It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to your first self-build, so it is crucial to get the right team around you. Professionals who are accustomed to working with self-build clients can help you to navigate the process and take care of much of it on your behalf. Below is a summary of the main stages every project goes through and the role of professionals within these.
Briefing and Design
Knowing what you want is easier said than done, but it can be useful to think of briefing as a process rather than an event. Most people start with thoughts ranging from broad aspirations about look and feel to very specific ideas about products or materials. Briefing is about organising these thoughts and starting to make decisions. It can be helpful to write down a simple wish-list and collecting reference images can also be a good way to start. These are ways to initiate a dialogue, which can be through words, images and drawings. This approach allows ideas to be tested at an early stage, so that decisions can become more and more specific along the way. We enjoy working with clients on this process and have found that the earlier we are involved the better.
Planning Permission and Building Warrant
The two main statutory consents required for most projects are Planning Permission and a Building Warrant. Other permissions depend on the nature of the project. In some cases it is wise to get some in-principle feedback from the Planning Department before going too far with a project, which can be obtained with fairly limited information. Thereafter, more comprehensive packages of information will be required.
When a house is proposed for a site where there has been no prior development, this is referred to as a green-field site. Obtaining Planning in Principle for these sites can be challenging, as local policies may restrict the urban density and there may be other use designations. Proposals for Detailed Planning Permission are assessed more on the basis of appearance, both in relation to context and design quality. Both stages of the process are most likely to succeed with a coherent argument and a high standard of drawings.
The Building Warrant process is concerned with ensuring the proposals comply with the relevant technical standards. The local authority assess this in some detail and raise technical queries for the professionals involved, before granting permission for works to begin. This process is much less subjective than applying for Planning Permission but it can be quite time consuming.
It is in the interests of everyone involved in a self-build construction project to ensure that proper construction contracts are in place. These are intended to bring clarity to the relationships and responsibilities of everyone involved and in some cases they are required by self-build mortgage providers and insurers.
There are a number of ways to configure the relationships between trades on site, depending on whether the project is to be carried out by a main contractor or project managed by the client with a series of smaller contractors. What they all have in common is the need to define what is to be done and how much is to be paid for it.
When using a main contractor, there are well established standard contracts, which can be administered by an Architect as an impartial third party. Smaller works packages require the use of several contracts and mean the client will either need to nominate one trade to act as "Principle Contractor" for CDM purposes, or fulfil this role themselves. We can advise clients on this in more detail, and discuss the benefits and drawbacks for their project.