Category Archives: Garden Offices

Day 1: Step by Step Build of our Largest Garden Building yet

Chris & Cliff prepare to load up sections of our biggest ever garden building (just over 700sq ft) to take to Sheffield:



The client has already laid the concrete base. Here’s a photo of the Ground plates going down:



Next Chris starts to lay down the insulated floor panels.


Last job of the day, Roy and Chris start firing down the floor. At least this job’s in the shade! 🙂


Judy’s words of wisdom for home workers

 “Working from home is a bit of a dream for a lot of people, “ said Judy Heminsley, author of the book ‘Work from Home’.

“You can understand why if you are commuting all the time.  Then having a garden office is a step forward into another dream again.”

My-home-office-alfresco-reading-300x225For many, being able to sit in a garden office is something planned for over many years, yet there is more to it than simply having your own work space, there are also practical aspects, as Judy explained.

Having worked from home for twenty years running businesses, Judy began the popular site, How to Work from Home  after publishing her book four years ago.

To begin, here is list of five of Judy’s useful tips:

  • Make sure you go out and socialise, write times in your diary for meeting people even at a business breakfast club once a week.
  • Finding yourself having to manage solo you should remind yourself that you have many untapped resources.
  • Many people are quick to say how you should plan your work timetable but experiment to find your natural working pattern as everyone differs.
  • Most people find it easier to offer help than to ask for it but make it your policy to ask for help when you need it.
  • While home workers may miss the chance to talk over a work problem with a colleague, if you do have a problem, don’t wait for things come to a head, go and talk to someone who believes in you.

As well as being qualified to give solitary workers a confidence boost Judy is enthusiastic about home working and supports start-ups with telephone advice on how to work from home.

Everyone meets unexpected situations so I asked Judy to explain one of her own.

My-home-office-home-working-at-the-mill1-300x225“I worked from home for twenty years. I was running a cleaning company for twelve years, then helping my partner who was a trainer and coach by doing the admin and the running of his business,”  Judy said.

“When I was running a cleaning busines my partner in that hurt his back. Although we employed people we also did cleaning ourselves and I had to take on his cleaning and take other cleaners around to the places he would normally do.

“My day was extended to be much longer than usual. Then there is not only the extra work and the tiredness and the aggravation that comes about because obviously the person is ill, but there is also the worry of ‘Are they going to get better?’ and ‘How is this going to affect us long term?’ so it is a very difficult position to be in.

“Working from home can sound so idyllic and that it is all going to be so fantastic, but it is not a bad thing to think about ‘How would I cope in a crisis?’ We all get them even if it is the computer going down, or somebody letting us down, they happen.

“It is amazing what you can do if you have a crisis but if you knew about it before you would think ‘Oh Gosh I could never cope with it’. Afterwards you sometimes wonder how you did do it. But you do cope at the time and I think people are wonderful in being able to do that.”

According to the Office of National Statistics 2011 Census data there are 1.4 million people working mainly from home.

Some make the leap from office and successfully adapt to solo working, others, like Judy have always worked from home.
Winter home office
Asked what are the advantages, many home workers will put flexibility at the top of the list.

Usually we think of flexibility as being the ability to work around other commitments like childcare, but there is also another advantage, being able to do more by finding your natural way to work.

“You quite often read articles about how to work from home with all sorts of rules about how and when you should work, but I have found that it depends on the individual, what works for one person does not work for someone else,” Judy said.

“It is good to take advice from people and listen to what they do but it is sad if it makes you feel inferior or inadaquate.

“So I always advise someone to experiment and see what works because if you find a routine that does then obviously that means more motivation.

“One plus is that if you are on a roll it is quite nice just to be able to carry on and get things done.”

Judy recently took part in a co-working scheme, set up by Anywhere working, a group that shows how remote working can improve your productivity, which saw Judy jump aboard a pedi-bus during a mobile meeting around the streets of London, talk about rolling.

Want an Off Grid Garden Office? We spoke to Eco Shed of the Year Winner, Kevin Holland

“I just want a comfortable life without being held to ransom by foreign owned energy companys and to do my bit for the planet,” said Kevin Holland, winner of 2012 eco shed of the year.


Kevin is a former community policeman who calls the headquarters of his renewable energy business, a solar shed.  Although traditionally a man’s domain Kevin admits he hosts community meetings as well as charity events in his workshop.

Kevin had to pay up front for solar panels but now the 250w Philidelphia M60’s feed electricity back into the grid.

“The more energy efficient you are, the less money you spend, “ Kevin said.

“My own house dates back to 1480 and used to cost me over £1500 in oil and £800 in electricity bills. Now I spend about £500 on oil, and that will be down to zero within 2 years due to other measures.

“My electric bills are paid for by the money I receive from having a feed-in tariff, so I suppose, yes, it is worth it.”

Kevin Holland was going around council estates and participating in energy saving projects. Ten years on he transferred this knowledge to his shed, house and business in the Norfolk countryside, putting dreams into practice.

“Ideally, an insulated shed costs less to heat if using it for a workspace, “ Kevin said.

“And the golden rule of renewable energy is insulate before generate, or reduce before you produce.”

“Years ago, everyone had an Anderson Shelter to protect them from Mr Hitler’s bombs. Today’s risks are very different; fuel supplies, water shortages, waste disposal, and energy security. “

“My panels are grid tied and feed power into the workshop where we have an office and all the freezers that store our food that we grow.”

That said, in addition, part of Kevin’s rainwater system runs over the panels keeping them at optimum temperature.

”I can’t find better panels for the UK Climate, but inverter technology has slightly improved since I had mine fitted,” Kevin said.

“The company Samil are now doing an inverter with a 99% efficiency as well as a 20 year extended warranty.”

Kevin could also have suggested using the natural light in more of a usual way. When you choose your windows plan for the path of the sun in winter as well as in summer.   With a lower winter sunlight it is more likely to need lower tree trops.  You might even want to think about adding some sky windows.

A rough guide for the overall area of the windows is to leave one fifth of the wall area transparent for maximising the use of the sun.  Then with that done, standard solar lights cost nothing more than the original outlay as they charge during the day.  There is, for instance, a d.light at £30 that has a good beam and also charges your mobile phone.

While Kevin is a passionate eco shed spokesman there are different exents that you can follow.   But what then is the need for additional products?

“Once a space has been made comfortable, one should look at lighting and heating, “ Kevin said.

There may be grants available to help with energy saving installations. One place to start asking questions is the UK’s energy savings trusts.

Kevin Holland has an array of trophies for his enterprising feats and he is ready for every eventuality. The well-known “ Be Prepared” of the boy scout’s motto seems fitting enough when it comes to designing and building a garden office.

“If the Russians turned the gas taps off and we had a drought, I could live quite comfortably because of the renewable energy measure I have put in place, “ Kevin said.

Kevin’s words may sound drastic at the outset but he probably would have won the Scout of the Year award.

Energy savings trust Scotland

Energy savings trust England

Kevin Holland Twitter

Facebook page

Centre Alternative Technology



What Makes a Great Garden Office? [Infographic]

Recently, I was looking through some of my competitors websites and was alarmed to see the low building specifications they were offering!

I think its important the customer knows exactly what they are paying for, as I have found many lower quality buildings are no cheaper than the high spec garden rooms Gembuild are proud to produce.

For this reason I had the below Infographic created which compares a high specification garden office to a lower specification one.


Embed This Image On Your Site (copy code below):

Incorporating an Outdoor Office or Room into a Garden Design

profile pic b&WThis week we spoke to RHS Gold medalist Melissa Jolly, who gave us her insight into the different aspects to consider when incorporating an outdoor office or room into a garden design.

Melissa has innovation at the heart of her designs but also a strong awareness of structure and balance. She is a designer who believes that a garden must have a sense of proportion and flow, which blends in with the house.  Additionally, the right aspect and everything has to be really practical for the modern busy lifestyle.

Melissa Jolly: “When I am asked to include an office or outdoor room into a garden design there are a couple of key points that need to be addressed from the start (aside from the practical issues of size, planning and specification).

MJ: Do you want to be able to see it and what will the room be used for? So to begin with, do you want to have the building on show or hidden?

MJ: This will depend on the size of the garden, and in most cases it will be difficult to hide a garden building in a small plot.  Therefore it is important that the building is designed into the layout of the garden.  It must integrate with the siting and style of the house.

MJ: However, also think of juxtaposition; often a very modern house could have a more traditional, rustic building nestled amongst the trees and grass, and equally a country house could have an ultra contemporary office with large glass windows looking back at the house.

MJ: Consider aspect: a little sun to warm the room up and flood the space with light is important but you do not want to have so much glare coming in that you can’t see your computer screen, or so that the office heats up like a conservatory.  Have doors and windows that open up fully in the summer months to make the most of being in the garden, and plenty of insulation in the building to keep it snug in winter – perhaps even with a log burning fire.

You will not make the most of the room unless is it comfortable to be in.

It is possible to soften the building once is it in place with the use of planting

Then, if you want to conceal the building it could be placed behind a timber screen or even a trellis or hedge.

MJ: Consider the finishing: Think about the finishing touches such as if the building will be left with its natural wood finish to grey down over time, or will it be painted or stained with a striking colour? That is, dark colours are a fantastic backdrop to the vivid greens of plants up against them.

MJ: Also consider the views: Think about the views from the garden building as well as the views of it.  Views of the garden can be calming or inspiring or energizing as you wish.

So that is one key point and the other is what the room can be used for:

MJ: For a Home office or music room, a kids’ play den or a general chill out room.

MJ: In most cases I would advise not placing it too far from the house.  That is, it

  • Needs to be convenient for all the necessary services: electricity, water and even soil waste for a toilet,
  • Also needs to be convenient for us to go out to.

MJ: The access must be easy: a path leading to it with steps if necessary to avoid having to walk across a wet/ muddy lawn and also to draw the eye down the garden.

MJ: The path should be well lit so access is possible at all times of the day (don’t forget how early it gets dark in the winter months).

A pergola along the path also helps to create interest and draw the eye towards the garden room.

MJ: Something else important is to be aware of security because offices and music rooms will contain expensive equipment and could be an easy target for burglars.  To address this, think of installing a PIR light, which will go on if anyone approaches the building, or of placing the building so it can’t be seen from outside the property.

Melissa Jolly grew up being taken by her architect mother around different building sites.  As such Melissa realises that the mood of a garden can be altered by considering the different points outlined.

To bypass the changes in contemporary styles why not try to have something that suits you personally perhaps you will find that these will turn into timeless qualities?


Ilze’s gourmet delights

I wanted some of my clients to tell their own story about their Gembuild office.  Ilze van der Merwe is a chef and a chocolatier and she spoke to journalist  Carol Miers about her bespoke chocolate factory, which we built in September 2011.

Ilze makes her confectionery in two garden buildings, her macaroons now appear from an original hut and her natural chocolates are in a specifically designed factory.

“What Roy Thomas from Gembuild did for me is quite interesting, having a wooden house for the chocolate factory,” Ilze said.

chocolate-makers (1)

“I Googled and I found the Gembuild website by chance. I could not have got a better person than Roy to do the job, I did not shop around as Roy was so knowledgeable about it.”
The factory was later built in four days in the back garden. The idea had come from a friend.

The “beauty of it” was that by keeping the height low, it bypassed the need for planning regulations. As it was a first for Ilze, they went through her requirements.

“Roy does rooms in different lengths and sizes and we discussed this and what kind of flooring I wanted, and having Roman blinds. We also chose a deep commercial sized basin which Roy got for me,” Ilze said

“I could have asked him for anything and he would have said, ‘That is fine, I can sort things for you'”.

“I originally started the little chocolate factory in one room in the back of the garden where I am now just doing macaroons and I am making my chocolates in the room that Roy built.  This factory is from my own home, I live on the premises and at the moment it works.”
machines in the chocolate factory (1)

The stringent requirements for making a food product, as specialist as chocolate, call for a cool ambient temperature and proper housing for stainless steel units, tempering machines and a hot cupboard.

There are also wall racks for sprays and utensils, as well as space for a trolley and all the necessary props.

“I was quite worried about the whole thing about having a space between our neighbour and the unit, about it being made from wood and the low ceiling, because of the heat,” Ilze said.

“But Roy sourced a good powerful air conditioning system for us, that has a fixed 18C temperature which is ideal for me to work in.” the chocolate room (1)

“We deliberately did not want it to be too wide, as I did not want it to disturb the flow of the garden. Now two people can work in it comfortably. 

“It has a separate boiler so it is not connected to the house. I think there is a little generator for the power and I got in an electrician to do that,” Ilse said.

Ilze’s factory gets used daily and everything is set out for her particular needs.

“The room is the right temperature, a cool place to work in. I switch the machinery on until all the chocolate has melted. I tidy up the room and prepare it for the day. I have a trolley in the corner and I put the trays there. We fixed rails on the walls where I hook on the utensils,” Ilze said.

“Then I start. It is messy a bit like working in a potter’s studio.  It is really functional and it does what I wanted it to do.”

As well as this, Ilze enjoys what she does and knows her chocolates are a good product. With only an online outlet, selling chocolates without preservatives is a tough niche market to charm, but having a factory in the garden has helped Ilze to make this possible.

Related articles: Ilze’s chocolate: The  New Factory

Anything less is just a Posh Shed!

We are confident our garden offices and studios are built to the highest standards.

In this blog post I wanted to explain this quality and ensure you arent tempted by the price of a much inferior garden building!


Our walls are 170mm thick and comprise of 100mm thick panel which is filled with fibreglass there is an internal moisture barrier to the inside face and a vapour and reflective outer barrier then a TRADITIONAL cavity ….just like your home ..with an external cladding to suit you …we offer cedar larch or thermoboard all offer 30 year plus lifespans… we also offer traditional barn type 25mm featheredge cladding which is treated and finished in a proprietory which is extremely durable and only needs recoating every five years ..recently we have introduced Cedral which is an eternit product and comes in a range of attractive colours.

As well as giving excellent insulation properties the wall is also a good sound insulator and this why our units make first class music practise studios.. indeed this is why Vervace chose us for their piano practise rooms

You can remove and replace the cladding without affecting the building you cant do that with a 75mm composite panel or a log cabin type building.


Our roofs are our trademark pitched rooves with a barn hip which look absolutely beautiful in any location.

The loft space is insulated with 180mm of fibreglass which keeps the building really warm and there is a choice of roof finishes

Asphalt shingles these will give a 20 year plus life and come in a variety of attractive colours or our newly introduced stunning slate roofs these give 50 year life and come in a range of gorgeous natural colours.

All our 25 roofs are flat but with enough fall to move the water, these roofs are necessary to comply with the 2.5m rule of the permitted development regs. The finish is EPDM or rubber as its better known and this give a life of 20 plus years in fact EPDM roofs have been on Chicago airport for over 50 years and are still going strong.


Our floors are fully suspended and again insulated we can finish in carpet tiles or laminate in a variety of colour and pattern options.

Windows and doors

We use upvc throughout with 20mm double glazed units and all the usual locking refinements you associate with these units.

We offer a variety of colours and sizes.


With our building you can mix and match the windows and doors cladding and roofs together with the internal socket layout to get the perfect building for you all within the standard price.

And remember our units are used as granny annexes and extra bedroom space, they are that good, we can air condition them and include bathrooms and even kitchens!

If you can’t get all these features …then you will just be buying a posh shed