

NaCSBA Member Message

Self Build Week 2019 – highlights

National Custom & Self Build Week logo

National Custom and Self Build Week ran from 6-12 May and was a huge success, helping more people access Custom and Self Build, and also flagging up the benefits and challenges of to Government. Here’s an overview of what went on.

Talking to Government

At the invitation of Richard Bacon MP and Right to Build Task Force ambassador, NaCSBA held a reception at the House of Commons, bringing some if its members together to be addressed by Housing Minister Kit Malthouse and Kevin McCloud, as well as event sponsor Ecology Building Society.

There was a great atmosphere at the event, with Self Build, Custom Build and community-led housing celebrated, with commitments to do more and offer greater support for the sector from the highest levels.

Read more on NaCSBA’s news pages.

Finally, off the back of National Custom and Self Build Week, Victoria Prentis MP brought a Promoting Self Build debate to the House of Commons.

Kit Malthouse and Kevin McCloud chat to Studio Bark about its innovative U-Build system

Grand Designs Live

Self Build took centre stage at Grand Designs Live with NaCSBA on the main stage every weekday – to a packed auditorium eager to find out more about how, and where, to build. From the Right to Build registers to finance, NaCSBA’s team spent the week busting the myths that Self Build is Too Hard.

Plus our members joined the Ask the Experts team for the week helping dreamers and doers reach the next stage of their very own Grand Design project.

Also on stage over the week was NaCSBA member Graven Hill – home to the epic Grand Designs: The Street.

Incredibly, the Grand Theatre also saw Kunle Barker, Kevin McCloud and Kit Malthouse share the stage to discuss the benefits of Self Building!

Kit said: “This is National Custom and Self Build Week and we think self build and custom build has a huge potential to expand – other European countries do it much more than we do.”

 

NaCSBA's Gus Zogolovitch on the Ask the Expert stand at Grand Designs Live
NaCSBA’s Gus Zogolovitch on the Ask the Experts stand in the Self Build Clinic at Grand Designs Live

 

Green Building Store

Visitors to the Green Building Store’s Huddersfield Showroom got to find out more about the Right to Build and what it can – and can’t – deliver, while also finding more about the Green Building Store’s range of windows and MVHR systems.

 

Potton’s Show Centre

The UK’s biggest Self Build Show Centre opened its doors and attendees to two of its Self Build Academy courses got an extra insight into the week and what it delivers.

 

 

National Self Build and Renovation Show

The team at the National Self Build and Renovation Centre, the UK’s only permanent Self Build centre pulled out the stops with a discount for anyone signing up to its Self Build Course running through the week, as well as presenting on the Right to Build at the show, the following week.

 

 

In the press

Off the back of the week Self Build made the news with many papers covering the latest developments, not to mention The Street, including in the Metro, Sunday Times, Times and Financial Times.

National Custom and Self Build Week

NaCSBA would like to say a big thank you to the following companies.

Kevin McCloud picks his Grand Designs: The Street highlights

Lynn and Terry on site at Grand Designs The Street

Grand Designs: The Street is available online – Catch up on Channel 4

What started Grand Designs: The Street?

Back in 2010 I went to The Netherlands on a trip (organised by NaCSBA) with a bunch of leaders of local councils and politicians to look at a large self-build town there, Almere, built on reclaimed land near Amsterdam.

The Dutch have always stolen a march on us in terms of housing initiatives. Now, Almere is full of self-built homes, but nine years ago it was already advancing, and I got so excited I had to go and see Channel 4, simply to say ‘it’s amazing what’s happening there, let’s film it’. It was a sort of self-build heaven.

Meanwhile, Cherwell District Council, a small local authority in Bicester, had also been bitten by the Almere bug. In fact, they wanted to replicate Almere and facilitate Britain’s first self-build and custom-build site on a grand scale. They were negotiating with the MOD to buy an old military site as they wanted to see what it would be like if they invited the general public to build their own homes.

It’s this experiment that we’ve been following for the last 5 years in Grand Designs: The Street. In the process, we’ve witnessed the first 10 pioneering households build a street of very different homes at Graven Hill.

But it’s just the start. Ultimately there will be thousands of homes, some social housing, some custom-build as well as self-build. I believe it’s a model that could be copied by local authorities up and down the land.

Tell us about the show

It’s very people based and very observational. We followed ten households, all of them from different walks of life, with different budgets and they’re probably at the lower end of what you would expect to see on Grand Designs.

These are more accessible projects costing anything from around £200,000 to £400,000, in terms of value, what they’re getting for their money is good architecture and homes that are really tailored to them – all with the lightest of planning!

Our pioneers are not people with large financial cushions to float on. Building for the first time brings with it a lot of financial, personal and emotional stress – which this series honestly reflects. Relationships get really tested and some fail.

I suppose we see a lot of that in Grand Designs, but goodness me I’ve never seen it so repeatedly and so intensely, as in this series.

These very different households all took a big risk but ultimately, I think they’ve been rewarded for this, with brilliant very individual homes and a great, wild-looking street – which is a sort-of test bed for self-build construction techniques, which I think is just brilliant. No two homes are the same.

WhileThe Street focuses on homes with an affordable budget, do you think it’s possible to stick to budget?

I think two of the households stuck to budget, but self-build is a huge adventure in expression, in architecture, and in terms of discovering what it is that makes us happy and what we like from our environment. People talk about going over budget as if it’s this great cardinal sin, whereas, it usually results as a part of the process because people on the way discover things. On The Street one family wanted a dining room on the first floor, in another household Garrie alters the layout to better suit his wife Sue who’s disabled.

Sometimes building just takes you somewhere that’s far more exciting than you dreamt it would be. Peter and Anita and their teenagers Sam and Lucy, who [and self building]

gave them a larger kitchen, open plan living areas as well as cleverly designed spaces for individuals to retreat to do their own thing. Very important with teenagers – and unthinkable in their previous home.

They did all this and stuck to budget but towards the end of the project Peter realised, he could put an extra bedroom in the attic, and with their two kids it just seemed an obvious thing to do. Suddenly they were discovering what the process of design is. Financially their story was inspiring, the finished house ended up costing almost half as much as it would cost to buy something similar in the area.

Which houses stand out for you and how they were constructed?

It’s really hard for me to disassociate people and their stories from the building. For example, there’s the story of Lynn (pictured) and her house, which is sort of raw with problems. She experienced a great deal of bad luck and it’s very hard not to feel sorry for her, but she emerges in the series with a very beautiful building. It’s one of my favourite buildings, because it’s so eccentric.

Tell us about the eco hemp house

The material, Hempcrete, isn’t common, but it’s certainly earned its pedigree in the UK. It’s a mixture of hemp, which is the stuff they use on the floor of equestrian arenas and is like finely chipped bark and lime. When mixed with water and lime it forms a kind of eco concrete, the texture of horse poo, which you stuff in-between shuttering. The entire house is built from this stuff – it’s highly insulating, structurally sound, has high thermal mass and locks carbon into a building.

Paul and Blanka slogged and crafted most of this house with their bare hands, occasionally with the help of friends and family. When things got really tough, the street lent a hand too, so it’s been very collaborative at times. It’s a house built from friendship really and has a very cool vibe about it. It’s also a beautifully crafted building and a house jam-packed with some very cutting-edge eco-gadgetry which I was fascinated by.

Why do you think Self Build can be so tough emotionally?

I think it’s because our relationships are defined in many ways, both emotionally and structurally. Relationships are sometimes defined with ambitions and dreams, and so to dream of a home together is a huge thing.

Some of the younger couples on the project have moving stories, for example Jack and Hannah, who worked so hard and lived with his Mum to save money on rent.

I think what you realise is just as the dream and the hope of that new home is so very strong it can be a very disconcerting experience when you’re living between houses, in a sort of limbo. It’s all a reminder of how home for us is a very powerful idea.

In terms of it being physically tough, Terry on plot 1 lost a huge amount of weight through self-building and overcame his diabetes. I saw Paul on plot 4 morph from a human rights lawyer into a builder and I witnessed Lynn, who’s 63, lugging huge blocks around on the hottest day of the year.

What challenges did the pioneers face?

Although the planning process was streamlined, they still had to deal with the planners, local council, and building control. This is before they even started building. It was a long list. No one has ever said self-build is easy.

y Grand Designs: - Episode 2

 

What inspired the pioneers to build?

 

I once said to a self-builder, an artist: ‘you are extraordinary people for self-building’. She replied, correcting me: ‘no, we’re ordinary people just doing an extraordinary thing’.

 

It’s the idea that you take ordinary people who have got this slight glint of ambition and madness in their eye who say, ‘we can build a house, can’t we? How cool would that be?’ And before you know it, they’ve turned themselves into true radicals. I love that!

All of our pioneers – who started out as ordinary householders – have decided to build a home and they’re now all transformed as individuals and hugely empowered.

As this town of 1900 homes grows, they’re going to become the go-to gurus of how to build with Hempcrete, or how to deal with the mortgage company. They are the self-build wizards of Graven Hill, at once wise and magical.

Why do you recommend Self Building?

I don’t always! I think for many people custom-build is a much safer route, which is where you work with an architect or developer who is building a house for you which is bespoke, but you’re removed from the day to day. However custom build can be more expensive.

Regardless, it’s always going to be stressful, it’s always going to be emotional, it’s always going to be harder than simply buying a home. Even buying a home isn’t that simple because all your hopes and dreams are invested in one idea, one transaction. It’s serious stuff.

The Pioneers all came with a mission to build a house for very personal reasons, but I was fascinated to see how well it all came together and how, in building a house, they could build a community, an astonishing achievement of which they should be proud.[the pioneers]

What surprised you most about the process?

The thing that always surprises everybody is how long things take and what I’ve learnt in this series is there no such thing as an average or dull human being. Everyone has a story and usually a pretty fantastic one at that, and when we as a species are pushed out of our comfort zone, when the television is turned off and we are told to put our mobile phones down, all of us can rise to extraordinary levels of performance and adventure.

What I loved to see in this project was the transformation from a bare piece of brown field land next to a railway into a proper street and community. For the last five years the pioneers have slogged away, and they’ve got to know each other so well as a result, some have formed strong new friendships. It is sobering to think that they have spun all this invisible social glue; that this is just the beginning of something.

What misconceptions do people have about Self Building?

I think most people believe because they put up a shelf, they can build a house. Or because they have managed a marketing team, they can manage a team of builders, and that’s not always the case.

Better sometimes to be a good engaged helpful client who devotes time to thinking things through and making the thousands of necessary decision well. Better to have time to buy and bring the bacon sandwiches to site in the morning.

There’s a paradox right at the heart of building that explains why projects overrun and go over budget. It lies in the fact that people have ambitions, dreams and hopes; we’re not machines or spreadsheets.

We invest all our energies in the risk of one big idea which is both the most daring aspect of any project, and at the same time, the most glorious. We push and fight for the quality of that idea and that is what makes Grand Designs so watchable and compelling. It is the force that makes architecture happen.

Eden District Council’s Build your Home, Build your Community event, Penrith

Eden District Council, in partnership with Andy Lloyd of the National Community Land Trust Network, is running a free self-build, custom-build and community-led housing event in Penrith on 4 July. With exhibitors and presentations, the event is ideal for any prospective custom, self and community builders wanting to get help or advice, find like-minded people or take the next step on their ambition to create their own home.

Kicking off at 6pm at the Rheged Centre, there’s an hour allocated for networking and talking to exhibitors, with presentations starting at 7pm.

TV presenter and architectural technician Charlie Luxton will be sharing his enthusiastic personal experiences of self building, before a range of presentations that will help you discover more about building as part of a community, planning, finance and more.

Exhibitors and advice*:
• Andy Lloyd, National Community Land Trust Network Technical Advisor
ACT Cumbria and Lancaster Community-led Housing Hub
Atkinson Building Contractors
2030 Architects
JIW Properties
LoCal Homes
Penrith Building Society
• Thomas Armstrong – kit systems
Ecomotive
Unity Trust Bank
Hyde Harrington
Manning Elliott
PFK
Green Footsteps
• Ecological Building Systems
• Eden District Council – Officers from Planning, Building Control and Community-led Housing

And presentations from:
• Charlie Luxton, architectural designer, writer and TV presenter
• ACT Cumbria and Lancaster Community-led Housing Hub
• Patterdale Community Land Trust / Eden Housing Association partnership
Lancaster Forgebank Co-housing
• Ecomotive, a social enterprise supporting group projects with an emphasis on sustainability and affordability
• Rod Hughes from 2030 Architects
• Rob Jerams from LoCaL Homes, a not-for-profit advanced housing manufacturer, offering high performance, low carbon housing solutions
• Bruce Armstrong-Payne, local self-builder and Planning Consultant
• Michelle Stevens from Penrith Building Society.

*Subject to change

While the event is free, places are limited so registration is a must.

Andy Lloyd is a community housing adviser to the National Community Land Trust Network. He provides technical support to communities and local authorities in the Penrith area, helping to deliver community owned affordable housing projects, such as:
• Lyvennet Community Trust in Crosby Ravensworth
• Keswick Community Housing Trust
• Lune Valley Community Land Trust in Halton, Lancashire

Community-led housing includes self-build, co-housing, co-operative housing, self-help housing and community land trusts (CLTs). This housing enables communities to become active players in their own sustainable development.

Sign up to Eden District Council’s Self and Custom Build Register.

 

EXHIBIT: If your company provides goods and services which may be of interest to self-builders and would like to exhibit at the event please email: andy@communityhousingprojectdevelopment.uk

Find out more about Build your Home, Build your Community event here.

Border Oak wins planning for six-home West Sussex Custom Build site

Border Oak Threals Lane

Working with property agent Fidẽlitãs to secure the land, Border Oak Design & Construction is bringing Threals Lane to market, offering six large, Arts and Crafts bespoke custom build homes near the West Sussex village of West Chiltington.

The 5.43 acre site has recently received planning permission for the new homes, which range in size from 3,000-6,000 sq. ft. All the homes will be designed and built by award-winning Border Oak with traditional, handmade oak-framed construction, and the secluded plots range in size from 0.25 – 0.91 acres. Guide prices expected to start from around £500,000 up to £1 million per plot.

Set on ‘no through lane’ close to the popular conservation village of West Chiltington, the homes will be built to the detailed planning permission, to buyer’s bespoke design and finish specification.

The Custom Build route offers an opportunity to create a made-to-order family home, and is perfect for would-be builders, as the guidance and design expertise of Custom Build professionals simplifies and de-risks the process.

Custom build as a route to market for landowners

Fidẽlitãs worked with the landowner to get to point where the plots were awarded planning permission, and the property agent recommends any landowner looking for a route to market to consider Custom Build as a viable way forwards, not least because it offers a more palatable form of development for councils and communities.

Alan Thompson, managing director at Fidẽlitãs, said: “Landowners may wish to sell their land but do not always want to see an estate-style development of identical homes that often attracts much opposition from their neighbours; the opportunity to deliver homes on a plot-by-plot basis for Custom Builders is an attractive alternative.”

While the external layout and design of the development is subject to the approved detailed planning permission, the buyer of each home has creative freedom of choice in terms of the internal specification of all fixtures and fittings. The bespoke nature of schemes like the one in Threals Lane is more likely to find favour and support from local authorities – and the wider community – and can unlock land for development more quickly than high-density schemes.”

A Border Oak home
Border Oak creates stunning homes using traditional oak building techniques, such as this manor house home. The designs at Threals Lane will take this traditional design route.

Border Oak home