Part Eighteen – A House In 4 1/2 Days

This eighteenth entry was published originally by JSHarris on the 14th October 2013 and received 4,246 views on the closed forum

Last week was pretty hectic for the guys putting up our house. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone work as hard as the MBC guys, they barely stopped for tea. Everyone who’s been on site, or even just walked past, has commented on the speed of the build. Even the scaffolders that I got back to make some needed changes were amazed, one of them said that in the 15 years he’d been in the building game he’d never seen a house go up as quickly.

Part of the build speed comes down to the well-thought through design. Not only is it designed to perform well, but it’s also cleverly designed to go up very quickly. Some of the detail design of the frame is very clever, like the neat joint between the first floor joists (which rest on the lower wall frames) and the first floor joists that sit on the upper joist timber, with a neat way of ensuring that this difficult area is both strong and airtight. Similarly, the junction of the walls and floor slab/insulation are cleverly designed so that the 150mm thick EPS “wing” insulation that comes up the outside of the slab is under the outer half of the wall, ensuring that the insulation is continuous (once the blown cellulose is put in to the walls). There’s no cold bridge at all at this critical point. Similarly, the roof joists are thermally broken from the inner skin supporting timbers, so that there’s very little conduction through the roof joists. Once the cellulose is blown in the insulation integrity should be very good indeed.

Although blown in cellulose doesn’t have as high a U value as some of the rigid foam insulation boards, so needs a greater thickness to be effective, it does have some practical and performance advantages. In performance terms it has a relatively high decrement delay (see: http://www.greenspec…ement-delay.php ) so helps to prevent heat in hot weather from penetrating right through the walls and roof during the day, so heating the house up. This should help keep the internal temperature fairly steady. Being blown in under pressure, cellulose should also fill every little nook and cranny, ensuring good insulation integrity. Anyone who’s seen foam insulation boards being fitted will probably have seen how difficult it can be to get good, tight joints, and if foam boards have gaps at the edges they won’t deliver their specified performance, as air will move from the warm side to the cold side (and vice versa) taking heat energy with it. Finally, blown cellulose has advantages in practical terms for the builders, as it is relatively quick to install, with little chance of getting it wrong.

This is how the house looked mid-morning on the third day of the build, so two and half days after the truck delivered all the parts:


It’s now fairly water tight, with the roof felted, and I’m busy sorting out dates for the roofing, in-roof PV installation, etc. The windows are arriving on the 25th October, so with luck the house should be completely weather tight and secure by then. First fix can start as soon as the air test is complete, probably shortly after the windows go in, and I’m hoping to get the cladding on the outside started at around the same time. We’re not in any great rush to finish, so from first fix on we’ll probably slow down a bit and make sure we get everything done properly and as we want it.

So far there have been very few problems, far fewer than I expected, to be honest, and the couple that have cropped up have been sorted by MBC very quickly and with no hassle at all. Even the building inspector seemed impressed with the overall quality and standard of the build (as well as being a bit amazed at the speed with which the house has gone up!). One thing that seems to stand out is that the UK is, perhaps, well behind the curve when it comes to accepting modern methods of construction. Ireland, on the other hand, seems to be years ahead. Maybe it was the big building boom in Ireland, before the property crash, that fuelled all this innovation and development, maybe Ireland has always been more advanced and willing to try new building systems, I don’t know.

It’s not just the MBC house frame design that illustrates this, but also other things, too. If you look at insulated foundation systems, for example, you’ll find Ireland up there with the Scandinavians as the main players. The same goes for windows, Munster Joinery produce windows that equal or exceed the specification of the best Scandinavian, German or Austrian companies, but at a better price. I’m even going to use Irish made recycled plastic AthyECOSlates, as they look better, and are a better price, than any others sold in the UK. Another point worth noting (with the single exception of the window supplier) is that all the Irish firms I’ve spoken to have been keen for the business and have been very quick to respond to queries, very unlike many of the UK suppliers I’ve spoken to, some of whom give you the impression that they couldn’t care less if you bought their product or not. It’s becoming a bit of a joke at home now, as every time we come to choose components for the house we seem to settle on an Irish supplier, so the house is gradually becoming more and more Irish. If this carries on we’ll have to give it an Gaeilge* name, too. That’ll confuse the neighbours (and, perhaps, the postman).

*Gaeilge – Irish Gaelic, as distinct from the other Gaelic languages that have derived from Gaeilge over the years


wittenham 14 Oct 2013 04:55 PM :

 Good to hear, Jeremy. Our MBC house arrived on the lorry early this morning, we spent a couple hours directing traffic and then I went to work. I will get to see tonight how far they have got. But I will echo your comment on how hard they work… my wife and I have given up asking them if they want a cup of tea, and just bring them out instead.

I [sadly..] also agree on the ongoing difficulty of getting meaningful engagement from UK-based suppliers. I am still running at between 1 in 3 and 2 in 3 even bothering to engage in a discussion. Feels so alien to be begging companies for the opportunity to spend four figures with them….!



 SteamyTea 14 Oct 2013 07:36 PM :

 Did the Irish Prime Minister say a couple of days back that they have just about fulfilled all the financial obligations for their EU bailout. Case of working a bit harder and smarter for a bit less.
Strange how we use the term .’Navvy’ as a derogatory term here. They were fantastic engineers.

Any chance of some picture of the joint details, I am finding it hard to imagine. But been doing loads of dull statistics work the last few days and got a fuggled head.


jsharris  15 Oct 2013 06:19 AM :

 Yes, I had heard that the Irish economy was slowly picking up. It’s been at a heck of a cost to the people, though, the level of deprivation and economic migration out of Ireland has been pretty high for the past couple of years. My impression, from talking with maybe a handful of Irish companies, is that they are, indeed, working harder and smarter for lower margins, just to work their way through this depression. Pity that UK companies don’t seem so willing to do the same. IIRC, “Navvy” was originally the short form of “Navigator”, the highly skilled engineers that built the canal networks here, I’ve no idea how it ended up becoming a term for an itinerant labourer.

The joint’s hard to photograph, but I’ll have a go later and post it.

Greg, I think you’ll be surprised at the rate of progress with your build!


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