Have a look at out free project plan for self-build homes.
Self building is an alternative to the traditional model of house building in the UK. Traditionally, houses are built speculatively by a developer, and then people buy them and move in. With self building, the prospective home owner instigates the development of the home themselves, whether by purchasing a kit house, employing a design and build contractor, employing consultants (such as an architect) and a contractor, or managing the entire process and ordering all the goods and services required themselves. Self building does not necessarily mean that the physical construction is undertaken by the home owner.
The Self Build Portal suggests describes a number of different routes by which the home owner can instigate the development of the home:
- The home owner manages the design and construction.
- The home owner manages the design, then appoints a contractor.
- Purchasing a kit home.
- The home owner works with others to acquire a site and manage the design and construction.
- A social landlord or the Community Self Build Agency works with the home owners to acquire a site and manage the design and construction.
- The home owner works with a developer (this is sometimes described as custom building rather than self building, see Custom-build homes for more information).
- A developer organises a group and builds the homes, which may be finished by the self builders.
A 2012 Build It survey revealed that:
- 35% of self builders acted as a project manager, managing the contractors themselves, and carried out 25% or more of the work themselves.
- 17% acted as project manager but carried out less than 25% of the work themselves.
- 13% acted as a project manager but carried out the decoration themselves.
- 15% employed a general contractor to carry out all the work.
- 4% employed a contractor on a turnkey contract for design and build.
In theory, self building can result in lower costs and a home that is more suited to the occupants personal needs and preferences. However, the process is very complicated and is extremely time consuming and the risks can be high. As a consequence, projects can get out of control, with costs increasing, quality reducing and programmes slipping.
 Collaborative projects
Self-build projects can be undertaken collaboratively or may be undertaken alone
Collaboration has the advantages of:
- Greater influence over the local planning authority.
- Greater buying power.
- Lower cost land than might be possible for a single plot.
- Favourable terms for finance.
- Shared infrastructure costs.
Proceeding alone has the advantages of:
- The potential for greater privacy.
- It may be simpler to find a single plot than a larger site.
- The potential for developing more individual character.
- The potential for higher investment value when completed.
At the moment, self building only accounts for around 10% of new homes built every year. This compares very unfavourably with other EU countries. In Austria for example, more than 80% of new homes are self built.
- Increasing the availability of mortgages for self builders.
- Reducing red tape.
- Creating the self-build portal.
- Providing short-term financing.
- Increasing the availability of land for self builders.
- Giving exemption from the community infrastructure levy.
- Council tax discounts.
- The Community Right to Reclaim Land.
See Self-build initiative for more information.
There remain concerns however about whether self builders will be able to navigate their way through the legal and legislative complexities of building design and development. Particularly difficult issues include:
- Finding, assessing and acquiring a site.
- Preparing a brief.
- Agreeing fees contracts and warranties.
- Managing consultants and contractors.
- Cost control.
- Planning permission.
- Building regulations.
- Health and safety and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM Regulations).
Because of the complexity of these issues, a number of resources have been developed to help self builders:
- Association of Self-Build Architects (asba).
- Build It.
- Build Store.
- Flight Homes 5 Self-build steps.
- Homebuilding and renovating.
- Jewson Self-Build Pack.
- National Self Build Association
- Plot browser.
- Self-build and design.
- Selfbuild Central. Green information for the self builder
- Self-build forum.
- Self-Build Portal
- The self-build guide.
Self builders will still generally find that they need professional help during the course of a project, this may include; a project manager, an architect, engineers, lawyers, financial adivsers, health and safety advisers and so on.
 Other matters
The previous, 2007 version of the CDM Regulations exempted domestic clients from most CDM obligations. The 2015 CDM Regulations removed this exemption, but transferred the client’s obligations to the contractor on a single contractor project or to the principal contractor on a project involving more than one contractor. Alternatively, domestic clients can choose to have a written agreement with the principal designer to carry out the client’s duties.
If domestic clients on projects involving more than one contractor fail to appoint a principal contractor and principal designer, those duties will fall to the designer and contractor in control of the pre-construction and construction phases.
Part 4 of the Regulations sets out a number of additional requirements for work carried out on a construction site that contractors must comply with. However, a domestic client who controls the way in which any construction work is carried out must also comply with these requirements where they relate to matters within the client’s control.
See CDM for self-builders and domestic clients for more information.
Self-build homes and the conversion of non-residential buildings into dwellings may qualify to reclaim the VAT paid on eligible building materials and services. See VAT refunds on self-build homes for more information.
From 1 April 2016, local authorities will be required to keep a register of aspiring self and custom house builders when planning for future housing and land use. See Self build and custom housebuilding registers.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building an extension.
- Building regulations.
- CDM for self-builders and domestic clients.
- Community infrastructure levy.
- Community right to build.
- Custom-build homes.
- Kit house.
- Localism Act.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- Neighbourhood planning.
- Open source architectural plans for modular buildings.
- Planning permission.
- Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill 2014-15.
- Self build and custom housebuilding registers.
- Self-build home project plan.
- Self-build homes negotiating discounts.
- Self-build initiative.
- Serviced plot.
- Statutory permissions.
- Right to build.
- VAT refunds on self-build homes.
 External references
Featured articles and news
With a new government consultation underway, ICE look at creating a smarter, more flexible energy system.
International Ethics Standards Coalition publishes first set of ethics principles for built environment professionals.
British Antarctic Survey announces research station is to relocate 23km due to growing crack in the ice shelf.
A great example of mimetic architecture with the Fish Building of India.
Could e-bikes be a solution to congested and polluted urban centres?
Government publishes details of £500bn investment pipeline in infrastructure, described as the 'most comprehensive ever'.
Top of new skyscraper trimmed down by 30m to avoid interfering with City Airport flights.
A new concept unveiled to tackle the lack of sports facilities in inner cities.
'Open hand' designs revealed for a new entertainment complex in China.
Modernist architecture and its many international variations explained.
Work set to begin on 'one of America's greatest parks', which will be 10 times bigger than Central Park.
One of our most popular articles - RSHP's Mike Davies writes about the concept design process.