Hanse Haus are an excellent company with very high standards


Nick & Gill Sole - Cullompton

For Nick and Gill Sole, retirement has meant relocating to Devon in search of community life, and building a house which they know will keep them warm without costing the earth. A retired engineer, Nick first learnt about energy efficient homes in Canada, 35 years ago, and has hankered after building his own timber frame house ever since.
“We wanted a functional house, which meant that we can be warm whilst also being in control of the energy heating costs. In retirement, our money is finite, so an energy efficient house was the obvious way forward. Living in Derbyshire, in 2009, we took a holiday in the Scilly Isles and on the way back we decided to take an extra week to explore the South West. Gill had been to Exeter University so knew the area to some extent, and Devon really appealed to us. We went home to our traditionally built, brick and block, drafty house in Derbyshire, and when 3 different plots came up for sale in the town of Bradninch, on an internet site, I drove back to Devon to take a look. I also made the effort to meet some of the locals and discovered that Bradninch has a strong Arts background, a music festival in the summer, a book club and even a community bee keeping group. It was everything we wanted. One plot in particular stood out, which had existing planning permission for a bungalow, and we decided to go for it”, says Nick.


Having spent 2 years researching, Nick knew that the 2 primary concerns in building the energy efficient home they dreamed of, were air tightness and extremely good insulation. “We used an architect to do the drawings and it had been our intention to go with contractors for the build. Over time though, the architect was very doubtful about achieving the type of airtightness that I knew was possible. Time went on and we didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. This is when we saw an ad for Hanse Haus, and an article on someone else’s Hanse Haus home in one of the magazines. We called one of the UK agents and visited other Hanse Haus homes in the area. In no time, we were off to the headquarters in Germany with our existing drawings. A short time went by before one of the Hanse Haus architects recognised a structural problem with our design. The original design had a half sized first floor with an open galleried area to the ground floor. The architect in Germany made the adjustments to the drawings, allowing for a whole first floor, which was not only structurally more viable but also gave us more space. We signed the contract although it meant we had to change the planning of course. It got passed quite quickly, and in January 2011, we went to Germany for sampling. We now have a beautiful, contemporary house, which almost meets Passivhaus standards. It’s very warm and there are no drafts whatsoever. It’s a wonderful house to live in”.

Nick and Gill chose to go with the UK ground workers, P & P Groundworks Ltd, as recommended by Hanse Haus. “They started to prepare the site in March 2011 and the house was then delivered on May 17th.
We were incredibly lucky to have been renting the bungalow right next to the site since November 2010, which meant we didn’t miss a thing. Everything was very well organised and calm throughout. When the house arrived, the lorries couldn’t make the turn into the entrance, which meant they had to off load onto smaller lorries just out of town and employ two 40 tnne cranes to manoeuvre everything from the road onto our plot. Even this didn’t seem to be an issue though. It meant that half a day had been lost for the erection crew but they worked with such great efficiency and purpose that the time was easily made up. By the end of the second day, the roof was on and the house was completed 7 weeks later, on 7th July absolutely on schedule. The quality and speed of the build was astounding and we were completely at ease throughout. In fact, we just sat back and watched whilst providing tea and copious amounts of biscuits for the crew”, says Gill.
Gill and Nick moved in on 14th August having fitted the kitchen themselves, as well as the carpets and wardrobes. “We chose mst of the fixtures and ittings at the sampling centre in Germany, but wher there was a more cost effective option available, I sourced items myself. These included the kitchen floor tiles, the solid oak floor in the living/dining room, and all the high quality sanitary items which I found at very good prices on Ebay. All of this sanitary ware was fitted by the Hanse Haus team. Similarly the kitchen was sourced locally but fitted by me. So despite the house taking a mere 7 weeks to build, it took me a further 5 weeks to complete my relatively small list of works. However, we had no intention of cutting corners with the quality of the construction and finishes, so by taking the near turnkey option we had complete peace of mind. And I thoroughly enjoyed contributing to the build in my own way.' says Nick.


The house sits on approximately ¼ acre.
The exterior has cedar cladding on the upper half and white render on the bottom.
To the front of the property there is a wooden deck built by Nick.
The exterior walls are 30 cm thick.
The house has triple-glazed windows and a flat roof.


The house provides 200 m² of living space over two floors.

Access is via the front door, and the kitchen, to the rear of the house.

The front door leads into a sealed lobby acting as an air lock, preventing external air from entering directly into the house. The porch also has a small adjoining cloakroom.
Large, double glass doors lead into a hallway with a door to the left giving access to a family bathroom and a double bedroom with a window to the side of the house. The stairs are directly ahead and to the right is open plan access to the spacious living/dining area.
The living area, with full length glass doors overlooks the front of the property with the wooden decking. The dining area has two windows to the rear of the house and to the left is access to the kitchen with an external door to the rear.
The Oak staircase leads up from the main hall area, to the first floor. Immediately ahead is a study with a window to the front. To the left, the landing gives access to a laundry room (to the rear) and two double bedrooms. One enjoys a rear aspect over the fields beyond and the other overlooks the garden and driveway. Both have large fitted wardrobes. Also to the front of the property, with access from the landing and also from the front bedroom is a spacious en suite shower room with WC.
Upstairs is fully carpeted except for the laundry and bathroom, which has ceramic floor tiles. Downstairs, the bathroom has ceramic floor tiles, the bedroom is carpeted, the kitchen has high gloss floor tiles and the living area has a solid oak floor.
The interior walls are 12 cm thick and the house also boasts the Hanse Haus solid wall system, which combines the advantages of timber SIP and solid wall construction. “The walls have a stud every 300mm and they are completely glued on both sides with OSB boards. That makes them loadbearing and the fixing of wall units, including heavy kitchen units for example, is possible everywhere“, says Hanse Haus architect, Bianca Keil

Heating  – 
There is no boiler or central heating system. Instead, the house is heated passively through solar gain, energy generated from kitchen/household appliances and it’s inhabitants an when necessary, a log burner, supplied with the house.
The living/dining room for example, has large, full length south-facing windows, which means the natural solar radiation is used efficiently to heat the house. Also, as is characteristic of a Hanse Haus Passivhaus project, the precision and detailed technical construction ensures the house is virtually airtight, and this ensures that minimal heat can escape through joints or gaps.
There is a wood burning stove for particularly cold winter days and a small, wall mounted air to air heat pump. This heat pump is a low cost and very efficient device that will warm the house quickly if you arrive home after being away for dayswhen the house has cooled down due to being unoccupied. Thermal solar panels and electric immersion heating is used to heat the 300 litre domestic hot water storage tank.
Water  –  Mains water was brought in from the main in the road.

Ventilation system  –  The house has a Vaillant mechanical ventilation system with heat recovery. This system is used to control the supply and extraction of air from low and ultra low energy houses. Used air, which is often contaminated with pollutants, such as moisture and odours from kitchens, bathrooms, etc, is continuously extracted. About 90% of the heat is recovered from this extracted air and added back to the newly introduced fresh air. This regulated room ventilation increases a sense of well being, as it guarantees room air quality and hygiene, whilst also leading to a reduction in heating energy requirements.
The many benefits of the ventilation system include the following:



  • High levels of humidity and possible problems such as the build up of mould on walls in living areas and bathrooms are prevented.
  • By defining the air exchange rate, you can automatically control the warm-air heating needs, leading to a reduction in heating energy requirements.
  • The regulated room ventilation increases a sense of wellbeing as the room air hygiene is guaranteed.



Insulation  –  Within the SIP Walls and ceiling voids a GLASSWOOL product is used which is produced with 90% natural mineral raw materials, like for example, sand and more than 50% recycled glass. The GLASSWOOL product recently gained recognition as an environmental product due to it’s high content of waste glass and also gained a quality control mark to confirm that it’s harmless to health. What’s more, the type of insulation ensures low heating demand in the house.
Solar Panels  –  There are 2 solar panels on the roof, which supplement the off peak electric heating of water in the winter months and provide plenty of domestic hot water in the summer, hence keeping running costs down.
Rainwater Harvesting  –  The house is fitted with a 3000 litre rainwater harvesting tank and hardware, to be used for toilet flushing and external water needs.
Energy Efficient  –  Consisting of a timber SIP construction, as well as timber stairs, and given that wood has the lowest energy consumption and the lowest CO2 emission of any commonly used building material, the main structure of the house can be described as energy efficient. Added to this, the short construction time on-site meant that there was minimal disturbance on the surrounding environment. The entire house can be rebuilt and recycled if ever required.

So, what are your overall thoughts on building with Hanse Haus?

“Hanse Haus are an excellent company with very high standards. The crew were obviouly well trained and managed so the build quality was superb, which gave us a real sense of reassurance. It is almost ineviable that with a complex modern building project some issues will arise after completion. Hanse Haus offer a quality after sales service to deal with theseproblems. The few snagging issues which have ocurred have been dealt with by the project manager and his team in a very personal way. We have complete faith that they will not walk away from problems even when they are not strictly responsible. As a customer, this has been worth an awful lot'. Nick Sole.
Has your new home met your expectations?

“Yes, absolutely. I think you need to live in any house for a while before you grow into it but from the start this house gave us a really good feeling. I love the whole ground floor and also the wonderful views from our bedroom but the air in the whole house gives a sort of calming sensation, which is just lovely. We feel really relaxed here and also sleep really well“. Gill Sole.

“We wanted an energy efficient house, which we could be warm in without paying a fortune in heating bills, and that’s exactly what we have. The performance on the air blower test was fantastic. In fact it was the lowest ever, at 0.38 air changes per hour, that our project manager had worked on, so we know the house is almost airtight. It costs us approximately £15-£20 per month to run this house, which we’re more than happy with“. Nick Sole.
Given your experience, can you offer any tips to other self builders?

“I would advise other customers to find a good architect who is really capable of giving you what you want or employ Hanse Hau' architects who understand and can make the most of the construction system. Our house is in a conservation area so in the end, we were only allowed to go down the contemporary route as the building had the architectural merit. Unless you’ve got a bottomless pit of money, I’d also advise people to think very hard about your budget from the outset and be aware of the problems which can be encountered at groundworks stage which can add to the cost before you even start. For us a ground survey identified some problems, but not the full extent of the poor ground, which pushed our foundation costs up.
It’s worth seeking expertise on the design as, especially if you want a contemporary house, a flat roof, for example, costs considerably more, as do any fancy curves. I suppose it comes down to defining your priorities. For us, the added expense of the flat roof for example, was an easy choice to make for the overall appeal and performance of the house.
Also, if you plan to do any of your own plumbing, you need to be aware that the German system is different to the UK system and may cause a few headaches. Having spent an awful lot of time trying to marry the two together, I eventually contacted the project manager who came and sorted it for me in no time at all.
I’d also say that the Turnkey option is well worth it. There are always cheaper ways to do things but when it comes to building a house, we certainly didn’t want to cut any corners. The assurance of turnkey gave us great peace of mind”. Nick Sole.





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