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News

Task Force promotes community-led housing with awards of free advice

Following a call for applications earlier in the year, the Right to Build Task Force has awarded five organisations free help in the form of tailored expert advice.

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Get inspired by Netherland's Custom and Self-build homes

The Netherlands has been leading the way in innovation for Custom and Self-build homes, so get inspired by some of the various routes it uses to give people a tailor-made home.&....

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RUSS training day: From proposal to Planning

RUSS is running a one-day workshop for community-led groups, the second module in its education programme. 

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Could your grand design be built in a flying factory?

A flying factory is way of building a Self- or Custom Build home with all the benefits offered by building in a precision-factory environment, but on site.

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Community groups should take up learnings from free Right to Build Expos

The Right to Build Task Force has announced four more Expos fo....

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Case Studies

Bath Street Collective Custom Build

Bath Street Collective Custom Build

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Planning for retirement with Potton

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Bakers Shaw

Bakers Shaw mixed build-method Passivhaus

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Beattie Passive house

Manx passive home

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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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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

Red Tape

Red Tape Read more

Choosing a construction system

Budgeting tips
  • Self builders as a group have always been at the cutting edge of housebuilding, exhibiting an early interest in what’s new and interesting. Often, it’s the initial interest from self builders that helps move building methods from niche to mainstream.
  • There are now dozens of new build methods vying for attention and it’s impossible to list them all. Here are eight of the main ones, currently being used by UK self builders.
  • Masonry cavity walls: often referred to as brick and block and still the commonest build method (Scotland excepted). It remains the default option for most architects and individual designers, and it’s readily understood by the building trade. It’s changing as insulation requirements get ever-more demanding: the cavity widths, once just 50mm, have grown to 150mm and are set to get wider still.
  • Thin-joint blockwork: it uses similar materials to cavity walls, but does away with the cavity, so it’s a solid wall method. It offers speed advantages over cavity work, but it has to be accurately built because it doesn’t use conventional 10mm mortar beds — hence the name, thin-joint.
  • Insulated concrete formwork: an energy-efficient concrete-based build method that is based on the idea of using hollow polystyrene blocks or panels to set out the form of the house, and then pouring concrete into the resulting moulds. There are a number of specialists who mostly import the polystyrene formwork from North America or Germany.
  • Timber frame: traditional timber frame has been superseded by insulation requirements and is now usually a layered system with timber frame encased with added insulation. Always popular with self builders, especially in Scotland where it accounts for 90% of individual homes.
  • SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels): a variation on timber frame which used a pre-insulated panel to build walls and roofs. Slightly more costly than timber frame, its benefits are speedy construction and superb energy efficiency, and a great way to build open roof spaces.
  • Green oak: a blending of Tudor housebuilding with 21st century technology, green oak is a something of a self build specialty. It’s not cheap, it’s not quick, but self builders love the look and feel of oak, which makes it easy to build open-plan and to incorporate big glass panels.
  • Natural building materials: including cob, straw bale, hemp lime, clay blocks and plasters, green roofs and wood fibre and sheeps’ wool insulation. Still very much a niche area but each year the numbers of self builders incorporating at least some of these methods and materials increases. There are specialist lenders (Ecology Building Society) who will finance such schemes, and insurance companies (insurance Green) who cover the risks.