Building type Domestic
Building age post 2000
Location Rumburgh
Cost of work unknown
District Waveney
Features Natural Materials,Biomass Boiler,Rainwater Harvesting,Insulation and Glazing,Waste and Recycling

A self-build new construction that took place during 1998 and 1999, with certain additions being made between 2000 and 2004. The project was to build a high quality sustainable family home, in terms of the resources use in construction, the resources used to live in it and the comfort and normality it provides to us.

Sustainability Features

Use of aluminium and HPDE composite water pipework to minimise embodied energy, enable future recycling and reduce limescale build up

Efficient energy of occupation

  • 250mm of insulation in walls
  • 150mm insulation in downstairs floors
  • 200mm of insulation in loft augmented by infra red reflecting material
  • 200mm of insulation between ground floor and first floor to slow transmission of heat from day living areas to bedroom
  • Timber windows are triple glazed with Argon filling and infra-red reducing coating
  • Space and water heating from single wood burning stove in downstairs living room (off-peak immersion heater used in summer)
  • Two interlinked 250 litre hot water tanks maximise amount of stored heated water
  • Overflow heat directed to radiator under stairs that allows heat to rise under floor of upstairs
  • Efficient use of space designed to minimise transit area and thus space not in need to heating
  • Small bathroom to reduce energy needed to heat less well used area of the house
  • Smaller windows on north face of house to minimise loss of energy
  • Larger windows on south face of house to maximise solar energy gain of house
  • Downstairs living space principally made of two rooms running entire depth of house, north to south, to allow sunlight to penetrate the whole space
  • Entry to house via draught lobbies: front and back doors open into, respectively, unheated front hall and utility room so that loss of heated air from the living space is minimised when entering and leaving the property
  • Low energy bulbs used throughout
  • Passive stack ventilation system allows warm damp air in bathroom, shower room, kitchen and utility room to rise through ducts and vent to the atmosphere at the ridge of the roof
  • Overall average ‘U’-rating of building c. 0.15 Wm-2K

Embodied energy/ Energy of construction

  • Timber frame construction using engineered beams using high density, slow grown Scandinavian softwood and residue from forest thinnings.
  • Clad in un-seasoned Larch and Douglas Fir from Thetford, specified for high natural resistance to degradation
  • Wood fibre insulation material made from recycled paper
  • Drainage system constructed of high density polyethylene rather than PVC (also benefit of no harmful residue or product upon disposal)
  • Use of aluminium and HPDE composite water pipework to minimise embodied energy, enable future recycling and reduce limescale build up
  • Use of aluminium rainwater goods to maximise longevity and enable easy recycling
  • Pad foundations use less concrete than strip foundations and allow house to be built without levelling the site
  • House built on ring beam system built from tropical hardwood recycled from King George V Docks, Tilbury
  • Some floorboards recycled from Norwich warehouse
  • Roofs of lean-tos covered in cedar shingles
  • Natural clay pantiles rather than concrete tiles

Climate Change – Winter

  • 11,000 litres of rainwater storage collected from roof drainage.
  • 5,000 litres automatically filtered and used in the washing machine and utility room sink.
  • 6,000 litres available for garden irrigation in summer.
  • Timber frame construction flexes in very high winds, increasing resistance and reducing damage

Climate Change – Summer

  • Long axis of house precisely oriented east west to maximise and even out sunlight to south facing side of the building
  • House constructed to north of plot to maximise useable sunny garden area
  • Window positions allow downstairs to be efficiently and rapidly ventilated to allow cooling
  • Roof of 30m2 veranda along length of south side of house shades downstairs living spaces in summer but not in winter
  • Grape vine grown inside veranda roof to provide additional shading in summer


  • Dual flush toilets with 3 and 6 litre flush usage
  • Grey water recycled to flush toilets
  • Rainwater collected and used, as above
  • Black water treated in aerated digester prior to ‘polishing’ in reed bed that empties into wild-life pond
  • Flag Iris, common reed and rush harvested from pond to provide compost for garden, water used to irrigate crops

Health of interior

  • Majority of electrical circuits wired with shielded cable to reduce amounts of electromagnetic radiation in living space
  • Natural paints and varnishes used where possible to reduce off-gassing of harmful compounds


Design Process

I compiled a very detailed scheme brief between 1995 and 1997, including construction method and many materials specifications. Took that to a specialist architect, Neil Winder in Norwich, who produced the design which then evolved a little further with involvement of structural engineer and framing designer. Planning permissions obtained in the normal way.





Green Lifestyle

We have lived here in this comfortable family home for over 10 years and still heat our space with the wood burner, recycle rainwater and grey water and grow a lot of fruit and veg.



No formal evaluation


Suppliers and Professional Services Used

Main suppliers:

Filcrete Ltd – construction and insulation materials

Local suppliers – larch and douglas cladding

Geberit –  water and drainage pipework

Neil Winder – Architect

Sidney Palmer, Architectural Design and Survey – structural constructional drawings

John Allen Associates – structural engineering

Swedish Window Company  – glazing

Adam East – waste management designer

OSMO – exterior paints

Villeroy & Bosch – low flush toilets

EcoVat  – rainwater storage and recycling system

Water Dynamics – grey water recycling system



Self Build magazine, Self Builder of the Year , 2000