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Mike & Audrey Webb

Mike & Audrey Webb's finished self build project

Mike is a Renewables & Certified Passivhaus Consultant. He's completed a new build project which is the first certified multi block Passivhaus Plus building in the UK.

Floor Plans

What is the floor area of your project in sq ft or sq m? Do you have any floor plans you can provide?

878m2 GIA plus communal areas.




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

The project is the first certified multi block Passivhaus Plus building in the UK, so Carbon positive. It is also “Secured by Design” Gold award & lifetime homes compliant.

Experience at the Centre

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

Over 10 times. 

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

The NSBRC Training Courses.

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

Norrsken & Total Home Environment.

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

Meeting the experts on courses I’ve attended and networking with other self builders and gaining Passivhaus knowledge.

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

YES. Good honest advice & the ability to see the detail of different construction methods all under one roof.

Mike & Audrey's Self Build Journey

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

We saw a sea front location and seized the opportunity to create a beautiful iconic building with a low carbon footprint. 


What was the cost & size of the land?

The plot had a large Victorian house, a small bungalow behind and then a tatty garage and small garden occupying a plot 15m wide and about 50m deep. We obtained the site for over half a million pounds in less than 2 weeks of seeing it!


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

Walking with friends along the seafront, we saw the “for sale” sign in the street. If searching for a plot, always consider the better and higher use strategy with existing dwellings which is exactly what we did at Seaton.


Did you have any issues getting your planning permission granted or with building control? If so – why was this?

YES! It took over 28 months due to negativity from Planning officers with no vision or desire to support regeneration. Due to the size of the scheme, we were advised to go to the “Design Review” panel in Taunton, an overarching authority that endorsed the scheme and gave us the confidence to press on. 


Why did you choose your method of construction?

Original planning application presented the opportunity to develop a “Passivhaus scheme” by orientation and form factor. We changed to a specialist architect in this sector and his expertise allowed us to go for a certified scheme. Adding in my expertise with renewables, we then saw the opportunity to achieve “Passivhaus Plus” an even higher standard. The Architect had a clear idea how to construct from clay blocks as he had used this system on another project. Also, the Penthouse level was a timber frame & the ground floor cast in concrete. 


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

We had a design team of Architect, Quantity Surveyor and Structural Engineer who collaborated on similar projects for Exeter City Council. A full bill of quantities was drawn up, along with a tender package that went to 5 main contractors. Classic Builders (SW) Ltd were awarded the contract and they had a site manager and a contract manager who managed their own chosen sub contractors. We nominated Fords of Sidmouth to do the M&E plus all kitchens and bathrooms. We also nominated “Norrsken” for the high performance triple glazing required in such an exposed location. For mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR), space air heating and domestic hot water, we used Total Home Environment’s energy efficient Compact Service Unit. 


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

The contract sum had to be below £2.5M based on expected sales prices however with specification improvements we came in at £2.9m.


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

We added in extra fire precautions due to the Grenfell tragedy, comprising of misting systems in all apartments and a dry riser, plus a smoke ventilation system. We also increased the spend on Solar PV panels to meet the Passivhaus Plus target. Additionally, we changed the external cladding to Zinc shingles on the Penthouse as low maintenance in a marine environment. The contract duration was extended due to changes and so additional prelims increased costs too. 


What is the value of the property now?

Once the Penthouse apartment sells, we can confirm this, but we expect all 8 units to value at £4,840,000. We achieved 20% higher values per m2 in Seaton than anybody before, due to the high specification.


Did you reclaim the VAT, and if so, how much were you able to reclaim? The main contractor invoiced us direct at zero VAT. As a Ltd company we recovered VAT monthly on all other invoices.


What aspects of the process did you find stressful – and do you have any tips on how to avoid the pitfalls you encountered? Sorting out the community infrastructure levy (CIL) with the local council. We learnt on an NSBRC Self Build Course with Mike Hardwick, the risks involved in getting the timing wrong, but despite this, we still got it wrong due to assuming the professionals would get it right! The Course was £395 but the penalty for getting it wrong was £12,000! Moral of the story is to double check your consultant's responsibilities and assume nothing. Also getting the mechanical & electrical specification right led to some serious thinking, but David Hilton on his Heating your Home Course gives a good over view of available technology for self builders.


What did you find most enjoyable about working on your project? Selling the first unit off plan at full asking price, we then knew this was the right thing to do and we could recover the spend on the improved specification. We opened the site up during construction and on completion for the International Passivhaus open days, this allowed local residents the opportunity to learn more on the building & technology it embraces. We also hosted an open house weekend and showcased with a local art gallery 7 local artists in the Penthouse. This attracted over 1000 visitors who all learnt about our passion for Passivhaus.


What is one of your favourite features about your project? The curved balconies and the zinc shingles on the Penthouse. However, the mosaic detailing on the exterior has to be one of our favourite features. Winning the award as “best sustainable residential development in the UK” from the International Property Awards was also a day to remember!


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle? We did not build this for ourselves to live in. That said, knowing the owners were typically going to be of more mature years, we designed in “lifetime homes” compliance along with “Secured by Design” to ensure our purchasers could stay in their homes forever and feel safe and secure.


Is there a possibility you would ever undertake another project in the future? Yes, we are now planning 4 starter homes in Worcestershire where we live, to be Passivhaus certified.


If so, is there anything you would do differently? In construction they say, “where there’s a curve, there’s a cost!” so our next project may have straight edges! At Seaton it was the right thing to do as a bold architectural statement was needed to differential the building.


What would your top tip be for other NSBRC Visitors about to embark on their first self build or home improvement journey? Spend lots of time looking at suppliers at NSBRC and getting quotes in before you specify the products you want to use, and before you get a bill of quantities drawn up. Set in stone all of your choices once you go to tender AND CHANGE NOTHING THEREAFTER! Also, before you talk to the architect, engage with a Passivhaus Consultant if you want to go for a low energy comfortable home, as key learnings at this stage will save a fortune in fees later. We now offer a “Try before you Buy (or build)” Passivhaus consultancy service for self-builders where you can stay for 2 nights in a Passivhaus apartment by the sea.