Almere, Holland

The first self build project achieved on a truly large scale – aiming for 3000 homes by completion…


  • This innovative experiment in large scale self build involves a 100 hectare space (250 acre) extension to the south west of the city, in the Poole region. The land was reclaimed from the sea in the 1950’s.
  • The entire area has been master planned by the local authority into a number of districts. Each of which has around 720 self build plots and by early 2012 around 1000 homes had been built; eventually some 3,000 self built homes are planned.
  • Each of the self build districts is themed – for example there are areas for live/work self build homes; there are terraced areas and there is a zone for very sustainable homes. There is also an area set aside for canal side homes, and another for houses with bigger gardens. And there is a zone specifically aimed at housing developers, who assemble collectives of people who want a block of apartments or a terrace of similar homes built for them.
  • Individual plots vary in size from 86 m2 to more than 1200m2.


  • All the infrastructure is installed by the council – from the roads to all the utilities…right down to the speed bumps.
  • Each home comes with an A4 sized “passport” which acts as a building permit. This specifies the main restrictions – usually just the height, any gaps required between homes, and the line of the front and the back of the properties. But beyond this owners are free to do pretty much what they want. There is one particular zone – called “I Build Free” where hardly any restrictions apply. Even though this sounds like a recipe for chaos most commentators have been impressed by the architectural diversity of the homes and the innovation that has been displayed.
  • Interestingly many people have opted for quite small homes to keep costs down – it’s possible, for example, to build a 40 m2 (400 ft2) apartment for about £50,000, so people on tight budgets have trimmed the size of their home to suit.
  • Although owners have quite a free rein on the design, materials and look of their homes the majority have gone for a modern, contemporary feel and several quite futuristic homes have been constructed. A good proportion have also ‘played safe’ and opted for a standard kit home.


  • All the plots are sold at a standard price of 375 Euros per m2 (roughly £290). So the smallest 86 m2 plot costs about £25,000, and a 1000m2 plot would be £290,000.
  • Building costs vary enormously, dependent on the method of construction chosen, the design, the quality of the finishes and how much of the work is done by the self builder and how much is done by a contractor or developer. Typically they work out at between £650 and £1500 per m2. So, for an average three bed semi (105 m2), it works out at about £100,000 to build plus perhaps £50,000 for the plot.
  • Not all the homes are built as solo projects; for example 25 people formed themselves into group and then hired an architect and contractor to build a block of flats together. This enabled them to get their flats (included land) for an average of £69,000 each.

Learning Points:

  • It’s difficult (at this stage) to say how well this experiment has worked, but early indications are that it’s been successful. Certainly its attracted a lot of international attention and many local authority planners have been to see it.
  • The housing market in the Netherlands is very depressed and there is currently little new build activity among the main volume housebuilders; despite this the Almere self build project has proceeded quickly, and it appears to have ridden the financial storm far better than the conventional private sector housing.
  • The project has attracted a wide diversity of people – from teenagers to people in the seventies; it also seems to have appealed to lots of people from different cultures.