11 Nov 2022

The Future of Self-build Homes

Matt Willemsen, an Associate and Chartered Architectural Technologist at Spatial Future, puts forward his thoughts on the future of self-build homes and explains what we can expect this future to look like.


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Getting your own home

can sometimes be your biggest investment to date. Buying and maintaining a new-build home can be costly, with ongoing maintenance and renovations happening throughout the home’s lifecycle so that it still serves its purpose. People are after a lot more flexibility in their homes; they want to change the size of the rooms, add walk-in wardrobes to the bedrooms or make the downstairs completely open-plan.

Self-build homes are quickly becoming more demanded across the UK, with over 35% of people interested in starting their own self-build project1. The need for homes built with the end user in mind is becoming more saturated among homeowners as more people seek the excitement and flexibility that self-build homes can offer.

What does the future look like for self-build homes?

Self-build homes can be more cost effective to run than most people think. Through the use of MMC (modern methods of construction), self-build homes can be suited for the constantly-changing weather conditions.

Many houses in the UK are poorly insulated, which leads to higher energy and heating bills. Insulation helps maintain an internal temperature. When they’re poorly insulated, they can lead to residents finding it difficult to cool in the summer and heat up during the winter. Self-build homes use MMC, particularly timber frames, to achieve high insulation levels and be more airtight. This means your house can stay warm when needed and cooler during the heat.

Cooling a traditional house down through the use of air conditioning can be a costly investment, especially as they can cost a fortune to heat during the winter and then cool down during the warmer months. This way of living is not economical, and with the rise in energy bills, it could be something that is unobtainable for residents.

Cooling down a house is not cheap to do, and clients are already starting to ask about how they can look to keep their house cool. Many people have never had to think about this before, and it’s something that self-build homes are able to achieve without being extortionate. Self-builds enable residents to have it built into the house at the first stages, which is much more cost effective than fitting aircon into an already-built house.

Besides the ability to keep your house at the right temperature for whatever season it may be, self-build homes encourage the flexibility of your own space. Fewer load-bearing walls grant people the freedom to change the space around them instead of committing to a new-build home that has restrictions.

The shells of self-build homes can be used forever. They carry the lifecycle of a home and create space that is far more adaptable – which makes the modular building style so attractive. Our homes are usually dictated to us. We are given a layout of an already-built home and can only change the interior or choose where we want the location. Self-build homes give you back that freedom and flexibility. You can have a fully-personalised home with your wants, needs and dreams.

The future of self-build homes is built on the foundations of letting your home evolve with you. Whether that be the reason around you, the costs of energy and utilities increasing, or the purpose your home has to serve.

How can we predict what the future looks like?

Most ideas and thoughts regarding the future of self-build homes are not new. Passivhaus builds have been around since the 1960s to ’70s. Timber-style, modular houses are built in countries like Canada and Scandinavia, where their weather can change drastically throughout the seasons. Looking at the homes that are still predominantly being built across the UK shows how behind we truly are.

New-build houses are dominated by a small number of new-build companies. These companies starve creativity and flexibility in the way that we can use our homes, highlighting that many people in this current generation are more interested in having a house that is sustainable, affordable and adaptable with their lifecycles. People are more interested in how flexible and cheaper to run their homes can be, with many clients coming to us now and asking about renewable energy and air-source heat pumps or if they can have solar panels on their roofs. It used to be a case of people wanting the most high-tech systems and appliances in their homes, but now it’s how to make their house as sustainable and economical as possible.

It is the people who are looking to start their own self-build projects that are becoming more open to these types of suggestions. New-build homes are using outdated building methods, which is becoming less and less appealing to homeowners.

The way that self-build homes are being created and designed is becoming a healthier environment for us to live in – if you strip back the house thoroughly, what are you left with? We opt to use materials and processes that will decrease our carbon footprint due to the building methods used, especially as self-build is already better for the environment as you’re building a home that is more energy efficient for you and the environment.

People are beginning to be encouraged by the idea of building their homes, with the percentage increasing over the past years. The freedom and sustainability that a self-build home can grant you is something that more and more people want, especially since self-build homes are designed with people in mind. These homes are more cost effective than buying an already-built home of a similar size and carbon footprint.

Self-build homes are healthier to live in, more affordable and have a high level of flexibility that allows the home to adapt to you and your needs throughout its lifecycle.

Matt Willemsen
is an award-winning Chartered Architectural Technologist and Associate at Spatial Future. Based in Stratford-upon-Avon, he helps lead an integrated team of designers and builders to deliver captivating, affordable, people-focused architecture while continuing his research at the University of Cambridge.

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