Private house, Manchester
Traditional Segal method house designed & built by owners in six months

Julian Hibbert, a steel worker by profession, and his wife, wanted to build a house for themselves. Hefound a book in his local (Urmston) library with some black and white illustrations which showed some pictures of a Segal building and ways of building it.

They prepared their own plans, and Julian carried out the structural calculations using his experience of post and beam steel framing, and applied many of the same principles to the building of his house. He thinks he has probably over-sized his posts and beams but wanted to 'play safe'. Initial problems with the Building Control Officer (BCO), were overcome following assistance from the Walter Segal Self Build Trust, who explained the reasoning behind the system and gave examples of other, similar houses which have been built to 'low energy' and low ecological impact designs . Now fully supported by the local authority, his BCO is a fan of the method and has helped the Hibberts to overcome several problems during the build.

The main objectors to the new house have been a couple of local neighbours - living in brick built bungalows - who objected to his proposals on the basis that they would disturb local nature and wildlife ... all of which Julian finds rather ironic considering the low environmental impact of his house compared to theirs.

The work on his house has barely disturbed the site - the foundations being all hand dug - and all the mature trees still surround the building. The Hibberts only removed two small conifers to make way for the building. In one place along the rear of the house the roof/ eaves overhang is profiled to accommodate an existing mature tree.

They built a small 'lodge' first to experiment with and teach themselves the basics of Segal construction and to test out fixings and paint colours. It is a small single storey, flat roofed building about 3m x 3.5m. Clad in Cembrit (fibre cement sheets)

clamped onto the structure by the timber cover battens. He also built a garden/ tool shed. The original intention was to live in a caravan during the build but they disliked it so much they moved into the lodge until the main building was ready to move into - just before Christmas 1999. They started work on the main house in June 1999.

So, in six months, most of the work has been done. They don't yet have the lavatory connected and are using a chemical toilet. None of the rooms have internal doors. Upstairs is a mezzanine over one side of the house and is used by Julian as his office. The rest (the front half of the house) is an open plan combined living/ entrance area/ dining area / kitchen. The bedrooms are all housed under the mezzanine - as is the bathroom and stair.

The frames were put up in the same way that Julian would have put up steel work. Both posts put in place, beams pre-drilled and lifted up, then bolted in-situ. Frames were put up like this, in pairs, at each end of the building. Then all end frames were straightened and levelled and the central frames put in to tie them all together. All work was undertaken by Julian and his wife with little mechanical assistance. He considers his system of putting up frames is much more user-friendly than the traditional 'frame-lifting sessions' - especially if you don't have lots of friends to help lift frames and can't afford lifting assistance.

Though wanting to be as eco-friendly as possible they have not gone over the top in sourcing or using particular products - preferring to support local timber merchants and suppliers as this brought them distinct benefits in terms of speed of construction and cost. They are also keen on supporting local firms. Julian thinks his structural timbers were probably from managed Baltic forests. Insulation is glass fibre quilt and Rockwool. All the cover battens on the main building are untreated and unplaned. The fibre cement sheets on the main house are, as yet, uncoloured, although Juloian has been trying out different paints on the lodge.

What is most striking about this project is both the speed of construction, and the enthusiam and joy which the Hibberts have brought to bear upon the enterprise. By thinking the process through carefully, and ensuring that the design and materials were appropriate to the use and construction method, they have enabled themselves to create a low impact ecological dwelling at a low cost (around 30,000 when complete) with virtually no outside help.

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