Self-Build Houses: Create A Dream Green Home

It is easy to see the joy of building a house from scratch, one that is designed around the needs and wants of the owner. Such projects have tended to be the preserve of modernist architects, or the very rich who have been able to commission them. However, over the past decade, many more people have taken the plunge and bought land on which to create their dream home.

Barbie Dream House

The UK television programme Grand Designs, presented by architect and designer Kevin McCloud, has done a great deal to inspire people to build-their-own, while the Grand Designs Live exhibitions (held twice a year, in London and in Birmingham) have allowed thousands of people to meet the companies that make the materials needed for a self-build.

Find a Plot of Land

Clearly, budget is everything and the most expensive element of a self-build is buying the land for a house. In cities it can extremely hard to find a suitable plot and in capital cities it may seem nigh-on impossible, not only because land is scarce but because land values are exorbitant. However, in more rural areas, land is not so costly, making self-builds a viable proposition. There are companies that specialize in finding land plots for residential buildings, which can be found on internet searches.

To do a self-build, once the plot is purchased, planning permission must be applied for, and to obtain this, architect plans need to be submitted to the planning authority. So before committing to buy a plot of land, do check with the local authority that there is a strong likelihood that planning permission will be granted.

Financing a Self-Build

Self-builders also need to consider early on how they will finance their project. Most high street lenders will not give mortgages for self-build projects, however there are specialist companies that arrange self-build mortgages. A well-established firm is One Self Build, which has offices in Glasgow and London. Mary Riley of One Self Build says people building their own homes need to do very careful planning before they go anywhere near a brick or bag of cement, and she stresses the need for rigorous project management and expenditure control.

Self-build homes can be very modest in size, so people should not think that they will need a million pounds to make it happen. The average cost of building an average house in the UK is around £60,000, then add on labour costs, architect fees and the cost of the land to get a very rough starting figure.

Hire an Architect or Choose A Modular House

So, to the exciting part. How will the house look? Self builders can either commission an architect, who will talk to them at length about the style of house they want. For example, they may want a house with lots of glass walls, or they may want one made predominantly of wood. They can specify if they want it to be built with eco materials such as straw bales. The possibilities are endless. To find an architect, consult RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) or the Architectural Association (AA).

Or a self-builder may want to go down the European route and commission a ‘kit’ or modular home. The most respected manufacturers of modular houses are German pioneers Huf Haus and Baufritz, which produce wonderful modern houses that tend to feature a lot of glass. These companies are doing very well in the UK, and they are a great choice for people who have fairly large plots of land and who want a very eco-friendly house. Indeed Baufritz is recognized as Germany’s most sustainable building company.

Clients can choose from a range of styles, that will be modified to fit their plot and their needs. The many component parts of these houses are manufacturerd at the companies’ plants in Germany. They are then transported to their destination and assembled on-site, usually in around five days. Prices vary, but the starting price for a Huf Haus is around £300,000. That does not include the price of the land. Another leading manufacturer is Weber Haus, which to date has built 29,000 modular homes around the world and is also extremely green in its choice of materials and manufacturing techniques.

In the UK, Carpenter Oak is a Devon-based company that specializes in building modern oak-framed houses. Styles can be modified to the client’s specifications.

Smaller Eco Home Options

For people who live on their own or in a couple, who haven’t got a large budget, and who want to live in an extremely eco-friendly home, why not look at the endearing mini eco-homes produced by UK company Eco Hab. These dome-shaped two-storey houses can achieve a zero-carbon rating by using micro-renewable technology. They can be clad in sustainable wooden shingles or tiles made from recycled car tyres. Prices start at around £5,000 and go up to £70,000.

Eco-friendly log houses are another option for holiday lets, granny annexes, garden rooms/garden office. The Log House Company is a leading constructor of such structures, using local renewable sources.

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