Five self-builders explain how they came to build their houses on the edge of a developer estate.
Interview with Pip, Yvonne and Martin, Jessica and David
When Pip decided to move away from Surrey because building plots there were too expensive, and Yvonne and Martin knew that they wouldn't be able to fulfill their 25 year year self build dream for the same reason in their home town of Buckingham, they found a developer site in Cambridgeshire offering more affordable plots on a street set aside for self builders.
Jessica and David's story is a little different. They lived around 5 miles from the site and went to have a look around one day out of interest. Having never previously spoken about building a house, they made an offer that same week and had it accepted.
The land owner provided outline design guides
The brownfield land was formerly a brickworks before being bought by a company called ONH. A number of developers were building on the site but one street of 13 plots at the outskirts, overlooking fields, had been set aside for self build. The outline guide included that the houses should be eco-friendly and contemporary in design.
Challenges arose during the construction because, being at the back of the rabbit warren of narrow roads on the new estate, heavy lorries struggled to get past parked residents cars.
The substantial plot sizes influenced the house designs
David and Jessica
As David and Jessica bought their plot on the spur of the moment, the design wasn't something they had given too much consideration. They employed a local builder initially, who then recommended an architect and worked with him to develop their rough ideas into workable plans. They opted for four double bedrooms, two with en-suite, and a family bathroom upstairs. Downstairs they wanted a large kitchen with an open plan family room. Having attended a self build conference which emphasised the importance or airtightness, MVHRs etc, they decided to follow an eco-house route, with triple glazing, solar panels and under floor heating. They also have a large garden with an area used as an allotment.
Yvonne and Martin
Yvonne and Martin's is a large plot so they felt they needed to build a substantial sized house, which although they are the only two living there, provides them with plenty of space when their children and their families come to visit. Having been built well with airtightness in mind, they have a comfortable home with low running costs.
They also wanted to future-proof their home so it would still be accessible when they are in older age. They have four double bedrooms on the first floor, but downstairs has been designed to work as a fully self contained unit. It has a wet room and bedroom on the ground floor and space to install a lift if required.
Pip originally wanted a Passivhaus with a traditional exterior, but the council informed them it needed to have a contemporary design. Instead she worked with an architect at Potton who developed their ideas into a design they were blown away by. As the budget was stretched as works progressed they moved away from trying to achieve the Passivhaus standard and using ground source/air source heat pumps, but did manage to retain the solar panels and underfloor heating.
Establish good relations with your fellow self building neighbours!
Pip recommends getting to know your new neighbours as early as possible, particularly if you're joining at the end of the plot sale process, so you can tap into their knowledge and previous experiences.
Getting your finances in place is something Yvonne advises. The build process can be extremely challenging so ensuring you have sufficient cashflow sorted early on can help to eliminate some of the stress.
Martin suggests working to develop a good relationship with your builder. His builder asked that if there were any changes or extras that he be notified early on so they could discuss and agree it so it wouldn't be a problem, and this worked well for them. Martin also recommends thinking about the small things in advance, such as where sockets are going to go.
Locating the services and getting them installed early on is something they all say is important. Several of the house builders on the site were already starting construction before the water had been connected, leading to lengthy treks to get some from friend's houses or relying on the kindness of neighbours!
Find out more
Find out more about Pip's Potton designed home.
Download a transcript of the interview with Pip, Yvonne and Martin, David and Jessica.