Last edited 04 Dec 2014

Self-build home: Prepare a brief

Self build plan header.jpg


A clear, written brief should be prepared:

  • To help decide what is required.
  • To create a record of what has been agreed.
  • To describe requirements to other people, such as designers.

It can take a considerable time to develop a thorough brief and some self-builders may wish to seek expert advice to help them. However, it is important that the brief is 'owned' by the self builder, reflecting their personal requirements, not those of a consultant.

The brief is not a static document, it will develop as the project progresses and requirements are better understood. However, beyond the concept design stage, the brief should be strictly controlled as subsequent changes will incur increasingly large abortive costs.

Prepare a brief.

In the first instance, the brief should focus on the functions that need to be performed in the building, and should avoid being just a list of accommodation. That is, it should focus on ‘what you want to do’ rather than ‘what rooms you want to build’. This helps keep options open during the design process and avoids leaping to conclusions before requirements have been properly assessed.

The brief might include information about:

  • The overall context for the project, including a description of the self-builder, their lifestyle and aspirations for the project.
  • The budget.
  • The programme and any key dates.
  • The functions that the building will be required to accommodate.
  • The qualities that will be required from the project, and their relative priority.
  • Any comparable facilities that might act as a benchmark.
  • Any specific sizes, relationships or other spatial requirements.
  • Any functions that require privacy, separation or connection.
  • Any particular technical requirements.
  • Specific inclusions and exclusions.
  • Initial assumptions about the likely procurement strategy and organisation of the project (see Develop a delivery strategy for more information).
  • Assumptions about durability, lifespan and maintenance requirements.
  • Internal thermal, ventilation, acoustic and lighting conditions.
  • Requirements for sustainability.

Next stage: Find a plot.

List of all stages.