November 2017: Catching up, the end of one long wait and the beginning of another.

My best intentions of posting progress monthly have already fallen by the wayside.  Since moving to Gatehouse, into a holiday cottage that I have the use of until the end of March 2018, the time has flown by and I have failed miserably to keep the blog up to date.  But here comes the latest instalment.

The site for my house (Plot 3; but a proper name is under consideration) is one of six plots on the western side of Memory Lane in Gatehouse; postcode DH7 2JF.  When I bought the site there was a planning consent for plots 1-3, 5 and 6, and a separate consent for plot 4.  The houses proposed for plots 1-3, 5 and 6 were kit homes produced by HebHomes, one and a half storeys high, white rendered with timber clad porches and slate roofs.  The house proposed for Plot 4 is a sizeable white rendered bungalow with slate roof.  Both planning consents state that a degree of consistency between the six plots is important.

The planning application for Plot 3 was submitted, and validated on 25th July 2017 and planning permission was eventually granted on 31st October, a total of 14 weeks.  The only query from the planning officer related to the orientation of the house, which doesn’t line up with the rest of the houses on Memory Lane, or with the proposed houses on either side of Plot 3.  An explanation of Passivhaus principles followed, repeating much of the information contained in the Design Statement submitted with the planning application.  The house needs to be orientated so that heat from the sun can penetrate into the interior and provide the majority of the heating requirement throughout the year.  This will reduce heating costs and fossil fuel consumption, and contribute to lower CO2 emissions, as well as keeping me snug and warm.  It seems that conforming to the street pattern is more important than tackling climate change, according to the planners, that is.  But a small adjustment to bring my house more in line with the buildings proposed for plots 5 and 6 was made with little effect on the heat equation; a compromise was reached, honour was satisfied and permission granted.

However the planners imposed a condition on the permission requiring me to submit details of the external wall finish and the colour of the windows and door.  It was stated that these needed to match those of Plot 4, the white painted bungalow which has been approved with mid grey window frames and doors.  However fortunately my proposals of untreated vertical larch boarding for the external walls and dark grey window frames and doors have been approved, and a line of suburban white rendered bungalows has been avoided.

In the meantime, Steve Mason of SRM Building Design progressed drawings, specification and schedule of work for the Building Warrant application, which was submitted on 15th November 2017.  A decision is not expected until the beginning of January 2018 at least.

The house is likely to achieve close to Passivhaus standard in energy efficiency; U values for walls, roof and ground floor will all be 0.11 W/m²K, with the windows having an average U value of 0.75 W/m²K.  Combined with an airtightness standard of a maximum of 0.2 ach (air changes per hour) and a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery system (MVHR) the house will need a very small input of supplementary heat on around 30 – 40 days a year, to be provided with a small wood burning stove.  This stove needs to be vented from outside the house to burn properly, but will be the only heating needed within the house.  So … no boiler, no radiators, no central heating pipework – just the sun and the recovered heat from cooking, electrical appliances and people (me!).  Cost limitations mean that there won’t be enough money for PV solar panels, so hot water will be provided by a well insulated hot water cylinder with immersion heater.

I don’t intend to go out to tender for the building contract as it’s small, there are not many contractors around this part of the world, and a significant part of the contract is supplying and erecting the timber frame which will be done by Eden Insulations.  It will be important that the trades finishing the building after the frame is erected do not compromise the airtightness of the structure; not universally understood, and requires a contractor and tradesmen who are careful and mindful of the requirement.  Discussions are in progress with 3b Construction who are partway through building the house on Plot 4.  Cost will be an issue, as always, with the added problem of increasing costs of building materials caused by the fall in the value of the pound following the decision to leave the EU.   I need to be prepared to make economies and work out how I can carry out as much of the work as I’m capable.

3b Construction won’t be able to make a start on site until sometime in February 2018; things in the development world have become busy, so there is no way that the house will be complete by the end of March.  Another problem to solve, but not right now.


Plot 4 progressing quickly – windows in and slates being fixed on roof slopes facing road.