Scotland-based Allan Corfield Architects is expanding its national coverage with a permanent presence at the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC) in Swindon, and the launch of its first seminar for self builders wanting to develop their skills.

Architect Jenny Chandela has joined ACA, working out of its brand new NSBRC stand three days a week, and is able to answer questions or chat to you about your project. Alternatively, if you cannot get to Swindon ACA also offers a free initial online consultation.

In line with ACA’s ethos of supporting self builders, as seen in its online Learning Centre, it has launched its first self build seminar at the NSBRC, How to Self-build Successfully*.

The one day event runs from 8:30 – 4:30, and is repeated on the Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 October, and costs £80 per person, and is designed to educate novice builders all the key elements of the self build journey.

Topics covered include:

Speakers at the event:

Allan Corfield, AC Architects, Self Build and Low Energy Expert

Tom McSherry, BuildStore, Finance Expert

Brian Singleton, ADM Systems, MVHR Expert

David Gallagher, AC Structures, Structural Engineer

James Bryden, CLPM, Project Management and QS

David Hilton, Heat & Energy, Renewable Heating Expert

 

To find out more visit Allan Corfield Architects website and register your interest for the event, or get in touch with your questions to Kim via email or call 03333444217

* The How to Self-build Successfully seminar is not suitable if you are already working with an architect.

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, has published his Review of Custom and Self Build, which identifies a ‘missing market’ of owner commissioned homes, that could deliver between 30,000 to 40,000 self build homes a year.

The report was commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April, as part of the Custom and Self Build Action Plan to look at the ways in which custom and self build could help provide the extra homes that government needs to help it reach its target or building 300,000 homes a year.

Bacon Review

What’s in the Bacon Review?

Richard Bacon was tasked with looking at the entire sector, including examples of how owner commissioned homes are built abroad in countries where the model is common.

One such example is Germany, where 55% of new homes are commissioned by their owners, with large show parks dotted across the country where you can go and experience houses built and designed by a range of companies (have a look at Musterhaus for a German example).

The result is a comprehensive overview of the sector, together with the barriers to growth. The report is respectable 114 pages and includes new economic analysis by Chamberlain Walker that identifies the sector as a ‘missing market’ in the UK.

This is due to a combination of reasons, such as planning and the dominance of the mainstream housebuilders, but is largely attributed to the lack of land available to build self or custom build homes on.

What are the recommendations?

To remedy the findings, Bacon puts forwards six strong recommendations for creating a new system that would support activity.

  1. A greater role for Homes England, with the creation of a dedicated Custom and Self Build Housing Delivery Unit tasked with creating more serviced plots, through the provision of more small sites and as part of large sites.
  2. Raise awareness of self build and show by ‘doing’. This involves the industry showcasing its activity, with the request for government to support the creation of a ‘Show Park’ of owner-commissioned homes that people can buy. In addition, government should support the wider publicity of the Right to Build registers.
  3. Reignite the Community Housing Fund. This promised to deliver up to 100,000 new homes in England, but was not renewed in the 2020 Spring Budget. Renewing it would enable more communities to build.
  4. Promote green homes and increased use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Self build champions sustainable and innovative building techniques, and could be an exemplar for mainstream housing.
  5. Align custom and self build changes with planning reforms – to ensure the changes work with the proposed planning system changes, and by improving the Right to Build legislation.
  6. Iron out tax issues This is important to make sure there is a level playing field between self built homes and speculatively built homes.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “As we build back better, we want to help more people build their own home, making it an option for thousands who’ve not considered it or ruled it out before. This will help get more people on to the housing ladder, ensure homes suit people’s needs whilst providing an important boost to small builders and businesses too.

“I warmly welcome Richard Bacon’s report which matches our ambitions for the custom and self-build sector. We will consider it fully and respond to the recommendations in due course.

“The launch of the Help to Build equity loan scheme will be a game-changer to the self and custom build market and will allow individuals to borrow with lower deposit mortgages which will go towards the design and build of their new home.”

Mr Bacon said: “At no other time in our history would new housing be thought of as a form of pollution, creating a monoculture to be resisted from villages to towns. The central problem is that most customers have almost no clout when it comes to buying a home. 

There is a “missing market”. Instead of customers who are able to choose for themselves what they actually want, which of course will vary hugely – just as people vary hugely in their tastes, preferences and lifestyle choices – in practice most customers have very little say. Indeed, for the very item on which customers spend the largest proportion of their incomes – their homes – they hold the least consumer power.”

“Those who have managed to step outside this prevailing framework and commission or build their own dwelling see a result that is to their own taste – greener, better built and more welcomed by local communities. And while thousands of people have succeeded in doing this – often with the help of NaCSBA members – it is still difficult to do, whereas it needs to become normal. Indeed, it should be no more difficult than ordering a new car.”

“There is a solution. It involves creating the conditions in which customers are treated as if they matter the most, rather than – for the most part – scarcely mattering at all. And this is what happens when people themselves commission the houses they would like to see. Homes England, whose remit includes making markets, has a key role to play in kickstarting this market including providing land and investment and helping to streamline planning – and my core recommendation is that a Custom & Self-Build Delivery Unit should be established with a mandate to deliver the required changes, staffed by skilled professionals with deep experience of delivering custom and self-build projects for customers across all tenures.”

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA CEO said: “There is clearly something wrong with any market where customer choice is so notably absent, in particularly where such choice so demonstrably leads to better and greener homes. At the heart of the challenge is a planning system that appears hard wired to produce a product that most of us do not want, and which fails to reflect the diversity of our communities.

“Yet there is a proven viable solution. One that works everywhere else in the world, the question is not whether change is needed but how that change happens. To make that change we must ensure that sufficient land comes forward on which people can chose the home they want to live in. We must also open the eyes of the public to the possibilities that are out there. Both these aspects require the leadership of Government to address the failures in our current market.

“The recommendations in this report, which include the review of the Right to Build and the rapid launch of Help to Build have the capacity to positively transform our country’s relationship with the new homes market.

What is the Custom and Self Build Action Plan?

The Self and Custom Build Action Plan includes:

  • A Prime Minister-commissioned review of the custom and self build sector, including challenges and opportunities
  • A review of the Right to Build legislation to improve how it is applied in practice
  • A Self and Custom Build Land Release Fund for local authorities to bring forward plots on land they own
  • Funding for the Right to Build Task Force so it can continue to work with English local authorities to advise around delivery and policy
  • A Help to Build equity loan scheme.
Image credit: Completed contemporary home by MBC Timberframe,  www.mbctimberframe.co.uk

A new survey by the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC) reflects a series of data about people’s real, or planned, projects, including averages, such as age, household income and budget. This helps give a realistic picture of people building or renovating a home right now, showing what motivates them and what barriers they face. NaCSBA’s most recent surveys have asked questions of the general public, reflecting people’s aspirations rather than the realities of those actually involved in a build.

Conducted in partnership with NaCSBA in June 2021, this new survey asked questions of NSBRC customers, and of the 681 people that responded, 73% were building a brand new home.

The survey fed into Richard Bacon’s Review of Custom and Self Build, a detailed report commissioned by Boris Johsno examining the opportunities and barriers to the sector scaling up. The review, which also puts six recommendations for government to consider is due to be published shortly.

View the NSBRC Survey Infographic

NSBRC Customer Survey 2021 NSBRC Customer Survey 2021 NSBRC Customer Survey 2021 NSBRC Customer Survey 2021 NSBRC Customer Survey 2021

Get more statistics on self build on NaCSBA’s website

A new biography has been published sharing the work and vision of Walter Segal, a leading figure in self build in the 1970s when he created several projects, including a whole estate of self build homes, in London. Walter Segal: Self Built Architect 

In the book, author and friend of Walter, John McKean tells the story of Segal’s life (1907–85) life, covering his youth and early architectural career in Berlin, before exploring his unique approach to architectural practice – and, specifically, to everyday housing. The book takes in Segal’s work in Switzerland, Mallorca and Egypt, before reviewing his post-war building career in England and the philosophy that drove his work. This included a commitment to self building, which led to him creating a self build community in Lewisham, London (above and below). This has now become a reference point in every historical review of self build in the UK.

Overtime Segal became interested in coming up with the best dwellings for 20th-century towns and his concern for the empowerment of ordinary citizens – and crucially this involved giving them the ability to build their own homes.

Alice Grahame follows with an exploration of the enduring impact of Segal’s timberframing method, looking at how this has led to the possibility of making, and then living within, communities where houses are constructed with a flexible, easily assembled and planet-friendly building system

Walter Segal book

“This book is a huge pleasure because it reveals the man and revels in his energy and wit. It is also a delight because it is so authoritative, written by the two people who know Walter Segal’s life, personality and work better than anyone.”

Kevin McCloud,Designer, writer and presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs
The book costs £45, but Self Build Portal users can use the code SEGAL20 to get 20% off at checkout at www.lundhumphries.com  (valid until 30/9/21)
Walters Way self build homes

About the authors:

A Professor of Architecture at the University of Brighton for 11 years, John McKean wrote the first monograph on his friend Walter Segal over 30 years ago. 

Alice Grahame has written about Walter Segal in The Guardian and architecture and design magazines. She curated an exhibition about Segal – Walters Way: the Self-build Revolution at the Architectural Association Gallery in London.

Image credits: Alice Grahame

Anyone considering a self-build scheme as part of a group may want to consider cohousing, and, if so, a new practical guide from UK Cohousing Network offers practical insight to help you achieve your goal. Cohousing is a model in which you have your own private home while sharing common facilities as an intentional community of likeminded individuals.

Cohousing is a distinct approach to designing healthy neighbourhoods, which was developed in Denmark in the 1960s. Following steady growth in the UK over the past 14 years, UK Cohousing Network has responded to demand by publishing the country’s first ever comprehensive ‘how-to’ guide.

Based upon first-hand experience of existing schemes, the guide is essential reading for both housing/planning professionals and community groups, and takes the reader through all the stages of development from conception to living together.

What’s special about cohousing?

Cohousing communities are usually between 20-40 private dwellings with a common house, shared garden and other facilities. Residents in cohousing schemes share a common vision, and are closely involved in the design, development and long-term management/stewardship of their neighbourhoods. As such, community is at the heart of every project.

Shared spaces vary, and can include a hub for meetings and get-togethers, a shared kitchen (in addition to individual homes’ kitchens) for optional communal meals, shared gardens, laundries or even guest suites for smaller units, to remove the need for redundant bedrooms.

Practical Guide to Cohousing

Practical guidance

With over 170 pages, the guide takes groups through the entire project pipeline, drawing on experience from cohousing groups and experienced advisors. The guide explains the process of creating a group – including setting a vision, finding a site, planning, building and living in the finished project. It also explains design elements and issues around finance.

 

Cohousing has well-recognised benefits, and a major element in that it combats isolation and loneliness, making it a popular choice for older people, as well as a route for families and younger people. This also makes it a popular route for groups of people with shared value sets or experiences, such as the LGBTQ community.

The guide is part of the membership package for UK Cohousing Network and is available to the Community Led Homes hub network. The UK Cohousing Network’s website has lots of free information about the route, and the network is part of the Community Led Homes website, which explains the full range of approaches to community led housing, and the differences.

But groups seriously embarking on a cohousing project will find the guide, and the membership that supports it, a valuable resource.
Membership of the UK Cohousing Network costs between £60 annually for individuals looking for groups, £90 a year for established groups, with prices for NGOs and commercial memberships set at £200/£300 per year.

Don’t forget, you can join your local self build register as an individual and as a group. Find yours at the Right to Build Portal

Image: Marmalade Lane Cohousing; Duncan Hayes

Graven Hill has revealed that one in three of the self-built homes completed between 2018 – 2021 used modern methods of construction (MMC), reflecting that self build leads the way in the adoption of innovative methods. MMC refers to non-traditional methods of building, which includes both off-site manufacturing and innovative on-site techniques, such as insulated concrete formwork (ICF).

MMC is high on the government’s agenda, and it announced the launch of an MMC taskforce in the most recent Budget to examine the ways in which uptake of MMC can be improved. Graven Hill hopes to be part of this research as it feeds into the wider debate.

In 2021 a specialist supplier at Graven Hill is aiming to complete 25 prefabricated homes on site, and since 2018, there have been 34 self and custom build projects built using MMC.

Typically, these houses take 2-3 days to assemble to the watertight stage, with a further 6-7 weeks to finish on site. This is faster than the average bricks and block home, and the builds meet or exceed the high-quality building standards set by Graven Hill.

Building at Graven Hill

Each self build at Graven Hill comes with a ‘Plot Passport’ that sets the parameters and guidelines for that specific plot, all of which is pre-approved by the council. Working within this framework, self builders can get planning permission in just 28 days, as opposed to the usual 8-13 weeks. Choosing to build with MMC further increases the speed of completion.

Off-site methods in general are popular with Graven Hill builders, as they offer quick and simple route to construction, with minimal disruption on site.

Karen Curtin, managing director at Graven Hill, said: “The announcement of the MMC taskforce was positive news. All of our Plot Passports allow for the use of MMC techniques, and we believe it will play an important role in the future of housing developments.

“With the help of our specialist suppliers, we have proven that prefabricated homes can be just as high quality and aesthetically beautiful as traditional homes. Offering both speed and affordability, MMC certainly looks to be the way forward for housing and we’re proud to be part of the revolution.”

Not only do the site’s self-build homes benefit from MMC, but so do its custom build new homes. A range of ‘move in ready’ new build homes are available to buy now, with many eligible for Help to Buy. From two- and three-bed terraces to five-bed detached homes, accessibility is at the core of Graven Hill. The flexibility and affordability of MMC ensures this can be achieved without having to compromise on quality.
For more information, get in contact with the Graven Hill team.

The Self Build Portal is the consumer website of the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA), aimed at supporting would be builders. While 2020 was a well acknowledged shocker for most people, you may be surprised to know that it worked out pretty well for would-be custom and self builders.

Although aimed at professionals working in custom and self build, NaCSBA’s Review of the Year makes for interesting reading for anyone wondering whether they can access an owner-commissioned homes.

Read NaCSBA’s Review of the Year

Among the highpoints:

NaCSBA set up a group to promote Housing Diversification – designed to work to give more people the chance to access a home that suits the.  Members include Federation of Master Builders and the House Builders Association (which represents small- and medium-housebuilders) and community led housing groups, including the UK Cohousing Network and the National Community Land Trust Network.

NaCSBA also lobbies government and responds to various consultations to ensure that self build gets a proper attention, including the Planning for the Future White Paper.

It also conducted research into the nation’s self build aspirations, which it produced along with the Building Societies Association. This found that a third of people are interested in self building in the future. Of this third – the younger age group were the most keen to get started.

The announcement of a new Help to Build Equity Loan scheme should help this 33% of the population that is interested in a self or custom build project, as it offers a valuable route to finance. To date, there’s little information about how this might work – but NaCSBA will share the news as soon as it is finalised.

Behind the scenes, the Right to Build Task Force has also been busy helping local authorities get to grips with the Right to Build, and also produced new Planning Guidance for Custom and Self Build. Although aimed at professionals – it makes for very useful reading if you are preparing a self build for submission for planning.

 

Image: Self Build Aspirations

Celebrating Right to Build Day, the Ipswich Building Society conducted its own research into the custom and self build market. Like NaCSBA and the Building Societies Association’s survey, the Ipswich’s asked 2,000 people about their aspirations and understanding of the custom and self build sector, prompted by the way the pandemic has changed the way we see our homes.

Like NaCSBA’s research, the main finding was that 35% of UK adults (approximately 22 million people) said they would consider a self build project at some point in the future. The NaCSBA/BSA research found a similar figure, that 32% of people were interested in self building – adding empirical weight to the data.

The research found that:

Charlotte Grimshaw, Head of Mortgage Sales at Ipswich Building Society said: “Since the introduction of government legislation on 1 April 2016, self build projects have become a more recognised and viable choice for many people.

“However, finding the perfect plot of land is still something that self builders are concerned about. The introduction of Right to Build was a significant step for this often overlooked sector and with the UK having the lowest known rates of self build homes in the world, coupled with a substantial shortage of homes, local councils would do well to promote these registers more tenaciously, to ensure a continual supply of suitable plots.”

Lack of awareness about self build mortgages

The Ipswich Building Society commented that those planning to embark on a self build project should be aware of the classification of their build with regards to their mortgage application. This research reveals that more than half (52%) of people were unaware they would need a self build mortgage and not a standard residential mortgage for the major renovation of any property or self build project.

Ipswich Building Society advises that if the mortgage applicant has to live in a separate dwelling during the build, or if major renovation work leaves a property without kitchen and/or bathroom facilities for an extended period of time, this would usually fall under most lenders’ criteria for self build.

However, as self build mortgages are more complex than a standard mortgage application, it can be advisable to seek guidance from a mortgage intermediary who has experience in this area.

Ipswich Self Build Research infographic