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Walter Segal

a Segal self build house in Brighton

the system

The Walter Segal self build approach to construction is uniquely organised so that anyone who can use basic tools such as a saw, hammer, drill/driver, tape measure, etc. can build a house. There are even one or two cases of single parent mothers, who have had only basic training in woodworking skills, building their own houses. It’s not quite Lego, but probably as close as you can get using standard building materials. This can create large savings in construction costs.

No wet trades are used (like bricklaying and plastering) – skills which are difficult to acquire. It is a stripped down system of construction with a highly minimalist and rationalist approach. It has proved very adaptable in terms of upgrading to high insulation values and handled properly could probably achieve Passivhaus or Zero carbon standard. However, this can be seen as quite a challenge, as is the case with many types of construction which involve sealing multiple sets of construction joints to achieve air tightness.

It is a bolt-together, post and beam form of timber frame construction which relies on using all the materials in their standard sizes, as they are delivered, so there is almost no cutting or waste. The foundations are point blocks of concrete, usually 600 x 600 wide, (depth depending on soil conditions) so less concrete is used than in strip foundations. There is no oversite concrete used so this cuts down on embodied energy. Originally intended to be single storey construction, it has proved to work well up to three storeys (although this is pushing things a bit and requires a large input by a structural engineer) – see Allerton Park.

Though there are many excellent examples of Segal houses in the UK, the development of the system has recently become somewhat moribund because the people involved with it, mainly architects working in the green building movement, are busy with other things. There is also a rather low cultural level of understanding of timber (not only for building but about timber as a fuel and the planting of timber for the future. Hence the slow uptake of prefabricated and flatpack houses. see Timber Culture)

Although the system is basically simple and very flexible it still requires that full sets of drawings and structural calculations are supplied to Building Control and these will normally be prepared by an architect or architectural technologist and a structural engineer.

A frequent request on this web site is for construction details of the Segal system and we hope to publish these shortly. Requests on the contact form below will speed this up. You can see the basics of the system on Dominic Stevens web site. Bear in mind that it is a construction system rather than a set of house designs. It is very flexible and you still need to design the house.

examples

There are now quite a lot of examples of Segal buildings being taken down, moved and built elsewhere which show the re-usability of the system.

There are a couple of exemplary group housing developments such as Hedgehog Housing Co-op in Brighton at Hog’s Edge and the houses at Walter’s Way (some Google images here and usually one of Walter himself, though now deceased) in London.

There are also many individual houses which have been built to the same principles. A good example is Ken and Sylvia’s house at Lampeter Velfrey near Whitland in Pembrokshire. Ken runs Water Margins, an aquatic plant nursery and next to the business they have built a single storey house.

the East elevation

the East elevation

The form is almost square in plan and the South elevation has a long glazed sun room which helps with heating the house. The structural timber posts are all 100mm square rather than the 200 x 50 which is more common with the Segal system. You can just make out the 600 x 600 concrete pads which the posts stand on. The outside wall cladding is Minerit and the inside lining is Fermacell. There is 200 mm insulation all round using wood wool and polystyrene. The level of insulation, along with the open plan layout of the rooms, has meant that the central wood burning stove has proved sufficient to heat the whole house without a central heating system.The roof membrane is neoprene.

view inside

Some recent improvement work on the house has included a 180 litre thermal store at the rear of the stove to capture spare heat and they are planning to install a thermal solar collector on the roof which will also feed into the store.

heat store

 

11A, B and C Allerton Park

11A, B and C Allerton Park, Leeds. Click the snap for more details

building regulations

Structure

The Building Regulations part A covers the structure of a building. This Approved Document goes into a lot of detail for traditional masonry buildings but almost none for timber frame, steel frame, earth building SIPs etc. For these you will need to consult a structural engineer (while SIPs structures are usually handled by the manufacturer)

Note that compartmentation (for instance a party wall), can be achieved using timber frame construction clad in plasterboard or a similar none combustible material.

Fire safety

With most forms of construction there will be implications concerning fire safety. These are covered in the Building Regulations and you can see examples of how to conform with these in Part B (Fire Safety)

Resistance to the passage of sound

The degree of sound insulation required within and between houses and flats is covered in Part E of the Approved Documents.

Site preparation and resistance to contaminants

This section,  Part C, covers site remediation along with protection from nasties which might affect the construction and occupants such as damp, rain, radon etc. There is an abridged version of the Approved Document specially for houses.

Combustion appliances and fuel storage has a detailed section in the Approved Documents (part J) and this makes reference to several aspects of the design and construction of houses including:

Segal links

The Architect and Self Build Housing a study by Adam Roberts, which covers some interesting examples of Segal stuff (starting page 23)

Superhomes hosts a video of recent eco improvements to one of the Segal houses at Walters Way, Lewisham

Walter Segal Trust (web site needing some TLC)

Self build article by Mike Dalegan

Architype architects were the designers of the Brighton Hedgehog project and are a ground breaking ecological design company! See their  ’Pioneering self build schemes‘ page for lots more photos of it being built.

Project sheet – various examples

books

The Self-build Book: How to Enjoy Designing and Building Your Own Home by Jon Broome, and Brian Richardson. It documents the building of a Segal method timber frame house and also goes into some community self build initiatives. There is very little written about self build timber frame in the UK (unlike say the US where it is usually the starting point).

66 comments to Walter Segal

  • Tom Cleary

    Does anyone know if any mortgage lenders will consider Segal properties as suitable security please?
    I am trying to arrange a re-mortgage for a client who lives in one but I am struggling to find a lender.
    Santander and Halifax have already said no, amongst innumerable other…
    Thanks
    Tom

  • would love to get some construction method or details.

  • Joe

    house built by architect for €25,000 in Ireland using Segal Method, panel vent and biobased foam insulation. how to details provided. check out Dominic Stevens at http://www.irishvernacular.com/

  • Pat

    Would really love to do this in Australia – where can we find plans/something to take to an architect?

  • Debbie La-Haye

    Please could I have construction details too?

  • Sas

    I too would love to see more details about the actual construction methods used for Segal buildings, there is a complete lack of detailed information about this on the internet & it seems the only book available is the out of print “Out of the Woods” – we could really do with some more up-to-date & comprehensive info!

    It would also be helpful if someone could compile a list of “Segal-friendly” architects for those of us planning a build – it seems the only practice well known for designing Segal houses is Architype, but surely there must be more out there?

  • Adrian Bates

    Great idea, but more info on construction method/plans needed.
    Thanks, Adrian

  • Chris Wills

    Can I add my name to the list of pleas for construction methods and details. I am going to be building a low-impact house for my family and am researching materials and systems. This seems ideal and seems readily adaptable for high insulation/low running costs

  • Steve

    Please may I have as much info as possible on design, construction methodology etc when available?

  • Helen Bajema

    Having just seen the Grand Designs program on these houses in Brighton, I would love to know of other building coops for these houses and also would love to find out how to get plans to build one should the plans become available.

  • Nii

    Hi!
    Watching grand designs on the Segal self- build system. How can one obtain suitable designs for use?
    Thanks.

  • Louise

    Hi, another one who would love to added to list for plans and construction details for the Segal style house, thank you.

  • Donna Burke

    Having seen the Grand Design episode featuring the Segal construction method I would be interested to get more information about the ‘How to’ behind these lovely homes.

    Thank you

  • Jacques Jacobs

    I love this idea and would like to be added to the list of people who was wondering Where they can obtain comprehensive plans in order to take this further for local authority approval and to see if a project like this one could be sustainable and viable in South-Africa

    Regards
    Jacques Jacobs
    +27769866987

  • Nandi

    Hello,
    Just finished watching Grand Design Revisted featuring the Brighton build. Am very interested in finding our more for my parents as they are pensioners with a plot/land near the sea that needs a house built on it for as little money as possible but that is warm and comfortable for them.
    I’m from South Africa so would like to see how this can be adapted in our environment. Please send me more information as possible, it would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards,
    Nandi

  • 'Ladi Abudu

    Splendid; absolutely.

    Plans/Construction details, please.

    ‘Ladi.

  • E.Cornwell

    Hi, seriously thinking about using this method to build a house on my parents land and then move it when I can afford land of my own. Could you send me the plans for Segal method or point me in the right direction? Thanks.

  • ashwin

    Fantastic Website, would you please provide me with some construction details. Thank you Ash

  • ashwin

    Fantastic website, would you please provide me with construction details please. Regards Ash

  • Andy

    yep, please will you share those plans. It’s all interesting but unlike Dominic Stevens, shrouded in mystery when it comes to any more info than the foundations. Great site though

  • Jaffadub

    Hi,
    My family and I are considering a self build on a pocket of woodland in Scotland. I am very much in favour of the Segal Self Build method and would dearly like to obtain a set of plans please?
    Thank you,
    Emma

  • Gerrit groeneveld

    I too am interested in walters concept and design where can I obtain some info and plans , as im looking at a build project to do back in N.Z next year thankyou Gerrit

  • graeme davies

    Can you tell me where to get a basic Segal plan and is there an Ausralian group.
    Thanks G

  • Geoffrey Menon

    Can you please send me the plans and construction details for the Segal system

  • Jen Newman

    I’d be very interested in the plans and the co-op model used for affordable housing in Tassie (Australia).

    Wonderful idea and inspiring show in Grand Designs…
    Thank you,
    Jen

  • Vicky

    I recently watched Grand Designs and we are very interested in setting up a similar co-op / community to the one at Brighton with some friends. Please send any information re plans / materials etc.

    Cheers,
    Vicky

  • Self Build

    Save this recently on Grand Designs and looks like a very interesting build method, especially for steeper ground. Would also work great as a beach house in Australia and love the idea of being able to move internal walls to suit.
    Very interested in basic plans outlining construction methodology.

  • Paul

    Dominic Stevens built a lovely simple house using these methods.
    He has published the plans (for free), step-by-step instructions and full costings on his great website:
    http://www.irishvernacular.com

  • Alan Cruden

    Want to build a garden room along Segal lines, any experience of this out there?

  • Graham

    Can you please send me construction details and plans for the Segal system?
    Thank You.

  • Kate Stewart

    Hi
    Am really interested in sustainable self building. I saw the Hedgehog project on Grand Designs and would love to have a go at a Segal house. Look forward to further publications from you.

  • July Holds

    We are interested in building our own home. Would like to know more about Segalselfbuild method. We live in Greenough Western Australia.

  • Rachel Bayliss

    Has anyone in NZ received plans? we are also interested in Christchurch

  • Maria

    Hi there, we are another Christchurch quake impacted family from New Zealand. We have our own land which will be remediated in the next year. We want to build a Segal house on our own land. Our home has to come down . We are on what they call TC3 zoned land which requires special foundations and homes made of lightweight material. Can we get the information, plans, design etc of Segal sent to us? We have room for atleast three houses on our land .. i can see segal movement starting! Look forward to hearing form you soon

  • Jason Williams

    Very inspiring I too would love to see some plans here in NZ.

  • Claire

    am also so inspired by the interesting works of Segal and his encouraging an eco-friendly/green philosophy. I would also love to have access to construction plans and details of the Seagal system befitting to Northland in New Zealand.

  • My wife and I are New Zealanders. We have been investigating building a house our family would be happy to stay in. We are in our 50′s and earn above average incomes (for New Zealand). There are a lot of undesireable aspects to NZ housing. If it’s old then it won’t be insulated (20+ years), if it’s new it’ll be very expensive to buy ($400,000+) or build ($400,000+ for 3bedroom ,two bathroom) and that is just for the house if you leave it to a builder/project manager. That is also without the land which would cost $80,000+. We also have a problem with leaky buildings (new builds, a nightmare for some as nobody wants to take responsibility for it)My wife and I think it’s outrageous! We don’t want to retire(we hate that word, like to think we’ll keep on working or do community projects, have no desire to end up in a retirement home). We hope to see plans released as this would be a very desireable solution globally for solving housing issues for all manner of people.

  • Jeff

    Hi
    I live in Christchurch New Zealand , our recent earthquakes have resulted in many challenges for Christchurch people , one of the most difficult to meet is affordable housing.

    I see the work of Walter Segal as being part of a solution both in a self build way and as a factory manufacture fast on site assembly solution. New Zealand grows a lot of softwood [Radiata Pine] that is treated for house contruction.

    Could you please let me have any available information and plans at your earliest convenience

    Thanks
    Jeff

  • nick

    Would love to be sent the plans over here in New Zealand too

  • sumlushlass

    I’d like to find out more about Walter Segal housing…planning permission…am looking for a plot of land too.

  • Kit Turnbull

    Saw Kevin McCloud recently with the Hedgehog Housing build on TV. Would love to get the plans to build my own eco house. Count me in. Kit

  • Lois Williamson

    Am watching Grand Design’s Segal houses at Brighton. What a fabulous idea. Would love plans and construction details to build on my front lawn. Thanks
    Lois

  • I would love to build my dream home at the top of the garden and this method will make it possible for me so please can I have the plans also?

    Many thanks
    Andrea Pereira

  • Tony Rowland

    Hi was hoping to get get hold of plans/designs for walter segal
    house build any help would be appreciated

  • Very, very interesting idea. Add me to the list who’d like to see construction plans and instructions :)

  • Hello,

    I recycled a former college porta kabin classroom into a 850 sq ft 2 bed house in the style of walter.I even named a rescue seagull ‘Walter’ seagull in his honour.

    Would love to have the plans please thinking of straw infill with lime plaster for the exterior walls..

    Would be so great if you could help

  • dudley smith

    Could you please send me plans and construction details on the segal houses.

    I would like to build one of these in france

  • Carola

    Can you please send me construction details and plans for the Segal system?
    Thank You.

  • James

    Count me in as another interested reader. It seems tragic that such a democratic building system might be lost we’re still dependent on architects to produce the technical drawings. Wouldn’t it be great if self builders could download plans, details and step by step instructions to design their own Segal system house?

  • Danny Macdowall

    Am very interested in the Segal system and have been for a while, mainly for speed of build and small budget and only my wife and myself will be building it. I would love t get my hands on some pans please!

  • Andyroo

    I’d really appreciate some kind of advice on the segal system. I’ve scoured the web for good resources but I’m yet to find anything comprehensive.

  • Adam Swain

    Can you please send me any construction details and plans for the Segal system or info on where to find them, thanks.

  • Trevor Searle

    where can I get basic plans for the Seagal House system. live
    in South Africa,need for mass rural housing.Thanks trevor

  • Alan Cruden

    No local new housing, no local affordable housing daughter and new husband saving hard chasing a minimum deposit, so what if I build in my large garden, Segal house looks an attractive alternative, any comments?

  • Jakki

    Would love plans for the walter segal style house, many thanks

  • Michael Brogden

    I am intersted in building a garden workshop using the Walter Segal principle (approx 15ft x 10ft) and would be interested in any comments or if anyone has done this. Could I build onto 4×2 levelled paving slabs instead of concrete pads? Also the floor needs to be strong enough to support a heavy motorcycle plus workbench tool cabinet etc.
    Any comments welcome

  • Laurence Legg

    Can you please send me construction details and plans for the Segal system.

  • Paul Witcombe

    Can I have plans for the Segal house please.

  • Pat Moreline

    Where can I find designs/ plans for the walter segal houses?

  • Alan

    As far as I know, all the tenants are still in the houses. As one of them said, “I’d be mad to leave here”.

    The houses are heated mostly by the Sun and a wood burning stove. Nobody has complained of the cold, they seem to love the place.

  • Mark Meechan

    Pleae can you share with me any Segal builds that have taken place in Scotland as I would like to visit them.

    Mark

  • Sarah Brehaut

    I live in NSW Australia and recently saw Grand Designs on Segal Homes. I am very impressed and would like to know where I can get the plans and more information please.

  • paul wooldridgen

    please could you advise me if it would be possible to build a segal house for 15 to 20 thousand pounds . As you can see my budget is small although i am a time served carpenter.To see unskilled people build these houses was very impressive and uplifting and also finish with a great home,i know finding some land is another thing,many thanks paul.

  • Drew Bird

    Hi there

    I would be interested to know more about the segal self build in Brighton. I was wondering whether you would be happy to pass on some of your knowledge of the build itself and the planning etc…

    Thanks kindly

    Drew

  • Philip Tong

    I recently viewed grand designs,hedgehog co op self build.
    I was impressed with the relative simplicity of this self build.
    I have a very large garden with seperate access.AS local properties
    are out of reach this design would provide an exelent home for my son.
    Where could i obtain comprehensive plans in order to take this further (for local authority approval.

    Yours sincerely Phil Tong.

  • David Heaney

    Just wondering has any of the properties built in Brighton ever changed hands since they were build? And Arwe the houses warm in winter.

    Dave

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