Dream homes: re­veal­ing the UK’s best self-build projects

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

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

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