Bob Beaumont’s new eco home not only features an oak frame and finely crafted details, but an airtight structure and a raft of renewables.

Local legend has it that a pair of kingfishers have been spotted along the banks of the stream that borders the site of Bob Beaumont’s self-build. Despite evading Bob, the spirit of these elusive birds has nonetheless inspired his build journey in many ways.

“I wanted to build a home that was as beautiful and distinctive as these kingfishers, and one that also embraced nature and the environment,” he says of the house. Whilst this may not be Bob’s first large project, it is the one that’s provided him the most freedom to pursue his personal interests in design and sustainability.

“In 2000 I purchased a redundant farmstead tucked away in a small village on a remote hill,” explains Bob, “and then spent every spare moment converting the barns and farmhouse before turning my attention to the tumbled-down outbuildings in the yard.”

The Project

  • Name: Bob Beaumont
  • Build cost: £350,000 (£2,058/m²)
  • Build time: 5 years
  • Location: Hay-On-Wye, Wales

Planning approval for a new home here, however, proved to be a controversial and lengthy process, despite Bob submitting a rigorous ecological design and persuasive research. “I spent a day with a designer at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth, where we worked to an intuitive sustainable brief based primarily around solar principles and reclaimed materials,” explains Bob. “I left CAT with a rough pencil sketch for a T-shaped house with a curved façade.”

Over the next few months Bob contacted local designer Deb Stephens, and together they fleshed out the original idea. “After 12 months of planning negotiations I finally asked my local Welsh Assembly representative for support,” says Bob. “Once she saw what I was trying to do and spoke on my behalf, planning approval was eventually granted in 2005.”

Bob, who is a trained electrical engineer as well as a Master Craftsman in woodwork, led the project by example, taking a hands-on approach to every trade and actively searching for solutions to the issues thrown up by the unusual design. “I felt SIPs (structural insulated panels) and green oak in partnership were best suited to this project for ecological reasons, but the round section would have been impossible to build in SIPs. So, I decided to insulate this part with sheep’s wool and introduced triple glazing, too,” says Bob.

Border Oak were chosen for the main oak structure, “as it has an excellent reputation and is a local, sustainable company with good experience of oak frame and SIPs,” explains Bob. The oak frame took a matter of weeks to erect, with Bob completing the house over the following four years.

“My favourite spot is sitting at the dining table, overlooking the stream and the old yard — the light is beautiful,” says Bob. “My initial aim was to create a sustainable house to complete the courtyard area, which I hope I have achieved.”

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