Self Build Resources: What Research Should I Be Doing?

Allan Corfield Architect, Eco Homes, Magazine Feature, Self Build Leave a Comment

Self Build Research: ‘Knowledge is Power’

This week, we’ve spoken to Brian Singleton, of ADM Systems, as well as Lindsey Davis and Claire Lloyd, from the Editorial Team at Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine, for their views on how valuable research can be for Self Builders.

Embarking on your Self Build journey can be a bit daunting without having the right information behind you. Despite interest in Self Building rapidly growing, not knowing where to find the appropriate facts and figures can throw even the most determined of people off.

At ACA, we’ve worked on a range of great Self Build projects – but with no two clients ever the same, we’ve witnessed some of the best and worst ways clients approach their build. A Self Build project is a big commitment – one that requires a lot of dedication from the individuals involved – so thorough research is fundamental to its success.

When it comes to starting out, knowledge really is power, and we’d like to point prospective Self Builders in the right direction with some really valuable advice and resources. Paying for the following resources could save you a lot of money further down the line. Without an investment in quality information, you could end up making poor decisions, or might miss out on easier, cheaper methods.

Self Build Magazines

With a great selection of Self Build magazines available, subscribing to a couple can be really beneficial. Magazines such as Homebuilding & Renovating cover all bases – from ‘How to…’ articles, to the latest design trends. One of the greatest advantages of a magazine subscription, is the fact that the information is very current; the issues are right up to date.

You’ll find case studies from previous Self Builders – highlighting issues with costs, design, energy-efficiency and planning permission. On top of this, there are lots of tips from professionals across the industry, as well as interviews with some of the most experienced Self Build experts.

Lindsey Davis and Claire Lloyd, from the editorial team at Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine, offered some wise words for our Self Builders:

There’s a widely held misconception that building your own home is going to be very difficult and very expensive. Add to this that planning permission is believed by many to be incredibly hard to gain, and it is a wonder anyone tries to build their own home. However, the truth is that a well-planned Self Build project can run as smoothly as buying an existing home, and by equipping yourself with knowledge of the industry you can navigate any potential problems.

We always advise our readers to do their research — find out how the planning process works; look at homes in the local area to get an idea of what could work; talk to people who have used the professionals you plan to hire; and above all come up with a realistic budget. We have a great build cost calculator, which is handy for calculating how much the house of your dreams will cost to build.

Self Build Research H&R Magazine

Other magazines look in further detail at the Self Build stories across the UK, and can be a great way of finding a design style you like, or the type of plot you might like to find. See below for a selection of the UK’s most popular Self Build magazines:

Self Build Shows

The best value-for-money research you can possibly get is from attending a Self Build show. There are a host of shows to choose from, from Grand Designs Live, Build It Live!, and the Homebuilding & Renovating Show.

ACA have had the pleasure of contributing to the Homebuilding & Renovating Show in the past with live talks, and helping on SIPS Industries’ stand. The biggest of the UK’s Self Build shows, the Homebuilding & Renovating show, kicks off in Birmingham this April, and Lindsey and Claire recommend new Self Builders get themselves a ticket:

“Attending a dedicated Self Build show can be an excellent means of research. Many shows, such as the National Homebuilding & Renovating Show at the NEC, Birmingham, offer an extensive seminar programme, providing an insight into the Self Build process – from financing the build to achieving planning – as well as giving you the opportunity to get your questions answered by independent experts. What’s more, you’ll be able to meet suppliers face-to-face and see products first hand — from windows, insulation to roof tiles and timber frame systems, to kitchens and bathrooms.”

Held across the country – almost every month of the year – there is nothing better than having all of the required professionals under one roof. Whether you need help with planning permission, advice on ventilation, or interior design tips, you’ll find the right expert at one of these Self Build shows.

Brian Singleton – of ventilation experts, ADM Systems – gives a great summary of why you should definitely consider attending the likes of the Homebuilding & Renovating Show:

“ADM have been exhibiting at the Homebuilding & Renovating Shows all over the country for many years. Whether you’re at the very early stages, or if you have had some outline proposals and wish to discuss further, the exhibitions provide an excellent platform to meet up with exhibitors and other professionals.  Expert advice is freely available, together with seminars, workshops and masterclasses. My advice, particularly for the larger shows such as the NEC, is to have a good idea of which products, services, seminars etc. are most important and make them your priority to visit.”

Self Build H&R Show Edinburgh

Many of the shows take place over a weekend, and it’s really worth making the effort to go for the duration. You can spend a day listening to the great talks and seminars, then another speaking to the exhibitors – from kit builders, window suppliers and even Smart Home Automation specialists. The Self Build shows cover all areas in the UK, so have a look through these to find your nearest one:

Self Build Books

With the Self Build industry constantly developing, there are really only a handful of relevant books out there worth considering. The UK’s best selling Self Build guide is Mark Brinkley’s Housebuilder’s Bible, which is now in its eleventh edition. Whether or not this is your first Self Build project, the Bible takes you step-by-step through the Self Build process – highlighting the potential problems, and how to avoid them.

From project management, employing professionals and evaluating land – Brinkley takes the processes familiar to the trades, and makes them familiar to the rookie Self Builder. His style is extremely readable, and all of the information is current – including the Self Build cost tables for calculating a budget. Mark’s expert advice will go a long way over the course of your project – Housebuilder’s Bible is a must read!

Another book comes from the UK’s Self Build Champion, Kevin McCloud. His book, Grand Designs Handbook: The Blueprint for Building Your Own Home, explores beyond the Self Build homes featured on McCloud’s television programme of the same name. This book is packed with answers to the bigger questions about design and architecture, and is a good read for inspiration from one of the UK’s foremost Self Build experts.

Released late 2015, The Self-Builders Guide to Project Management, by Vince Holden, offers practical advice taken from over 40 years of construction experience. This book seeks to highlight the main principles and methods of practical construction project management.

It’s written from the constructor’s point-of-view, and contains a lot of useful advice, which should help familiarise you with construction management fundamentals, and provide you with the everyday knowledge required to manage your Self Build professionally. The Self-Builders Guide to Project Management explains the process stage by stage, and can really help you keep your dream home on track.

One of the trickier parts for prospective Self Builders, is getting to grips with the UK Planning Regulations. Many have tried and many have failed with attempts to acquire Planning Permission – however – Roy Speer and Mike Dade can help ensure that your dreams of Self Build success aren’t destroyed at the design stage.

Complete Planning Permission: How To Get It; Stop It or Alter It is a great step-by-step guide to the entire application process, and teaches you the best strategies for ensuring your Self Build gets up and running. Planning Permission is a difficult and sometimes controversial topic, but this comprehensive guide will see that you teach yourself the ins and outs of planning law, and get your project underway.

Interested In Self Building?

Learn more about developing a Self Build!

 Download ACA’s ‘Introduction to Self Build’ eBook!

Self Build Seminars

ACA contribute to Self Build Seminars hosted by our friends at SIPS Industries. These are all-day seminars held at the SIPS factory in Dalgety Bay, Fife. The seminars are absolutely free, and they offer a great opportunity to consult our architects, engineers, builders and ventilation experts. Brian represents ADM Systems at these seminars, and also recommends that prospective Self Builders take advantage of the great services on offer:

“ADM are also involved in the popular One-Day Self Build Seminars, hosted by SIPS Industries. The seminars give a great insight into a range of topics such as Costs, Designs, Structure, Thermal Strategy and Project Management. The delegates also get an opportunity to discuss their individual projects with the seminar team and their fellow Self Builders.

The information is targeted to give sufficient overview of all the subjects, but with enough detail for Self Builders to make informed choices on how to take their project forward. The unique, holistic approach offers the Self Builder a not-to-be-missed opportunity to learn about some of the key elements in the build process.”

Self Build Seminar

A typical seminar covers the following elements:

  • Cost vs Design
  • Project Management
  • Cost Plans
  • Thermal Strategy – Windows, Vent Systems, Doors, Sap Calc, Detailing
  • Structural Strategy – Engineering Problem in Design, Structural Solutions, Engineering
  • Working with Contractors -Groundworkers, Scaffolders, Kit Suppliers, Roofer, Plumber, Electrician, Joiner, Finish

Having a good network of fellow Self Builders can be really beneficial to your project – you can share ideas and experiences, and get an idea of what timescales to expect. Allan, director here at ACA, encourages Self Builders to make these contacts, and start researching as early as possible:

Researching everything in your Self Build project is key; you as the Self Builder must take the project lead. This is, after all, your home you are building – so no one else will care as much as you do. Going to seminars, researching online, and surrounding yourself with the right people will be invaluable to the success of your Self Build.

Making sure you obtain recent testimonials on everyone you propose to work with, will ensure you get the right people in your team. Also, make sure you enquire about the times when things went wrong; finding out how problems were dealt with is often the most important of details. Challenges will arise – no matter how well you plan your Self Build!

Our special thanks go to Lindsey and Claire from Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine, and Brian from ADM Systems, for their contribution to our blog!

If you would like more information on the resources above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact button, or alternatively leave your queries in the comments section below.

If you would like to sign up for a Self Build Seminar with SIPS Industries, featuring AC Architects and ADM Systems, click here to register your interest. For those of you interested in attending the Homebuilding & Renovating Show in Birmingham from the 14-17 April – contact ACA for an e-code for 2 free tickets!

Contact ACA

Looking for more information on the fantastic resources available for researching your project? Get in touch with ACA today!

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