Affordable self build on a tight plot in Oxford

On a tight plot in Oxford, Kate and Angus' timberframed house is packed with top-notch eco features.

By Amanda Cochrane | 5 December 2017

On a tight plot in Oxford, Kate and Angus’ timberframed house is packed with top-notch eco features.

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Kate Binnie and Angus Thompson longed to own a decent-sized home in Oxford, but never believed it would become a reality until they spotted a narrow strip of land for sale in a local newspaper. ‘It was serendipity really,’ says Kate, happily. ‘It was only a mile and a half from where we were looking and it was just after the recession, so it hadn’t been snapped up by a developer.’

What seemed like a golden opportunity to Kate and Angus was, in reality, a brownfield site, which contained a dilapidated house and sheds that had polluted the surrounding land with hazardous waste. ‘It was very complicated and we had lots of problems due to things like creosote and asbestos,’ reveals Kate, ‘but Angus is a landscape designer. He’s used to working with that and didn’t see it as much of a problem.’

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Before they could think about a design for their new home, they had to renovate the existing house, which they fixed up and sold with a small garden to raise funds for their self-build project next door. Having consulted a scientific advisor, they removed and replaced a metre of soil – a huge logistical feat given the plot was at the end of a narrow lane. ‘It resembled a battlefield for what felt like years,’ exclaims Kate. ‘It was hideous. I can’t quite believe we’ve done it.’

While preparing the land was time-consuming, erecting the A-framed house was relatively quick. Its pre-fabricated timber-framed walls, frame, beams and posts were constructed in a Welsh factory and erected on-site in a matter of weeks. Designed by Phil Waind of WG+P Architects, their new home complies with Code 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes and was built for just over £300,000.