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3 years into my self-build, just discovered BuildHub (still haven't started).


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Posted (edited)

First time self-builder who has recently only discovered the forum - I wish I had sooner!

 

We acquired our plot of land on the stamp duty holiday deadline, 30 June 2021, and it has been a "journey". Our project that started with planning permission on a "full conversion" basis is now a "full demolition and rebuild", due to structural issues. Despite losing most of my hair, I'm pleased that we will now be left with scope for a better building.

Currently in the process of drawing up our Building Regulations (for the second time) but will be constructing using TEK SIPs. For anyone curious, floor plan/3D model below/attached.

 

Planning to approach the build on an ASHP, UFH, MVHR + Ground Mounted Solar PV basis (if the budget allows) so have a wealth of questions I would gratefully appreciate support on. We're aesthetically wedded to steel windows, despite knowing the thermal performance of aluminium is better/cheaper, but can't seem to shrug it off.

 

I'll divert questions on these topics to the respective threads imminently but grateful for the wealth of information discovered so far and looking forward to discussing more with you all.

EXT-92a3c3213b764e8.jpg

3D.jpg

Edited by joshwk
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Posted (edited)

Good luck with your project. I can safely say that having the exact opposite experience, e.g. discovering buildhub 3 years before my build actually started. Has made more of a difference than any other factor. I had no previous DIY or building experience. 
 

In no particular order here a few areas where BH was instrumental in shaping my house build journey. 
1. Insulated slab foundation.

2. UFH in slab, not screed

3. Proper ASHP configuration. People like HeatGeek on YouTube are now advocating this stuff, but back on 2018-2019 BuildHub was already there. I have an insane quote from a Heating company in 2019 pricing my ASHP/UFH set-up @ £40,000+. I would be surprised if my ASHP/UFH install cost me more than £5000. 
4. Going from resisting MVHR, to embracing it. The sooner you incorporate the MVHR ducting solution into the fabric of your build, the easier things will be. Every structural decision needs to accommodate how the ducts are going to route through the building. 
5. Ducting requirements for ground works and in the slab. The insulated ASHP pipe is a particular pita to install. 
6. Getting an electrical supply kiosk/water supply as soon as you own the land. All these services can be changed by you later in the build without involving the infrastructure companies. 
7. Do your own heatloss calculation using Jeremy Harris’ spreadsheet. There is also a great MVHR calculation spreadsheet, but this might not be as robust. 
8. Manifold approach for domestic plumbing. Also hot return, if applicable. 10mm pipe for certain outlets. I did all of the plumbing in my build, this was only possible because of the discussions here. The manifold photos are just eye candy to me now. 
 

I find the best way to search BH is with Google with “buildhub” at the beginning of the search string. For some reason the internal site search is not very effective. 
 

I find the best way to catalogue interesting threads is to use the “Follow” thread button, but without email alerts. You can then more easily find topics when you need to go back to them. The “Activity” drop down allows you to filter the site just showing threads you follow using “My Activity Stream”, “Content I follow”. Unless I am mistaken using the heart reputation button on individual posts, does not actually allow you to find them again, it does not function as a “like” button.  Just found out this is not exactly true, see edit. 

*Edit. Thank you @joshwk, just playing about with my profile screen, if you click on the green reputation button, you can see all the posts you have hearted. You can do this on any users profile. 
 

 

Edited by Nick Laslett
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Posted (edited)

Thanks all for the warm welcome and @Nick Laslett for the helpful suggestions. At risk of breaking the rules, a few responses/questions to your comments (mods, let me know if I need to move this to individual threads or via PM if you wouldn't mind Nick):
 

1. Insulated slab foundation. The primary issue for our delayed start date has been structural, due to the elasticity of the soil and close proximity to a very large oak tree (we are building quite far into the root protection zone - surprised we got planning in the first place!). As a result, I'm informed the floor needs to be beam & block so assume insulated slab is not an option?

2. UFH in slab, not screed Same here I assume, for the above reasons?

3. Proper ASHP configuration. People like HeatGeek on YouTube are now advocating this stuff, but back on 2018-2019 BuildHub was already there. I have an insane quote from a Heating company in 2019 pricing my ASHP/UFH set-up @ £40,000+. I would be surprised if my ASHP/UFH install cost me more than £5000. I've watched a lot of the HeatGeek stuff and the computer nerd in myself was really impressed with what they do. Would you recommend going through them direct or shall I head to the ASHP forum to source recommendations in the West Sussex area?
4. Going from resisting MVHR, to embracing it. The sooner you incorporate the MVHR ducting solution into the fabric of your build, the easier things will be. Every structural decision needs to accommodate how the ducts are going to route through the building.
Embracing! We're currently going through the technical design of our building so am keen to appoint an MVHR designer so we can do exactly what you suggest. I'm still researching whether rigid vs flexible ducting is "better" when starting with a new build. So far the school of thought seems to generally be that rigid is more hygienic/longer laster but comes at the cost of price/slightly harder to install. A salesman was laying on the fact that all Passivhaus certified equipment needs to be tested in a rigid setup, but please let me know if I'm barking up the wrong tree.
5. Ducting requirements for ground works and in the slab. The insulated ASHP pipe is a particular pita to install. Assume the same issues for the block & beam reasons here.
6. Getting an electrical supply kiosk/water supply as soon as you own the land. All these services can be changed by you later in the build without involving the infrastructure companies. Great advice. I've already had a price to install electricity to the property and RE: water, due to the fact we are off the grid, we pull this from a borehole so am arranging for a tap to be installed on the land. 
7. Do your own heatloss calculation using Jeremy Harris’ spreadsheet. There is also a great MVHR calculation spreadsheet, but this might not be as robust. Just downloaded: first thought was a little overwhelming but it appears primarily just entering values into the white boxes. One of the issues I'm experiencing with steel doors is that they don't appear to have an associated U-value, they are all just stated 'Energy Rating B'. I'll take a more detailed look at the spreadsheet though - thank you for the suggestion.
8. Manifold approach for domestic plumbing. Also hot return, if applicable. 10mm pipe for certain outlets. I did all of the plumbing in my build, this was only possible because of the discussions here. The manifold photos are just eye candy to me now. Am estimating that 3 manifolds will be required and have given some thought to where they will be located (one in the kitchen/diner, one in the cupboard on the landing, potentially one in the HWC cupboard). RE: hot water return, does this refer to a hot water circulating pump? I would love to have hot water on demand in all the bathrooms in order to avoid the dreaded 'warming up wait'.


Thanks again.

Edited by joshwk
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Posted (edited)

Hello @joshwk, I have to say I’m not much of an expert in any of this stuff, so please don’t give my experience too much weight. If you raise any of these questions in their specific sections you might get more discussion. Usually it doesn’t take long for some of the more knowledgeable people to chip in. I have added some comments below in green text. 
 

1 hour ago, joshwk said:

1. Insulated slab foundation. The primary issue for our delayed start date has been structural, due to the elasticity of the soil and close proximity to a very large oak tree (we are building quite far into the root protection zone - surprised we got planning in the first place!). As a result, I'm informed the floor needs to be beam & block so assume insulated slab is not an option?

2. UFH in slab, not screed Same here I assume, for the above reasons?

Back in 2019 when I first joined the forum, there were a core of strong advocates for Insulated Slab foundations, that were very good at covering all the advantages. My architect was not interested in this approach, and the initial ground investigation came back saying it wasn’t possible. They thought I would need piles. But this was one of my redline items, so I was not prepared to let it go without exhausting my options. I contacted the structural engineer Hilliard Tanner from www.tsd.ie.  A specialist in insulated slabs, he looked at my ground survey and was happy to design an insulated foundation using the Kore system. AFT were another company I was considering for the foundation, they will do the engineering for you too. There are a lot of people on here that have an insulated slab from many different suppliers.

3. Proper ASHP configuration. People like HeatGeek on YouTube are now advocating this stuff, but back on 2018-2019 BuildHub was already there. I have an insane quote from a Heating company in 2019 pricing my ASHP/UFH set-up @ £40,000+. I would be surprised if my ASHP/UFH install cost me more than £5000. I've watched a lot of the HeatGeek stuff and the computer nerd in myself was really impressed with what they do. Would you recommend going through them direct or shall I head to the ASHP forum to source recommendations in the West Sussex area?

I am also impressed with HeatGeek, and think they would be good to use for an ASHP install. 
4. Going from resisting MVHR, to embracing it. The sooner you incorporate the MVHR ducting solution into the fabric of your build, the easier things will be. Every structural decision needs to accommodate how the ducts are going to route through the building. Embracing! We're currently going through the technical design of our building so am keen to appoint an MVHR designer so we can do exactly what you suggest. I'm still researching whether rigid vs flexible ducting is "better" when starting with a new build. So far the school of thought seems to generally be that rigid is more hygienic/longer laster but comes at the cost of price/slightly harder to install. A salesman was laying on the fact that all Passivhaus certified equipment needs to be tested in a rigid setup, but please let me know if I'm barking up the wrong tree.

I went with the manifold, semi-flexible duct approach. These guys have a lot of good advice for MVHR https://www.heatspaceandlight.com, also https://www.paulheatrecovery.co.uk. I’m not sure if this statement about rigid is correct. Personally, I think a rigid branching system is to be avoided. Harder to install, more issues with noise transfer, I’m sure their are some other draw backs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EQ-pJmPZ-M

 

7. Do your own heatloss calculation using Jeremy Harris’ spreadsheet. There is also a great MVHR calculation spreadsheet, but this might not be as robust. Just downloaded: first thought was a little overwhelming but it appears primarily just entering values into the white boxes. One of the issues I'm experiencing with steel doors is that they don't appear to have an associated U-value, they are all just stated 'Energy Rating B'. I'll take a more detailed look at the spreadsheet though - thank you for the suggestion.

You will find plenty of discussion in various threads across the site about how best to complete the spreadsheet. There is a recent HeatGeek collaboration with Urban Plumber, where they cover heat loss. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r70Pt6roE0o

 

 

8. Manifold approach for domestic plumbing. Also hot return, if applicable. 10mm pipe for certain outlets. I did all of the plumbing in my build, this was only possible because of the discussions here. The manifold photos are just eye candy to me now. Am estimating that 3 manifolds will be required and have given some thought to where they will be located (one in the kitchen/diner, one in the cupboard on the landing, potentially one in the HWC cupboard). RE: hot water return, does this refer to a hot water circulating pump? YES I would love to have hot water on demand in all the bathrooms in order to avoid the dreaded 'warming up wait'.


Thanks again.

Edited by Nick Laslett
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1 hour ago, joshwk said:

1. Insulated slab foundation. The primary issue for our delayed start date has been structural, due to the elasticity of the soil and close proximity to a very large oak tree (we are building quite far into the root protection zone - surprised we got planning in the first place!). As a result, I'm informed the floor needs to be beam & block so assume insulated slab is not an option?

speak to a structural engineer who specialises in insulated rafts. you might be surprised what you can have. it might be that your current SE is just doing what they've always done and hasn't considered or ever done an insulated slab.

1 hour ago, joshwk said:

I've watched a lot of the HeatGeek stuff and the computer nerd in myself was really impressed with what they do. Would you recommend going through them direct or shall I head to the ASHP forum to source recommendations in the West Sussex area?

 

1 hour ago, joshwk said:

4. Going from resisting MVHR, to embracing it. The sooner you incorporate the MVHR ducting solution into the fabric of your build, the easier things will be. Every structural decision needs to accommodate how the ducts are going to route through the building. Embracing! We're currently going through the technical design of our building so am keen to appoint an MVHR designer so we can do exactly what you suggest. I'm still researching whether rigid vs flexible ducting is "better" when starting with a new build. So far the school of thought seems to generally be that rigid is more hygienic/longer laster but comes at the cost of price/slightly harder to install. A salesman was laying on the fact that all Passivhaus certified equipment needs to be tested in a rigid setup, but please let me know if I'm barking up the wrong tree.

if you're in West Sussex then i can recommend the guys i used. https://www.customclimates.co.uk/contact/ . small company and really nice guys and did very good work. they didn't do our MVHR but after seeing the quality of their work on my ASHP install i would've been happy for them to do my MVHR as well.

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>>> We're aesthetically wedded to steel windows

 

There are a few aluminium equivalents that look nearly the same. I think that some of the newer steel windows have thermal breaks like aluminium / aluclad ones.

 

You should be able to get the whole-window u-values if you push for them, but the guys selling dodgy frames (heat insulation wise) are often cagey with their numbers, so that's a warning sign. Don't be fobbed off with glazing component only as compared with whole window u-values.

 

When you do your heat calcs you may change your mind re steel windows. We have a flat with Crittall steel windows and below average wall insulation. It's a nice flat but we'll sell it in time mostly due to the dodgy heat performance. 

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On 18/05/2024 at 19:23, joshwk said:

First time self-builder who has recently only discovered the forum - I wish I had sooner! ...

 

Welcome.

But you still haven't started. Eight years in to my self-build, of which , cumulatively, there's about a year of delay. If you want to see an efficient -proper- self build , just follow @nod (Gary).

 

The rest of us mortals learn to use delay to our advantage. Enjoy the expectation. Reality hurts, often.

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1 hour ago, ToughButterCup said:

The rest of us mortals learn to use delay to our advantage. Enjoy the expectation. Reality hurts, often.

Amen brother .

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5 hours ago, joshwk said:

1. Insulated slab foundation. The primary issue for our delayed start date has been structural, due to the elasticity of the soil and close proximity to a very large oak tree (we are building quite far into the root protection zone - surprised we got planning in the first place!). As a result, I'm informed the floor needs to be beam & block so assume insulated slab is not an option?

Have a look at Litecast GT systems. I used it on mine and it was easy to install.Be wary who you choose for the slab pour though. They caused me some headaches on one of the two houses.

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, joshwk said:

7. One of the issues I'm experiencing with steel doors is that they don't appear to have an associated U-value, they are all just stated 'Energy Rating B'.

Quote

We're aesthetically wedded to steel windows, despite knowing the thermal performance of aluminium is better/cheaper, but can't seem to shrug it off.

 

 

I see a lot of Crittall W30 style steel doors listed with "Energy Rating B'.

 

This website gives a good breakdown on the different types of steel door, W20, W30, W40, W50TB. https://www.aluminiumtradesupply.co.uk/steel-replacement-windows-doors/information-about-steel-windows/

 

Energy Rating B would be equivalent to a U Value = 1.4W/m²K. This is the minimum acceptable value for a new build.

More details on the "Energy Rating B" https://www.aluminiumtradesupply.co.uk/47862/u-values-and-window-energy-ratings-what-you-need-to-know/

 

We very much wanted Crittall style steel windows and doors, but they were beyond our budget. We went with the Smarts Alitherm Heritage aluminium doors and windows. https://www.marlinwindows.co.uk/french-doors.html?gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjwjLGyBhCYARIsAPqTz19XEuOe7T-DMdEeIT4fOovmPHRodqjYGyD-_p_sRMX_v0-_W3jmuBIaAnugEALw_wcB

 

I would recommend sticking with the actual steel doors if the budget allows. Crittall and some of the other manufacturers do steel doors with much better thermal breaks, which will give you a whole unit U Value = 1.1W/m²K. MHB SL-30-ISO was one product we looked at.

 

The two main advantages of triple glazing, are the extra pane allows you to have another reflective coating and the extra sound insulation. You can get double glazed units with U-values 1.0W/m²K, a typical triple glazed unit will be a U-values 0.8W/m²K.

 

Have you done any modelling around your cooling demand in Summer? You can get specific glass to cut down on your solar gain.

 

 

Edited by Nick Laslett
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