The House that Kevin Built 2012 The Brighton Waste House


October 2015

August 2014

The Brighton Waste House – The development of a ‘living laboratory’ for ecological architectural design.

The Brighton Waste House investigates strategies for constructing a contemporary, low energy,  permanent building using over 85% ‘waste’ material drawn from household and construction sites.

Now fully completed, the building is Europe's first permanent public building made almost entirely from material thrown away or not wanted. It is also an EPC ‘A’ rated low energy building.

The Brighton Waste House aims to prove that under valued so-called waste material has potential to become a valuable resource and therefore prove “that there is no such thing as waste, just stuff in the wrong place!’. It also aims to prove that a contemporary, innovative, low energy building can be constructed almost entirely by young people studying construction trades, architecture & design. To this end over 300 students worked on the project which was initially fabricated in the workshops of City College Brighton and Hove, and then assembled and completed by students and apprentices between May 2013 and April 2014.

David Pendegrass (Mears) Cat Fletcher (Freegle), Duncan Baker-Brown (from left to right) David Pendegrass (Mears) Cat Fletcher (Freegle), Duncan Baker-Brown

Materials that have gone into the house include, old vinyl banners that you might see tied to street lamps during festivals, that tend to be date sensitive and are therefore only used once, are being used as internal vapour control layers. Thrown-away bricks, ply sheets and off-cut timber from other construction projects, as well as “rubbish” including old plastic razors, denim jeans, DVD’s and video cassettes, that are being slotted into wall cavities to help with insulation in the house, and will be monitored by a PhD student from the Faculty of Science 7 Engineering to see how efficient their insulation qualities are.

Old toothbrushes are also being used in the wall cavities, including over 20,000 of them that have only been used once by business class & first class passenger flying from Gatwick.

10 tonnes of chalk waste and 10% of clay create a rammed chalk wall, with the help from a compressor and pneumatic rammer. Rammed earth can contribute to the overall energy-efficiency of buildings. The density, thickness and thermal conductivity of rammed earth make it a particularly suitable material for storing passive solar energy as well as that given off by occupants of the building. Warmth takes almost 12 hours to work its way through a wall 35 cm thick.

The Waste House is engaging the community by working with City College Brighton and Hove, and Mears Group, allowing students and apprentices a chance to work on a live construction project. While being constructed over 750 school pupils from over 35 local primary, secondary and tertiary colleges visited the Brighton Waste House site.

Now completed the Brighton Waste House is being used by colleagues delivering the MA in Sustainable Design whose work will involve completing and updating the ‘live’ research project that is The  Brighton Waste House. This innovative building is also the open public community hub for The Faculty of Arts. Therefore many of the schools that visited the construction site will now take part in creative workshops, seminars and events held at the Waste House, hosted or curated by artists, makers, designers, scientists, building contractors, or whoever wants to be involved in testing ideas around sustainable design.

The Waste House has the support of Brighton’s Green MP, Caroline Lucas, and is closely linked with the City Council, alongside construction and cultural organisations. Its university location is fitting since Brighton was ranked fifth out of 143 higher education institutions in the 2013 People & Planet’s Green League Table and seen ‘to be among the pioneers leading the HE sector's transition to a low-carbon future.’

Click through our presentation of the Waste House by using the right and left arrow keys.

July 2013

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation: Future Home for Knowledge Exchange

While the site has been quiet for a the past few months, across the faculty we have been actively working on ideas for the new building and how we will work together with our neighboring communities and schools to create a place for sharing and exchanging our ideas, skills and resources.

The ‘Art College’ (a.k.a the Faculty of Arts) is often described in the city as a ‘well-kept secret’ and this, among many new projects, is one of the many ways we aim to unlock that secret.

Since the construction of the first prototype ‘House That Kevin Built’ in 2008, we have, with our students, been designing, re-designing and developing new methods of sustainable construction and new ways of using materials in order to create a truly contemporary representation of the constantly evolving ideas in this field.


Now we are preparing to create a new prototype and a long-term living experiment that will, once constructed, continue to be a site for experimentation and for exchanging knowledge within the college and with those businesses and communities who wish to work and engage with us. The building will be an innovative place to visit as well as provide a studio for our postgraduate students. We hope it will be the hub from which we will develop new relationships with businesses and the public sector as well as with social and cultural groups that stimulate shared working and shared learning.
We are already working in partnership with the City Council, with MEARS construction, with Deeks & Steere and with our many cultural partners, to create new ways of working together more creatively, effectively and productively.

We wish to ensure that we provide our students with the best opportunities to meet and to showcase their ideas, creativity and many talents.
We invite you to join us and contribute your resources, expertise, skills and knowledge to stimulate sustainable development, enhance the creative economy, and encourage intergenerational learning for communities across the city and the region.

We aim to complete the building by December 2012 and to open the building to the community and for public activities in February 2013 as a new way of welcoming our many communities into the university. 

How did it all begin?

Duncan Baker-Brown, architect and architectural researcher at the University of Brighton Faculty of Arts, leads a project to develop a sustainable urban studio at the University of Brighton's Grand Parade Campus in the centre of the city.

The project is based on the building that Duncan created in 2008 together with Kevin McCloud from Channel 4's Grand Designs show. The 2008 version of the house was the UK's first contemporary low-energy prefabricated house built using entirely ecologically friendly materials. Read more about the 2008 House that Kevin Built.


Who's involved? 

There is a widespread involvement in the project, from those who offer personal donation or show interest in the project, to major partners: Brighton & Hove City Council, the Building Research Establishment, the construction industry's research and consultancy organisation, and the University of Brighton.

Kevin McCloud says: "I'm very pleased that the University of Brighton is committed to exploring new low-carbon methods of building. It's exciting to think that the campus could have its own practical demonstration building and I'm delighted to be connected to the university through this innovative piece of construction."

Students and researchers at the University of Brighton are involved with the project, with students learning through additional work and projects alongside the build.

The university and the creative community of the Faculty of Arts are committed to making a social and cultural difference and playing an integral role in the economic development of their immediate community, in this case promoting and sharing the benefits of sustainable living. 

Who will benefit?

You will. And everyone who will be living our shared future. The research developments in eco-architecture are essential to everyone.

For the University of Brighton, the house will provide a vital centrepiece, a built experiment and a showcase that demonstrates the university's commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2015.


For Brighton, the finished building will be a beacon and an experimental model for the city's communities around shared concerns for a sustainable carbon-neutral lifestyle. The building will be an innovative place to visit as well as provide a studio for our postgraduate students. We hope it will be the hub from which we will develop new relationships with businesses and the public sector as well as with social and cultural groups that stimulate shared working and shared learning.

We are involving local schools and other communities in the build project, engaging them in the process of learning through building and inspiring them through that experience to explore sustainable design and zero-carbon living.

Students will benefit throughout the development, gaining understanding of the project, eco-architecture and the recording of architectural developments as well as a number of 'spin-off' projects. Techniques and methods for the build will feed directly into our research and teaching.

The rebuild of The House that Kevin Built will showcase the materials, methods and techniques required to produce ecologically friendly, carbon-neutral housing stock.

The house and the construction process will be part of the research project; testing, evaluating and refining cutting-edge and sustainable new materials and consstruction methods. Working with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) our researchers at the Faculty of Arts will undertake a long-term evaluation of the house. The resulting longitudinal study and subsequent experiments will contribute to the knowledge of the entire construction industry.

Intellectually the project extends our research in this critical area of activity and complements a large EU support project Innovation For Renewal (IFORE) co-ordinated by Professor Mike McEvoy, desmonstrating the real world value and impact of our research.

Why is it necessary?

Finding ways to build and live sustainably is a social imperative in our contemporary lives. The university aims to exceed EU targets for a 30 per cent reduction in CO2emissions and become an exemplar for the city and the region in sustainable design and practice. 

In the UK, 45 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions come from architectural structures. In addition the construction of a traditional house produces considerable waste.

We at the University of Brighton are committed not only to researching towards carbon reduction, but to educating young people for their contemporary challenges and the answering of real world problems.

How can I get involved?

To build the house we hope to raise £300,000. The house won't be expensive in itself. It is coming out at about £2,200/m2 which totals up at about £190,000&+ vat. This is calculated at the anticipated full cost of materials and construction including interior. VAT however will be 20% as the house will be a university research building.

Many people and organisations are giving directly to the project, Duncan Baker-Brown is giving his time and the University of Brighton are giving land. Brighton and Hove City Council has granted planning permission. Kind support from suppliers further offsets costs and a number of technologies are being incorporated thanks to generous help from sponsors.


The university is approaching construction companies, DIY businesses, environment groups, energy firms and individuals to join with us in this project with donations. Read more about funding, donations and getting involved on our THTKB funding page.

To be part of this major step in eco-building in Brighton you can use our donation link below. Please could you mention The House That Kevin Built in the comments box when you make the donation on the University of Brighton's JustGiving site to ensure that we direct it to this project.

For further information about donation and sponsorship, please contact the project funding organiser, Andrew Scanlan, directly at

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