14 Aug 2014

Self-build choices unfolded!

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There are many facets to self-build, and following on from his Viewpoint on Project Management in the last issue, Adrian Hateley of the National Self Build & Renovation Centre explains some of the self-build options available today that you might not be aware of and how you have the choice to do as much or as little as you desire!

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In my role here as technical advisor, I am very aware that there is still a belief with some people that self-build is going to be an intensive, complicated, error-prone and maybe even physically demanding process from project conception through to build completion; an aspiration for many but a possibility for only a limited few. The reality is that this couldn’t be further from the truth!

Of course, you may wish to fully experience the whole hands-on self-build journey, which is certainly an option, but if you are concerned about project practicalities – managing, getting services to site, hiring architects or designers, organising contractors and tradespeople – or indeed are limited with time-constraints, resources or locality, a full or partial build packaged service could provide you with the ideal solution.

Finding the right plot of land has often been a bridge too far for many people, but now thanks to Government support and numerous initiatives, you now have more and more choice and opportunity to choose what, where and how you build!

We are now seeing a number of multi-plot sites being bought to market; where the roads, utilities and services have already been constructed, and planning permission is already in place for the site overall – allowing the self-builder to customise the design and specification of their new home within an overarching design code – often with close support from a design company and project manager.

Full or partial build?

Over the past few years, I have seen a significant increase in the number of companies here at the Centre offering bespoke build packages for the self-builder. Of course, you still have the task of sourcing your desired plot, obtaining planning permissions (although some companies offer this service as part of their design package too) and, if required, finance but from there you have the choice to do as much or as little as you want.

Self-build can be daunting and challenging, especially if you are looking at achieving high standards of insulation and air tightness. But help is on hand from companies such as Potton, that not only offer ‘foundation to roof’ solutions which includes design and project management services, but its Kingspan TEK SIPs Building System ensure air leakage is minimised and the system is not compromised by repeating studwork.

Unsurprisingly, due to their thermal performance properties, speed, quality, flexibility and ease of on-site erection, timber frame ‘kits’ are popular for those embarking on a self-build project. For example, having initially met with Fleming Homes here at their NSBRC offices, then sourced land, contracted groundworks, installed services and laid foundations, Mr and Mrs Fairley from West Wittering took delivery of their four-bedroom home which was erected on-site, windows site-fixed and made watertight by Fleming within two weeks ready for fixtures and fittings. Naturally timescales are all dependant on the design and complexity of the build, but it is possible to receive a watertight structure within a week.

Alternatively, companies such as Revolution Homes offer a complete turnkey solution using build materials of your choice and budget such as thin joint modern masonry blockwork through to the latest in ICF.

So what about custom-build?

The term custom-build is synonymous with self-build but it tends to describe multi-plot sites being delivered to market with overarching planning permission in place; and with an ‘enabling developer’ who constructs the sites infrastructure – roads, gas, water, electricity, mains drainage, etc. – and delivers a number of serviced plots for sale.

There’s a lot of support from national and local government for this model of new housing deliver, and it’s seen as a way to deliver up to 50,000 new homes a year within five years, so expect to see a lot more sites springing up all over the country with the added support of local councils specifically making available land for custom build development.

To help the custom-builder, many schemes will offer a menu of custom-build options, from providing a serviced building plot to a full or partial packaged build.

There are a number of specialist custom-build developers active in the UK, ranging from large nationwide companies that are planning to help hundreds of people to get the custom-build homes they want every year, through to smaller local firms delivering just a handful of properties each year, and it’s a sector I would expect many more developers to become involved with.

BuildStore, through its Custom Build Homes division has recently announced the French Fields Custom Build opportunity. Nestled in the Bold Forest Park greenbelt, the site comprises 18 individual building plots, with guide prices ranging between £135,000 and £150,000. As the lead developer for the project, Potton Homes will provide design, planning and structural packages to your individual specification. The expectation is that a typical four-bedroom house could be completed from just £285,000 in total – on the basis of £135,000 for the plot and £150,000 in construction costs.

We’ve also seen the announcement of 1000+ self-build/custom-build plots at the UK’s first large scale project of its type at Graven Hill, Bicester; and also a joint partnership between Swindon Borough Council and BuildStore to provide an initial 12 plots at Windmill Green, West Swindon and many others across the country, details of which can be found on www.selfbuildportal.org.uk.

At the time of writing, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has also announced up to 120 serviced plots, to be made available early next year at Trumpet Junction, Basingstoke.

So, if you’re interested in the opportunity of undertaking a custom-build project, the first thing you should do is register your interest with the Custom Build Register www.custombuildregister.co.uk. Used by local authorities, councils, private landowners and developers across the UK to ascertain demand, you will be notified of opportunities as soon as they become available in your selected area. National Planning Policy now states that councils must measure the level of demand for self-build in the area and make a provision for it. You are also more likely to build the home of your dreams in an area of your choosing.

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