Family's gamble pays off: self-built house voted greenest in Britain is sold for profit of £625,000

A A A

When Aaron and Raphaella Curtis decided to build their own eco-home next to an unseemly half-demolished viaduct, their friends thought they were verging on insane. But now, just three years later, the couple are selling the country's greenest self-built home for a profit of £625,000. The house, which won an award last year for being the most environmentally friendly self-built home in the UK, has just sold for £865,000.

Built on a small piece of scrubland worth just £60,000, others had failed to see any potential in the site. The conversion of the brownfield site was one of the key reasons that the Curtis's eco-home stood out from the other green contenders in last year's sustainability award by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

They incorporated the original Victorian foundations of the crumbled viaduct into the design, as well as installing solar panels, state-of-the-art insulation and underfloor heating.

The family of 10 built the five-bedroom house in Lewes, East Sussex, specifically so it would have a minimal impact on the environment. But with eight children, the motivation for being environmentally friendly was also financial. "We've been running normal-sized bills on an abnormal-sized family," said Mr Curtis.

Self-building also had a financial benefit. They had been looking at properties to house their larger than average family and realised they were unable to afford anything big enough. Their choice of a small plot allowed them to build upwards and outwards without too much initial outlay.

It's like a Tardis inside", said Mr Curtis, 44. "It's built on a small patch of ground, but it cantilevers out so that there's plenty of space in the rooms above. We couldn't have afforded to buy a house like that".

Their building costs were just £240,000, as Mr Curtis managed the project himself using local craftsmen and materials. The carbon footprint of the building process itself was cut down by using locally-sourced materials wherever possible. The home, which also won the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society eco-house of the year award, used sweet chestnut wood from five miles away to clad the exterior. "It only cost a little bit more than Canadian Cedarwood", said Mr Curtis, "and we hardly had to move it any distance".

"We had all the common features to make the house so-called green, with solar panels and a condensing gas boiler, but we also kept down the miles we moved all the materials."

Duncan Baker-Brown, the architect who designed the building, was excited by the sale. "It's amazing they got that much", he said. "The site looked like a postage stamp; it's a real lesson in how profitable self-building can be. He hadn't built anything more than an extension before, so he gambled and it paid off."

Mr Baker-Brown, who works for BBM sustainable design, said that in recent years the eco-friendliness of a property was having a bearing on its value. "In the past three years, people have begun to specifically request green houses because they know it adds to the value and quality of a property".

The family are moving to a Georgian terrace in Lewes town centre. Mr Curtis admits "the Georgians weren't renowned for their eco-friendliness" but he says he has plans for another eco-build. "Two of the teenagers are leaving home, so we needed to down-size. But I'd still love to do it again in the future, and this time I'd make it zero carbon".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor