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Case Studies

Contemporary Timber Frame Home

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Passivhaus Family Farmhouse

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Steel Farm

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Merlin Haven

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Timber Frame Home, Ventnor

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Aldcliffe Yard, Lancaster

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Walthamstow Social Rent Scheme

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Prefabricated Passivhaus bungalow

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Cookham Dean, Berkshire

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Harvest House

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Bickleigh Eco Village, Devon

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Stoke-on-Trent Serviced Building Plots

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Forevergreen House

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Housing People Building Communities

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Sülzer Freunde, Cologne

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Berlin - 'Building Groups'

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Manor Farm, Kirton

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Straw-baling, Perthshire

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Findhorn

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Almere, Holland

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Hockerton

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Top tips

Challenging sites

Challenging sites Read more

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Contemporary Timber Frame Home

Background:

  • Using Australian house designs as their influence, self builders Steve and Helen Fairley designed their own modern timber frame home, located in the small seaside village of West Wittering on the West Sussex coast.
  • Steve and Helen love watching Grand Designs, which gave them a passion for building their own home. A self build plot opportunity appeared and they took it. Otherwise, the couple say that they would not have gone looking for different plot, and would not have moved in the first place.
  • Their contemporary design incorporates an open-plan living space which has resulted in a light and airy home.

Delivery:

  • The site was originally a plot of land next door to Helen's parents' holiday home. When the bungalow went onto the market, there was little interest in it until the house and land were separated into two lots. When the bungalow sold, Steve and Helen identified the remaining plot as the ideal site to build their own home; they just needed to negotiate the purchase against a backdrop of family disputes over inheritance.
  • Eventually overcoming the barriers to acquiring the land, the couple then faced the challenge of securing planning permission. Advised by their local planning department that their application was likely to be rejected due to the scale and siting of their initial design, Steve and Helen had to go back to the drawing board. The time between their first application and subsequent consent was seven months; having already sold their previous home, they had to resort to temporary housing with family members before they were finally able to move into a caravan on site.
  • Using a combination of Fleming Homes' timber frame and blocks, the couple built a three-bedroom home with integrated heated double garage.
  • Steve project-managed the self build, but didn't physically build any of the property himself. Instead, he engaged a range of suppliers to deliver services - from the groundworks to thermal flooring specialists. However, the couple did some work on the insulation to the walls and ceilings.  
  • Originally the design had featured a number of renewables including solar panels and a rainwater harvesting system, but as the build progressed and money became tight plans for the renewables had to be scaled back - nevertheless, the house is energy efficient and benefits from extensive insulation, a thermal floor heating system and triple glazing throughout.

Finance:

  • The land cost £220,000.
  • Build costs came to a total of £260,000.
  • The house covers an area of around 190m2, giving a build cost of £1,368 per m2.

Timescale:

  • 2010 - Agreement gained to purchase the land, but family disputes stall the official purchase
  • June 2012 - First planning application submitted and then rejected
  • December 2012 - Planning permission successfully gained
  • January 2013 - Acquired plot
  • May 2013 - Building work commences
  • May-June 2013 - Foundations laid
  • July-August 2013 - External walls erected, windows installed, and roof structure and covering completed
  • August-September 2013 - Internal walls erected and doors fitted
  • August-November 2013 - Floor, wall and ceiling finishes completed
  • October-December 2013 - Plumbing, heating and electrics installed
  • November-December 2013 - Joinery and fittings completed
  • December 2013 - External works completed
  • 23 December 2013 - Moving in day
  • March 2014 - Decorating begins

Learning Points:

  • Choose your sub-contractors carefully - follow personal recommendations and appoint a professional team with care. With this project, the main builder failed to live up to expectations and the combination of his argumentative attitude and slow and incompetent workforce resulted in his team being dismissed from the site. It cost £5,000 to rectify sub-standard building work and there was a two-week delay while replacement builders were found.
  • It's always a sensible idea to enlist the help of an architect or a qualified designer to draw up the plans for your home. No such professional was hired for this project - Steve and Helen did talk to an architect at the very early stages but were put off by fee arrangements and settled on a "planning service" offered by one of their suppliers. However, when sub-contractors arrived on site and requested drawings for a specific element of the build, Steve says that without such drawings "we had to make things up as we went along quite a bit". A number of issues arose as a result, including the eaves of the house which had been designed to overhang more but the depth of the external blockwork impacted the extent to which this was achievable. In hindsight, Steve would also have preferred the house to have more street-facing windows.

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