Dream homes: revealing the UK’s best self-build projects
with eco technology. The resulting home, an ultra-energy-efficient mews house in south London, has been chosen as the Best Green House in The Daily Telegraph Homebuilding and Renovating Awards.
Sharp has joined the movement of people pioneering more environmentally friendly methods of housebuilding. The four solar PV panels she had installed on the roof provide most of the energy needed to heat a hydrotherapy pool in the rear courtyard where she now enjoys a dip every day.
Her home is a Passivhaus, meaning that thanks to large amounts of insulation, quadruple glazing and a superairtight structure, the amount of energy required for heating and cooling is at a bare minimum. This dramatically cuts down household bills and Sharp now pays just £300 annually on heating. According to the project’s ar- chitect Richard Dudzicki, Sharp’s home uses about a 10th of the energy a conventional house the same size would.
Her decision to downsize also came as a result of health issues. “The house was beautiful but the heat was going straight through the windows,” she says. “I have poor circulation and I was really worried about being cold. If I was going to downsize I didn’t want something that would cost a lot of money to heat.” The skylights in her new home flood the property with natural light and help to keep it warm in winter.
Not only has she created one of the UK’s most sustainable homes, Sharp has also succeeded in dispelling the myth that you need a lot of cash to do so. She spent just £245,000 (plus £200,000 for the original cost of the plot) to build her dream home. She has also, potentially, made a huge profit: it is now valued at £1 million.
All of this happened in spite of various financial stumbling blocks along the way. When her original contractors went bust halfway through the project, Sharp’s son, Alexi, stepped in to save the day. Just beginning a career as a developer at the time, he offered to help finish off the house with the original team of builders who were keen to remain on board. “The construction workers were honest, decent guys – that was important to them, it wasn’t just about a job and money,” he recalls.
Conservation rules meant Sharp had to make compromises on her budget. Planners insisted on a brick exterior, more in keeping with the building’s surroundings than her original plan of using render for an economical alternative. She finally settled on brick slips as a middle ground. Brick and steel walls give a stylishly industrial feel – a nod to the property’s humble beginnings as a service mews – and provide a pleasing contrast to Sharp’s collection of antique furniture and paintings inside. Red cedar slats soften the exterior and add a more rustic aesthetic.
At a modest 1,184 sq ft, Sharp’s home is a palace in its ambition if not its scale. Thanks to cleverly hidden storage systems, she has maximised the space available in her three-bedroom home. The pale colour scheme and a first-floor terrace accessed through the master bedroom enhance the feeling of openness. Careful attention to airtightness and insulation turned out to have an added bonus: fantastic sound insulation. “It’s incredibly peaceful here, even with construction going on next door. I can shut the front door and feel happy to be in this very comfortable and calm environment,” Sharp says.
The Daily Telegraph Homebuilding and Renovating Awards celebrate the best self-build, conversion and renovation projects covering a range of categories, including best contemporary style self-build and best spirit of self-build.
This year’s other winners include an old coastguard tower, left abandoned for four decades. It was converted into a family house for just £155,000 including the land, and was awarded best starter home. The best renovation, near Loch Lomond, was done with no vehicular access, electricity, fuel, water supply or telecommunication infrastructure on the site.
The winner of best traditional-style self-build, and the overall winner, was Meadowmead, an oak-framed cottage in the Herefordshire countryside. It was a Herculean effort, taking the owners four years and plenty of struggles against planning officers to get it built. Which goes to prove that it you stick with it, you may end up a winner. See all the award winners at telegraph.co.uk/ selfbuildawards2018
Elisabeth Sharp’s eco friendly self-build in south London, below, has its own swimming pool, left, and costs only £300 a year to heat