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Philip & Jan Oliver


Philip & Jan Oliver completed their beautifully modern self build located in Surrey back in June 2020, using a range of the NSBRC's resources and exhibitors to build their knowledge & confidence along the way.

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

It’s a modern, entirely tile hung house and costs only £5 per week for heating and hot water in old prices (between £11 and £12 at new).

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*Philip & Jan's property, Wayside, was the winner of the Build It Award's 2022 category for 'Best Eco Home'.

Philip & Jan's Experience at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre

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

What would you say is the most helpful feature or resource at the NSBRC? The Project Management Course

Did you use any exhibitors at the NSBRC? Yes, we used: CLPM, MBC, Green Building Store, & Ecohaus Internorm.

What did you enjoy most about your visit to the NSBRC? The National Self Build & Renovation Show and the Training Courses.

Would you recommend the NSBRC to a friend, and if so, what aspects of the Centre would you recommend and why? The Project Management Course - because it explained the legal responsibilities very clearly and the ability to compare construction methods as we weren’t sure until we had seen examples.

Photo credit: Patricia Rayner at Image2Photography.

Philip & Jan’s Self Build Experience:

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

This was our second one-off house, the first was on a difficult site and was built by a builder for us. This was 15 years ago and we were trying for a low energy house and we were moderately successful, aided by the fact that feed in tariffs were very high. We were heavily involved at all stages of design and construction as I was only working 4 days a week and we had a site meeting every Friday with builders, subcontractors and the architect. For this site we used the same architect who is passionate and extremely knowledgeable about low energy design and construction. The Architect convinced me that I knew enough or could learn enough to project manage this much simpler house.

We hoped to achieve a beautiful, low energy house that would see us into our old age (we are both 73).


What was the size of the land? Approx. ¼ acre.


How did you find the land? Do you have any tips for others currently searching for a plot? We originally bought an old bungalow with the hope that we might transform it but soon became convinced that we would be better starting again. For our previous house we had circulated all the estate agents in the area with a printed sheet laying out very simply what we wanted, (a knock down, refurb or bare plot) and our budget and we went to look at and fed back to them on every one they sent us. We eventually bought a site via an agent, which never went on the market. For this house our daughter came across it by accident!


Did you have any issues getting your planning permission granted or with building control? If so – why was this? We made a detailed pre app, which raised three concerns , none serious – bats, overlooking and trees. All of which we discussed with the planning officer and we were then able to cover in the formal application. We were lucky to receive full approval in 29 days (honest!). Building control raised an issue at the design stage­­ with the proposed weight of the sliding glass doors on the south elevation which Internorm had estimated at approx. 500kg each (they are triple glazed 2.5m x 2.5m). Discussions with Internorm led to the realisation that they were working with their glass supplier on a new laminated glass which would weigh substantially less. Eventually we got the weight down to just over 400kg and the Inspector was satisfied.


Why did you choose your method of construction? There was a big focus on both insulation and airtightness.


Did you use a project manager, or did you choose to self project manage? I self-managed, but given my advancing years, my wife raised the question of what might happen if anything happened to me? We approached Charlie Laing and asked him if he could provide a mentor for me both to ‘mark my homework’ every 2-3 weeks and thereby gain the ability to complete the project if anything untoward should happen to me. The mentoring worked extremely well providing me with advice and reassurance and us both with an effective form of insurance.


What was your budget and were you able to stick to it? £600k - and we came in at £622k.


What is the value of the property now? Approx. £2.5m.


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


What aspects of the process did you find stressful – and do you have any tips on how to avoid the pitfalls you encountered? We (I) did not check MBC’s very detailed frame design carefully enough and a couple of errors led to a couple of days of rework which MBC undertook very quickly.


What did you find most enjoyable about working on your project? Working with good people, with one small exception, and the outcome!


What is one of your favourite features about your project? The southern overhang which keeps the sun out in high summer and allows it to warm the house in the winter. The light switches from Gira which just feel wonderful to operate (we were once advised to pay particular attention to things you touch in the house as they indicate the care that has gone into the house, - light switches, door handles and loo flushes! … and it’s true!)


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle? We have the ability to live on the ground floor if necessary and we have a large studio area for painting, sewing, reading and relaxing in the roof space. Lots of lovely light space.


Is there a possibility you would ever undertake another project in the future? Unlikely given our age!


If so, is there anything you would do differently? Check the design detail.


What would your top tip be for other NSBRC Visitors about to embark on their first self build or home improvement journey? Get the very best Architect you can for the sort of home you want.