Last edited 08 Dec 2014

Self-build home: Prepare a concept design

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In this stage, we attribute design activities to ‘designers’. These may be architects and engineers, a design and build contractor, or a kit house supplier. If a kit house supplier is only supplying the house itself, additional design consultants may be required.

Concept design is the first design stage. Some designers will differentiate between 'concept design' and 'scheme design'. In this case, the 'concept' is the initial design idea (or outline design), whereas the 'scheme' develops the concept, taking on board more functional and practical considerations.

It may be necessary for designers to undertake site surveys and other site appraisals before starting the concept design, for example, digging trial pits before designing foundations.

Design is an iterative and collaborative process, it requires close involvement of all those with an interest in the completed home. This is important not only to ensure a suitable design is developed, but also to make certain that everyone has ‘bought into’ the design and it is not just one person’s vision.

Developing the brief.

It is likely that the project brief will continue to develop as the concept design is prepared. It is important that these developing requirements are written down so there is a record of what has been agreed. Development of the brief might include:

  • Preferred style and materials.
  • Requirement for spaces to be open plan or enclosed.
  • Ability to operate parts of the building separately (for example an office, children’s areas or guest rooms).
  • Sound insulation and sound absorption requirements.
  • Provision of en-suite or shared bathrooms, dressing rooms and so on.
  • Accessibility requirements for people with disabilities or impaired mobility.
  • Access to and views of gardens and the surrounding landscape.
  • Entry spaces and reception spaces.
  • Fireplaces, wood burning stoves and so on.
  • Hard v soft floor coverings.
  • Security, intruder alarms, cctv, door and gate entry systems and post facilities.
  • Audio visual, ICT, entertainment and other equipment requirements.
  • Specialist requirements for finishes, fixtures and fittings.
  • Orientation in relation to the sun, prevailing winds and views.
  • Natural lighting.
  • Artificial lighting (general and feature) and controls.
  • Comfort conditions (radiant temperature, air temperature, natural and mechanical ventilation and so on).
  • Storage requirements and utility rooms.
  • Internal and external waste storage and collection.
  • The possibility of including enabling works for future extensions.
  • Galleries and balconies.
  • External landscaping such as; planting, seating areas, drainage, sprinklers and taps, lighting and power, paths, screens, fences, walls, shading and so on.

Developing the concept design.

The concept design should develop to include:

This information should be co-ordinated and issued at the end of the stage for comment or approval before the project proceeds to detailed design or a planning application is submitted.

The brief should be frozen at the end of the concept design stage and any subsequent changes that materially alter the cost should be carefully considered by the self builder for approval or rejection.

Next stage: Submit a planning application.

List of all stages.