From Contracts to Kettles- Be Prepared!

There are many elements to a self build project to take into account and overlooking any of them could cost you both time and precious funds. Most of us only think of the obvious of design, build and construction but there are also a few more unusual responsibilities that you need to be aware of, from site access to drinking water!

At the start of the project it’s crucial to make certain you have the appropriate consents to build, including planning permission and building control approval. It is always the owner’s responsibility to ensure that planning permission has been granted for what is contracted to be built on site.

Warranty: We would strongly advise to have a structural warranty in place. This needs to be taken out for the whole build and not just the structure, providing you with peace of mind and will be required by any mortgage provider.

 

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Insurance: On any private building site the owner is liable for injuries and death and items being stolen so protect yourself and your project with adequate insurance. This also applies to having adequate self-build insurance throughout your build. Even if your contractor(s) already hold insurance policies, you’ll still need to take out specialist self build insurance.

With all the paperwork for contracts, warranties and insurance in place, you’re ready to make the site a safe and productive environment.

Site Safety: Protecting your self build is vital and takes many forms. Be clear to the public that your site is private property and secure it with the appropriate height fencing and suitable locks to discourage people from entering your site and highlighting the dangers your site could pose. Plus you must ensure PPE (things like high vis, steel boots and a hard hat) is worn at all times, even by you.

Rear of Bollingbroke

Who will run your site? – Health and Safety is paramount and you have a choice how your site is run in order to comply with H&S regulations, either running it yourself or appointing a contractor to do this for you.

Site Welfare – by law, you need to provide full site welfare for all contractors and trades, such as power to the site/site office; drinking water and warm water; lockable area for storage of tools; site office/canteen to prepare food and drink; toilet facilities; site waste disposal e.g. skip.

Hope Close with Skip

Delivery – do you have sufficient space and access to the site for the different sized delivery vehicles? If access is tricky, using smaller vehicles could involve more deliveries which could impact the original costs agreed with the supplier.

Working Area – many contractors require a hard standing, free draining working area around the perimeter of the building as well as level footpaths used for access for workers and visitors on site for the duration of the build. You may also need to put a loading bay on your scaffold to make it easier to get materials to higher levels and a larger hard standing area will be needed for this.

Whilst there may be a lot to consider, once all these factors are in place, it will significantly help with the smooth running of your build project and ensure a safe environment without any preventable unexpected surprises.

 

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Myths and Legends

Passivhaus – Is Truth Stranger than Fiction?

From notions of windows welded shut and huge build costs, there are many Passivhaus myths circulating so we wanted to separate fact from fiction.

Passivhaus buildings are boxy: When the standard was first introduced many of the original buildings were angular and rather similar in style. However, today the style gap between Passivhaus and non-Passivhaus is far narrower and it’s likely that you would struggle to spot the difference. At Beattie Passive we can incorporate any size, shape or design of building into a Passivhaus home, from a traditional cottage to a contemporary beach front villa.

It’s too difficult to design: Passivhaus design is not complicated but it’s important to work with an experienced Passivhaus company that use Passivhaus certified products. With the knowledge and experience that we have gathered, we design Passivhaus very simply and efficiently.

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It costs so much more than traditional build: Some parts are more expensive that’s true but on average, building Passive will only cost around 5% more than a traditional build. However, you will save around 90% on average with energy savings, meaning Passivhaus owners are saving money each year.

Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery (MVHR) costs more to run than what it saves: As long as your home meets Passivhaus standards and the air tightness of the building reaches a certain level (approx. 1.5 air changes per hour), it’s been proven that the amount of energy saved and the cost of that energy saving is far greater than the cost of running the MVHR. Furthermore, MVHR can help with allergies, asthma, and even strong cooking smells.

You can’t use renewable energy: You certainly can and it will probably help you cut costs even further. With solar panels, you could deliver half, if not all, of your hot water requirements for the year. Anything you don’t use you can sell back to the grid.

Fife

You can never open a window: You can open all the windows in a Passivhaus, but you may not need to. As your home will have a MVHR system you will have continuous fresh air circulated around your home, so there is less need to open windows to remove stale air.

You can’t have a Wood burner:  Given its popularity, most people will be delighted to know that you can indeed have a Wood burner. You can have one in every room if you’d like. With Passivhaus, you certainly don’t need one and you may get too hot when the fire is burning as the house is so well insulated. But if it’s your dream to have a wood burner, Beattie Passive are happy to incorporate that into the design. And if you get too hot, you can always open the windows…

 

Boxy Log burner

 

 

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Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row

 

Ron
Ron Beattie

With the growth of the Self-Build and Custom Build market and the subsequent need for self /custom build mortgages, more Lending Institutions are joining the party and are positive in the way they are embracing this growing trend. However, as with applying for any mortgage, all lending is subject to affordable and responsible lending as such there are still some vital areas to be aware of.

“Unless you are in the rare position of having 100% of the self-build finance from savings, the best guidance I can offer is to be astutely aware of your financial commitments and review your lifestyle before you even start planning your Self or Custom build project”, commented Mary Riley, Director of Mary Riley Custom Build Funding.

When applying for a Self or Custom build mortgage, to assess your affordability and suitability for a loan, the last 3-6 months of bank statements will come under the microscope for fixed commitments such as existing mortgage payments, car loans and childcare costs, followed by soft expenditure which covers for example, gym membership, eating out, pets, even down to your hairdresser bills.

It’s also incredibly important at an early stage to think about where you will live when undertaking your project, as these factors all combine to affect the viability of obtaining the level of borrowing requested. Having these streamlined well in advance into a sensible and realistic monthly spend pattern, will put you in a better position to apply.

Self / Custom build mortgages; funds are released in stages throughout the construction of your new home, generally at key identifiable stages, in addition you will also require to inject cash into the funding of your build project. No lender will offer you 100% of land purchase and total project costs, the more cash you have, the less you need to borrow and pay interest on!

Another vital factor is your supply chain. Not only will you be assessed for a mortgage, but your choice of method of construction is just as important, as are the people who will be delivering or manufacturing the build for you. Beattie Passive’s method of construction is acceptable to most lenders in the Self-Build / Custom Build arena. Furthermore, Beattie Passive offers sensible payment terms in line with mortgage interim stages of funding, enabling a smooth financial process alongside the build.

Finally, ask for more money than you think you need. The number of projects handing back unused funds is virtually zero and allowing around 20% for a contingency fund is usually a realistic amount to allocate.

With so many factors in play, it’s vital to assess the viability of funding at an early point in the overall planning because until you know what you can afford, you won’t know what you can have, and ultimately who is the best company to deliver that dream home for you.”

 

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Smart Investment Makes For Long Term Performance

Ron
Ron Beattie

Smart investment for long term performance

For any self build project it’s vital to meticulously plan and budget for every element within the three key areas of design, materials and installation, to ensure your home is just what it should be, both now and in the future.

Design

Every element should be checked and double checked to ensure your home delivers exactly what you envisaged through its design. This means exploring every detail that makes up the structure of the building, to offer you long term quality and performance. eliminating the possible risk of a performance gap in years to come.

 

Materials

When looking at the materials to be used, consider how they will perform over time and the investment in critical elements that will make all the difference. Whilst you may be able to save on interior items such as lighting or kitchen cabinets, when it comes to the foundations and actual structure of the build, every product should be of the highest quality. For example, using natural insulation may look good on paper but if it becomes wet and slumps, you could be faced with a two inch gap causing vital heat loss. Similarly, using a timber frame construction will have small but continuous movement for its entire lifetime so the way this needs to be sealed is essential to avoid any heat loss or an unnecessary drop in energy performance.

 

Installation

Regardless of size, shape and design style of your home and no matter how many top of the range materials and items you purchase from foundation to roof tiles, if they aren’t installed correctly, they will never add the value you expected, and paid for. You may be planning to do the work yourself or employ a company offering a cheaper quote, but in the long run, suppliers are just as important as the materials you use, so taking any shortcuts on installation could cost you dear. Furthermore, once the build is complete, don’t just take your contractor’s word for it…ensure you test your home thoroughly for air tightness and thermal performance so that any potential issues can be addressed immediately as well as eliminating any possible risk of a performance gap.

When it comes to planning your dream home, it pays to invest in a complete quality build that will last a lifetime and give you enjoyment along the way. Passivhaus is considered to be the gold standard of build quality and whilst this comes with committed investment, you can guarantee the performance of your high quality home stays Passivhaus, come rain or shine.

 

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Energy Efficiency- From Design to Home

Ron
Ron Beattie

Steps to Achieving an Energy Efficient Home        

When asked ‘Why do you want to build your own home?’ every self builder we have ever met has highlighted ‘being more energy efficient’ as a key reason. Which is no surprise given the spiraling cost of fuel. So, taking matters into your own hands can have significant cost benefits, but just how do you build a really energy efficient home?

It all starts with Design. To be truly energy efficient your home needs to be completely insulated and this core process starts with your Architect. Floors, walls and roof insulation must be joined seamlessly with no gaps, any gaps will only lower its performance. Then comes air tightness. If hot and cold air is allowed to flow in and out of the structure, this transfer of heat is what makes a home less efficient. Your Architect should include an air tightness strategy to ensure an airtight layer surrounds the structure removing any possibility of heat transfer.

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Once these elements are in place, it’s time to decide how to utilise the energy created within the structure’s ‘envelope’. The best use of heating is via heat recovery ventilation which uses energy that has already been produced. Then it’s on to installing good quality triple glazed windows and doors as any aperture should be of the highest performance to maximise energy efficiency.

For heating and hot water supply to the home, the most energy efficient way is via a gas boiler or air source, both of which have unique benefits but knowing which to choose depends on the size of property and how many people will live there.

Additionally, many self builders look at photovoltaics (PVs) to supplement the heating element and/or provide income by selling energy back to the grid. However, the original energy company tariffs are less attractive so the added use of battery storage is now more favourable to maximise the installation of PVs.

But even with the best plans and products in place, the type of construction you choose for your self build is the most important factor in attaining true energy efficiency. Traditional construction methods have had to adapt to more energy efficient processes and materials and these have often been seen as forcing a square peg in a round hole. Whereas modern methods of construction, such as Passivhaus, are more cost effective and deliver energy efficiency as standard, using the latest in building technology and materials to deliver a zero performance gap i.e. a home performs exactly as it was designed.

Overall it’s vital that design, construction and air tightness levels are right as no matter how efficient your triple glazing, heat will still escape and you will not have the energy efficient home you wanted or paid for.

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Planning Your Perfect Self Build

Ron
Ron Beattie

 

 

Your Perfect Self Build

Whatever the size or style your unique self build home will be, there is no doubt that the key to the success of any project, in addition to managing both budget and the inevitable stress, lies in the planning and detail. Get this right and you’re halfway there.

So how best to get started and where should you focus your efforts? Self builds are both hugely rewarding and intricate so it’s best to be as prepared as possible. Research is vital and can be carried out in a number of ways. Fortunately we have the power of the internet to research virtually every tiny detail of planning a project from tips on submitting planning applications down to the latest design of high tech nuts and bolts. We have also seen the rise of online portals and forums where groups of similarly enthusiastic self builders join forces to share knowledge and expertise, as well as common pitfalls to avoid. All extremely vital for a well-oiled plan to project manage the build from start to finish and certainly worth the time to investigate and be part of.

In addition to online information hubs, there are numerous publications and magazines providing hands-on advice from laying foundations to finding the perfect kitchen sink. Magazines such as Build It, Homebuilding & Renovating and Passivhaus Plus often feature detailed case studies where you can witness the build unfold and hear directly from the owners on the ups and downs of their project, a breakdown of the budget, plus top tips to follow.

However planning the perfect self build also takes leg-work and in the UK we are fortunate to have many excellent events and exhibitions taking place across the country which provide the pro-active self builder with a wide ranging source of information all under one roof.

Furthermore, these events are hugely beneficial as you can discuss your own project with potential suppliers and contractors face to face, often where the self build partnership begins. Beattie Passive attends all the key self build events throughout the year and often have complementary tickets, so do get in touch!

 

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Your House, Your Build

Ron
Ron Beattie

Boost to Self and Custom Builds

The self and custom build revolution continues to gather pace with new legislation coming into effect on 31st October which marked the commencement in full of The Self-build and Custom House-building Regulations 2016. It is expected that the new legislation will significantly boost the number of self build projects taking place in the UK each year by allowing access to much-needed land to the thousands of keen self builders.

The Regulations mean that within the next three years, local authorities in England are responsible for granting planning permission for sufficient ‘build ready’ plots to meet the demand gathered by the Right to Build Registers. So if you’re interested in either a self or custom build plot in the UK, contact your local authority as the more people are registered, the more plots will be made available!

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One of the Coach House styles offered by Beattie Passive for Graven Hill

Is Custom build for you?

A variation to self build, custom build usually involves working with a specialist developer who will provide the plot and services/utilities to the property but the process allows you to have an input in the completion of the property. The scale of which depends on the development and how far along the build process is at the time you become involved. You can often build the majority of the home yourself, work with a builder and project manage the process, or leave it all to a specialist. But the key factor is that the end result is a home that you chose, helped design and had active input at every stage of the process.

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Beattie Passive house type at Graven Hill

Custom build sites are growing in number and can be found across the UK; an example is the high profile Custom Build development underway at Graven Hill (Oxfordshire). This site, and others like it, are offering a selection of houses and apartments in carefully and sympathetically designed environments, focusing on high quality and energy efficient homes, local open space, a range of amenities and a real sense of community.

In our region, for those looking at Passivhaus custom build, Beattie Passive is able to offer our custom build Passivhaus properties on four plots in Suffolk available from early 2017. We will be organising an open day in January at one of our current Passivhaus projects in Suffolk and if you’d like to visit and see the project during construction, please contact us.

It’s an exciting time for self and custom builders who will benefit considerably from the legislation in place to provide suitable plots for the growing demand. A new era of house building is most certainly taking shape and will significantly impact the future of property development across the country for years to come.

 

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Testing, Testing

Ron
Ron Beattie

When it comes to buying a car, you are reliant on either a manufacturer’s warranty or an MOT to confirm that it’s in good working order and performing as it should. You would imagine that it’s no different to building your own home and what lays out on the plan in front of you, showing build components, insulation materials and top of the range windows will indeed provide the energy efficiency and performance you are expecting from your design.

Sadly, this is not always the case with the UK suffering from a 200% performance gap in terms of what is designed, to what is actually built. And the only way to ensure that your self build is truly built as designed and therefore performing as it should, is through testing.

When looking at build options, standard build regulations will require air testing for each self-build (50% for each house type for developments) but if you are looking at building to Passivhaus Standards, there are strict criteria in place to ensure each building is performing as it should:

  • They must use 1/10th of the energy used by average houses
  • They require less than 15kWh/(m2yr) for heating or cooling
  • Must be airtight with air change rates limited to n50=0.6/hr n50 is 50 Pascal pressure
  • During warmer months (25C), excessive temperatures (overheating) may not occur more than 10% of the time
  • Does not exceed 120kWh/(m2yr) for all domestic applications (heating cooling, hot water and domestic electricity)

In addition, there are criteria for thermal insulation, heat recovery, air tightness, window/doors and absence of thermal bridging. All these elements would be tested before being signed off and approved as meeting the standards.

At Beattie Passive, we take testing to a whole new level. Our Build System goes beyond these Passivhaus standards through rigorous inspection of vital build elements. As part of every build, we carry out testing on air tightness, sound migration, cavity insulation, thermal imaging and U-values. These tests are performed at crucial stages of the build process, by independent engineers, to ensure construction methods are optimised, and any minor defaults can be rectified with minimal disruption and cost to the overall build. Through these ongoing and stringent testing procedures, each build assures the highest level of construction to meet the requirements for final Passivhaus certification. Only upon reaching the design standard, will we issue a quality assurance certificate; this ensures the buildings deliver the superior performance as designed. It’s our gold standard MOT certificate, achieved every time.

 

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Finance- How to Work it Out

Ron
Ron Beattie

Set the budget Although self-building offers a more affordable route to your dream home, it’s important not to underestimate how much this figure will be. The key is to do your research, set realistic expectations and boundaries, and most importantly, stick to them. It’s easy to get carried away with the planning  of your unique home by adding every conceivable luxury and gadget on the market, but the reality is that it’s vital to plan and calculate, in detail, exactly what you need and how you will be funding the project.

A good old fashioned spreadsheet can work very effectively to keep costs in check across the key areas of: land, labour, materials, finance/professional fees, insurance, utilities, contingency, applications and VAT. Getting accurate figures for these at the very start can make all the difference to the overall project.

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Budget Tracking is an important part of a build project

Need a mortgage?

When it comes to self-build mortgages, there are two types available – arrears and advance. With an advance stage payment mortgage, it may be possible to borrow up to 90% for the land with just outline planning permission. This is an added bonus as some lenders will only lend with detailed planning permission which can take months to arrange and may then consequently restrict the plot opportunities you have. An advance stage payment mortgage also makes buying at auction a possibility and speeds up the process of acquiring a plot, whilst also reducing the deposit required. Further funds are released for the build costs – again up to 90% and money is released ahead of each build stage.

An arrears-based mortgage on the other hand, allows you to receive payments, in stages with each payment being transferred after confirmation that the stage has been completed. But whichever mortgage you select, pinpointing those initial planning and budget costs should ensure you get the best deal for your project.

VAT or no VAT?

Luckily for the majority of self builders, new builds are zero-rated, which means that a VAT registered builder or subcontractor must zero-rate their work and not charge VAT on any labour-only or supply and fix contracts. However, you will have to pay VAT at full rate for the purchase of any materials that the builder makes on their own account with this being largely recoverable at the end of the project.

When it comes to the overall financing of your project, it may seem a minefield of spreadsheets and paperwork but thorough planning and detailed budgeting at the outset will pay dividends in avoiding any nasty surprises along the way, and ensuring you benefit financially from what is likely to be your most valuable asset.

 

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Going for Gold

Ron
Ron Beattie

When it comes to the construction industry and advancements in technology, few can disagree that the ability to build a super energy efficient home is now widely available. But how far do you go? Straw bales, solar panels, underground heat pumps…all have their uses but there is one concept that still holds the gold standard.

Passivhaus (or Passive House) is an advanced low energy construction standard for buildings and by using high performance insulation and making a building completely draught free, it effectively eliminates heat loss to create a building with very low environmental impact. With 90% of your home’s heating coming from ‘passive’ sources such as sunlight, body heat, and even heat from a microwave or hairdryer, it means that traditional heating systems are a thing of the past.

The five key elements of Passivhaus combine good quality design and craftsmanship, superior windows and doors, high levels of insulation, air tightness and mechanical ventilation – all of which set Passivhaus construction apart from standard building regulations.

Superior health and comfort as standard

A Passivhaus is continuously supplied with fresh air via the mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system, which does a far better job of consistently bringing fresh air in than simply opening windows. This has advantages: unlike just opening the windows, fine filters in the ventilation system eliminate humidity and associated mould problems, as well as keeping dirt and pollen out – a blessing for those who suffer from allergies and respiratory problems.

Common myths dispelled!

Yes you can open a window and yes you can have a wood burning stove…and many more traditional features in your Passivhaus, but you’ll probably find the living environment of your home to be just about perfect. Some people are worried about the possible risks of over heating but with good quality design and construction, you will have a very comfortable and consistent ambient temperature, all year round.

We hear from an increasing number of self builders who have looked at all different types of construction methods but having done their research, can’t see why they wouldn’t want to have the best living environment available for their family to enjoy…which Passivhaus provides.

 

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