Who among us hasn’t fantasised about building our dream house, overlooking the beach, and cutting our carbon footprint at the same time? Well for Changeworks’ Jo Hobbett, Change Works in Burntisland Senior Project Officer, she and her partner Alan made that a reality.

Over the past three and a half years, Jo and Alan have been pouring all their spare time into a new home. Built in the garden of their previous house, an old Victorian tearoom, their new home is an energy-efficient oasis of calm down by the beach on the Fife riviera.

Energy efficiency was a big focus from the beginning of the project. All the windows are triple glazed, and the property is incredibly well insulated – so much so that it has no heating system, and they haven’t missed it in winter! All they have is a couple of heated towel rails, and a seldom-used log burner.

The house is powered by solar panels, with battery storage for hot water. As Jo managed to install the panels before the Government feed-in payments came to an end, they enjoy negative fuel bills.

The build wasn’t without its challenges. Access to the house is under a very low railway bridge, so all the pieces had to be designed by a local company to fit under the archway. Using local companies was important to Jo and Alan, reducing the carbon impact of the build even further by avoiding delivery and transportation where possible.

Putting the roof on themselves was also a challenge, making sure to get enough insulation in to maintain the warmth they were aiming for. It all paid off though, as the property received  near-flawless scores of 101 and 108 for energy efficiency and environmental impact on its energy performance certificate (EPC).

They had planned to take two years to build the house, but doing everything themselves at their own pace meant it took longer. That meant they could be flexible however, and change their mind and develop their dream home as it went along. Now it’s finished, they’ve got everything they dreamed of – even down to the shower next to the front door for when Jo has been down swimming in the sea, and her much sought-after whale-watching balcony!

Jo doesn’t have many regrets, but if she had her chance again there’s one thing she wish she’d been aware of:

“The only thing I wish I’d known is that we could have had someone from Home Energy Scotland* come out and visit us! With their expertise and impartial advice we could have saved ourselves a lot of research. It’s really incredible the amount of knowledge their advisors have. We could also have made use of their cashback and interest-free loans.”


Of course, not everyone can take on the size of project that Jo and Alan did – but it goes to show that just about anything is possible! If you are not starting from scratch making your home more energy efficient doesn’t have to cost a ton of money and take up all your free time. For advice on how you can make improvements to the warmth and efficiency of your house, contact Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282. You can also check out the resources on our website, including our top four tips to make your home more efficient.

*Funded by the Scottish Government, Changeworks’ delivers Home Energy Scotland advice centres in South East Scotland and Highlands and Islands on behalf of Energy Saving Trust.