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Gloria & John Wright

Gloria & John Wright's finished renovation project

Following multiple visits to the NSBRC, Gloria & John designed & extended their property in 2011 to create a 5 bedroom house, repurposing the original bungalow.

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

This project was a large extension, which reused most of the existing building. We designed the house ourselves then gave our plan to an Architectural Draughtsman to make it work, draw it up professionally & make the submission for planning permission. We checked the maximum value our location would support before setting our budget so that we did not spend beyond its potential resale value. 

In my opinion, in this country, we tend to build our houses inside out with large amounts of thermal mass (brick) on the outside and lightweight material (low mass) on the inside. The outside acts like a storage heater storing heat in the summer and cold in the winter and releasing it back into the house when the outside temperature moderates. By reversing the position of the thermal mass, the outside temperature of the house closely follows air temperature, whilst the inside walls store heat (or cold) and help to provide a constant internal environment.

The design used a steel frame to enable the open plan vaulted look. We used concrete block internally with lightweight blocks & a phenolic foam & render cladding on the outside, which provided a high thermal mass internally & low thermal mass externally. We insulated to the highest standard which was affordable & practical and used underfloor heating, MVHR, central vacuum, PV solar & other energy and labour saving technologies.

We were careful to design in and spend extra on wow factors such as the front door, entrance hall & the vaulted, galleried open plan living space with bifold doors to the garden.

Floor Plans

What is the floor area of your project in sq ft or sq m?

The net internal floor area is 295 square meters.





Experience at the Centre

How many times have you visited The National Self Build and Renovation Centre before?

I’ve visited the NSBRC five or six times, including the open days when exhibitors are available to speak to. I also paid to attend a couple of courses.

What would you say is the most helpful feature or resource at the NSBRC?

I found the displays showing the variety and detail of building options most helpful. I took photos which helped me understand in detail how parts of my house needed to fit together. Also, the contact details of suppliers was invaluable for getting quotes for the supply of their products. On a few occasions my wife and I visited the NSBRC together. She too found it useful to walk the isles to see what was available and it gave me the opportunity to explain some of the technology to her. This helped her to understand what I was talking about and enabled us both to participate in the design and decision making process.

Did you use any exhibitors at the NSBRC? If so, who?

Andersen windows in the show house.

What did you enjoy most about your visit to the NSBRC?

Understanding the detail of the new technologies on display, and the detail and explanations in the renovation house display.

Would you recommend the NSBRC to a friend, and if so, what aspects of the Centre would you recommend and why?

Yes, I would recommend simply walking the aisles and getting a feel for the number of building methods and technologies available & then signing up for courses and workshops. I attended a couple of courses on project management, finance and health & safety.  They gave me a basic understanding of these subjects in relation to planning a self-build project.  They gave me the confidence, information and resources that I needed to start my building project.  Demolishing parts of the house you’re living in and removing the roof takes a lot of courage and the confidence that you can put it all back together again. The NSBRC helped me enormously.

Gloria & John’s Renovation Journey

What first inspired you to undertake project – what did you hope to achieve?

I wanted a project and we wanted a house that we could call “ours”, that was energy efficient, cheap and easy to run, that would last us through our retirement.  We also made sure that, should mobility issues affect one – or both of us – that we could still live in the house comfortably utilising the ground floor only.


What was the cost & size of the land?

The original bungalow cost £395,000 (2010).


How did you find the land? Do you have any tips for others currently searching for a plot?

We told a local Estate agent what we were looking for and he showed us a tired & dated bungalow on a large plot. It was bought as a project.


Did you have any issues getting your planning permission granted or with building control?

No issues.


Why did you choose your method of construction?

It was similar to what existed. It was designed with a high internal thermal mass & low externally. The external rendered phenolic cladding hid the difference between the existing building and new walls (thermalite blocks) & made the building look new.  It tied it all together so there was no sense of a bungalow with an extension.


Did you use a project manager, or did you choose to self-project manage?

Self-project managed individual trades – no main contractor.


What was your budget and were you able to stick to it?

£150,000 (over ran by 13%).


If you didn’t stick to your budget, what was the main reason for the overspend?

Upgrading finishes to create or enhance the WOW factors. We were careful to do a cost/benefit assessment on high value technology and environmental features to keep costs under control. For energy saving features, potential savings were estimated over the product lifetime and the number of years to payback was an important consideration.


What is the value of the property now?

£850,000 (2019).


Did you reclaim the VAT, and if so, how much were you able to reclaim?

No, this was classed as an extension. However, not getting VAT back has been offset by no increase in the Council Tax banding.


What aspects of the process did you find stressful – and do you have any tips on how to avoid the pitfalls you encountered?

We lived on site in the existing building throughout, so having to plan building works around our life and moving our living space as required by the build schedule was tricky but saved on expense.


What did you find most enjoyable about working on your project?

The satisfaction of watching it develop and being able to build a house to our own specification.


What is one of your favourite features about your project?

The vaulted open plan living space that opens to merge with the garden.


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle?

We designed it ourselves using lifestyle criteria such as “entertaining”, “party house”, with a few physical and technology specifications such as ”a walk-in wardrobe” & “underfloor heating”.


Is there a possibility you would ever undertake another project in the future?



What would your top tip be for other NSBRC Visitors about to embark on their first self build or home improvement journey?

Familiarise yourselves with all the building, technology & lifestyle options on display. Look at other buildings inside and out to get ideas, then sketch out your own design. Architects often have a signature style, so shop around for one that matches your style & don’t lose sight of your sketched idea. Plan details such as finishes months ahead – lead times can cause issues.