Ben Adam-Smith's house build was a core part of House Planning Help. Having completed the project in 2018, Ben Adam-Smith looks at what should come next.
Our first session of 2019 is slightly different to normal. I'm going to stop for a moment and take stock. While everyone else is making New Year's resolutions I want to do a bit of dreaming and consider what might be my next adventure.
What I am clear about
I need to take a break because ‘self build fatigue' is real! Even just being the client can take its toll. I want a bit of normality for a few months and then, when my energy has returned, I can cement my plans for the next couple of years.
I’m excited about having more time to spend with our Hub members. I'm also looking to upgrade the experience this year and fill in a few gaps I’ve spotted (in things like our courses).
I don't plan to do another self build any time soon. Having tailored a house to our family's needs, I would like to stay in it for as long as possible. Of course, you never know what the future may bring. So if I there's a strong reason (like I need to relocate for work) then I wouldn't hesitate to take on another self build.
I want to take on another development. I'm so pleased that my first build has been a positive experience. It has left me wanting to do more and learn more.
Ideas for a second project
I have only really scratched the surface so there is plenty more to investigate, but I do need a mission. That's why I want to throw around a few ideas. This can get my mind buzzing for when I'm ready to take action.
Keep to a specific budget
When you're building a house for yourself the temptation is to increase your budget to get what you want. In the worse case scenario you spend more in the early stages, believing you will somehow find more money by the end… only to find yourself in a sticky situation.
So it would be great to do a project where we carefully consider the finances, set a budget and then – on all accounts – stick to it.
Choose a different procurement route
There are various routes to realising a new home. I perhaps did what many people do and hired an architecture firm and a main contractor. This allowed me to focus on being the client.
However, it would be interesting to project manage… or even tackle some of the physical work, etc.
Design and build is also another avenue I'd like to explore.
Divide up a larger piece of land
Finding affordable land is often the biggest barrier to building a house. For major developers, however, this is not really an issue. So could we follow their lead? What would it take to buy a bigger piece of land and provide serviced plots?
We've seen schemes like Graven Hill successfully demonstrate this model. More self and custom build opportunities can only be a good thing.
Deliver quality housing whilst making a healthy profit
Most of the UK's housing is delivered by volume house-builders who are sitting on a cash cow. With basic products that sell, there is little incentive to build better homes.
What if we set out to explore whether we could deliver a housing scheme that also made a decent amount of money? If this worked, could it be possible to repeat this at scale?
Build an intentional community
It's one thing to build a house well, but the story doesn't really end there. How does the house fit amongst neighbours and its surroundings?
We could investigate what makes for a thriving community and whether it can be built to order.
Reduce the timescale
My self build project took 6 years to complete. Two and a half years of that was looking for and then purchasing the land. Designing, getting planning permission and going out to tender took the best part of another year. The actual construction phase was only 10 months!
Obviously research is valuable but I spent two years doing little else. So how long do you really need? And with the knowledge I've built up over the last 6 years could I do it all again in a much shorter timeframe?
Go all out to be ecological
I built a Passivhaus but really didn't go much further than that. I go into the reasons why in the podcast where I evaluate my own performance.
Could this be an opportunity to nail the ecological credentials. While it would probably still be a Passivhaus, could we do it with straw bales… and scrutinise every material used on the project. And it would be good to include a PV array or other renewables if it made sense.
Find alternative ways to finance the project
If this is going to be more of a development (with a profit attached), then can we find other ways to get funding?
This could be as simple as bringing investors on board or using crowdfunding to drum up support
Adjust key variables
At House Planning Help we're always aiming to learn so there is little point repeating what we have just done unless it is about refining processes. So another project would look to work with a different architect, use a different construction system and aim for a different style.
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