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The Structure



The bungalow was built on piles which went 12m into the ground. I did a lot of research to try and find the right company to do the job. We wanted a fixed price as there are so many uncertainties underground and, before you know it, the costs can spiral out of control. Several salesmen came to site to tender for the job and we had a number of quotes. We selected Roger Bullivant and it was they best thing we could have done. Their rep, Paul Emblin, has been a huge support and is really interested in the project which has helped tremendously. He also brings beer when he calls in the evenings sometimes - what more could you want!

…so why use piles rather than conventional concrete foundations? That was a question we had to answer for my parents as the previous bungalow they had built was built on concrete foundations and was still there 30 years later!  Paul Emblin enlightens us..

"Like much of South East England, this site is underlain by highly shrinkable clay soils with fairly large trees close by. The NHBC has recommendations for overcoming potential swelling & shrinking of clay soil due to changes in moisture content. On this project the options were to excavate traditional footings to a depth of 3.0m which creates a lot of muck to dispose of & a lot of concrete to import. The other option was to install piles to support the beam & floor system. Piling produces far less spoil & requires a fraction of the concrete.
The use of 46No 300mm dia. piles to a depth of 10m allowed for the inclusion of goethermal heat pipes to extract ground source warmth without the need to drill a seperate very deep borehole.
All in all this development will benefit from a fully engineered foundation solution coupled with a cost effective heating/cooling medium."

We developed a very good relationship with Roger Bullivant, the company and also Roger Bullivant himself. Roger came down to site to see the build when we had put the concrete roof on, which, along with the floor, was also provided by Roger Bullivant. 

We put geothermal pipe Into the pile cages before they were buried in the ground to............Paul to complete

For all of our pipework in the cages, in the concrete base for the underfloor heating and in the twin skinned concrete roof panels, we used Rehau Ltd. Paul used to work for Rehau and has a very high opinion of their products.

The floor

The floor was a brand new method called System First by Roger Bullivant and this is the first residential application. It was so quick and getting the foundations completed and the floor finished was a huge milestone. 'Getting out of the Ground' is quite often the most expensive and the most time consuming part of building a house; you don't know what might be found when they are drilling for the pile cages. If they had found water - which can easily happen, they have to then case the holes before they insert the cages and pour the concrete. The weather also becomes less of an issue after the floor is down and with the Summer that we just had, that was a major consideration.

This is what Anthony Egan, the product Manager for System First had to say:

"Roger Bullivant Ltd SystemFirst is a domestic foundation process designed for use in what are traditionally described as “good to marginal” ground conditions. It is a modular build process that provides the client with a finished floor slab and offers significant advantages over traditional approach of strip footings and in situ construction, in terms of both cost and programme. We endeavour to implement a “lump sum risk free” pricing strategy taking full responsibility for the project from site investigation to site installation.

The process is suitable for multi-plot or single plot domestic developments of two storey, two storey plus roof space accommodation or three storey apartments.

SystemFirst embraces modern methods of construction with 75% of the components being manufactured offsite in a quality control driven factory environment and delivered to site immediately prior to installation. The use of new and lightweight materials results in significant reductions in CO2 emissions during the manufacturing process and from reduced lorry movements when transporting to site.

On site, the process generates no spoil and hence eliminates the need to transport material to landfill. Installation is quick, all components being delivered to site “just in time” in the form of a package of individually labeled kit of parts. The lightweight nature of such components allows them to be installed without cranage and in a way that improves health and safety on site. We believe that the process is significantly quicker than traditional methods of construction, the implications being savings on both programme and cost in terms of reduced prelims.

This project had a particular need for increased insulation levels, additional thermal mass and the need to incorporate underfloor heating within the slab construction, both of which could be accommodated by Roger Bullivant SystemFirst. Our flexible approach to design meant we were easily capable of altering the construction detail on a job by job basis to comply with the Clients specific requirements."

External Walls

We used Ziegel blocks for the external wall structure. They are very thermally efficient and quick to build with. We had a specialist in Ziegel block building to build the house for us but we fell out fairly early on and at £300 a day, it was just as well! He taught us how the lay the blocks ourselves and between Paul and I and our one and only labourer for the first 3 months, we built the whole house. We used a wet block saw from HSS and cut the blocks to shape to make the curved wall to the master bedroom.

The barrel vaulted roof

Richard Paxton designed the barrel vaulted roof and we then had to come up with a cost effective and sustainable method of building it. The idea for using concrete came initially from Andy Downey of Elliot Woods but we explored every avenue and couldn't find anyone that could make it that size.  We even approached the people that built the structure for the channel tunnel!  When we met with Roger Bullivant to discuss the floor system that they wanted us to trial, it came out in conversation that they had just bought a concrete company so we asked if there was any chance of them producing a roof for us...and that was the start!  It wasn't at easy journey and it was made more complicated by the fact that Paul wanted Rehau pex pipes running through it to act as a solar collector and emitter.  The result is amazing and now it is painted looks superb.