This inspired family home in the country costs only £750 a year to heat, says Deborah Stone.
When Jonathan Belsey needed to find a new family home back in 2007 he was so unimpressed with what was available he decided to build his own.
“It was Grand Designs that inspired me to build the house,” he says of The Arc, which was later featured on the Channel 4 TV show in 2010.
“I’d done renovations in the past but without the programme I would never have thought that a regular guy like myself could have the opportunity to build something for my family.”
The house is built from recycled or repurposed materials including used concrete blocks for the walls and 12 per cent recycled aluminium in the roof and Jonathan says: “We’ve got solar hot water, solar electricity and the whole structure is made of recycled everything.”
Even in winter the house requires little heating because of the way it has been built: “It’s what’s known as high-thermal mass so it’s made from very, very, dense concrete blocks surrounded by incredibly thick insulation so the house acts like a storage heater.”
And although it’s a single-storey home its high ceilings give it an airiness you won’t find in a bungalow, with curved walls to increase the feeling of space.
Now Jonathan’s family has grown out of the unique four-bedroom and two bathroom eco-home, which also has a large open-plan kitchen-living space and studio.
It also has a double garage and large terraced courtyard with gardens and is on the market for £575,000 (01787 327000; fennwright.co.uk).
“It will be a sad day when we move out of the house but with our four children now grown up and in their own homes, it’s time for a new chapter in our lives,” says Jonathan.
But he has ruled out building a new home in the UK from scratch, saying he was lucky to get the plot in Boxford, near Sudbury, in Suffolk.
He bought the land before the 2008 recession when “land disappeared in no time” and was fortunate that a previous buyer had pulled out.
“These days,” he says, “there are lots of bits of land for sale if you want to build in someone’s back garden.”
Which he doesn’t. Other hurdles range from sewers to water supplies – “and the six million different things you have to do that you have never done before”.
But Jonathan speaks nostalgically of his project manager role, sourcing materials and making sure he had the right workmen for each job, although visiting the site early each morning before starting his proper job was exhausting.
He commissioned Lincolnshire-based architect Jerry Harrall to design The Arc, a name chosen to describe the house’s shape.
“I gave Jerry a very open brief but stressed that I wanted the home to be as ecologically sustainable as possible, yet suitable for family life.
“I was very keen on reducing the carbon burden and what have you. It had to be practical but a nice place for a family to live, while making it as energy efficient as we could.”
The Arc uses no gas or oil and, because solar panel-generated electricity is sold to the National Grid, the house’s total electricity bill is about £750 a year – “which isn’t bad for a four-bedroom family house”.
Information from: http://www.express.co.uk