LAST UPDATED: 3rd January 2023 by The Editorial Team
Summary: Do I need an architect for a self build and what should I consider when designing a self build house.
Considerations and constraints when designing a self build
Designing a new self build house is an exciting process that requires careful planning and consideration. When self building there are a number of constraints on your design, these are:
It’s important to set a budget for your project and to be realistic about what you can afford. Make sure to include all costs, including materials, labour, and any fees or permits. Different designs will result in different building costs for a given amount of space. In general terms, the cheapest way to build a house is to copy the mass market developers with their simple brick and block houses.
Plot and location
Your design needs to complement your plot, in the practical, visual and planning sense. For example, certain designs will work well on a slope, while others won’t. How does the angle of the plot, and any large trees, impact the light available etc. Furthermore, in many areas, and particularly in conservation areas, your design will probably have to visually blend in with existing properties. Therefore if you are planning a futuristic design, make sure that this will be allowed before you buy the plot.
Size and layout
Consider the size and layout of your new home based on the needs of your family and the way you envision using the space, including how the layout will flow. Think about the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and common areas you will need. Do you want an open plan or do you prefer quiet spaces?
Off-the-shelf vs unique
If you want an off-the-shelf package, such as those provided by timber frame and steel frame house kit manufacturers, be aware that this will place limitations, perhaps severe, on your design options.
Style and aesthetics
There is an infinite number of design possibilities for a house. But you will need to narrow this down to at least some basic concepts based on how you wish to live in your house. Your architect will need to know what you are looking for in your new house. Consider the style and aesthetics of your new home. Will it be a traditional or modern design? What materials will you use for the exterior and interior?
Energy efficiency and safety
Think about ways to make your new home energy efficient, such as using energy-efficient appliances and windows, and incorporating sustainable design elements. You will also need to meet modern regs, this includes incorporating safety features into your design, such as smoke detectors and fire doors.
Professionals who may help you to design your home
There are several professionals who may help you to design your home. Don’t dismiss non architects out of hand. Who you choose should partly depend on the type and complexity of the design you have in mind as many architects will have experience and interest in particular types of design. As with any building professional, try and find an architect on the basis of personal recommendation. If this is not possible ensure that you have a detailed preliminary meeting with them first, to see if you are at least on the same wavelength, and make sure that you see a portfolio of their work. If possible speak to some of their previous clients.
What role does an architect play and do I need an architect?
An architect is a professional who is qualified to design buildings. They are responsible for creating the overall look and feel of a building, as well as ensuring that it is functional, safe, and meets the needs of the people who will use it.
The work of an architect typically involves:
- Meeting with clients to understand their needs and vision for a project
- Conducting research and gathering information about the site, planning laws, and other factors that will affect the design
- Developing preliminary sketches and plans for the building
- Creating detailed construction documents and specifications
- Working with engineers and other professionals to ensure that the design is feasible and meets all relevant regulations
- Coordinating with contractors and other stakeholders during the construction process
- Making adjustments to the design as needed during construction
Unless you are buying an off the shelf package, such as a kit house, most people employ an architect to design the house. It is also usual, but not obligatory, for your architect to take overall responsibility for the project including managing the build itself.
Could I use a technician instead of an architect?
For simple projects, extensions and renovations, an experienced technician may be more appropriate than an architect.
Technicians and architects both play important roles in the construction process, but they have different areas of expertise. Technicians are trained in technical skills such as drafting, surveying, and construction materials, and they often work on the practical aspects of a project, such as preparing construction documents or ensuring that materials meet specifications.
Architects, on the other hand, have a high level of training in design. They have a broader understanding of design principles and the creative process, and they are trained to think holistically about the needs of the people who will use the building.
Building surveyors are also professionally qualified. Some also have additional design qualifications such as architectural technician and this combination produces some excellent house designers.
You will probably also need to consult a structural engineer, particularly if with open plan or complex designs. They will calculate the correct loadings, and can tell you what is and what is not possible.
- How to find a building plot
- Evaluating a building plot
- How to get a self build mortgage
- Self build construction options