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Tip of the week

Be incredibly organised and specific– about what you want, because one person’s idea of a simple door handle may not be the same as another’s.

Caroline Keenan, who built an eco-friendly family home. See Case study Bright, Green & Beautiful

Case Studies:

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Project: Building Type: Style:

Area: Budget(£): Building Method:

Building: Size:



Contemporary Cottage

Carole and Andy Whitehouse bought the two-up, two down, run-down cottage next door. Gaining consent to build a replacement house on the site took 18 months, but the replacement energy-efficient, timber-framed cottage was built in just five months.


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California Dreaming

Tucked away on a residential street in Greater Manchester is a stunning insulated concrete formwork new-build. Inspired by Modernist Californian homes of the 1950s, the modest street frontage with small windows, gives no hint of the three extensively glazed wings that form a central courtyard at the rear. "The House is actually better than we dared hope for: it is a wonderful place to live and feels just like being on holiday."

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Open Space

Paul and Debbie Saunderson took a unremarkable 1980s brick house and extended it front and back to create a spacious home. The steel frame rear extension features a vaulted ceiling and banks of glazing while, to the front, conventional brick and block was used to keep within budget for the integral garage with a bedroom above.

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A Pioneering Solar House

Energy consultant David Olivier reflects on the experience of building his own eco house to a demanding specification.

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Rebel Rebel

John Little has remodelled a tired 1950s house in Eastbourne to create an edgy and unique home clad in black. Grey painted brickwork, black painted larch cladding, grey aluminium windows and a newly slated roof give the house its dramatic look. A steel-framed carport was built on the front drive and a vast deck with built-in furniture and a steel and timber brise soleil built to the rear of the house.

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High Hopes

When planners insisted that an existing bungalow could not be demolished, Sean and Emily Banton's architect drew up a scheme that extended the bungalow in four directions. Cedar, white render and stone are all used to clad their highly energy efficient, contemporary new build on a steep hillside. “Large windows on the south and west elevations provide solar gain, and also mean we can enjoy the panoramic views of the dramatic landscape.”

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A Family Affair

Colin Sherwood has built his dream eco home with the help of all the family and reduced utility bills in spectacular fashion - the first year net gain was £650. Of block-work and timber frame construction, clad in render and cedar, the house has an EPC rating of 104, and with no heating, maintains a very pleasant even temperature throughout the year. Read the build cost breakdown.

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All the Right Angles

It took 18 months of hard graft for a couple to transform their small and basic 80s bungalow into a fabulous contemporary home that celebrates geometry, proportion, light and shade. Front and rear extensions have more than doubled the floorplan “From the front of the house, you don’t expect what is waiting the rear.”

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The Light Fantastic

Tracie Ellis-Butt replaced her childhood bungalow in Kent with a bold contemporary house that took just seven months to build. Made up of two long elements that stretch down the narrow site, the house is constructed on a structural steel frame in conjunction with a timber frame to support large expanses of glazing, infilled with cedar panel

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Rescued from Ruin

Steve and Amanda Wills converted a derelict Grade II listed barn in Yorkshire into a stunning family home with industrial finishes. "We had no interest in a standard conversion, and although we were very keen to stay true to the character of the barn we felt that we should also take the opportunity to create something truly special and memorable,” says Amanda.

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A Lifetime Ambition

Colin and Jenny Usher’s simple and inexpensive new build in Liverpool has been described as the most energy-efficient home in the country. It costs no more than £15 per year to run for hot water, heating, cooking and electricity. Carefully orientated to maximise solar gains and the potential of the photovoltaic panels, it is built using an exceptionally well-insulated masonry and concrete structure, with triple-glazed windows. “Hopefully our house will help dispel the myth that an eco home needs to be expensive to build and look radically different.”

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Eco Haven

A green and practical low-energy timber-frame home in the Scottish Highlands provides a peaceful place to retire. "Uppermost among our priorities was a building that would offer low maintenance (especially externally), high energy efficiency (including a significant renewable element), single-level living for ourselves coupled with additional space for the frequent accommodation of family and friends. A large detached garage/workshop and polytunnel were also on the shopping list to take account of leisure interests," says Derek Lovegrove

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Lighter Living

A sensitive extension to an 18th century stone cottage has allowed more light into a period home. The design doubled the size of the kitchen, enables inside/outside living and allows light to flood into the room through a roof lantern and bifold doors. A pitch roof to one side incorporates a downstairs cloakroom, and ties in the design with the gables of the existing house.

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Bright and Beautiful

David Levy and his wife have added a zinc-clad extension with colourful interiors to their Hertfordshire home. “Our building project started six years ago when we realised there was a problem with subsidence, caused by the roots from the eucalyptus tree that was growing at the front of the house,” explains David of his 1930s home.

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Flirting with the 30s

Alan Porter and Ede Langkulanont have meticulously extended and restored a tired Art Deco coastal home. “I’ve always loved the style and simplicity of 1930s houses, and this property hadn’t been touched since the 1960s – with Artexed ceilings, avocado bathroom suites and dated wallpaper,” says Alan. The renovation, which has taken almost seven years to complete, included replacing the failing flat roof, installing new windows, adding cavity wall insulation and rendering the exterior.

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A Life Changer

"It all started as a bit of a punt" says Ken Dennis. "I bought the land for £10,000 from the executor of my mother's estate, with the promise that if I did get planning permission, I'd pay a share of the market value to my brothers." That was in 2002 and it took seven years to get planning consent. "I looked around and saw that there were houses being built and extended in the area, so I knew it could be done."

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A Race to the Finish

"The house wasn't the type of property we wanted to live in, be we immediately recognised its potential." In just a few months, a tired Derbyshire house was remodelled into a contemporary, light and open living space.

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A Little Piece of Provence

The Whittingham family took on a damp, uninhabitable property with a caved-in roof. “We fell in love with the beautiful setting and peaceful surroundings. We weren’t actually looking for a project, and had never renovated a house before. We’ve tried to keep the character, but have introduced modern comforts.”

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A New Dawn

For their retirement Barbara and Simon Andrews have built a modern, low maintenance, energy efficient house with extensive glazing in place of a run-down 2-bedroom bungalow they bought for its rural Lancashire views. K-rend applied to the exterior blockwork and coloured acrylic triple-glazed windows with matching uPVC soffits and fascias minimises the need for external painting.

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High Achiever

Simon Abdilla completed his new home, doing most of the work himself while still holding down a demanding full-time job as a bank manager. “When the alarmingly high quotes came in I decided the only way forward was to manage the project myself,” says Simon who, in this case study, describes the build and reflects on the experience, offering tips for others contemplating doing the same.

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