Archive for self build

Custom Build Roundup 2013

2013 has been a busy year at Axis Design for self-build and custom build ideas and projects. Here’s a roundup of all the progress we’re making supporting people looking for alternative choices to the standard housing market.

Stoke-on-Trent Custom Build

Our involvement with one of the UK’s earliest custom build projects has continued this year and we’re delighted to report that the plots have now been sold at auction and 6 families will be embarking on their project in the New Year. The project also won ‘Best Custom Build Scheme’ at the 2013 Build It awards in November.

Collective Custom Build

We shared our experience on the Stoke project with the team at Sheffield Uni behind the Collective Custom Build research project earlier in the year and were proud to take part in the launch event of the final outcome. An extensive resource of information across numerous topics is presented in a very accessible web site accompanied by an explanatory video at collectivecustombuild.org. The site has been a useful tool to help explain the idea behind custom home build to both our clients and resident groups.

Self-Build on a Shoestring

As one of the shortlisted entries to the NaSBA competition to design a house costing less than £50k we also traveled to London to take part in a debate between designers about the different submissions. It was fascinating to compare the construction techniques proposed and the group has begun to discuss the possibility of a ‘shoestring design group’. A video of the event is available online thanks to hosts Ash Sakula.

Custom Build West Midlands Group

If you want to support more opportunities for custom build groups then where better place to start than in your own neighbourhood? We’ve launched a call for group members in the West Midlands and the first meeting will take place in Wolverhampton in January. Sign up at the following web page if you’d like to be added to the contact list: http://tinyurl.com/customhomebuild

Make:Shift 2013

An inspiring collection of community action ideas were presented at this year’s Make:Shift event in Wolverhampton and we were delighted to be able to take part and use it as a platform to launch our West Midlands group. A copy of the presentation used at the event to start a debate on housing is available on the Make:Shift web site.

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Alongside the meetings, debates and drawings there has also been plenty of self-build construction activity with the start on site of a personal project for one of the Directors. The experiment in modern methods of construction using both pre-fabricated and on-site techniques is well under way and progress can be followed on the dedicated web site: home4self.tumblr.com. The full account of the project history can also be found on Rob’s own blog: no2self.net.

Using products and processes taken from numerous areas of research into natural materials, Passivhaus methodology and breathable construction we’ve been able to test ideas that we think are ideal for other self-builders.

We’re looking forward to sharing this experience with clients in 2014. Let us know if you’d like a site visit!

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Self Build on a Shoestring

As part of our work to develop new cost effective self-build strategies we recently prepared a submission to the NaSBA Self Build on a Shoestring competition. Although we weren’t successful it was great to see that a number of submissions had proposed a similar concept to ours, exploring the possibilities of single storey housing. The construction proposal is based on what we’ve learnt on one of our current live projects; Rob’s own self-build project called home4self.

We’ll be sharing more about that in the coming weeks, in the meantime here’s our idea for a house costing less than £50k…

*update*: Delighted to find that our proposal was displayed at the Grand Designs Live show as part of the top 16 entries.

£50k house

the 50k house isn’t a design problem, it’s a procurement problem – building a house on a tight budget demands easy to organise packages of work, simple construction and a combination of the best of both on-site and off-site techniques to ensure fixed prices and predictable program – we believe the single storey house has an important role to play in the future of UK housing and is ideally suited to self-build skills…

Single storey, modern methods of construction and easy to manage packages of work.

Our proposal is designed to consider carefully the benefits of combining simple on-site construction processes that could be undertaken by an enthusiastic self-builder alongside the price and performance certainty delivered by off-site prefabrication. We have chosen to explore a single storey house typology. Although this decision brings greater challenges with both the energy performance and ground works, we believe that the benefits to living quality, adaptability and ease of construction make the bungalow a worthwhile investment.

One of the greatest challenges for a self-builder is the day to day management of material delivery, storage and plant and equipment required to control health and safety issues of working at height. Using modern methods of construction we aim to provide a large water tight space quickly that allows the self-builder to proceed in a more easily managed process internally. By overlapping ground floor construction and off-site manufacture the initial program of works can be completed quickly with certainty over fixed prices for the bulk of the superstructure. Items of joinery such as stairs and service walls are intended to be designed and manufactured following a pattern that can be repeated cost effectively using CNC routing technology. The prices stated for the pre-fabricated timber frame also assume a standardised panel size that can be called off by self-builders following a common house type plan. The layout of the design has been developed such that it can be mirrored or handed in various ways to suit orientation without changing the fundamental construction dimensions.

Once the superstructure is complete the interior can be fitted out easily thanks to the efficient arrangement of plumbing and heating layouts that will require minimum labour and material to commission and avoid potential for delays and unforeseen costs thanks to colliding orders of trade.

The central service zone contributes not only to the ease of construction but also the ability to extend easily in future at either end of the building or into the entrance porch, without major alterations to mechanical and electrical layouts. The installation of an MVHR unit in the centre of the plan also reduces complex duct runs and maximises efficiency of performance.

Open plan living places the kitchen at the heart of the house. Our courtyard entrance strategy provides daylight to the centre of the plan and creates a useful external storage area. By completing the roof in pre-insulated panels the higher levels of the pitched roof can be left open above living spaces and enclosed over bedroom areas to provide ample storage.

We believe this is a house that future self-build families could be encouraged to undertake and project manage their own construction when offered a design that is easy to imagine and plan the work required, both in scale and order of trades.

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Custom Home Build Finance

Custom Home Build continues to get the support it deserves from numerous organisations, funders and commentators at the moment and financial support for self-build groups being provided by the government is helping to kickstart a number of projects. These early adopters will get to explore all the ways that building a home for your family can be so uniquely challenging from not only a construction and financial point of view but a personal and emotional one as well. We hope to be starting work shortly with the seven residents fortunate enough to take part in the first Custom Home Build site in Stoke on Trent, having recently achieved outline planning approval in Penkhull for the first of what the council hope will be several sites across the city.

We’ve had two evening events (launch event in Stoke on Trent shown on the left) to meet the potential investors so far, along with the team from Buildstore who are offering financial and project management support. We couldn’t have been more delighted by turnout, the variety of people who came to see us and the breadth of ideas and aspirations they hoped to bring to their new home. Talking through the ways an architect might assist on a self-build project was very useful to us as well as the residents themselves, as we’re determined to ensure we can provide as much input as possible within the confines of the ordinary self-build budget. We kicked off with a virtual model of the street to help set the scene for the Penkhull project (left) and it’s clear to us that innovative use of BIM technology is going to be a crucial part of what we provide. The level of commitment from residents to energy saving measures as a fundamental principle of a project was also deeply encouraging in a market that so often struggles to ascribe any value to the ‘green £’.

The importance of the relationship between energy, building strategy and finance is also fundamentally linked to the success of Custom Home Build because the backbone of this market will be the lenders. Whilst there are several mortgage packages available for self-build already – tailored to staged release of funds as a building progresses – there is much still to be done with the relationship between estimated property value, the technical performance of the fabric and the resulting reduction in bills and monthly outgoings.

We had the pleasure of attending the Build It Magazine awards yesterday (right) and shared a table with one of the lenders who may be involved in our project. The common ground between architect and mortgage lender proved to lie in the field of building warranty and the predictable concerns over innovation. If a construction process or material choice proves to be unsupported by the necessary structural warranty provider then the lender is too exposed. The key issue here – and perhaps the one that is most easily forgotten – is the longer life of the building beyond the original self-builder. Even if they and the original lender agree between themselves that a particular approach represents no risk, what if a future lender during a later sale (or, dare we say it, following repossession) has no confidence in it?

Rob’s personal experience of a self-build valuation process, involving completing a form that contained questions that were twenty years out of date, has recently served as a timely reminder that those of us enthused by the prospect of helping more people build their own home must make sure we include the bank or building society in the design team.

It’s no exaggeration to say that we can’t wait to get the Penkhull project moving, and we look forward to taking the mortgage lender with us on the journey.

Read some of our other posts in the Self Build Category.

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Custom Home Build event

Final preparations are under way for our collaboration with Stoke City Council and Buildstore next week at the launch of the Custom Home Build project. Initial proposals for one of the sites being offered are complete and we’ll be presenting them to the public and discussing the future of the scheme.

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To get the debate started we’ve created some example house types that self builders might consider. We’ll also be providing info about our Passivhaus research and showing examples of materials and products that we think a self build project could benefit from.

More images can be seen in our flickr gallery.

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Self-Build in Stoke-on-Trent

We’re delighted to report that along with our team of sub-consultants, we have been successful in a competitive tender for Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s first Custom Home Building project. The former Penkhull Farm site on Newcastle Lane in Stoke-on-Trent has been chosen by Stoke City Council and the design team led by Axis Design will be carrying out an initial site appraisal and submitting an outline planning application.

The outline application proposals will be designed to provide guidance to future investors regarding the key principles of the site and must acknowledge the need to create low energy homes. Our recent work around the Affordable Passivhaus project led us to develop house type models that deliver the highest level of energy performance at low cost. We hope there will be an opportunity to incorporate our PassivHaus research into this project.

In our experience the most successful housing developments are those created through a collaborative approach. As such, the Custom Home Building project will be supported in its delivery through the use of our web-based project management system to improve liaison with all stakeholders. In addition, we will be including the use of BIM as part of our service on this project.

A little more about Custom Home Building in Stoke….

The Government published their Housing Strategy paper in November 2011, and are proposing to offer financial support for self-build developments, referred to as ‘Custom Home Building’. Through this paper (pdf of ‘Laying The Foundations’), councils are being asked to assess the demand for custom-build in their area and take positive steps to facilitate it.

Stoke City Council recently launched their Mandate for Change, setting out a clear plan to make Stoke-on-Trent a great city to live in and in support of this, there is a proposal to promote Custom Home Building to assist in improving housing quality across the city. The council are hosting a Housing Summit later in 2012 and this project will be used at the event to publicise Custom Home Building to local residents and potential partners.

“It is recognised that Custom Home Building can make a stronger contribution to economic growth and a significant contribution to the number of new homes built…. In the case of Stoke, there is a desire to attract wealth creators to the city, as part of a wider regeneration programme.”

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Launch of Affordable Passivhaus Project

Week notes #3 & #4…

Lately it’s been all about http://affordablepassivhaus.info:

affordable passivhaus banner

Over the last few months we have been carrying out a detailed R&D project into making Passivhaus design principles a financially viable option for social housing. Working alongside environmental designers, and certified European Passivhaus consultants Brooks Devlin, our proposals for an affordable Passivhaus were created initially in response to a call for solutions by the BRE Passivhaus competition in 2011.

We took up the challenge to develop our proposals further because we think that construction standards in the UK will require a significant move towards Passivhaus principles. We are launching the project at an event in February aimed at local authorities and housing associations in order to disprove the myths surrounding Passivhaus build costs and share our research.

If you’re involved in delivering new build affordable housing and would like to come along to our event on 21st February in Birmingham, please register your interest via the Affordable Passivhaus website, get updates from the twitter account or drop us a line on email.

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Diagrams

Part of the goal of Open Practice day this Friday is to talk about how architects work. One of the projects available for viewing on Friday will be some recent design work for a single domestic residence on a challenging suburban site.

The challenges of difficult access, overlooking from nearby houses and substantial level changes were developed into opportunities through a series of sketches and diagrams. The diagram is an important device in architecture and the hand drawn sketch continues (in an industry ruled mostly by computer aided design) to be the best way to explore them.

Come and visit on Friday and we can talk about the way the design developed…

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Protected: Woolf House

Download: PDF sketch-plan


Initial sketch design images for Woolf House:

ground floor

first floor

cross section 1

perspective 1

perspective 2

perspective 3

perspective 4

street elevation

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