Build your own home

 

Tens of thousands of people in the UK have built their own home. It can cost a lot of money, take a lot of time to plan and manage, and require a lot more attention to detail than when buying an existing property, but many find that it is worth it to ensure they live in a home that suits their requirements and tastes. In this post, we tell you a bit about what is involved in building your own home so that you can decide whether or not it is for you.

New build architect london

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Self-build properties now account for nearly ten per cent of all private new-build homes in the UK each year. While ‘self-build’ may conjure images of statement ‘Grand Designs’ properties, most tend to have relatively modest designs. This helps the design to receive planning permission and receive funding from mortgage lenders. Mortgages tend to be ‘interest only’, with the borrower paying interest when money is drawn down at the completion of each stage of the build.

A larger deposit than that for buying an existing home is usually required, and additional early costs include buying the building plot, funding planning applications, as well as employing an architect, project manager and a builder. It is ideal to source the architect and construction team via word of mouth, preferably from others who have gone through the self-build process.

Institutional support and finding a plot

As a rule of thumb, building your own home costs £1,500-£2,000 per square metre, although any changes to the original design and spefication during the construction phase can increase these values. Although initial costs are higher than for buying an existing home, there are tax advantages to building a new home rather than extending your current (or an existing) property: new self-builds qualify for rebates on VAT, for example, with the self-builder able to claim back most of the VAT paid on materials. Although VAT cannot be reclaimed on professionals’ fees, nor on household appliances, the average VAT reclaim for one-off schemes is about £13,200.

The Housing Strategy for England (2011) set out the expectation that the number of self-built properties in England would double, with 100,000 to be completed by 2021. In 2016, several legal measures have facilitated more self and custom builds by placing a duty on councils to allocate land for this purpose. Despite this legislation (the Housing and Planning Act), access to land in London remains an issue, as does gaining planning permission and accessing the required funding.

Demolish and redevelop

While there may be few plots with planning permission available, estate agents tend to know about properties that are suitable for demolition and redevelopment. This is likely to be more expensive than buying land with planning permission (i.e. the value of the building is included and there are also demolition costs), but it tends to be easier to get planning permission via this route.

The most important aspect of a self-build project is staying on budget. This requires a project team that estimates the cost of the build accurately and keeps to this quote. A good project manager is crucial in this regard. If you would like to discuss a new self-build project with us, please get in touch.

What is retrofit?

 

The 2008 Climate Change Act committed the UK to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050 (against the 1990 baseline). The buildings sector accounts for 37% of total UK GHG emissions and, of these emissions, 65% are from the residential sector. With this in mind, there has been growth in the residential retrofit industry, whereby buildings are adapted to become more sustainable and energy-efficient, while in the non-domestic market, retrofit can often be part of a larger refurbishment project. The majority of our existing residential and commercial stock requires some level of retrofit to enable the government’s ambitious emissions targets to be reached. In this post, we look at some of the methods available for retrofit and consider the role of architects in the retrofit of existing buildings.

retrofit living spaces

Making homes more energy-efficient

A study in conducted in 2014 estimated that 40 million houses in the EU would have to be retrofitted by 2020 if the reduction of emissions is to stay on track. In general, retrofitting involves the use of new technologies and materials within the home, to increase energy efficiency. A popular and simple example is improving insulation. A new heating system might also be installed, or double glazing might be fitted. There is also the option to carry out a Passivhaus retrofit. Although it is more difficult to reach the exact requirements of the Passivhaus standard in a retrofit project, the Passivhaus Institut has developed the EnerPHit standard for projects that use the Passivhaus method to reduce fuel bills and heating demand.

High performance buildings

Conserving energy is not the only reason to retrofit a building. Improving indoor environmental quality, reducing dampness and mould will all lead to increased health and productivity levels of the building’s users (read more on our blog about sustainable architecture principles that improve health). A retrofit project also presents the opportunity to reassess the accessibility, safety and security of a building.

The role of the architect

Retrofitting the home to increase energy efficiency can have significant architectural implications for the interior/exterior of houses. Modern architects are well-placed to add creativity and innovation into the drive to retrofit existing housing stock, particularly those that may prove very expensive to retrofit. For example, historic buildings such as Edwardian terraces are protected, and increasing energy efficiency can pose a real challenge. There are exciting options to retain the facade and rebuild the living spaces within the building. Because architects have an overview of the whole build process, they tend to be well-placed to act as a lead co-ordinator in retrofit projects. If you are keen to implement the Passivhaus method, you are likely to need planning permission as the work may require external insulation or changes to the roof, for example. Again, an architect can help with this.

Adding value to your home: extensions

 

Extending your home is something you might do for a variety of reasons. Perhaps your family has grown and you need an extra bedroom, or maybe you want some additional living space, a home office, or a way to bring in more natural light. Whatever the reason, extending your home is likely to add value to the price of your property, as well as make your home a more enjoyable and comfortable place to live. In this post, we look at options for extending your home, what value it might add to your property, and some recent projects of our own that show you the types of things that can be done.

Extension North London

What type of extension?

Extensions tend to range from adding a few square metres to the living area, to multi-room or multi-storey additions. Extensions require planning permission so it can be a good idea to look at what other people have done in the area and consider whether your plans are reasonable and realistic in comparison. It is important to work with an architect and/or builder that is recommended, either by someone you know or through trusted registers such as that held by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). It is sensible to work with an architect who has experience of work that suits your property’s style, as well as a track record of successful planning permission applications.

Will it add value?

In London, property costs around £5,000 to £10,000 per square metre. Outside London, these figures drop to between £900 and £2,000 per square metre. You can take these figures into account when estimating how much value an extension is likely to add to the value of your property. Multiply the area gained by the local price per square metre and then offset the cost of the project against this.

Some examples

We have completed a number of residential extension projects in London. These range from single storey rear extensions, to a three-storey extension and complete internal re-configuration.

To accommodate a growing family in West Finchley (North London), 110 square metres were added to the Cissbury Ring South Garden Rooms were added to allow an open-plan area that created more fluidity between the kitchen/dining and living area, as well as a new den and study.

It can also be an option to renovate and/or extend the basement of a property, which was the case in the Stockwell Garden Room (Lambeth, North London). The house was stripped back at the lower ground level to create a more workable basement that maximised the use of natural light.

Increasing the natural light in a property was also central to the Burrows Road Glazed Envelope project (Kensal Green), in which the existing ground floor was modernised to create more open-plan living space and a bright garden room with a glass roof was added to the kitchen at the rear.