Mr and Mrs Peter Read
Bricks and mortar have always been a sound investment. But it was a genuine concern for the environment coupled with a keen interest in all things DIY, which drove former engineer Peter Read to set himself up as an eco-friendly property developer.
When 59-year-old Peter left the oil and gas industry in 2003, it was his passion for green living that drove him to carve out an exhilarating and rewarding new career in self-build.
Peter already owned a stone-built thatched house just four miles from Dorchester, which he and his wife initially planned to renovate for their retirement. However, with the plot set in 2.5 acres, Peter spotted the obvious opportunity to build on the unused land.
Having spent many years living and working in Norway, the Reads’ had fallen in love with the timber-frame houses typical of Scandinavia. Peter said: “My main concern as a developer is energy-efficiency and timber-frames are heated by just 12,000kw hours per year compared to 30,000Kw that a traditional British home might need, and they stay warm even in the harshest of climates.”
It was while scanning the Internet for a suitable design that he came across timber-frame specialists Potton. He said: “As soon as I saw Potton’s stunning timber-framed barn range on their website I knew they were perfect for my project.”
With the help and expertise of Potton, Peter decided to build three Shalford B barn style houses and four garages in the grounds of his house, all set in a circle around a chestnut tree.
Work to clear the plot took place during the summer of 2005 and Peter saw that everything that came out of the site went back to be used in some way. Norway spruce trees which had to be removed became ranch style fences lining each side of the road, and rubble and soil became landscape banking and boundary finishes.
Peter said: “Every aspect of this build has been governed by whether or not it is eco-friendly. With this in mind, I wanted each house to have its’ own office. This way I am targeting people who work from home, which takes traffic off the road as people don’t have to commute.”
Throughout the build recycled materials were used wherever possible right down to the insulation in the walls, which is made from newspaper and cardboard. Other energy saving features include a sewage treatment plant for each house, almost halving annual water costs for the occupants, power regulators to control the lighting and 98% efficient gas boilers.
The houses even benefit from a rainwater harvesting system operated via a 12volt pump and all the garages are equipped with special electrical circuits to save energy and reduce costs.
Peter said: “I’m such a strong advocate for timber-frame and would absolutely recommend it. Apart from green benefits, the speed of the build is just staggering. The first frame arrived in November and was up in two weeks and the garages in just four days! Each house took just ten weeks to complete!”
Rather than project managing the timber-frames going up himself, Peter took advantage of Potton’s special erection service. He said: “It was just brilliant. There were two guys and it was a pleasure to see them work - they were like two sides of the same coin, where each knew exactly what the other wanted. They were handling massive pieces of timber like match sticks, inch perfect and millimetre precise. All you would hear is the banging of the nail guns.”
Throughout each property Peter has used clay tiles, slates and other natural materials, and by using local flint and stone to the exterior of each house he has ensured that his build is in-keeping with local surroundings and tones in with the environment.
Peter said: “This type of build is ideal for modern-day ethical living and the buying public and town planners really need to get to grips with how this type of self-build can provide affordable
eco-friendly housing. My development caters for peoples’ aspirations. We are building dreams and at the same time saving as much energy as possible!”
Peter’s top tip for future self-builders is to plan heating and electrical requirements early on in the build. “You and your contractors need to have a vision to work to and I would say, if in doubt about points and connections allow the cabling for it at least, potential buyers have all commented on how many plugs there are. We’ve put a double outlet socket under every window. And don’t forget to put in an alarm system!”
He finished: “Potton’s knowledge and expertise was invaluable and made this whole initiative as smooth as you could hope for. With Potton we could make modifications to the original design to suit our needs - walls can be removed or added and we chose all the flooring, tiles and kitchen units. Self-build gives you so much freedom.”
With two properties already sold at around £500,000 each, Peter is so pleased with the finished result that he and his wife have decided to keep one of the new homes and live in it themselves. They are also keeping their thatched cottage to rent it out for holidays and are already looking around for their next project.