#An… attempt to be based

Paul Johnston
I want a Garden Office
4 min readOct 17, 2021


Previous post: Brr… it’s cold outside!

So after all the discussion about insulation it’s clear that the options that are out there to be “environmentally friendly” while building a garden office, and also build something that isn’t going to cost a fortune, while also doing something that isn’t going to be impossible to either self-build or get someone to build for me is going to be… difficult.

I spoke to one company, who, if you have the money, are definitely a company that you should talk to if you don’t want to go the self build route. I have no affiliation, reason to say this or whatever, but they are just a company I think are worth talking to. (Huub also happen to be based in Poundbury in Dorset, which is an urban extension to Dorchester where I grew up, and has an interesting history in terms of architecture which is in large part due to the Prince of Wales).

That company is huub — Huub Garden Buildings:

An image from the huub homepage

Huub have some amazing eco builds. They are not cheap. But you can learn a lot by looking at what they build and how they build them. They also build with solar panels, and batteries, and understand issues around insulation, materials, reuse and a lot of things that most companies won’t understand and certainly most people doing a self-build won’t know or consider.

All about the base

I did talk with Huub about the possibility of them building the smallest building they do in our garden. This would have been just inside the budget, but it was not big enough in terms of size. It also didn’t have solar panels, or anything like that, and was very straight forward. It did have great insulation and fantastic wood cladding.

It also didn’t use a standard base. Most builds that you see use a concrete base, or concrete blocks, but huub use a recycled plastic eco base. It’s a plastic mesh made from recycled plastic, that can take a significant amount of load. It can also be placed directly on top of a grass (with a bit of builders sand to ensure surface is flat) and spread the load. There are lots of examples on youtube like this one:

And you can add a bit extra around the edge with some to add a drain (this is important for buildings to ensure they don’t get rotten around the base and foundations).

This is not something that many builders will do. But it’s really much much better for the environment to use recycled plastic than it is to use concrete anyway.

If you weren’t aware, concrete is bad for the environment.

And then…

Screw it!

Another friend told me about these amazing things called ground screws. These are exactly what you might think they are. They are screws that go into the ground. They also look a little comedic, as if, somewhere there is a massive giant with an enormous screwdriver, but if you can get over that, these are pretty amazing.

These can come in smaller sizes, and can be installed without professional support, or a professional can come in, and install them for you, and install larger ones.

A big advantage of these is that you don’t need to dig. You can install these where there are tree roots (it would go through/round them), they go deeper than you would normally dig (and very quickly) and they can take a lot of load (depending on where you live of course).

The point is, if you want to be even more sure of your foundations (without using concrete), then ground screws, even the smaller self-install version, are a fantastic option. Here’s a YouTube video to show how easy it is with the self-install version:

Ground screws are made out of metal, and claim to be much more environmentally friendly than concrete. That claim does appear to stand up. They are reusable for one (you can remove them and replace them) and some ground screw manufacturers claim over 75% of the materials are from recycled sources. There is a lot to like here.

And with some ground screws having a flat “SIPs” bracket, then you can lay SIPs flooring directly onto the top of ground screws (with the correct protective and breathable layers around it) without the need for a frame (which is how most ground screw brackets are used).

So the base…

It looks like the base is probably going to be ground screws, although they aren’t as cheap as other options. They do allow for installation on slightly uneven ground as the screws can be different heights and levelled with a laser. This make it much much easier to make a building flat too.

And it looks like a much more environmentally friendly option to go with ground screws than concrete, while giving very solid foundations as well.

So ground screws and SIPs seem a very good match.

If you look at some of the ground screw installer websites, they even give some hints and tips on how to build a building with ground screws and SIPs, but that doesn’t make it easier:

Build a SIP building with ground screws — Stop Digging!

They make it sound so simple… but then you hear words like “ventilation” and everything starts to get a bit… difficult.

Next post: Ventilation… Oooh ventilation



Paul Johnston
I want a Garden Office

ServerlessDays CoFounder (Jeff), ex AWS Serverless Snr DA, experienced CTO/Interim, Startups, Entrepreneur, Techie, Geek and Christian