Simon’s house is a ‘first’ in British Isles

the Alderney Press, issue 314

This A-frame house, being built by Simon Benfield is strikingly different from anything else on the island, but it could well become a more common sight around the world in future years. It is a kit house, manufactured in Estonia and its designer, Indrek Kuldkepp, founder and CEO of Avrame, reckons two people can put it together in as little as two and a half weeks. Simon is taking longer. Employed as a builder by James Walker, he’s only working on this project in the evenings and at weekends, helped by Ali Sugden.

Simon’s decision to build the house springs in part from a win he had in the “Open the box” lottery at the Campania. He won £9,000 and wondered what would be the best use of the money. “Interest rates are rubbish and I had some other savings so I started looking on the internet to see if there was any type of housing that I could afford,” he said. He landed upon the site of a new company in Estonia that was advertising kits of A-frame dwellings, ranging from small summer homes that could be located in countryside settings, to this one, which is at the top end.

A-frame houses are particularly popular in Scandanavia and Canada where people like to have a second home in an isolated spot beside a lake or surrounded by forest. The location of Simon’s house is a field off Le Petit Val, earmarked for 12 properties. So far Simon’s plot is the only one being developed. The design of the 1,300 sq ft house met with unanimous approval when Simon’s plan came before BDCC in November 2018 and, having checked the company out, he placed his order.

Unlike many homes today that are put together from large insulated factorybuilt panels, the Avrame kits consist of individual pieces, the large timber lengths all cut to size, including all the joints. “You don’t even need a handsaw,” said Simon. It all came, together with the roofing panels and windows, in two 20ft shipping containers. They arrived in January last year and Simon made good progress on the assembly, having first excavated rising ground to keep the ridge as low as possible and completed footings featuring three parallel strips. The main structure was up in three months and the roof was felted when the wettest winter on record put paid to progress for six months.

The plastic-coated steel roof panels are now on and Velux windows fitted to maximise light in the two-storey building. Interior partitions, staircase and final flooring are yet to be done. Simon plans to sell the property, which he sees as being a four-bedder, with one bedroom on the ground floor, plus an open plan kitchen and living room featuring west-facing doors onto a patio, and three more bedrooms upstairs. However, the lay-out is flexible and purchasers may prefer to have three bedrooms and a west -facing first floor lounge.

What Simon has done is known as Sweat Equity, where someone uses their own labour to build a home for much less money than it would cost otherwise. While in UK only around eight per cent of houses are self-built, in many European countries the proportion is 50 per cent or more.

He hopes his house will be ready for market in August. The planning committee liked the design, but what about others? Workmate Ali commented “People certainly say it is different; so many people are only used to houses that are rectangular.” Simon added “It has created a lot of interest; more of it positive than otherwise.” Simon says the steeply sloping roof, facing south, is ideal for fitting solar panels and an array could see the house becoming 90 per cent self-sufficient for electricity. With large windows in the gable end, future owners can also look forward to enjoying the afternoon and evening sunshine.

And one other thing: They will never have to hire someone with a ladder to clear leaves from the guttering. They can bend down and clear leaves themselves from the stone-filled trough at ground level.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


You can see Simon's house images over here