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Software engineer builds straw house for £4k

Cheap and cheerful Scottish ecogaff

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A 52-year-old software engineer has built a habitable house for just £4,000 - albeit with a lot of hard graft and a certain amount of scavenging.

Steve James slogged for "10 months of actual building time" over four years to put together his Galloway straw domicile, dubbed "The Gatehouse" and constructed with a timber frame, straw walls protected by lime mortar, and a planet-hugging turf roof. Amenities are basic - water supplied purely by rainfall and batteries for 'leccy - but James describes the fruits of his labour as a "cuddly house".

The Gatehouse. Pics: Envisioneer.net

James told the BBC: "I have never built a house before but I have done a bit of joinery and have done a lot of practical work. Most of my life I have been a hands-on worker."

Among the items James didn't have to stump up for were a Velux roof window, shower tray and front window - all picked up from other people's unwanted building materials - as well as a "Tudor-style" panelled wood ceiling assembled from solid pine changing cubicle doors "salvaged from old Victorian public baths in Govan". From the bargain basement department came a 50 quid wood-burning stove, £100 in batteries and £150 worth of reclaimed joists.

The total outlay was, the BBC explains:

  • £600 supplies for volunteers
  • £500 sarking (wooden roof boarding)
  • £400 floorboards
  • £400 pond liner
  • £300 straw
  • £200 plumbing
  • £150 reclaimed joists
  • £150 plywood
  • £150 equipment hire
  • £150 glass
  • £100 quicklime
  • £100 wiring
  • £100 tarpaulin
  • £100 paint/varnish
  • £100 batteries
  • £100 fixings
  • £100 miscellaneous
  • £100 fuel for power tools
  • £70 water pump
  • £50 water heater
  • £50 stove chimney

James reckons his DIY straw house points to an affordable solution in the face of inflated house prices, and that a three-bedroom version could be yours for just £10,000.

He concluded: "It is something that anybody could easily learn to do most of, with help. The real cost of a house is fairly small. It is always the land that makes about 85 per cent of the cost. Adding the compound interest to the final cost of a mortgage reduces the actual house price component of the total to as little as two per cent."

There's more on The Gatehouse here. ®

Bootnote

For a more refined design of straw-bale, timber-framed house, try this example from C4's Grand Designs. Impressive stuff for a mere £28,000.

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