Huf Haus is bringing pre-fab chic to London: bold and elegant, are these the UK's most sustainable homes?

Light, modern and free of bills — it’s no wonder Huf Haus eco-homes are motoring.

Brooklands, the historic motorsport mecca in the commuter town of Weybridge, Surrey, hosted the launch of a beautiful, precision-engineered 4,500sq ft eco-home delivered straight from a factory in Stuttgart, south-west Germany
 
Prefab chic is the speciality of Huf Haus, a century-old German firm whose stylish and contemporary custom-made timber and glass homes are breaking the mould of traditional British house design.
 
After 15 years doing below-the-radar, one-off commissions in the UK, the company has opened a sales centre and show home alongside the first British Grand Prix racing circuit.
 
Huf Haus’s strikingly modern architecture uses a post-and-beam construction system. Making a virtue of it by leaving factory-finished structural joists and steel bolts exposed, the family-run firm is able to create wide and light free-flowing spaces, with full-height, triple-glazed walls and windows that invite the outside in.

Everything is engineered, from the basic fabric of the house to the timber floors and white Corian sinks.
 

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Free-flowing: open-plan rooms offer space throughout, while underfloor heating is a common feature of a Huf Haus property


The main colour palette consists of grey and white, allowing for splashes of colour through accessories and artworks. Electronically controlled external blinds provide privacy and relief from the sun.
 
Not only are the homes bold and elegant, they are highly energy-efficient, probably the most sustainable in the UK. Powered by their surroundings, they draw on sunlight, air and soil — meaning no fuel bills.
 
A pioneering system uses energy harvested from an underground ice storage tank to heat and cool the house, while discreet, roof-mounted photovoltaic panels capture solar energy.

Surplus energy is used to power an electric car parked at a plug-in point next to the house. A “logic centre” regulates the overall system through the seasons, and is also the engine room for all the mechanical, cabling and audiovisual requirements. Control via a smartphone is also possible.
 
The construction system allows for a flexible, bespoke floor plan, so buyers have almost endless options for dividing the space into bedrooms, bathrooms, dressing rooms, storage walls and even balconies and verandas.
 
Basements can be incorporated and are ideal for sloping sites or areas at risk of flood, as they can sit on stilts or raised foundations.
 

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The living room: understated sophistication, with floor-to-ceiling windows that ‘bring the outside indoors’ — along with lots of natural light

 
Huf Haus can design a house as small as 1,000sq ft or as big as 10,000sq ft. The company says the typical cost is £200 a square foot, which includes the super-structure, on-site assembly and interior finishes.
 
A 2,500sq ft house would cost in the region of £500,000, excluding the price of land.
 
But the hardest and most expensive part, especially in London, is finding the land. Call 01932 586550.
 
Our home in a meadow
Dani McDonald and her husband, James, a Lloyd’s underwriter, had spent years living in loft and warehouse apartments in New York and London.
 
When their children, Xavia and Jaz, came along, they went on a search for land for a modern house. Four years later, they found a six-acre meadow in Kent.
 
The family lived in an old prefab on-site for two years to experience the landscape during different seasons, while researching eco-friendly energy sources. “We only wanted to use natural materials, such as wood, stone and glass, so the house felt organic,” says Dani, 47, a professional make-up artist. The couple’s Huf Haus home took six months to build.
 

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Spacious: Dani McDonald's ground floor rooms, including the kitchen, have double-vaulted ceilings

 
“It has four bedrooms and we use all of our space. Our bedrooms are downstairs, overlooking the meadow, while the bathrooms are subterranean with light wells. On the ground level, our living, kitchen, dining and music rooms all have doubled-vaulted ceilings, which enhance the open-plan experience. And we enjoy the landscape throughout the day, irrespective of the weather.”
 
Albert Hill, of niche estate agent The Modern House, which sells new contemporary homes as well as period classics, says buyers are attracted to light and space.
 
Three new houses in Macaulay Road, Clapham, show that contemporary architecture can slot inoffensively into a classic Victorian streetscape.
 
Designed and developed by architects Squire & Partners, the houses have a clean-cut brick façade, behind which are wonderful white-walled, open-plan lateral spaces finished with bespoke joinery. Prices from £6.75 million. Call Savills on 020 8977 4812.
 
Brownfield bonanza
The release of government-owned brownfield land to small developers and self-builders is expected to boost the number of one-off architectural new homes.
 
Facit Homes, which describes itself as an integrated “design, manufacturing, environmental and engineering company”, has featured on Grand Designs and pioneered a technique allowing homes to be digitally manufactured on-site, resulting in precision building and cost savings. Currently it has three projects under way in London.
 
Don’t lose the plot

  • In the overcrowded South-East, land is expensive. Buildstore is one of several plot-finding websites.
  • Before buying a plot, check your chances of getting planning consent.
  • Remember that contaminated land is expensive to clean up.
  • You could buy and knock down an old house. Planners would look quite favourably on replacing an old wreck with a new home. It will also be already “serviced”, with gas, electricity and drainage, which will save you money.
  • How big a plot? Most self-builders and kit home builders are content with a quarter of an acre, enough for a decent house and garden.

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