Q: What do you believe is the biggest challenges for self-builders today?
A: Construction methods and construction technology is becoming more and more complex, especially when one considers heating and cooling systems. Self-builders will need to understand all aspects of their build and this can be a challenge if a self-builder is inexperienced or lacks practical skills, so my advice is to keep things simple.
Q: What advice would you give to those considering a self-build project?
A: Not to rush into construction and spend as much time as possible on pre-construction planning. More time planning the construction programme and planning coordination of all the construction elements and sub-contractors before the building work starts will pay dividends later. It will make the construction process smoother, more organised, efficient, cheaper and ultimately quicker. Success or failure can often be set at this stage.
Q: What qualities should self-builders look for in an architect?
A:The architect they choose needs to be creative and practical in equal measure. The architect needs to think very carefully about buildability and to assume that the details designed might be undertaken by someone with a lower skill level than they are used to. Architects’ details very often are complex and need planning and sequencing to get them right, that needs to be avoided on a self-build project.
Q: What do you believe has been the biggest innovation in the self-build market?
A: The development of prefabricated construction such as timber framed systems, which can be manufactured off-site, are structurally self-supporting and are often insulated. As long as care is taken at the ordering stage, these systems can take a lot of the slog out of the process and speed construction.
Q: What has been your most notable self-build project to date?
A: A self-build modern rural dwelling in the green belt on the outskirts of Bath. This was undertaken with local architectural practice Designscape and a very enlightened and skilled client.
Q: In your view, what is a common misconception held by self-builders?
A:The amount of grit and effort needed to see a building process through. It can often be a challenge, even for a seasoned professional, but determination can be a powerful thing. There is not one aspect of the self-build process that can’t be navigated with the right design and detailing and the right sub-contractors and suppliers engaged. I can’t say it enough – spend time pre-construction on planning, research and thoroughly understanding the build.
Q: Over the last few years, have you identified any trends in the self-build industry?
A: The emergence of off-site timber framed structures and structurally-insulated pane systems and the positive impact this is having on possibilities for self-build projects.
Q: Are you inclined to build your own home? If so, what would be on your wish list?
A: Absolutely, although I spend so much time looking after clients’ projects I am not sure when I would get the time! If I were to build my own home, it would be designed with the path of the sun very much in mind, it would need very little to heat and the outside garden spaces would be very much connected to each of the interior rooms.
Q: Can you recommend any suppliers or manufacturers that add the ‘wow’ factor to a project?
A: The structurally-insulated panel system called the TEK system by Kingspan is pretty fantastic as a building system. I also like the Siberian larch cladding by Russwood and glazing by Olsen – the quality is great.
Q: What tips would you offer to self-builders when it comes to budgeting?
A: Be thorough, very thorough! Tenacity and thoroughness through the cost planning and tendering process is critical, to get not only the best prices, but also to find the right suppliers and sub-contractors for your project.