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Tom Evans & Louise Howson

Tom Evans & Louise Howson's finished self build project

Tom and Louise self built their near passivhaus modern lodge-style project in Brinkworth by using ICF and renewable technologies from suppliers sourced during their visits at the NSBRC.

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

This is our first build and we were pleased to be on time and in budget. We were amongst the first in the country to use the SunAmp heat battery, powered by 6KW of solar panel.

Tom & Louise's Experience at the Centre

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


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

The exhibitor stands at the Centre and the online workshops during lockdown.

Did you use any exhibitors at the NSBRC?

Total Home Environment, Ecomerchant for insulation, membranes and taping, and Matt Soady for ICF (Beco WALLFORM).

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

The openness of the suppliers. None of them were pushy, just lots of great solid information.

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

A visit is a must but the online surgeries in early 2021 were amazing, we learned so much.

Tom & Louise's Self Build Journey

What first inspired you to undertake project – what did you hope to achieve? We were looking to learn how to live a new lifestyle with less reliance on fossil fuels and to move out of the busy South East and to become mortgage free. We achieved all of this.


What was the cost & size of the land?

£120,000 for a plot of around 450sqm.


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

Via Lockstones Estate Agents in Malmesbury. Our advice is to look closely at soil type, as we had to contend with heavy clay. Also - check you have good access for deliveries that might be coming on an articulated lorry.


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

Planning permission was in place for a number of lodges on the site and building control was very smooth. None had been built with eco in mind with most gaining an EPC of C or less.


Why did you choose your method of construction?

We chose ICF for the speed of build and relatively low cost.


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

We self-managed.


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

We had a budget of £300,000 for everything (incl decoration, furniture, kitchen etc) - we came in at £330,000.


What is the value of the property now?

Lockstones valued it at £590,000 and it’s now on the market as we have embarked on a new refurb project in South Wilts.


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

We did, around £4.5k.


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

The subcontractors we used for 1st fix onwards rarely put in what we would call a full day’s work. We wanted to use local tradesmen but we were somewhat disappointed at their speed and work ethic.


What is one of your favourite features about your project?

The 5.8m wide triple glazed sliding door from Internorm.


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle?

Yes, at the time it was a second home. So we liked the fact there was no garden for minimal maintenance. It’s on a golf course so we had 160 acres to wander around in.


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

Yes, we’ve bought a 1960s chalet bungalow (EPC of E), which we are aiming to get to A or at least B EPC. More importantly, we are now confident to look around at innovative cutting edge solutions. So this time we are going out to tender on the triple glazed windows and looking at infrared panels and new ceramic radiators for heating, so solar radiation converts directly to heat when needed. We'll also install a Sunamp for hot water as before.


If so, is there anything you would do differently?

Buy a motorhome (which we now have) and be on site more.


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

Ask suppliers if you could speak to people who had already purchased a solution from them.