Heating a self build project is a key part of the planning process, but how can the structure of your build dictate this?

floating log burner stove - how the structure of your home will dictate the way you heat it - self build - granddesignsmagazine.com 

Image: Focus Fireplaces

Take a 'Fabric First' approach when considering how you will heat your self build. The structure of your home will, in large part, dictate its demand for heating.

The Grand Designs magazine team spoke to architectural designer and Passivhaus consultant Joe Stuart who offered his advice.

Concrete build

A concrete build will take longer to heat up, but retains heat for longer than one constructed from a lightweight timber frame. This slower reacting material acts as a ‘thermal mass’ and can help hold a comfortable internal temperature for longer.

Conversely, a timber-framed building will reach a desired temperature faster, but it will be harder to maintain. These differences will inform your choice of heating. In a concrete house, you may want to use underfloor or in-wall heating, whereas in a timber house, heating the air using mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) might be appropriate.


The type, thickness and position of insulation plays a huge role in how well the heat generated by your home is retained. The most important thing is that your insulation forms a complete and unbroken seal around your house. Pay close attention to connecting areas to avoid ‘cold bridges’. 

Read more: A guide to insulation for walls and floors

log burner heating self build - how the structure of your home will dictate the way you heat it - self build - granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: Jones Homes

Air tightness

Be aware of gaps across the external envelope (walls, roof, windows, etc). Even small holes can contribute to heat loss so, regardless of the type of building material used, the level of air tightness will contribute to how efficient your chosen heating is.


Well-placed windows can help to capture the sun’s heat, but poorly sited ones can cause overheating. Upgrading to double or even triple glazing will reduce heating demands. When planning your self build, be sure to consider this when considering the placement and size of your windows and glazing.


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