Dream Family Home

Here we are again, chatting to another one of our brilliant clients. Today we are with Kevin, the owner of a beautiful 4-bedroom home built on the Isle of Man. Kevin wanted all the things PassivHaus offered, but wanted to stay in keeping with the traditional Manx Vernacular style.

 

Beattie Passive: Hello Kevin, thank you for letting us visit you in your beautiful home.

Kevin: No worries, why wouldn’t I want to show it off? It is amazing!

Beattie Passive: Your story started with a traditional build design but you changed it to PassivHaus, why did you decide to do that?

Kevin: Well, it was James Vickers at Complete Construction Services (CCS) who suggested changing the home to PassivHaus. They had been at the Beattie Passive Training Academy and were able to offer the Beattie Passive build system to us. After a little bit of research and a little bit of convincing to get my wife on board, we went for it. The planners here on the island were so impressed with the concept and design, they pushed the planning through in just a week!

Beattie Passive: Why did you decide to build your own home, rather than buy?

Kevin: We have always wanted to build our own home. We were fortunate enough to own a piece of land on the South of the island that had an existing ruin. We knocked that down and built our PassivHaus.
Slide1
The home being made ready for windows and render

Beattie Passive: What was your first impression of PassivHaus when James Vickers from CCS suggested it?

Kevin: Having an engineering background, I was interested from the start.  I did have to convince my wife, who was a bit more hesitant.

Beattie Passive: So, how did you find the design process, working with Beattie Passive, SNX and James Vickers?

Kevin: It worked very well. We already had traditional designs drawn up, but Beattie Passive and the team here could change these quickly and easily. We had no concerns about the change in construction method and it didn’t add any time onto the works.

Beattie Passive: What was the most impressive thing about the build process?

Kevin: The attention to detail. Everything was 100% accurate throughout the whole build. Every joint and every seal. The speed and onsite manufacture were about the same as a traditional build, but the quality and level of workmanship by CCS was impressive.

Beattie Passive: What is it that you are most looking forward to in your new home?

Kevin: Well, as it’s a PassivHaus, we are looking forward to seeing how much energy we save. This is our first proper family home, having lived in a small flat previously. As well as that, being an engineer meant that the technical side interested me from the start.
Slide3
The build team discussing the build

Beattie Passive: What would you say your experience has been like so far, now that you are living in the home?

Kevin: The noise level reductions are so noticeable. We live in a really windy spot overlooking Port St Mary and the triple glazing and overall insulation has been a revelation! Furthermore, the solar panels provide us with the hottest water ever and we’ve noticed the air quality feels so much better inside the home.   

Beattie Passive: Has there been anything that has surprised you about living in a PassivHaus?

Kevin: The overall performance and warmth of the house stays at a constant throughout the year, regardless of the season. Despite looking like a traditional Manx cottage from the outside, the PassivHaus element takes it to another level.

Beattie Passive: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Kevin: You know, I had high expectations to start with, but this system has surpassed all those expectations. I knew my bills would be lower than a traditional home, but I was incredibly surprised at the quarterly bill I received for the most demanding Winter months. We’ve also got to look forward to when our solar thermal system takes over the production of all the hot water. Living here now, I don’t understand why all homes are not built like this.
Panorama
The home sits comfortably in its surroundings

 

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Lee’s Top Tips to Self-Build

In today’s interview, we are sitting down with Lee. Lee is the salesperson for Beattie Passive and has deep knowledge in all things Self Build. Let’s get some helpful hints and tips so you can start your Self Build dream.

Lee with background

Beattie Passive: Hi Lee, how are you?

Lee: I’m good, thanks. Eager to give out my helpful hints to those who want that Self Build home.

Beattie Passive: What is the first step in Self Building?

Lee: Well, that would be finding the right plot. Without the plot, you can’t have the home. Thankfully, there are some amazing resources out there to help those looking to secure a plot. Two of my favourites are Plot Finder and Plot Browser. I suggest keeping your mind open to what sort of plot you want. The narrower the search, the more likely the wait. This may cost more money for you overall too.

Beattie Passive: Ok, so I have my plot all ready to go. Now what?

Lee: Funding. How are you going to pay for the build? Most self-builders will have a mortgage in place to fund some if not all the project. Thankfully, there is a great choice in Self Build lenders these days.  Build Store and Mary Riley are two that Beattie Passive clients have used in the past.

Beattie Passive: Are Self Build mortgages different to traditional mortgages?

Lee: Yes, Self-Build mortgages are normally released in stages. When key parts of your build are completed, the next chunk of money will be released. It is important that you arrange your building programme to work with your mortgage. You don’t want to run low on funds half way through.

Beattie Passive: Can I easily change my design if I change my mind or want to add something?

Lee: No. You can obviously change things if you wish, but remember that it will more than likely have a knock-on effect on the build. Even small changes can have a big impact on future costs. Suppliers will speak to you at the earliest possible stage and some very minor amendments can lead to big savings. But remember, once planning is in there is often very little room for changes.

Beattie Passive: Right. My plans are about to go in, but I can’t decide on the external finish of the house. Is it really that important?

Lee: Yes! The external fabric of your house is just as important and the internal. As a self-builder, you will need to stick to a budget, which means you may not be able to have everything you like. It is important to remember that you can work towards your dream home for years to come, but areas like the fabric of the building will be hard to change later. If you get this right first, the rest will follow.

Beattie Passive: How will I know I am getting the best deal on my supplies.

Lee: I always tell Beattie Passive clients to challenge their suppliers and trades people to show them the sites that they are working on and speak to previous clients.

Beattie Passive: Will I need to be on site all the time?

Lee: No, not necessarily. It will be useful to have a site meeting with your trades every week or so. This will help keep things running smooth and enable the handovers from one trade to another, go without a hitch.

Beattie Passive: Is there anything I need to remember while designing and building?

Lee: I always say to assume the worst. Assume that one day your home might flood, or be struck by lightning. How will your building withstand this? Can you make any pre-emptive moves, such as a lightning conductor or flood defences? It may never happen, but it’s good to know that you are prepared.

Beattie Passive: How will I know what’s included?

Lee: Ask. Read the contracts and do your research. The cheapest builder or supplier may leave things out, meaning that you may have to pay a higher price than what you want, or have the money for. Make sure you fully understand what you are and what you are not getting for your money.

Beattie Passive: So, if I go for a good, expensive kit, I should be sorted, right?

Lee: Afraid not. Good kit does not mean a good product. Usually, there will be a product, a designer, and an installer. If one of these areas falls, the knock-on effects may be catastrophic. Make sure that your supplier has a good product and good designers and installers.

Beattie Passive: Does everything need to have guarantees and warranty?

Lee: If you can get a guarantee or warranty, then that would be beneficial. You need to know what assurances are there and if you are getting what you paid for. The performance gap in the construction industry can be huge, don’t fall victim to it.

Beattie Passive: Thanks for chatting to us Lee, hopefully our readers will be able to take their first steps towards building their dream Self Build home.

Lee: No problem, glad I could help. If anyone has any more questions or queries, they can email me at leebroomhall@beattiepassive.com or call us at 08456 449003.

 

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Norfolk Hideaway

Today we’re interviewing the owners of a beautiful coastal PassivHaus. Simon, his partner Mitra and their young son built a 130m2 4 bed home set in the rolling fields, just moments away from the sandy beaches of Norfolk.

Left: the plot where the home was to be built, Right: the finished home

 

Beattie Passive: What led you to Passive House as a construction method?

Simon: For us the question was not why would we build to the Passivhaus method but more, why wouldn’t we? As we looked at the costs, there wasn’t really much difference between a more traditional method and Beattie Passive’s method. At the start of the project, we imagined a well-insulated house, coupled with something like a heat pump, but then it occurred to us that systems like heat pumps, while interesting, are aimed at fixing an issue i.e. heating the house, that doesn’t really need to exist in the first place. We concluded that the investment should be in the super insulated fabric and not questionable eco gadgets, such as heat pumps, or long term costs like fuel. The other important aspect was keeping the architects original design and the Beattie Passive system doesn’t dictate the design- it fits in with yours.

Beattie Passive: How and why did you approach Beattie Passive?

Simon: Beattie Passive was recommended to us via Mole Architects as they had worked with them on a project previously. Although a first-hand recommendation is valuable we still wanted to know more about the company. We found the company to be really open. In the first instance, we visited the offices in Hethel and met the team. While the house was being fabricated, I went to the production facility and met the team there. While this isn’t a ‘hands on’ build, I was keen to see the process in action and to meet the people involved. I appreciated the open approach and it was reassuring to meet the team.
The weathertight membrane going up.

Beattie Passive: What has been the most interesting aspect of having both a Passivhaus and the system from Beattie Passive?

Simon: We think the most interesting element is to see the gulf between a traditional build and what is a more modern approach. Now it seems almost quaint that you would want to build a ‘traditional’ house with bricks and mortar, especially knowing that the end result is going to be way behind a Passivhaus in terms of running costs but more importantly in terms of comfort. The Beattie Passive approach, with the emphasis on air tightness, super insulation and the elimination of thermal bridging is really the way forward. It is also better to have as much done in the factory as possible because the time on site is kept at a minimum and the level of quality can be far better controlled.
Simon, his wife Mitra and their young son outside their home

Beattie Passive: What has been the best/most surprising aspect of the build?

Simon: Perhaps the most surprising aspect was to see how quickly the structure went up. It was very quick once the groundworks were done. The other surprising thing is, it is so easy and cost effective to build houses that essentially don’t require heating, why isn’t it mandatory? Given the emphasis on complex and expensive solutions to climate change, why are obvious ones like this not given more prominence?

Beattie Passive: Have there been any downsides to the project?

Simon: The only downsides are quite minor. Because the fabric must be kept airtight, there are elements, like a stove, where you have to put in pipes early and this has involved a fair bit of co-ordination. Of course, you don’t actually need a stove to heat the house, but we wanted one to give the house a cosy feel.

Beattie Passive: How has the process been on site?

Simon: The process on site has been very smooth. Beattie Passive provided a single point of contact, in our case Benedict, as the project manager. This made the process very straightforward because we could go to Benedict with any questions or concerns. On site, there was a site foreman, Steve, who led a small team. On site visits Steve was always available to talk us through what had been happening. We felt that Beattie Passive combined new ways of working with traditional values of good workmanship and actually caring about what they were doing.
One of the rooms inside the home

Beattie Passive: Which aspects are you looking forward to most once the build is completed, due to it being a Passivhaus?

Simon: We are looking forward to the low running costs. We anticipate that it will be an extremely comfortable place to live in.

Beattie Passive: What do you think about the Air Tightness Results?

Simon: The air tightness result was really impressive, although not unexpected given the rigorous approach applied by Beattie Passive. If the house was built to current building regulations standards, then the house would be leaking 20 times more air. That says a lot about this type of construction method, but also the current building regulations!

Beattie Passive: Thank you for your time, Simon. We hope you enjoy your new home.

Simon: Thankyou.

 

 

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Ron and his Custom Builds

We are sat here with Ron, the Managing Director here at Beattie Passive. Ron is an expert in PassivHaus and in Custom Build. Today we are talking about custom build. What is it? Can anybody do it? Let’s find out.

Ron
Ron Beattie

Beattie Passive: Afternoon Ron, how are we?

Ron: Hello! I’m all right, going to tell you all about Custom Build. It’s really good you know.

Beattie Passive: Ok then, tell me, what exactly is Custom Build?

Ron: Well, Custom Build is a bit different from the usual self-build project. Custom building involves working with a specialist developer to build parts of your project. This could include connecting utilities or sourcing land for you.

Beattie Passive: Who are custom builds for?

Ron: Anyone! They are ideal for those who want to build their own home but may not have the time or expertise to manage a project from start to finish and who wish to have a benefit of a specialist developer working alongside. Furthermore, custom builds can benefit the homeowner who is looking for a quicker route to find land as they will be part of an approved development. This will provide them with initial planning permission and utilities- giving them a head start.

Beattie Passive: Where are these plots in the UK then?

Ron: There are quite a few about the UK. Cherwell and Plymouth are actively engaged in sourcing suitable sites for custom build. Currently the largest custom build is Graven Hill in Oxfordshire. This is going to offer 1,900 units over 190 hectares. Beattie Passive are a part of this and are offering PassivHaus homes across the development.
Graven Hill Logo
Beattie Passive are working with Graven Hill to provide Passivhaus options

 

Beattie Passive: So, you can make things easier by getting a plot at Graven Hill or another site similar and then build a PassivHaus?

Ron: Yes. Best of both worlds. A ready to go plot and a reduced carbon footprint courtesy of Beattie Passive.

 Beattie Passive: Sounds great! But, do the sites come with full planning permission?

Ron: Most will come with full planning permission and conditions on site, type of build etc. The usual regulations will be needed prior to building. Often there will be conditions to buying a plot, so you will have parameters to build in, however, they do still provide an enormous amount of flexibility.

Beattie Passive: Do Custom builds cost more then?

Ron: They may be a bit more expensive as you are buying a plot with the infrastructure already in place. The level of bespoke design will also impact a bit; however, the result is, you purchase and design a home that meets what your needs are rather than an off the shelf ‘’cookie cutter’’ home. Some custom build homes have set design and performance standards ensuring a high quality, energy efficient home. We believe that over the next few years there will be more availability which in turn is likely to ease cost pressures on the plots making the builds much more cost effective.

Beattie Passive: If I want to project manage the build myself, can I?

Ron: This depends on the developer. Beattie Passive allows you to have a choice. You can build the whole home on your own, be the project manager or pass everything over to us and we provide you with a turnkey option. Remember, if you are building yourself, some jobs will need to be carried out by a professional such as the electrics. There are regulations in place and they will be checked by building control. Generally, the level of involvement you have is entirely up to you.

Beattie Passive: So, are Custom Build plots easier if I want to self-build?

Ron: Yes. Custom build takes away a lot of uncertainties and complications in building your own home. Some serviced plots, like Graven Hill, will come with the house built to foundation level. Whilst this is unlikely to limit your design choices, this uncertainty has been resolved.
Graven Hill
An artists mock up of how Graven Hill will look

Beattie Passive: Are there any disadvantages to Custom Building?

Ron: Building a house is complex and you may need professional help. Mistakes can be made if you are not prepared and this can be costly. Background research is vital to avoid any pitfalls. Experts are on hand to help you through this exciting journey. Another point to think about is that the custom build plot is likely to be a part of a 3-4 house estate, right up to hundreds of houses. This means you will have neighbours building for at least a few years, unless you are the last one in!
Graven Hill Location map
Graven Hill is close to the town of Bicester

Beattie Passive: So where can I go if I want to find out more?

Ron: The National Custom and Self Build Association (NCaSBA) is a great information source. Talk to your local authority and register for a self-build or custom plot. The more people who register, the more plots that will be available. Beattie Passive have many years’ experience in Custom Build and we are always happy to discuss projects with you, or answer any questions you may have.

Beattie Passive: Thanks Ron!

Ron: Not a problem. Now, who’s making a cuppa?

 

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Busy City, Quiet Retreat

This morning we interviewed Daniel, who is building a home for himself and his young daughter in Clapham, London. The build is a 119sqm three storey, four bed home with a beautiful brick façade blending the home seamlessly into its surroundings in the heart of a conservation area.

House Frame Bollingbroke

Beattie Passive: So, Daniel, what made you want to build your own Passivhaus and why?

Daniel: I had carried out a previous renovation project and given the work involved, I decided that if I ever went down this route again I would only go for a new build. The plot I have is at the end of a family owned house with a large garden.

Beattie Passive: What made you opt for a Passivhaus over a traditional, bricks and mortar build?

Daniel: I went to visit an open house in London, which had been built to Passivhaus standards. I was really impressed by the concept and performance, especially the energy efficiency, in comparison to a traditional new build. I have a young daughter and wanted to offer her the best living environment I could and believe that PassivHaus is the best way to do this.

Builder and Client Bollingbroke

Beattie Passive: How did you hear about Beattie Passive?

Daniel: I went to the Eco Build Event and visited the Passivhaus Trust. I spoke with a few of the representatives there and after discussing the type of property I wanted, they recommended Beattie Passive to me. I have been very impressed with the communications from the outset.

Beattie Passive: How have you found the design process while working with us?

Daniel: The house is being built in a conservation area, so there were tight restrictions and criteria imposed on the house design. I was impressed when Beattie Passive could accommodate all these restrictions in their design and build solution.

 Beattie Passive: What has impressed you so far with the build process?

Daniel: I have been very impressed with the speed and simplicity of the system. I believe that the manufacturing process is definitely the way forward. This, combined with the accuracy and testing of the frame when delivered, adds real value to the system.
I have also been so impressed with the proactive approach that Beattie Passive takes with bettering lives within the community. From teaching life skills to training people on how to manufacture and install the structures.

Beattie Passive: Is there anything that surprised you about the build?

Daniel: Its flexibility. I originally thought that having curved walls would be a problem for the system, but Beattie Passive had a solution for all the options and any challenges they faced were resolved swiftly.

Front of Bollingbroke

Beattie Passive: Why did you decide to take time off work to help with the build?

Daniel: I really wanted to be part of the process and have hands on sense of satisfaction knowing I was truly involved in the building of my own home. It’s given me a real bond with the house as I know exactly how it has been put together. I learnt a lot, especially from John, who is extremely knowledgeable and answered all the many questions I had for him!

Rear of Bollingbroke

Beattie Passive: Is there anyone at Beattie Passive that stands out to you?

Daniel: The team onsite have been great, as has Ron, who has been to London on many occasions and even joined in on the build! I’ve been really impressed with the overall team effort and everyone made an excellent contribution to the whole process. Having these builders experience plus the flexibility of the Beattie Passive system makes a great combination! 

Ron With drill

Beattie Passive: Thanks for talking to us today Daniel. We wish you all the best in your new home.

Daniel: Thankyou, I wish you guys every success, you definitely deserve it!

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