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20 Jun

Things to consider when undertaking a custom build project

Undertaking a custom build project enables you to tailor the entire process to suit your own time and budget.

The benefits of going down the custom build route include; having the freedom to choose the location, deciding the layout and functioning aspect of the building, and customising the aesthetic design and style of the house. It is a complex job that demands huge effort and dedication, but the end result is a unique bespoke building that is perfectly suited to individual needs and tastes.

Finding the right experts for the right jobs

The level of involvement a self-builder will have in their project will vary massively from person to person and project to project. At the very least, a self-builder will typically source and purchase the building plot in their chosen location. Many will decide to ‘project manage’ the build, overseeing all of the work, organising materials and supplies, drawing up schedules, delegating the workforce and managing the site. Others might appoint a professional to take care of the project management, while some prefer to give all control to a chosen contractor or building supplier to bring to completion.

Whoever is making the final decisions on the project, it’s vital to ensure that the right experts are enlisted for the right jobs and there are plenty of resources available to help with this. The Chartered Institute of Building provides a helpful service for sourcing local contacts for a custom build project. The Royal Institute of British Architects and The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists both offer referral services which will help identify nearby architects. For structural engineering advice, there is The Institution of Structural Engineers, and for surveyors, head to The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Use Build UK to source the bodies representing sub-contractor members such as plumbers, electricians, plasterers near to you.

Whilst these resources will provide a useful starting place for sourcing experts, it is well known in the construction trade that there is next to no substitute for personal recommendations. Ask other builders if they can recommend particular companies or suppliers. Search for and pay visits to projects that have been built by shortlisted candidates, carry out detailed interviews, and take up references. Factors to consider alongside the cost of these suppliers and their services include quality, reliability, experience, and estimated work duration. Taking the time to find the right people for the right jobs will reap huge rewards further down the line by ensuring the project build runs smoothly and the final result stands the test of time.

When briefing the appointed team, be clear but not too demanding; remember that these are experienced professionals with the knowledge, creativity, and expertise that is needed in order to bring the custom build concept to life.

The design of the custom build project

Planners will dictate the majority of the project design considerations including the size, layout, and materials of the building. It’s therefore wise to pay an early visit to the planning office to save wasting time on impractical concepts.

Building Regulations will sway many of the project design decisions, but it is the local planning authority that will have the ultimate say in what you can and cannot build. Often, surrounding neighbours and members of the local community will give their thoughts and feedback on the project.

Start by drawing up physical requirements of the build including the quantity, size, and layout of rooms, considering the interaction and flow of movement between these spaces. How and where will the occupants spend their time, and how best to meet these demands? Would it be beneficial to create several distinct areas or would the property function better with an open plan layout with zoned spaces? Allow ample space for the storage of automation and control equipment, appliances, furnishings, and belongings.

Next, consider those stylistic features that will impact the function, feel, and performance of the building. Incorporating large expanses of glazing into the design through windows, doors, or a roof lantern, for example, will boost the flood of natural light, delivering impressive views of the surrounding landscapes all year round, as well as reduce the demand for artificial light sources.

Internal image of a roof lantern

Quality craftsmanship and sustainability

The sustainability and environmental impact of a building project is a vast and complex area of consideration that needs to begin at the very early stages of the development. There are numerous ways to ensure that the custom build design is eco-friendly.

The insulation and airtightness of the project will have a major impact on its energy efficiency. The major structural elements including the walls, roof, and floor need to pack in as much insulation as possible in order to better retain the heat. Ensuring minimal gaps in the structure’s shell by using prefabricated systems such as closed panel timber frames and insulated panels as opposed to brick and block will further reduce heat loss. Whatever the material chosen for the project, quality craftsmanship on site is vital, in order to improve the overall performance.   

If using timber for the project, seek a product that has been sustainably sourced with a FSC or PEFC certification. An engineered softwood such as Accoya® is an ideal material, that is as good as, or even better performing than, many hardwoods in terms of durability, longevity, stability and sustainability.

For a real eco-friendly edge, many modern custom build projects will also make use of renewable energy technology such as biomass systems, solar panelling, or by-product appliances.

If you would like more advice for undertaking a quality and sustainable custom build project, contact Westbury today.