With the help of volunteers, the build took around 3 months and cost approx £3,000. The result is a gorgeous ultra low impact, round-wood timber frame and straw-bale home, built into the hill, with a stunning glass conservatory on the south side. The roof is waterproofed with a synthetic pond liner and insulated with cotton. Lime was used as a natural render inside and out. Simon is a huge fan of straw as a building material and would recommend it due to the fact it is a low cost, renewable and easy to use natural material.
Name: Berllan Dawel
Location: Lammas, Pembrokeshire, South Wales
Construction type: Roundwood frame, straw-bale.
Size of build: 50m2
Total cost of build including land: approx £35,000
More information at: www.simondale.net
Hot water is provided by home-made solar panels and the little amount of electricity used is sourced from photovoltaic panels. Rainwater is collected on site and additional water sourced from a a natural a well. The main source of space heating is solar gain with a wood burning stove for additional heat. Recycled materials were used wherever possible, including recycled glazing for the conservatory, reused floor tiles, and wiring. All these were found at local recycling centres or salvaged from skips.
Advice to self builders
1) Don’t be put off by people who say that you can't achieve what you want to.
2) Avoid presumptions of what a house ‘should’ be like. Think about what your needs are first and make a design that allows for that.
3) Get inspired by reading the book ‘Shelter’ by Lloyd Kahn.
Location: Argyll, Scotland.
Construction type: Massive Timber
Size of build: 30m2
Total cost of build: £3000
The Dunbeag site originated from excess forestry commission land located in ancient oak woodland in Tighnabruaich, Argyll. David stumbled upon the site through an advertisement in a local newspaper over 17 years ago. Since then, a series of innovative self-builds have developed using the natural materials available in the surrounding woodland.
David motivation for Dunbeag came from his study of permaculture, which aims to encourage the development of sustainable human habitation. The desire to actively practice these principles encouraged him to purchase the site and restore the woodland through the removal of under planted conifer species, and rhododendron. Using the timber materials leftover from the restoration, David has worked with his brother and friends to build fantastic timber structures that comprise the Dunbeag site
The Summer House was built using a massive timber technique, using 150 x 150mm beams at around 5 metres long being laid in a simple rectangle design. The beams are laid on top of each other as building blocks and a sealant is applied between the beams for air tightness and fire retardants. The build took 3 weeks and the only costs incurred were from additional labour and a few materials not naturally sourced.
After the success of the summerhouse, David recognised that the massive timber technique could be easily used to produce a larger dwelling (50-60m2) more suitable for a home and is currently sketching plans for this. The potential for this kind of build, particularly in woodland areas such as crofts, is exciting as it presents an innovative and sustainable housing option.
Advice to self-builders
1. Use materials available to you locally.
2. If you have set backs during your self-build, don’t let it put you off.
3. Have an idea for unconventional build? Go for it!
Name: Gean Cottage
Location: Moray, Scotland
Build type: Self-build extension
Construction type: Timber frame, sandstone with lime render
Size of build: 135m2
Total cost of build: approx £78,000
Hannah and Jamie are affectionately known as the ‘wombles’ to their close friends due to an uncanny ability to collect and reuse almost anything!
Advice to self builders:
1. Don’t be afraid to make unconventional choices at any stage of your build. Enjoy being different.
2. Spend loads of time thinking and planning but don't be afraid to experiment and change your plans.
3. Make choices that fit with your lifestyle and needs.
The majority of materials they used to build and furnish their extension were salvaged, re-used and re-purposed, including pipe work, wood, stones, slates, floor and wall tiles. Wood from a wind-blown cherry tree provided flooring with almost every part being utilised in unique and creative ways. Hannah hand-made the external wall paint from ochre pigment collected from the sandstone used in the external walls.
Hannah and Jamie recognise that they would never have got the look they had wanted by using new materials. They are firm believers that something old can be just as good, if not better, than something new!
The extension is made with a timber frame with 6 inches of glass-fibre insulation. The outer walls were clad with re-used sandstone gathered from multiples sources, Jamie undertook the mortaring himself using lime due to its natural, breathable and non-cracking qualities. Overall they wanted the extension to blend into the surroundings with as little disruption to the land as possible.
In Hannah’s words, “We wanted it to look as if it had always been there.”
Name: Solus the Strawbale House
Location: Findhorn Foundation, Moray.
Build type: Self-build
Construction type: Post and beam, straw-bale
Size of build: 153m²
Total cost of build: £245,000 including land
The construction is local Douglas Fir post and beam with straw-bale infill clad internally with clay and externally with lime render. The roof is metal sheeting with 8 inches of cellulose and warmcell insulation.
It was important to Karl that all materials for the build were sustainable and sourced from companies with high eco-credentials
Built in 2002, Solus gained a great deal of media attention as
“The first family straw-bale house in Scotland”.
Karl comes from a building family and as a carpenter himself contributed his own labour to the build.
The greatest difficulties he faced were conflicts between the builders and the architect and would recommend either using a project manager or being assertive yourself, to minimise conflict and achieve your the home that you want.
Solus energy source is LPG, for hot water, and under-floor heating, and a wood-burning stove to heat the main living room and kitchen. In retrospect, Karl said he could have benefited from greater technology advice. The issue being that LPG is expensive to run, underfloor heating lacks versatility and 10 years ago choice was fairly limited.
Advice for self-builders
1. Be ready – organise your contacts and do your research
2. Take time out of your regular commitments to focus on your build. If this isn’t possible, employ a project manager to help you.
3. Be assertive and clear about what you want at all times.
Name: Hill of Bandodle
Construction type: Timber frame
Size of build: 120m2
Total cost of build: Approx £210,000
More info: www.rgu.ac.uk
The Hill of Bandodle was designed to create a beautiful home with a minimum carbon footprint. It is timber frame construction, insulated with 350mm of local recycled wool. Craft paper was used to stop water carrying through into the walls and an external breather membrane was added to allow vapour to escape.
Advice for self-builders
1. The most renewable energy is the energy you don’t use in the first place. Keep it simple!
2. Living on-site is highly recommended to save time and money.
3. Sourcing healthy, low energy and ecological materials can be challenging but definitely worth it.
The house has a large south facing conservatory, utilises passive solar gain and sources additional energy from a Kakkleovn,, a wind turbine and solar-thermal panels.
Build materials were chosen with low-toxicity, locality and health in mind, They used local Douglas fir, shoddy wool, Caithness slate, minimal concrete and no mastics to allow for simple deconstruction at the end of the homes natural lifetime. The majority of work was done using their own labour with the help of a joiner friend.
The home is part of a 30 acres site, including a derelict stone cottage, enabling Genevieve to live an enjoyable, simple and low impact life, preserving and protecting the surrounding natural environment.
Location: Moray, NE Scotland
Construction type: Straw-bale pre-fab panel system with local larch cladding
Size of build: 137m2, 5 bedroom family home
Total cost of build, including land, services and all professional fees: approx £190,000
Mortgaged with: Ecology Building Society
Dunbalen is the family home of Get Rugged founder Kim Siu, her partner Mark and their four girls. The build is a shared vision to live lightly and create a home to inspire others to follow their self-build dream and go for it!
The entire process from finding the site to completion took around four and a half years of gritty determination, compromise, scary moments, great fun and a huge sense of achievement.
The Site was found through getting out and about, asking around, good luck and not giving up. Planning permission was relatively easy to get by seeking early advice and a pre-planning visit, building control was a nightmare they would rather forget!
The majority of the internal work was completed by the self-builders, sourcing local trades-people for electrics, plumbing and joinery. A high percentage of fixtures, fittings and furnishings were salvaged from pre-loved and re-used sources (approx 70%).
Advice for self-builders
1. Keep it simple, keep it real, work with what you've got and make it happen!
2. Compromise is not so bad, don't be too hard on yourself.
3. In Mother Theresa's words "We can do no great things, only small things with great love" Take it one step at a time and never give up!
As the proud owners of a traditional stone cottage, Jay and Sarah wanted to increase space without sacrificing character. The couple wanted to live as ecologically sustainable as possible and chose a design of a large one room extension with an upper mezzanine floor. The extension is constructed from timber frame with a sloping ‘s’ shaped seeded roof. Hot water and heating are provided by a wood pellet burner and solar panels. Jay undertook the majority of the construction himself.
Name: Wayside Cottage
Location: West Lothian, Scotland
Construction type: I Beam, wooden frame
Size of build: 42m2
Total cost of build: approx £70,000
Advice to self builders
1. If you are wishing to build the majority of the structure yourself don’t hesitate to seek advice.
2. f you can, take time out of your main occupation to focus on the build.
3. Each stage of the build will to take longer than you are expecting but will be easier than you thought.
Looking back, he reflects that despite everything taking longer than expected, he found the process very enjoyable. Jay felt that due to his desire to truly self-build, on occasion he found it difficult to ask for additional help. However he did contact a retired local builder with an interest in quirky projects to ask them for advice at certain stages. He found this helpful and recommends ambitious self-builders to swallow their pride and ask for help when needed! Due to working full-time he sacrificed a great deal of his family life in order to complete the extension and in his own words, “I wanted to finish the extension before my daughter was old enough to say, ‘Daddy, why isn’t the extension finished yet?’”
The Summer House
Hill of Bandodle
A few gorgeous homes to inspire...