Saturday 6 July 2013


It is becoming more politically-attractive to be seen to be encouraging self-build:

UK Government Drives Forward Self-Builds
  PUBLISHED ON 17 June 2013

self build

The British government has announced its intentions to kick start a growth in self-builds as a means of responding to the current housing shortage in the UK.
The announcement was made by Housing Minister Mark Prisk alongside Kevin McCloud, the presenter of Grand Designs. The UK self-build market is smaller than expected for Europe, and as a result the government is launching a new scheme to help new home buyers seek out suitable plots across the UK.

Reports show that the self-build market in the UK in 2012 was at 12,000, or 7.6 per cent of the new UK housing supply. Hungary is at 52 per cent, the Netherlands are at 10 per cent and France sits at 38 per cent.

As part of the announcement, the British government has stated it intends on doubling the output of self-build housing to up to 200,000 within the next 10 years.

According to the Lloyds Banking Group report Build-it-Yourself, the UK self-build market needs to undergo significant structural and cultural changes if it is to become a viable housing option in the future. The report, undertaken in partnership with the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York, highlights that over the last few years, innovations in land procurement avenues focused on multi-plot, individual and group self-builds have emerged. However, the issue lies in whether or not the current rate of self-builds is sufficient enough to adhere to demand.

Red tape appears to be one of the biggest hindrances to boosting self-build regulations and the self-build market. Local authorities are central to the process and can actively impact the volume of self-builds, but many local governments operate individually and do not prioritise self-builds.

Self-builders are typically older than other homeowners and are generally affluent, allowing them to rely on equity, savings and mortgage loans. Younger generations struggling to get into the housing market, aren’t able to do this. One way to deal with this is to lessen how difficult it can be for younger households to access financing.

It can also take up two years to access land for a self-build and the build itself can take as long as two more years. Build-it-Yourself said the current one-size-fits-all nature of the available financial options is at odds with the procurement process. It recommends that the creation of an industry-wide working group focusing on financing would help lenders mitigate risk.
Richard Bacon, MP and founder of the All Parliamentary Group on Self-Build, said such a working group “could result in the development of products to meet different risk profiles and could smooth the lending processes to the sector.”

By Jemilla Russell-Clough
Top Image Source: Bubblews

But clearly the stakes are quite high:

29/06/2013, 8:09 pm
Filed under: 
Green Build

While serving in opposition, the shadow Housing minister, Grant Shapps, promised backing for people who built their own homes to kick-start a house building “revolution” in the UK. Two years later in Government, he launched an action plan to double the number of self-build homes within a decade.

But recently when asked how they were doing; senior officials in the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) attempted to prevent the release of statistics showing how many self-build homes had been started. What are they trying to hide? Bizarrely, they tried to claim that they could not provide the information because to do so would “prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs”.

The Information Commissioner roundly rejected the argument put forward by officials and demanded that the information be released.
In a short table released showed that the number of people who begin self-build homes had fallen since the depths of the recession in 2009 under Labour from 11,800 to 10,400 in 2011.

Meanwhile, Kevin McCloud is keen to promote self-buid, using crowd-sourcing for finance, quality design and a sustainable architecture company.
Kevin McCloud to give architects centre stage in self-build schemes | News | Building Design
Grand Designs star seeks £1m Crowdcube investment for Hab Housing | Startups

Grand Designs presenter seeks £1.5m for antidote to 'homogeneous' housing
Kevin McCloud's company HAB will use the money to design 1,000 eco-friendly, 'self-build' homes a year until 2018
The Guardian, Sunday 30 June 2013 19.20 BST
The Triangle, Swindon
Happiness Architecture Beauty (HAB) is best known for the Triangle estate in Swindon, a development of 42 homes with shared gardens and rainwater harvesting.

Designer and TV presenter Kevin McCloud is looking to raise £1.5m from the public to help build customised homes that his company says will be the antidote to "bland homogeneous" suburbia. McCloud's company Happiness Architecture Beauty (HAB), will use the money to design 1,000 eco-friendly, "self-build" homes a year until 2018. It forecasts profits of £10m.

Fewer than one in 10 UK homes are designed to their owner's specifications, a lower level than anywhere else in western Europe and the US, but the presenter of Channel 4's Grand Designs insisted that a self-build "revolution" was under way. Homes designed by HAB would be green, affordable – "in the context of UK house prices" – with social values. "Our responsibility as developer on the site of self-build will always be to put in the vegetable gardens, the car club, the shared social spaces, sustainable drainage and the edible hedgerows, orchards and suchlike."
Investors who join the crowd-funding scheme can expect dividends of at least 5% by the end of 2016 and would be entitled to a 5% discount off the price of a HAB home, according to its business plan.
HAB is best known for designing the Triangle estate in Swindon, Wiltshire, a development of 42 homes modelled on Victorian railway cottages, with shared gardens and rainwater harvesting. The estate, split between social and private housing, has been garlanded with awards, but was criticised for shoddy building standards after it emerged that pipes leaked and walls had cracked. McCloud blamed the Triangle builders – "we weren't enamoured with the performance" – as well as the "design-build" contract that meant his company ceded control over the project. He said HAB had developed a much "tighter relationship" with contractors who had built a 78-home project in Stroud, Gloucestershire, which would be a model for the future. The company was recently granted planning permission for three housing estates in Oxford and is preparing applications for sites in Chippenham, Wiltshire, and in Gloucestershire. 
The government is keen to stoke the market for custom-designed homes. Inspired by a large-scale development of affordable self-build homes in Almere, in the Netherlands, it set aside £30m of finance in 2011 to encourage buyers to design their own homes. A Mori poll earlier this year showed that one in eight people had done some research on building their own home, but only 1% were actively looking for a plot.
"For Britain to go straight into producing what is happening on the continent in places like Almere would be unrealistic and I think we should learn to walk a little before we run," McCloud said. "All over the country there are lots of self build schemes of 30 to 40 homes going up already."

Moreover, Kevin McCloud sees Bristol, as a place to do business
- this will be, after all the European Green Capital for 2015:
BBC News - Bristol named European Green Capital for 2015
European Green Capital | Green Cities Fit for Life

TV presenter Kevin McCloud to set up his latest venture in Bristol

by Mike Ribbeck, Business editor, The Bristol Post

TV presenter and building expert Kevin McCloud has announced he is setting up his latest venture in Bristol.
The writer, presenter and designer has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £1.5 million for his new Hab Housing project. The Grand Designs’ presenter has also unveiled his company’s radical plans for the future.
The company is planning to set up a Bristol headquarters from which to carry out its plans to lead the growth of the custom-build house market in the UK.
Mr McCloud (pictured) said: “Over the last 20 years Bristol has emerged not only as a creative powerhouse, but now as an inspiring place to live, work – and do business. Its ambitious pursuit of and commitment to sustainability  have recently been rewarded – quite rightly – by the winning of the European Green Capital accolade 2015. This makes Bristol an even more attractive place to develop and expand our business. We are actively seeking projects in the city to showcase in 2015.”
Hab Housing was established in 2007 by McCloud as an alternative to mainstream suburban housing. The company, which has long-established links in the West Country, is working in Swindon, Stroud and Oxford in partnership with the West Country-based housing provider GreenSquare Group.
Its first scheme of 42 homes – The Triangle, Swindon – was completed in 2011, won a number of prestigious awards and was the focus of a two- part documentary on Channel 4. A second 78-home scheme is on site in Stroud. Planning permission has just been obtained for three projects in Oxford offering a total of 108 homes, retail space and a sports and community centre. The company has a pipeline of opportunity including options agreed on a site in Gloucestershire with capacity for up to 1,500 homes.
The drive for new investment comes as Hab seeks to grow its business of building sustainable, beautiful homes while expanding its offer to include custom build, self- build and custom finish options.
The Government has made £30m of loan finance available to kick- start community-based custom build, and Hab is perfectly positioned to leverage this in partnership with local communities.
Research has shown that up to 6 million people in the UK have expressed an interest in building their own home, whether in the Grand Designs mould or as customers of a house-builder – the custom-build method.
Hab is now matching its innovative approach to design with innovation at a corporate level: 20 per cent of the business is today being offered via Crowdcube – the world’s first equity crowdfunding website for businesses – with the minimum investment set at £100.

You could try something a little different:

A straw bale adventure: 

"It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to build something reasonably pioneering and, unless a project is self-build, it is even rarer to indulge such extravagances as exploration. However, the opportunity arose for us in 2011, when we were approached by the National Trust to help resolve the rebuilding of a pair of listed thatched cottages, which had been totally lost to fire within a Dorset Conservation Area"

See also: Futures Forum: Eco-housing ten years on 

And: The demand for self build homes appears to exist but remains a difficult method of housing to advance. This is due to a number of factors , funding (many mortgage company’s appear to be reluctant to lend on favourable terms.) The lack of appetite from our Housing Association partners compounded by the lack of suitable land has made this type of housing difficult to develop. This type of housing ownership isn’t where the greatest need lies, this has been identified as rented. So as a consequence most housing providers focus on this need. Perhaps self build may be more popular in East Devon once the economy improves and lenders are less risk adverse. Futures Forum: East Devon and affordable housing: November 2012 

In fact, eight years ago, the District Council turned down one such application in Axminster: 

Although self-built straw bale housing can take on quite an unexpected appearance:

Learning from the 'Straw Bale House'

10 Stock Orchard Street in Islington, North London, is the combined house and office designed by and for Sarah Wigglesworth and her partner Jeremy Till. Commonly known as the 'Straw Bale' house it was an experiment in design at the time of completion. Having studied about this house during my undergraduate studies (where both Wigglesworth and Till were teaching at the time), I finally decided to visit the building myself on one of their open days earlier this year. More than seeing the building, I wanted to understand how it had performed over time and whether it had lived up to its green credentials.  

Upon first approaching the site, I can't help but think how tight it looks and wonder how well it functions against the railway lines adjacent to it. But as I go in through the gates, the site opens up into an L-shape with varying materials and facades on different elements, clearly used for certain purposes. When designing this building in the late 1990s the idea behind it was to create sustainable living within an urban environment. SW + JT wanted to prove that green building didn't have to be rough round the edges but could in fact be done using everyday materials in a simple manner.

gabion walls enclose the steel structure holding up the office
The L-shaped plan of the building helps define the living from the working space and also creates a generous open space at ground level in between the two. One part of the L sits facing the railway lines and is raised above the ground on stilts. The steel stilts are wrapped in recycled concrete filled gabions and have springs on top to absorb the vibrations from the passing trains. The facade facing the railway lines is clad in sandbags filled with sand, lime and cement which over time have turned into concrete in the shape of the sandbags. This facade provides the sound adsorption required on this side of the building. The other side of the L is where the living takes place. On 3 of the sides the building is wrapped in straw bales (not structural) to provide the thick passive building insulation requirements, with the south side having a  glazed facade to maximise solar gain. This is not rocket science, but sensible environmental design. These design decisions show that a sustainable building doesn't have to be a complicated building, it just needs to use natural resources carefully. These are technologies that are not difficult to implement, maintain or sustain and this is precisely the intention of the architects. 
the cement filled sandbags on the facade facing the railway lines
straw bales are left on show in one corner of the house
All materials used for this project were considered carefully based on criteria which included embodied energy, recyclability and distance from site. Apart from the materials, other technology used is rainwater harvesting, solar water heating and natural ventilation via the central tower and the stack effect. There is a green roof and a composting toilet in the house too - I wonder how much it's used? Although SW did emphasize that they only wanted the composting toilet but were told they would have to install a 'conventional' toilet too.

Walking around the house with SW as our guide, it's clear to see that she is happy with the house and definitely proud of what they have achieved. When asked if there are things she would change, she doesn't admit there are any, except maybe a slightly bigger kitchen! I'm interesting in learning about how the building has performed in the last 12 years and what informed certain decisions in the build. There are many elements of the house which work very well. For example, the house is raised above the ground providing an undercroft. This was done to match the buildings behind the site which sit much higher than the site for 10 Stock Orchard Street. Raising the building not only helped fit in with the neighbours but also provided a space underneath which is used for storage in a shed and also a place for the chickens to live. But one big advantage of this undercroft is a grill which sits on the ceiling of the undercroft and connects to the larder in the tower of the house. The cool air is drawn in up and through the larder keeping the food very cool therefore not requiring any refridgeration. This tower also helps to naturally ventilate the house. The undercroft also allows space underneath the house for a spare room, an office and utility spaces. 

the house with south facing glazing and the ventilation tower above
The rainwater harvesting also performs well providing water to irrigate the roof garden, for the washing machine and flushing the toilet. However, Wigglesworth mentions that the building 'leaks' meaning it lets out air therefore not being warm and air tight. But Wigglesworth doesn't see this as a problem, she says instead of 'turning on the heat, we put on a jumper'. This is a learning exercise, SW and JT have adapted to their experimental house and learnt to live with it. It is a way of living. As is growing their own vegetables in the garden plot on site. 

Although I am very impressed with the building and the innovation of the architects, I can't understand why there is so much steel structure within a house which is so clearly trying to be as low energy as possible. I ask SW exactly this question and the response is on the lines that they wanted a material that was controllable and accurate. This is understandable when working on a project such as this where there are so many experimental technologies in place. But I still think its a shame that such a high embodied energy product (albeit recyclable) such as steel had to be used where timber could do just as good a job and perhaps look more beautiful within its neighbouring eco-friendly materials. But that's just my opinion...

Completed in 2000, the building has performed well over time with the straw bales (one of the newest materials) not requiring any maintenance except a few bales being replaced. As is the case with many experimental builds (as can also be seen through 'Grand Designs'), the building took twice as long to build and was far over budget. However, it meets the needs of its client and users, it is sustainable and it provides a new precedent for sustainable design using basic principles. But more so, I think the ethos of Wigglesworth and Till is also commendable - they practice what they preach. They live sustainably - they grow their own vegetables and use their own resources (to an extent) through solar energy generation and rainwater harvesting. In addition they have cut back their energy used for the daily commute by bringing the workplace and the living place together. Could this be the perfect example of green living?
Anthony Caro, Hugh Casson, Leon Krier, Kisho Kurokawa, Charles Jencks, Tate Library, RIBA Library

1 comment:

ABDULAH said...

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