01 Nov 2017

How to design and build your own multi-generational home


The re-emergence of ‘multi-generational’ living is one of the most significant growing trends in the UK, seeing a 46% increase in the last decade. With the staggering rise in house prices leading to ‘generation rent’, alongside crippling elderly care fees, families all across the UK are electing to club together to create homes combined families can enjoy together, writes Oliver Grimshaw, Head of UK Sales at prefabrication specialist Hanse Haus UK.

This is nothing new. Germany has championed multi-generational living for quite some time, seeing it as a way to support society by offering companionship and preventing loneliness of the elderly, as well as free child support for working parents.

More than 1.8 million households in Britain contain two or more adult generations yet most homes coming to the market continue to be built to a traditional family home layout. Because of this, more UK families are now turning to building their own ‘multi-generational’ home. Here are our top tips to consider when designing and building yours.

Family planning

First things first; it’s essential to get all the family involved together to lay out a watertight plan. Communication is key; talk through all of the potential options, such as whether to create an extension, build additional outbuildings, make use of attic or basement space or all living under one roof is the way forward.

It’s important to plan something everyone can enjoy, from grandparents to temperamental teens. Steep spiral staircases may not suit the elderly generation and shared bedrooms may cause arguments for the young ones further down the line. Be prepared to compromise. Whittle down your wants and needs, the space required to achieve this and the likely funds involved. It’s only then you’ll have a better idea of the plot size you’ll need to look for and the budget involved.

Meet with the experts

Whether you’re design-orientated with a well-developed set of ideas on what you want, or a relative newbie to the thought process, the engagement of an architect or other design professional is a must. They will help frame your ideas into an optimised home. After a thorough briefing process, a good designer will intimately understand your goals and be able to share a multitude of ideas they’ve seen work in practice and, when designing for so many family stakeholders, an architect can be an effective arbiter of competing agendas.

Added to this is the ability of architects to visualise 3D spaces and knowledge of planning policy and Building Regulations; skills which are central to the execution of high-quality, practical architecture.

In my experience, when a client goes it completely alone, the project ends up invariably more expensive, more time-consuming and less wonderful than it could have been. So either let your architect lead by having them produce the first sketches themselves, or follow by having them redraft yours, but don’t underestimate the benefits that training and experience can bring to a design.


Create space

With lots of bodies potentially under one roof, designing and building a new home that has space is essential. Open-plan living offers functional, light and versatile, multi-use spaces. Barrier-free environments can have many uses over time and are easily evolved, depending on what your needs are. Kitchen-diners offer a family-orientated space or ‘social hub’, but also offer ease of movement for the older generation.

While open-plan living can come with many benefits, try to incorporate individual private spaces for a little peace and quiet in a busy home. Semi-open-plan design offers more individuality and the option to change functions of any given space. Having the ability to sub-divide and reconnect rooms as and when you require them could prove incredibly useful over time.


With more people living under one roof, inevitably you’ll see higher bottom line energy bills. It’s worth investing early on in sustainable technology, which can help reduce costs in the long run and ‘future-proof’ your home. Although building to high-efficiency specifications can increase upfront costs, over the medium and long term, rewards can be considerable both in savings in energy expenses and overall property value if you decide to sell.

Making smart choices on construction methods, materials, structure and positioning, as well as incorporating renewable technologies – such as solar panels and heat pumps – can not only lead to a home being more efficient, more comfortable and healthier to live in, it can also be looked at favourably by planners and offer better chances of having a preferred design approved.


Why choose prefab?

Prefab homes are becoming vastly more popular and could be the answer to all our problems. It is a common misconception that a prefab home is the same as a mobile home, but in reality, a prefab, or modular, home has solid foundations just like a traditionally-constructed house.

Whilst prefab homes are solidly built, the construction process is speedy, meaning a quicker and easier construction of your dream home. WeberHaus, a leading German prefab home-builder, offers high-quality, eco-friendly prefab homes that are truly bespoke. There are numerous reasons to choose prefab:


A prefabricated house can provide better value than traditional construction and, if you select a quality provider, your home will be of a higher quality than a traditionally-constructed house, encompassing cost-effective energy efficiency. WeberHaus builds houses with a millimetre tolerance in high-tech production sites to ensure the highest possible quality.


Prefabs are renowned for having lower carbon footprints and therefore better energy bills. If you are an eco-warrior then you will relish in the abundance of eco options that WeberHaus has to offer. All WeberHaus homes offer minimum standard eco-features, including triple-glazed windows, which also boost security with mushroom pins and nine-point door lock systems as standard, thermal insulation and heat-recovery ventilation.

Time-efficiency is a huge positive for prefabs vs traditional construction. WeberHaus uses a closed-panel timber frame, constructed in its state-of-the-art factory by a skilled team. Each crucial layer of the highly-insulated, breathable timber frame wall is executed, with plumbing, doors and triple-glazed windows all fitted in the factory. Your home is then transported to site, and erected to be wind- and waterproof in just three days.


The amazing thing about prefabs is that you can produce striking and innovative designs exactly as you envisaged them. If you have conservation requirements and need your home to fit with external aesthetics then this isn’t a problem. With WeberHaus you can design how you want your house to look; whether that’s a thatched cottage, red brick exterior or rendered finish, nothing is too big a challenge for WeberHaus. Later renovations are easily implemented, from adding a socket without opening a whole wall, to creating a new doorway without heavy work.




Adapting to the change

Here Steve Mansour, Chief Executive Officer at CRL, looks at the rise of prefabricated homes within the UK.

Recently, more and more homebuyers are looking at unconventional options for new builds, including prefabricated houses, in an effort to get on the housing ladder. As the housing crisis continues, the industry must look at the needs of today’s homeowner (and future homeowners) to find the best way to address the issue.

Whilst alternative builds of this type are only in their infancy, it’s understandable why homebuyers might opt for this type of home due to the lower price tag and quicker build time. Quicker build times also result in lower labour costs and, as they are factory-built, allow for year-round construction. The key programming used in prefabricated and modular construction means that developments should comply with Building Regulations and provide greater quality assurance to the homeowner. Overall, the quality control, factory sealing and design of prefabricated homes can ensure high energy efficiency. However, unlike the traditional bricks and mortar homes, it isn’t entirely known how long these will be habitable for.

With recent reports suggesting that existing houses must last at least 2000 years, the industry is clearly nervous about embracing such new methods of construction. Doing things differently requires a new mentality and a bolstered skillset amongst an already established workforce, which can be difficult to change when builders have been using the same methods for decades.

As the industry adjusts and consumer needs heighten, those within it need to change too, to ensure they are meeting the requirements of potential homeowners and discussing the ongoing housing issue. We have seen this first hand, having to adapt our approach to arranging construction insurance and warranties to ensure that these alternative builds have the necessary regulations in place, specific to their requirements.


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