Pete Tonks of PJT Design was commissioned to design Colemans Hill Farm eco-house early last year (2011).  With years of experience at Potton and Oakwrights, Pete seemed an ideal architect to come up with a timber framed building which would complement the classic Cotswold landscape near Chipping Campden.  Working to a detailed brief, Pete not only came up with almost exactly what we wanted, he also steered the final plans through a difficult planning process. He recently completed a portfolio of new oak frame buildings for Oakwrights; check out his website on

Whilst we seriously considered a green oak build, we eventually decided against it on the grounds of cost and problems with shrinkage and movement which could affect the airtightness and energy efficiency of the house.  Thanks to excellent advice from Build Centre, we contacted English Brothers ( who we were told could combine some of the attractive elements of a green oak build with a more traditional timber frame.  We could not have chosen a better partner.  MD Jay Hubbard spent almost a day talking us through the build process, showing us around the factory and taking us to see some of his recent work. Jay is passionate about sustainable building and his staff are meticulous in their attention to detail as they progress the frame design and construction. This a great company to work with.

Though we are not seeking passive house certification, we are following passive house principles. Up to 20% of heat can be lost through the floor and after much research we have sought the expertise of Viking-House in Ireland ( Seamus O’Loughlin has an enviable reputation for innovation and creativity in building low energy houses. Seamus has offered to source the specialised structural polystyrene (EPS) and will come over for a day to brief us and talk to local building control. Engineering drawings specific to our foundations were prepared at short notice by Hilliard Tanner of Tanner Structural Designs ( who also demonstrated great attention to detail and provided excellent follow-up support.  We are currently investigating the possibility of using an environmentally friendly low carbon cement alternative for the footings and the slab (more on this later). A full account of the passive slab construction due to take place in April will be posted on this blog in due course.

Chris Lawrence – our local Jewson representative and regional “Green Building advisor” has sourced most of our standard building materials and has ensured quick delivery at competitive prices.  We are currently talking to several Hemcrete specialists, researching septic tanks, water harvesting systems, energy efficient windows and solar thermal space heating systems.  Details on our final choices will appear in due course.

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