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Jenny & Chris Shepperd

Jenny & Chris self built Gryphon House across 2018 - 2020. The property is a contemporary, two-storey, 5-bed timber frame house located in Warwickshire.

Gryphon House

Could you tell us any interesting facts or remarkable features about your project?

Frame Technologies’ TechVantage™ S system was used for the timber frame. This is a breathable closed panel system fully filled with 140mm 035 timber rafter batt in the factory. The system is lined on the inside with a 50mm PIR Liner and service batten and plasterboard with a further 25mm Fibre board and Thermo breather paper on the outside. This delivers a 0.13 U Value through the walls, while a Superglass loft roll was used in the roof to achieve 0.13 U value. A Superglass acoustic insulation in the internal walls and floor zone delivered a well-insulated, energy-efficient and airtight new home.

The house is timber frame clad in stone, with some fibre cement cladding and a slate roof. As well as being highly efficient, it incorporates beautiful features, such as a floating, curved staircase, external balconies around the rear elevation, and a vaulted ceiling over the kitchen with a bridge to the bedrooms over the garage. Large triple glazed sliding doors in four rooms lead to patio/balconies, providing a light, bright and sunny interior, and the incredibly popular inside/outside living feel. The curved staircase and external balconies provided interesting design challenges.

The complete house achieved a SAP rating of 99, which is exemplary, and achieved the highest Passive House standard when tested for air tightness.

Other features include: air source heat pump powering hot water and underfloor heating on both floors; heat recovery ventilation; rainwater collection for garden watering, washing machine and toilet reuse; triple glazing throughout; 11kW PV panels supplying electricity on sunny days to store in 2 Tesla batteries; and daily release 80% back to the grid at high peak load times. These features, combined with the benefits of an airtight, highly insulated shell make a comfortable, cheap-to-run, elegant home.

Please click on the images below to view the floor plans in full.

Ground Floor Proposed Plans:

First Floor Proposed Plans:

Chris & Jenny's Experience at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre

How many times have you visited The National Self Build and Renovation Centre before? Three or four times.

What would you say is the most helpful feature or resource at the NSBRC? The opportunity to be updated on the latest available technologies and design features and the chance to listen and talk with experts in all aspects of self-build.

What did you enjoy most about your visit to the NSBRC? Meeting specialists who were able to turn our ideas into reality.

Would you recommend the NSBRC to a friend, and if so, what aspects of the Centre would you recommend and why? We were able to talk to various contractors before we had even begun the project. It was all in one place and there were really great demonstrations of the new technologies we were interested in. We could see working systems and imagine them as part of our dream home. We were able to listen to people with real experience of finding land and dealing with planning issues, and to have advice on practical matters like site insurance.

Information compiled in November 2022.

Jenny & Chris' Self Build Experience

What first inspired you to undertake project – what did you hope to achieve? We lived in four previous homes all of which we improved by extending/altering, insulating, improving heating technologies and also rewiring for better control. The additions tended to get more extensive in each successive home. We realised it was time to move onto the next step which was building our own ‘forever’ home and putting in all the things we really like and make it the house we wanted.

We worked with Frame Technologies’ MD, Simon Orrells before as he had designed and erected the timber frame for one of our extensions. When we met him again, not only did his systems provide increased insulation properties which we planned for our self-build project, but we already had confidence in his abilities to deliver.

Simon’s design skills helped us to realise our dreams of large connected internal spaces, large sliding windows for inside-outside living with cantilevered balconies and a feature curved cantilevered main staircase.


What was the cost & size of the land? £450K & 1.2 acres.


How did you find the land? Do you have any tips for others currently searching for a plot? For the areas you want to live, get on the lists of all the estate and site agents and regularly revisit these to catch sites before others. Use the internet site search engines, drive around the area, talk to anyone who might know people who might have land available, and get to know local planning policies.


Did you have any issues getting your planning permission granted or with building control? If so – why was this? Yes, we had failed to discover that Warwickshire CC will not pass anything unless the parish council approve it, so attending their meetings first would have ensured a quicker process.


Why did you choose your method of construction? We had built in timber frame before and found it really quick because we could get the structure up quickly. We also liked that we could get the insulation built into the frame.

Building with timber frame offered a number of benefits to us. The lightweight and flexible nature of the material meant the project didn’t need all the supporting foundational components that would be required for other build methods. The flexibility of timber also meant we could make adjustments easily during the build process. For example, after the frame had been erected, we decided that we wanted to alter the size of two of the bedrooms, make our ensuite larger, and create a larger access way onto the gallery. We simply moved the walls and Frame Technologies cut a bigger opening, quickly and easily, making adjustments that gave us a home that more closely fitted all our needs.

Timber’s ability to integrate steel components which span long lengths across our home, like the supports above the sliding glass windows, allowed us to incorporate design features that would have been challenging with brick and block.


Did you use a project manager, or did you choose to self project manage? Chris undertook the role of project manager himself due to the increased prices he was getting from builders and ran the project very successfully.

We commissioned an architect, appointed sub-contractors, and project managed the build.


What was your budget and were you able to stick to it? What was the main reason for the overspend? Our initial budget was around £700K, but we decided to spend a little more to get the specific features we wanted, such as the floating curved staircase and the flooring and glass balustrading for the floating balconies. We feel the eventual outcome was well worth it.

We also wanted to achieve an integrated control system so that heat, lights, blinds, audio and security were all easily accessible on one simple system, and this meant our budget needed to expand.


What is the value of the property now? The market value of the property exceeds what we spent on it, but we don’t plan to move now, so it will be our children who realise its true value when we no longer have that worry.


Did you reclaim the VAT, and if so, how much were you able to reclaim? £25K.


What aspects of the process did you find stressful – and do you have any tips on how to avoid the pitfalls you encountered? It was difficult to find contractors who had the right mix of skills for some parts of the construction so we probably ended up doing more ourselves than we planned; installing most of the insulation, “SureCav”ing the frame ready for the stone cladding, fitting gutters and downpipes and noggins for plaster boarders, driving the Manlift to get supplies to first floor level, and dealing with a muddy site through a cold winter. However, these are pretty standard fare for self-builders and we so enjoy the results that the hardships are quickly forgotten.


What did you find most enjoyable about working on your project? We enjoyed working with the architect to design a house we would love and meet all of our requirements. It was great to optimise the design working with Simon Orrells of Frame Technologies, as he always seemed to be able to find a solution when we asked for something special. We were also surprised and delighted when Gryphon House won the 2021 Timber House of the Year award from Build It.


What is one of your favourite features about your project? The craftsmanship of the staircase and cantilever balconies are fantastic, and the end result looks effortless. The light and airy feel of the living spaces and the eco-energy aspects of the project all combine to give us a deep level of satisfaction.


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle? We installed an air source heat pump, heat recovery system and 40 PV panels to maximise energy efficiency and reuse as much solar gain in our home as possible. Because of this insulation and efficiency, our whole house is well-equipped to resist the high energy costs the UK is facing now. We’re lucky not to be greatly affected by price rises as the import and export rates with Octopus Tesla Energy are set at the same level, 11.3p per KWh at present. With the Tesla battery system in place our annual total energy bill is around £700, and from April to September we received between £20 to £35 each month because of the value of the energy exported. The rainwater harvesting and water efficient taps and showers mean our monthly water bills are around £5.


Is there a possibility you would ever undertake another project in the future? This house is our ‘forever home’.


Is there anything you would do differently? We would involve Simon Orrells from Frame Technologies even earlier in the design process as he has the skills to fine tune our design into a workable project.


What would your top tip be for other NSBRC Visitors about to embark on their first self build or home improvement journey? We would encourage visitors to think about what really matters to them, including the spaces they want, how the rooms are put together and the technologies they want to incorporate. Then they should begin the research; look at the magazines and visit the shows. Once you start, be prepared to be flexible because the fine tuning makes it yours.

Don’t get hung up on something you’ve thought you’ve always wanted because on your journey you may discover something even better.