What to do, with who ????

I’ve got a shortlist of 4 companies to work with for this project.

Each have now met with me, some more than once. Each have seen the site. Each have gone over my folder of ideas that range from my sketches to look and feel pictures. They’ve also all looked at this site.

Each have come back with varying costs to come up with initial ideas (sketches) and to use those to come up with project costings.

To help them with this, the site survey for levels etc. is being commissioned.

Cornwall based Eco House have built some stunning local projects. As with all 4 companies, I liked the feel of the meetings and chats we have had to date. They are charging a sub £1,000 fee (+VAT) to come up with initial ideas and costings for the project. They report a cost of  £2,000 /m2 for a full design, and build.

Facit Homes have come back with the most detailed initial proposal on how they would come up with sketches etc. Of the 4, it is also the most expensive, but it would give more than the others are suggesting in terms of taking ideas further. The proposal would be enough for an initial consultation with the local planning authority. It does seem that their construction method(s) would have the lowest construction environmental impact. Talking to them, their properties tend to cost £1,700 to £2,000 per sq metre.

Hanse House are charging less than Eco House and will have 2 of them spend the day with me next week. From that they’ll come up with their sketches and costings. They say that excluding foundations their houses with everything except the kitchens (ie incl light switches, paint, floors, bathrooms etc.) they tend to cost around £1,400 psm (per sq metre).

  • When I visited a Hanse House in construction, I was put off by the level of polystyrene, foam guns etc. in the materials. They have a great reputation for the end product energy efficiency, but I’m not comfortable with their decisions on construction materials.
  • Construction (embodied) Energy Vs Operational Energy

Potton are also waiting for the site survey and are then going to come back with initial sketches etc. and costings based on that. They say that their houses tend to come in with everything for around £1,250 psm

It’s an interesting period of almost 2 many choices that seem to fit into 4 categories:

  • Layout and design.
  • Environmental impact of the build process.
  • Ongoing environmental impact of the house once it is up and “running”.
  • Cost of these aspects.


The Potton "Lighthouse"

The Potton (now owned by Kingspan) Lighthouse project looks stunning.

I’m wondering if this could be flipped so the flat face has windows and faces the sea. Also make it thicker / deeper from front to back.

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German, Swedish & UK "kit house construction"

Taken from http://www.the-self-build-guide.co.uk/self-build-kit-houses.html:

German and Swedish companies often spring to mind when you think of kit house construction and if you are a fan of Grand Designs then you will be familiar with the uber cool Huf Haus and it’s impressive construction process. Many UK companies offer kit solutions and expansion in this area is set to continue.

There are numerous suppliers offering self build kit houses. The following are some of the better known but there are plenty of others worth considering:

Potton– The UK’s leading supplier of timber framed packages.
– Their Lighthouse design project looks cool !

Huf Haus– High quality German post and beam system with extensive glazing.

Benfield ATT– UK based timber frame kit company and innovators in timber construction.

Cloud Nine– UK company producing prefabricated, stylish timber framed eco homes.

Fleming Homes– Producing “one off” timber frame kit houses in the UK for 25 years.

Baufritz– German manufacturer creating individually designed, ecologically friendly homes.
– More info on them at www.top100.org.uk/timber_frame_eco_homes.html
 – BUT they have a start price of £450,000.

Scandia-Hus– Supplier of Swedish energy saving timber framed homes.

WeberHaus– German self build timber frame specialist.

Skye Homes (from the Isle of Skye) look to have nice timber frame houses, that should be built to deal with coastal and sea exposed sites.

www.builditgreen.co.uk – Green orientated company that can provide elements to full turnkey solution, where high end is £1,500 to £2000 per sq m. Experienced with timber frame and SIPs. Built a house in Falmouth.

eco-fab.co.uk are based just outside Bodmin. Their claim is that they are “The most high performance sustainable pre-fab building system availiable in the UK”. Prefabricated buildings that use straw-bale and wood filled modular panels in a glulam post and beam frame. They also use sheeps’s wool and recylced products in the buildings. House prices go from £1,400 to £2,000 psm depending on size, site constraints and location.

Some Key Questions when chatting to these and other suppliers:

  • Price per sq ft or per sq m. ?
    – It seems that the big ticket items of stairs, heating system, bathrooms mean that there is an optimal size of 3,000 to 3,500 sq ft (275 to 325 sq m) above which houses go into a 2nd league re extra features and so a growing price per sq ft.
  • What is the maximum room span ?
    – For Baufritz this was about 5m with wood, after which need to put a steel joist in.
  • Coastal cliff top exposure.
    – Need to go for high grade marine steel etc.

How Much ?

Simon was at a civil engineers / surveyors evening event, and was sat next to a quantity surveyor from a company specialising in “eco homes / builds”. His key comment was that:

Cost comes down to determining clients standard of finish.

End Decision

I had a look at quite a few buildings in construction and complete.
I compared lots of prices and evolved my own design ideas.

In the end I’ve chosen Bodmin (Cornwall) based ARCO2 architects and Eco-Fab builders because of not only price, which is great, but they match my aspirations for an eco house, that is not only energy efficient once up and running, but it considers and where possible uses low energy, low carbon (“carbon neutral”) materials.

When I visited a Hanse House in construction, I was put off by the level of polystyrene, foam guns etc. in the materials. They have a great reputation for the end product energy efficiency, but I’m not comfortable with their decisions on construction materials.

Construction (embodied) Energy Vs Operational Energy

BBC Article: Self-build: Should people build their own homes?

An interesting article on the BBC Website:

The government wants to double the number of people building their own homes. But is it wise to encourage the population to take up DIY housebuilding?
Housing Minister Grant Shapps will later this week launch an action plan to double the number of self-build homes within a decade.
…. the truth is that most self builders hire an architect and do a bit of decorating themselves.”
But overall, self-build saves money, supporters argue. The average new build home costs £189,940 compared to a self-build cost of £84,000 if you do the work yourself or £146,000 if you employ tradesmen to do it for you.