The Self Build Self Help Site The Build Process

To help you in the first steps for your self build home, we have covered the build process in 2 sections here:-

  1. planning and associated pre-build activities
  2. an outline of the build process itself - with an associated picture gallery
There is obviously an overall logical order in which a house is built, and we have shown the main steps in the outline process with a picture gallery to whet your appetite before coming back here to get an insight into the planning activities involved.

More information can be found on the Communities and Local Government - Planning, building and the environment site.

Planning and Associated Pre-build Activities

Getting an Architect

Getting a good architect is key - you will need someone who has both good design ideas as well as a good grasp of the current Building Regulations - which are being updated all the time. The RIBA site guide Use an architect provides guidance on using an architect.

For self builders you can try designing yourself - you will need a software tool that is inexpensive and easy to learn. No matter what stage you are at in your self build project, Visual Building will be an asset to you. From initial design, to interior design and finally landscaping. Visual Building

Adapting home architecture to cope with climate change

As our climate changes and homeowners become more concerned about energy efficiency and the cost of energy, the style of houses is changing in order to adapt to the new conditions. How a home is constructed and the materials used can affect a number of areas linked to climate change. When you are designing and building your own home, it is the perfect opportunity to create a sustainable and energy efficient property. Read more.

Getting a Plot

There are a number of plot finder web sites (we've put them together in Useful Links - Plot Search Sites) and some monthly magazines have extensive lists.

One thing to consider is that there seems to be more plots which are on sloping sites - as people are looking for more opportunities to sell their land. There is nothing wrong with this but be aware of the costs involved. There may be a lot of digging out involved, perhaps with the need for retaining walls and there will obviously be associated costs. Ask your architect to give you an idea of the costs for this type of work.

Unless you are you sure that there are no services crossing the land, you should get a survey carried out to detect them before you start any excavations. Telltale signs of the possibility of services include:

Note. You will get some paperwork from utility companies when you apply for supply of electricity, gas etc., which will identify their services, perhaps crossing your land - you will need to determine whether you can rely on these to allow you to pinpoint them before you dig and decide whether it is prudent to still get a survey.

And don't forget, the occurrence of trees and the type of soil may have an impact on the build so, again involve your architect or a surveyor.

Planning Permission

Local Authority Planning Permission

Normally, land is bought with at least Outline Planning Permission (OPP), and sometimes with Full Planning Permission. It is dangerous to buy land without at least OPP or with an almost cast iron certainty that planning permission will be granted - discussion with the local planning office is a must if you have a plot in mind without any permission. Some of your questions at this stage may be answered by the FAQ page on the Roger Stephens (Architectural services) web site .

Your architect will know what is required in order to make a planning application and will probably know the people in the Local Authority planning office. It is a good idea to let the architect submit the planning application on your behalf.

Although your architect may be submitting your application it is a good idea to also contact the planners in order to build a rapport with them. Find your local planning office at the Local Planning Office website This site provides you with information on all aspects of planning and building control, including building regulations, listings of Council Planning Offices and local relevant services and suppliers.

Firstly, ask the planners for a design guide, which provides some planning constrictions, usually to maintain a build in keeping with a local traditional style. You will need to discuss your ideas for the build with your architect who will produce outline floor plans and elevation drawings for further discussion. Once these plans are refined to your satisfaction, the architect will submit them to the local planning office. If you are thinking of adding a conservatory later, then include it in the first planning submission - doing it later will need a further planning request and further fees for both planning and building regs.

If you wish to try some design for your self then consider purchasing some design software - such as Eleco's ARCON 3D Architect software. This is a powerful 2D/3D CAD suite for architects and building professionals but has also been . specially adapted for use by self-builders and home DIY enthusiasts to help them visualise and communicate their interior and exterior design ideas in an interactive 3D environment.

The Directgov sites Planning Permission - for England & Wales and Planning Permission (Scotland) provides some useful information.

If you need to chase progress on your submission then its best if you do this rather than your architect who will have many other projects on his plate.

Once the planning office has agreed your application, the architect will produce plans in order to apply for Detailed Planning Permission (DPP). He will prepare, typically, the following plans:

  1. A Location Plan at 1:1250 or 1:2500 with the site outlined in red
  2. A Site Plan at 1:500 or 1:200 showing the building in relation to site boundaries and any other buildings within the site
  3. Elevation Plans at 1:100 or 1:50 showing how the building will look
  4. Floor Plans at 1:100 or 1:50 showing the proposed floor plan of each story of the building
The details of your application will be displayed on a Planning Register that is publicly accessible, and a notice posted at the site. Any neighbours of the site will also be contacted and informed where they can see the details of your proposed building.