We feel that, as customers, our best interests have been at heart to the highest level

 

Laurie & Heide Upshon - Tewkesbury

For Laurie and Heide Upshon, there have been major highs and major lows during the build of their dream eco home.  Having lived in the village of Kemerton, on the edge of the Cotswolds for the past 9 years, when it came to getting planning for a new build in the back garden of their original house, they came up against local opposition and restrictions on their final build.

 

“Our motivation to build our own house came primarily from living in older houses, including a listed building for more than 30 years. They were lovely to look at but had little effective draught proofing and were difficult to insulate properly. Coming originally from Austria, Heidi knew what it’s like to live in a well-insulated draught-free house, feeling warm, even when it was –20C outside.  We also wanted to make life easier for ourselves and decided that in the 21st century, we should use 21st technology techniques to build a 21st century house. We also knew that it’s important to use renewable energy.

 

In 2008, we started to look at timber-frame manufacturers and whilst on holiday in Austria, we visited various energy efficient houses built by both Austrian but largely German companies.  We had a good idea of what we wanted and had some plans drawn up.  There was a lot of opposition from local residents and although the planning officers recommended approval, the development control committee voted against the plan. Some councillors objected to the very modern design, some claimed that people to the west of us would be blinded by the sun’s reflection in our windows (even though realistically the nearest people who could see the windows were across the Severn Valley some 14 miles away!). We could have appealed against the decision – particularly as we had received the planning officers’ approval but, instead, we modified the plan to a more traditional design and reduced the footprint by 25%.

 

We’d already met the main Hanse Haus sales agent in the UK and instantly took to his hands-on, can-do attitude.  He put us in touch with other helpful people, including Penni and Paul, the ground workers who came and looked at the site and gave their advice.  We finally received planning permission in August 2009 – by one vote - and signed contracts with Hanse Haus in October 2009.

 

At last the wheels to build our house, started turning”, says Laurie.

 

At the beginning of December, Laurie and Heidi went to the Hanse Haus headquarters in Germany, for sampling.  Over 2 days they selected everything from roof tiles to door handles.  “There are hundreds of samples to choose from so every time we came to a different item such as bathroom tiles, Heidi would start at one end, and I’d start at the other, each pulling out whatever we liked.  We were even advised to sit on toilets of every height (they are all wall-hung) until we found the right one. It was a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears!”, recalls Laurie.

 

The basement was delivered on 13th March and the house arrived four weeks later.  “The Hanse Haus construction crew were fantastic.  They arrived the afternoon before the build was due to start with 2 lorries, which they’d arranged to park in a local service station.  They needed to off-load onto a smaller lorry to access the site via the narrow drive.  They took great pride in everything they did.  They would start at 8 in the morning and finish at 6pm, or 1pm on Saturdays.  They were so keen to get on with the job, they’d had asked if they could work until 10pm as the evenings were becoming lighter”, says Heidi. “We pointed out that one of the planning conditions prevented any construction work after 6pm and they had to stop work by 1 pm on Saturdays.”

 

The house was handed over on 22nd July.

 

Background

 

Last year was a big year for Laurie and Heidi.  Not only were they both turning 60 but it was also their 40th wedding anniversary.  They had planned to have a big house warming party celebration last summer but when one of the plumbers was finishing off some last minute checks, he discovered damp in the basement.  Well-established, professional basement manufacturers, Glatthaar worked relentlessly to try and find out where the problem lay.  “We can’t fault Glatthaar – they really were superb – they replaced all the light wells, took floors up, etc.  They spared no expense and effort to find out what the problem was.  Unfortunately it meant that we had to wait and wait – and it went on and on”, says Heidi.

 

The Upshons eventually sold their family home and moved into the their new house on 9th February 2011.  “Despite the issues we’ve had with the basement, we would self build again if ever we decided to move.  Such has been their level of commitment, without doubt - we’d choose both Hanse Haus and Glatthaar again”, adds Laurie.

 

Specifications

 

Exterior

The house sits on a 600 sq m plot of land.
The exterior has a light yellow, stone coloured render and a pitched, grey tiled roof.

There is off-road parking on the permeable-paved driveway.

To the rear of the property - accessed from the inside, or around either side of the house – is a low maintenance garden and eco-decking area.

The exterior walls are 30cm thick.

The house has triple-glazed windows.

 

Interior

 

The house provides 270 m2 of living space, which includes the basement.

Access is via the front door, a side door from the utility room, and triple-glazed glass patio doors to the rear of the house.

The front door leads into the hallway. To the right is a separate WC and straight ahead is the open plan kitchen, dining and sitting room, which extends, from one end to the other, the length of the house.  At one end is the kitchen with a window overlooking the rear of the property, the dining area is central with double glass patio doors opening out onto the decking outside, and the lounge/sitting area is at the other end with a window overlooking the neighbouring field.

 

The master bedroom is also on the ground floor and is accessed from the hall, to the left as you enter the front door.  There is a large window also overlooking the field. As well as an en suite shower room and WC. 

 

There is oak floor throughout on the ground floor with ceramic floor tiles in the bathrooms and Amtico in the kitchen and utility room.

 

The oak staircase, which is favourite feature for Laurie and Heidi, leads up and around to the first floor from the hall.  At the top of the stairs, immediately to the right is a room, to be used as a playroom, with sky lights and beyond that, also to the right is a double bedroom with a window overlooking the back garden.  Next to this, and immediately ahead at the top of the stairs is a family bathroom.  Further along the landing to the left are 2 more double bedrooms both with en suite shower rooms and WC’s.  One overlooks the front of the property and the other, the side of it.  Upstairs also has oak flooring throughout with ceramic tiles in the bathrooms.

 

The basement is accessed via the main oak staircase, which continues from the ground floor twisted round to the lower ground floor.  The large basement is split into various rooms/areas including a study/office, a central family ‘den’ area, a library and a workshop for Heidi’s needlework and stained glass work.  There is also a separate WC and a plant room, which houses the boiler, etc.  The basement, which is light and airy due to the many light wells, is fitted throughout with a bamboo laminate floor.

 

There is underfloor heating throughout the 3 floors, with individual thermostats in every room.

 

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.

 

Utilities 

Heating  –  The house has an air source heat pump.

Water  –  Mains water.
The house also has rainwater harvesting.

Ventilation system  –  The house boasts a controlled air ventilation system with heat recovery, which means that humid and odorous air is extracted from rooms such as the kitchen, bathroom and toilet through a short, central duct and fed outdoors.  The required supply of fresh air is then provided by decentralised outside air openings known as fresh-valves. 

 

The many benefits of the controlled air ventilation system include the following:-

 

 

  • High levels of humidity and the resultant 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  –  Walls, ceilings and roofs are insulated with a GLASSWOOL product, 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 south-facing pitched roof, which supplement the heating of water in the winter months and should provide adequate heat in the summer, hence keeping running costs down.  Laurie and Heidi also plan to install photovoltaic panels in the future.

 

Chemical-free  –  Only the roof rafters and the battens were impregnated with BOR salt to protect the wood against humidity, otherwise, no wood preservation was used and all materials are chemical-free.

 

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.  What’s more, the entire house can also be rebuilt and recycled.

 

Living

 

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

 

“ There are some things that we feel Hanse Haus could improve upon, including better communication, documentation and timetabling of their work on site.  We would also have welcomed a discussion about networking the home technology as we have the cabling for it.  However, they have given an exemplary service when it came to working together with Glatthaar to resolve problems.  We feel that, as customers, our best interests have been at heart to the highest level and we’d happily go with Hanse Haus if we were to self build again“. Heidi Upshon.

 

Has your new home met your expectations?

 

“Yes, it has.  The house is really lovely and warm (and not drafty) even through the cold winter months.  We did light our woodburning stove just once when we first moved in but it quickly became too hot and we found ourselves opening the windows.

It’s really unlikely that we’ll need to use the underfloor heating on the ground and first floors at all, although the basement is naturally a bit cooler, so it might be needed from time to time down there.  We do sometimes turn the ventilation system off as we like to open the windows for fresh air.  However, when it’s on, which it is most of the time, the whole house has a really lovely quality of fresh, clean air“.  Heidi Upshon.

Given your experience, can you offer any tips to other self builders?

“One of the things I would advise someone else to consider is that you need to allow space for all the machinery that is required to run the house.  Ideally you should build a designated plant room into your design as if you plan for it to go into a small utility room for example, you’ll quickly find that you don’t have much space for your washing machine, etc”.  Heidi Upshon

 

 

 

 

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