How to get started on your self-build

Many of us have dreamt of building our own perfect home. What you may not know is that this is becoming more and more common, with more support becoming available for self-builders. This means that building your own home may not be as far away as you might think! Here are some of our top tips to help you get informed and hopefully get started!

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Land: Finding the right plot

Finding land for self-building is increasingly becoming easier – there are some great online resources to help you find the perfect plot. www.plotbrowser.com and www.plotfinder.net are some great examples, and signing up to the self-build register will show local government that self-build is more in demand, thus making it more likely that more self-build plots become available. The key element to securing a plot is flexibility; go into it with an open mind and keep your options open in terms of location, size and landscape, the quicker your search will be and the less you will end up paying. This is where a good imagination and being able to see the potential of a plot can help.

Funding and finances

For many self-builders, a mortgage will be required to fund some, if not all, of the project. Much like finding a plot, there is an increasing number of online resources that can help: www.buildstore.co.uk and www.maryrileysolutions.co.uk are just two of the lenders that previous Beattie Passive clients have worked with, and there are many more. Payments from self-build mortgages will often be made in stages and released upon reaching key milestones in the project. It is very important when arranging your build programme that it works with your mortgage and you don’t find yourself running short of funds in the middle of the project. It is also important to keep your finances on track during the build, and you can find some of our top tips to keeping your budget on track in a previous article.

Get your team in order

Building your own home will doubtless involve a lot of other people, and it’s important to get your team right to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Seeking help from consultants as early as possible can help you avoid bigger costs down the line by helping you identify potential issues early and fix them before they escalate, or before planning permission is submitted. Various suppliers and tradespeople will also be required to provide the materials, build the structure, fit your bathroom, hook up the plumbing and electricity, decorate your home, and so on. Over the course of building your home there may be lots of tradespeople on site at various times, so ensuring that there are processes in place for trades to hand over to one another will help build progress smoothly. Regular site meetings to discuss the build programme and trade cross overs can prove invaluable.

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Fabric First – and future proofing your home

As a self-builder, you need to stick to a budget, which unfortunately might mean that you may not be able to incorporate everything you would like on your first pass. However, it is important to remember that you can continue to work towards your dream home for years to come. Some aspects like your building fabric are far trickier to upgrade later. Get this right first, and the rest will follow. See our top tips to keeping your budget on track.

Testing and guarantees

Has the product or service you are buying been properly tested and guaranteed, so that you know you’re getting what you pay for? The performance gap in the construction industry is notoriously large so always be careful to use suppliers or products you trust. Beattie Passive inspect and independently performance test every house that we build – we carry out stringent airtightness and thermal imaging tests on completion to ensure that our superior build standard is met and only certify once they are. These tests mean that, if you decide on a Beattie Passive build, you can be sure that you will always get the high quality that you expect.

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How you can get started

At Beattie Passive, we offer a few flexible options for delivery, to help you make your dream home a reality:

 

  1. Passivhaus Design and Technical

We take your architects plans and use our innovative 3D modelling software to provide you with complete design and technical information to deliver your new home. We will fully test the structure once complete to ensure that it meets the high standards of Passivhaus and that your home performs as it was designed. If you want to get stuck in yourself, our Training Academy offers a five-day course that will provide you with the skills and knowledge to complete the structure yourself.

  1. Structural Thermal Envelope

We provide the design and technical information as above, but in addition we will manufacture the structural thermal envelope in our factory in Norfolk, and deliver to site and erect a fully tested structural thermal envelope, which is both weathertight and airtight, ready for you to complete.

  1. Turnkey solution with project management

We can project manage the entire build process from start to finish. We liaise with architects and building inspectors as well as the full range of suppliers to deliver your stunning new Passivhaus home, ready for occupation.

Great Yarmouth Retrofit – Entry 16

The first Passivhaus certified windows have arrived on site and the team are now installing these into the individual flats. We look forward to completing all window installation over the next couple of weeks.

We’re also making sure to join the airtightness layer around each window reveal.

After carrying out our thorough checking process, we required the insulation providers to come back onto site to pump the small amount of insulation missed in the roof. After that, we continued installation of the Catnic steel roof, and the team have finished off the eaves detail.

Great Yarmouth Retrofit – Entry 15

We begin this entry by welcoming our Great Yarmouth retrofit partners Oxford Brookes University and Enhabit Limited. It was good to show our partners the nearly finished product and look forward to welcoming them back after the retrofit is complete.

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Half of the roof installation is now complete – the whole of the back half is now done and we’re looking to have this completed within the next couple of weeks.

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In addition, the Steni-board cladding is now about 60% done around the back, and the Teckwood cladding on the back is roughly 30% complete, and we will be finishing this off next week. We are also looking forward to installing the first Passivhaus windows in the coming weeks.

Finally, it was our pleasure to welcome ITV Anglia to our King Street site recently, to talk about our TCosy retrofit and the greater need for energy efficient retrofits across the country, in the face of a worsening climate emergency. You can find the full story at https://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2020-03-02/the-energy-efficient-homes-helping-to-tackle-climate-change-in-the-region/

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Great Yarmouth Retrofit – Entry 14

Installation of the Teckwood and Steni-board cladding has continued apace (with some minor interruptions from Ciara and Dennis!), and now we are about 90% complete with the finish on the front and the gable ends of the building.

The gas flues have been extended to all six flats. The Catnic steel roof has just been delivered to site, which we will be looking to install in the next few days. We’re also getting ready for the Passivhaus windows and doors to arrive on site, which we are planning to install within the next couple of weeks.

Great Yarmouth Retrofit – Entry 13

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been able to start making the King Street building in Yarmouth look less like a building project, and more like a home. The team have begun installation of the Steni board which will serve as the external façade.

A firebreak has been installed in between each floor level around the whole building, in the cavity between the Magply and the Steni board. This is designed to expand in the event of a fire, to prevent it spreading further up or down the building via the cladding.

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Lead flashings have been installed on the roof, to make the building watertight in the places where our structural thermal envelope meets the neighbouring building.

Finally for this entry, the team have installed a PVC skirt around the perimeter of the bottom of the building to protect the Damp-Proof Membrane – the Steni board will sit on top of this.

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It feels very much like we’re on the home stretch now!

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Great Yarmouth TCosy Retrofit – Entry 12

Back from the Christmas break, our team at the Great Yarmouth retrofit have gotten stuck in once again. Over the past couple of weeks, they have managed to finish installing all the Magply board, to create the void around the property

This week, the insulation material arrived, and the team on site have began the process of pumping the insulation into the void. With the insulation going in and most of the other structural work almost complete, the residents should begin to feel the benefits of Passivhaus living!

Around the back of the property, we have begun removing part of the brickwork around the window in the upstairs stairwell in order to install Automatic Opening Ventilation (AOV) – this will help to ventilate smoke and other toxic gases in the unlikely event of a fire, helping to meet fire safety standards in the Building Regulations.

Finally, the team have also been working to finish off the eaves at the back of the building and will be done very soon.

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How a Passivhaus can keep you warm and snug over Christmas

Christmas is approaching, the nights are drawing in and the weather is getting colder. This can often be an expensive time of year as the house gets colder and the heating needs to come on more and more to compensate. The good news is, there is a way to greatly reduce your heating needs (and hence, energy bills) in the winter months, called Passivhaus.

Passivhaus is often considered the Gold Standard of comfortable, energy efficient living. This is because nearly all aspects of a Passivhaus build are designed to maximise heat retention:

High-quality thermal insulation: Continuous ‘super insulation’ ensures that the home is well-insulated from the floor, to the walls and the roof. Cold bridges (areas of high thermal conductivity allowing heat transfer to the outside) are completely eliminated, keeping the heat locked in and the cold air from outside out.

Airtightness: Airtightness is an essential part of Passivhaus builds. The Passivhaus requirement for airtightness is incredibly stringent, at no more than 0.6 air changes per hour. A high airtightness value further reduces heat loss as cold air cannot leak into your home from the outside, and the warm air does not escape as quickly, therefore you are not continually reheating the air in your home.

Windows and Doors: Homes can lose up to 10% of their heat through conventional windows. Passivhaus certified windows are triple-glazed, with Argon gas between the panes to prevent heat loss via radiation through the glazing. They have an airtight seal around them to stop air leakage around the frame. Finally, they are carefully designed to ensure that all thermal bridges are eliminated, removing the risk of losing heat through cold bridges.

Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery unit (MVHR): The lynchpin of every Passivhaus build, this is what makes Passivhaus work. Given that the airtightness of a Passive property is so good, the MVHR unit is necessary to provide a constant stream of fresh air into the property, while removing the stale air from the house at the same time. The Heat Recovery part transfers most of the warmth of the outgoing air into the incoming fresh air, keeping the house at a constant comfortable temperature throughout, come rain or shine (or snow)!

In these ways, Passivhaus proves to be the best, eco-friendly way to keep your home comfortable and warm throughout the winter months, even without the necessity of a traditional central heating system (although at least one radiator recommended for especially cold weather!). Some of our Passivhaus clients are even donating their winter fuel payments to charity, as their heating bills are so low!

The fabric-first approach of Passivhaus means you can have an energy efficient, home that stays a comfortable, constant temperature all year around without costing the Earth. If a self-build is one of your goals for 2020, then it is definitely worth considering how Passivhaus could enhance your comfort and reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint.

Great Yarmouth TCosy Retrofit – Entry 11

Our team have been working hard on installing the Magply A1 fire-rated board around the property. Still some more to go, so work continues on that into this week.

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We have also carried on installing firebreaks on each level of the property, to ensure that Beattie Passive’s higher standard of fire safety is reached.

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Finally, as work to install the Magply fireboard was underway, it was discovered that an adjacent property has a fishpond not very far from the wall we were working on. Initial thoughts were to just remove this, however we expect challenges like this to present themselves regularly as we take the TCosy forward, and so are trying to find ways to work our thermal envelope around it.

 

Braemar Case Study

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“It is very comfortable, and always a nice temperature throughout the house – I am enjoying the warmth during the Winter months.” – Neil Caple

Interview with the client – Neil Caple

Why did you choose to build your own home?

When the time came for my wife and I to move house, we had seen television shows about self-building and thought, why buy someone else’s house when we could build our own? So we decided to build our own home.

What led you to selecting Passivhaus as a construction method?

Again it was when we were watching television shows that we found out about Passivhaus, and when it was time to start planning our build, it made sense to build our new home as energy efficient as possible. As this is our retirement home, we thought we would invest a little bit more to build a Passivhaus that could keep costs down, rather than building with a cheaper system but then spending more on running and maintaining it.

How did you find the building process?

Generally the build process went very well. Any problems that arose were dealt with very quickly and professionally and overall it ran smoothly.

How did you find working with Stewart and Shields (Beattie Passive Flying Factory Partner)?

My relationship with Stewart and Shields was very good, they are incredibly competent and very good at what they do. They got on with my architect and they worked well together. In addition, they were always responsive to my needs throughout the project. I would recommend them to other self-builders.

What do you like best about your new home?

It is very comfortable, and always a nice temperature throughout the house – I am enjoying the warmth during the winter months. In extremely hot weather during the summer, it can get a bit hot but this is easily fixed just by opening a couple of windows.

Have you noticed any of the benefits of Passivhaus whilst you’ve been living in your new home?

Yes definitely. As I said it is always a comfortable temperature throughout the house as it regulates itself. It also feels quite light and airy due to my MVHR constantly providing fresh air throughout the property. I also sometimes get passers-by looking at my house with admiration, which is quite nice!

 

Graven Hill Coach House Case Study

Erlind Coach House

“The new triple-glazed windows are excellent for noise cancellation – I shut my windows and I can’t hear anything from outside, even with builders all around the house!”

Interview with the client Erlind Hoxha

What made you choose Graven Hill?

I was initially attracted to Graven Hill because the proximity of the train station nearby made it a very convenient location for me.

What attracted you to the Coach House design?

I loved the modern design and the contemporary aesthetic – its the building style of the future! It was much more interesting to me than the boring, old-fashioned red brick houses. It was also way under budget for me, and I really feel like it was a fantastic offer for the price.

What do you like best about your new home?

The MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) system, I like it a lot. I really appreciate the cleaner air! I also love how energy efficient the house is as this was an important factor for me. Its much  bigger than I thought as well; its a one-bedroom house but I could very easily turn the office into a second bedroom if I ever need it.

Did you know anything about Passivhaus prior to enquiring about the Coach House?

I’d heard about eco-houses and things like that before but I have to be honest I didn’t know that much about Passivhaus or the Beattie Passive system. However after doing my research, I was very impressed with how energy efficient a Passivhaus is, and so become more interested in owning a Passivhaus home.

Have you noticed any of the benefits of Passivhaus during the short while you have been in your new home?

The bills! I’ve not been here for long, but already I’ve noticed a significant reduction in my gas bill. The new triple-glazed windows are excellent for noise cancellation – I shut my windows and I can’t hear anything from outside, even with builders all around the house! I’ve also noticed that, with the MVHR, bad smells from cooking and condensation in the bathroom are removed so quickly and these are never a problem anymore.

Any additional benefits you have experienced?

At some point in the future, I would like to build an extension onto my home. That’s why the Beattie Passive system is so good – I know the house was built in a way to make future work like this easy to accommodate.

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“I love the modern design and the contemporary aesthetic – its the building style of the future! I really feel like it was a fantastic offer for the price.”