This section (the pictures in the carousel at the top you can scroll and click on) covers a selection of domestic scale eco buildings in the UK. They are mainly new selfbuild but increasingly renovation of older houses is featuring as standards such as EnerPHitthe Passivhaus standard as applied to refurbishment of an existing house. It makes allowance for the difficulty of bringing older properties up to a high thermal standard. see Passivhaus refurbishment are being applied to existing buildings as well as new ones.
There is nothing quite like having a peep to see what other people have done with their self build project. Those who have nearly completed or just completed their own house may be willing to let you look round. They may even have an open day.
However, sometimes it can be quite difficult to get at the facts. Given that you may only have a short time during a visit, it pays to work out what are the really relevant questions to investigate. It is only too easy to stand in a nicely finished house feeling very impressed by it all and forget to ask the sharp questions.
If there is any information available that you can get hold of before a visit then go through it with a check list (such as you can derive from this web site) and see what is worth asking about.
It is surprising how often self builders will be over optimistic about their achievements and this only begins to show up a couple of years after they have moved in when energy use is a bit higher than they forecast and snags have started to show up with building materials and techniques. Very few projects publish the “warts n’ all” which is a shame because that is often where most is to be learnt.
If you can get on a properly guided trip around a building then it may have the advantage of printed information being available and other people on the trip may come up with interesting questions you may not have thought of. An excellent example of this is the Hockerton Housing project where they take small groups round for about £10. There is a slide show, printed information, a tour round and chat over tea with people who live there. They also do more advanced educational projects.
Open House events
See the page on Exhibitions, seminars, conferences & visits.
There are various towns and organisations which run events based on the ‘Open House’ format in London where you can look around buildings as part of a tour.
The Passivhaus Trust arrange visits. See Passivhaus Trust
Please note that eco building standards are improving rapidly at the moment. Many of the examples shown will be a few years old and although excellent in their time may now be getting a bit out of date. Particularly in the case of fan testingHow 'leaky' a house is (in other words how drafty it might be) can be measured by fixing a large fan in an external doorway and measuring the pressure difference between the inside and the outside. (see Fan testing), it will have been carried out on only a few of them as it has only recently been included in the building regulationsThese are the mass of regulations that cover safety, health, welfare, convenience, energy efficiency etc. in the way buildings are constructed. Not to be confused with Planning consent (which is more to do with whether you can put up the building in the first place). See more on the regulations so many of the examples may be very well insulated but not particularly air tight.
Not all the examples in this section are self build but they all have aspects which may be interesting to the green self builder.
Maybe you want to live in some sort of social grouping which is not catered for in normal housing developments. This might be to do with a whole number of things such as –
- Artists’ collective
- Sharing childcare or home education
- Elderly people living together
- Sexual orientation
- Cultural or ethnic groups
- Common interest groups
- PermaculturePermaculture is the practice of a sustainable way of living in all its forms. In the UK the coordinating body is the Permaculture Association land settlement
- Religious community
- Eco community
Some of these types of groups have open days and the Diggers and Dreamers web site has useful information