THE BARN DESIGN TAKES SHAPE
Although the basic design stayed the same, the Glosters completely altered the internal layout, swapped the north-facing glazed frontage for timber cladding (moving the glazed elevation to the rear of the property) and set about finding a suitable build system for the house. “I’ve got an engineering background so knew I could do a lot of the project myself,” says Martin. “We studied the architect’s plans and researched the construction methods we could use to build and what technology we could install. We read a lot of magazines, including Build It, and visited various exhibitions to get ideas.”
The couple made contact with numerous timber frame companies, knowing that using an oak frame would provide them with the charm and character they desired. “After meeting Oakwrights we knew we wanted to employ them to build the frame for us,” says Helena. “The design team were great, they really listened to us and were happy to do whatever we wanted. They followed our initial discussion up with a really reasonable quote, so going with them was an easy decision.”
Martin led the project management, hiring various tradesmen, balancing the books, sourcing materials and labouring throughout. “I think that an awful lot of the work in a self build is the manual labour. Well, I can do that till the cows come home, so I employed tradesmen just to do the skilled bits.”
3D OAK FRAME DESIGN
The first major task was to employ a groundworks team to construct the foundations. “Obviously, this aspect had to be exactly right as per the plans, so it was the one element that I didn’t get involved with,” says Martin. “As the plot is on ex-farmland the team discovered huge holes from old cess and a slurry pits. So they had to install double depth foundations to provide adequate support. Oakwrights provided us with a 3D design of the frame so that the team knew where to put the supporting pads.”
While this work was going on, Martin and his builders Mark and Tony built the garage. They wanted to get this finished early on, primarily because it would provide the workforce with welfare facilities – a kitchen and toilet – throughout the project. “The garage is constructed from an oak frame that we made ourselves. Mark is a skilled joiner, so I bought the beams and he was able to put them together,” says Martin.
Once the foundations were in place, Martin and the builders constructed a metre high brick wall round them, and Oakwrights installed the oak frame inside. “It only took them about four days to do that – three days to erect it and a day to square it up. We really enjoyed watching the whole raising process.”
ECO-FRIENDLY & THERMALLY EFFICIENT
In addition to the boiler and UFH, the Glosters have both solar thermal and PV panels, a heat exchange and distribution system, a rainwater harvesting unit and a woodburning stove. “I am so passionate about solar thermal systems. They should be built into every new home,” says Helena. “Ours is linked up to a decent sized tank so we have plenty of hot water. Last year from the middle of February to September, we never once had to switch the boiler on.”
PV panels were installed more recently. As the back of the Glosters’ house is directly south facing, the panels are in optimum position for generating energy. “We make enough to sell some back to the grid,” says Helena. “We have changed the way we live to suit the technology. For example, I’ll put the washing machine or dishwasher on so they come on at the best time of the day – when it’s sunniest. If it’s a really dull day, I wouldn’t put those appliances on.”
The wood burner is linked to a heat recovery system so that when it’s on, the warmth produced is distributed evenly throughout the house. The stove is proving to be extremely cost effective, as the couple are fuelling it for free with off-cuts from the build. A rainwater harvesting tank buried in the garden is linked up to two of the toilets in the house, plus one in the garage and the outside taps.