For someone who had never had any interest in building his own home, having done it once Chris Williams would love to do it again.

And it’s all down to the advanced building system that enabled him to build a 3200 sq. ft home, the equivalent of five standard two-bedroom homes put together, for just £110,000.

The system, using EMMEDUE (M2) technology, uses prefabricated insulated panels enclosed in galvanised steel mesh with connectors which, once in position onsite, are sprayed with a structural fine concrete coat to provide unbeatable strength.

The panels can form walls, floors, landings, roofs, stairs, and internal partitions can be curved to meet demanding architectural specifications, meaning a single home can be constructed almost entirely from the material.

In fact, Chris was so impressed with the system that 13 years later he opened a UK factory that supplies the panels to developers, housing associations and local authorities.

A chance encounter


“I had a house; I wasn’t intending to move let alone build my own,” said Chris, taking up the story. “My business partner ended up with a big plot of land and he wanted me to buy half of it.

“It put me in a difficult situation because financially back then the plot was £125,000, but it was the best decision we’ve made. I couldn’t, however, afford to build traditionally.”

Fortunately, four years earlier Chris came across a system by chance. His then business designing waste to energy recycling infrastructure required him to visit EMMEDUE to look at how the Italian firm granulated, recycled, and reused its polystyrene.

“I saw the wall system and was hugely impressed they were building high impact structural walls very thinly while using a factory with zero waste to do it.

“Then in 2005 a friend asked if I could help him build a “railway shed”, the Armstrong Oilers North Yorkshire Moors Railway and because the space meant you couldn’t use cranes I suggested the system because everything can be handballed, and we built it for the very tight budget. There were 65 sq. mt of panels leftover, so I decided to build my home out of M2.”

The build

founders houseA team of just Chris and three others were able to build the house despite never having used the system before and everything was done by hand, from mixing the concrete to spraying.

Chris said: “Building it was easy, if you can visualise it you can make it because it’s a whole panel. It’s floor to ceiling height, you know where it goes, so you mark it on the floor and lay it out to make it plumb.

“Even if you’re slightly out of plumb you just add more concrete to bring it back to being true, so there’s not really any issue with having to be skilled. The electrics are where you need to get somebody specialist in.”

In true ‘Grand Designs’ fashion, there were many personal challenges along the way that slowed the build down, not least Chris and his wife expecting their third child halfway through the build.

“On and off it took 10 months to go from nothing to moving in. We started installing it in 2006 and moved in in 2007. The first part went up quickly but then I had to go back to work and the guys left to do other things, so things slowed down.

“With the baby on the way and having to be out of our old home by July 1, I had to get a sprayer in to quicken the process up. What they were achieving was phenomenal; in half a day they were achieving what we were doing in 10 days of labour spraying, and that’s why today using the system we spray concrete because you can put on 100 sq. mt in a day which you can’t do by hand.”

The finished product

founders houseDesign limitations meant that the finished build is a standard house which, from the outside, looks like a one and a half-storey, seven-metre-tall property. But it’s inside where the system’s impressive ability is showcased, from creating space to providing solutions to any arising problems

All the internal walls are the same product, including floors and ceilings, and the nine metre floor panels mean the space is huge.  And with no need for roof trusses, the house has a four-metre ceiling on a seven-metre house, meaning a mezzanine and second story.

“Because there are no trusses, just panels coming straight up, where the planners thought we would lose space we actually don’t,” said Chris.

“Some walls weren’t allowed to put windows in, so we just cut-glass blocks into the wall, and when we wanted more natural light to flood the bathroom upstairs, for example, we were able to just cut out concrete and drop a skylight in or cut out an internal wall.

“Using traditional methods that could only be done with engineering but using this system meant we could just get a disc cutter, cut it out and stick it in.”

14 years of bliss

Chris and family have now been in the home for almost 15 years.

“The house has performed as thermally and as efficiently as we had expected. We never have to put the heating on as in the morning it doesn’t drop below 18 degrees and in the summers hottest days it’ll stay around 25degrees but normally 21˚C.

“I’d love to do it again, and I’d definitely do more upside-down houses, because of the roof features and the lines you get as living spaces; they’re so much more interesting than square boxes, so I’d have redesigned this house to have balconies and external walkways.

In 2007 the house was valued at 450,000 and Chris added: “Something with this footprint in certain areas of the country would go for silly money so you can build cheap enough and get better quality for less money. It’s also such a versatile system and when it comes to design, if you can think it, you can build it.

“It’s quicker, greener, and cheaper than traditional alternatives and it has provided me with a solid home I could not have afforded to construct myself using any other building method.”

GLB can supply 700,000 square metres of panels a year from its factory, enough to build more than 3,000 average-sized family homes. 

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