Thoughts on Grand Designs

How to create your own Grand Design, whether for television or not, is typically going to be either unusual or extreme. Construction projects are rarely smooth-running and if TV is involved they are going to love you because it’ll make interesting viewing!

At Thomas Studio we are fans of Grand Design’s, produced by Channel 4, and hosted by Kevin McCloud, because this is one of the first build-your-own-home programmes, and more importantly it’s true to the design and construction process. What’s more Kevin is a great fan of architects and the added value we bring to the build process.

‘I am proud of the fact that Hillcott Barn, which I designed for Robert and Jane Ellis,  was rated the top 25 best Grand Design of all time’
says Architect Garry Thomas,

‘Working with Kevin was a real joy, whatever you plan to do, have fun. After all, it’s your grand design and at the end of it all you’ll have a great video of your build and all the trials and tribulations’

By clicking on the video opposite you can take a look at Kevin’s summary of Hillcott Barn, a project designed by Architect Garry Thomas. From the video you get a real sense and appreciation of Garry’s architecture. Or how Kevin puts it: ‘New and old sit in very easy dialogue here’

If you are thinking how to go about creating your own Grand Design project, download our free guide here: How to write a brief for your architect.

Grand Designs are always looking for interesting projects to film: Here is their online application form.

More on how to create your own Grand Design

Whilst TV can lead you to believe that complex problems get solved quickly, and money is always available, the reality is without a professional team on board things rarely run smoothly. Whilst having a professional team on board is an expense, it will always save you money in your build, whilst at the same time ensure you get the build quality on site.

All Grand Designs are ‘self-build’ and government is actively encouraging you to self-build at the moment, councils are releasing land for building, and there are special self-build mortgages available.

Whether you want cameras to document every step? well that depends very much on how confident you are when things start to go wrong – which they often do in complex builds.

If you are planning a self-build project here is the best way you can achieve the home of your dreams:

The traditional way to self-build is to buy a plot of land, then engage an architect to help you design your home. The architect will then sort out the planning permission, building regulations and ultimately find a builder to build the house for you.

You can often find land by talking to your local council, your local estate agents and searching online. Make sure it has at least outline planning permission, as obtaining planning on land in open-countryside is fraught with complexity – make sure you find out planning policy for your area. At Thomas Studio we can help you with that.

Even if the site has full planning permission, you may still need to resubmit a planning application, as it’s likely you will want to redesign your house to meet your needs and ensure it is a perfect match for how you want to live.

Choose your plot carefully – check out the pros and cons of a few different ones, look at the size and the ease of access, as well as any gradients that could prove difficult to build on, which add to costs.

Managing the build

If you plan to self manage the build, instead of having your architect oversee the construction, your choice of tradespeople will be crucial. Your architect can help you with recommending local specialists. It is usual to avoid the cheapest, those who can start immediately (good builders are always busy) and anyone who offers a discount for cash, this means they are unlikely to be paying tax, so if you use them, you won’t have the receipts you need to claim any money back in case they do a bad job. Ideally look for a builder who is a member of the Federation of Master Builders, as they have strict membership criteria and offer a dispute resolution service and always use individual trades people that belong to a member organisation as they often have warranties that protect the work they do for you.

Self managed builds are always problematic and remember if you need an architect’s certificate to sign off the build then your architect will need to oversee the construction during the build process.

At Thomas Studio we always use contractors we are happy to recommend. Whilst every contractor can have a ‘bad job’ the essence of any project is to make sure a build contract is well written, and you agree the design, quality standards (specification), and a fixed price, before you start on site. With out this a ‘bad job’ becomes a nightmare.

Budgeting

If it’s a ‘standard’ build, you can expect a third of your budget to go on the land, a third on materials and a third on labour – the total should be less than you’d pay for a similar finished property, but a Quantity Surveyor will help you identify its likely end value. At Thomas Studio we can introduce you to a QS to help you cost control your project from start to finish. One useful tip for helping you to stay within budget is to assume the highest build costs and lowest sales value will apply.

The government wants self-build to become much more mainstream, as it is abroad, so it’s encouraging councils to release brownfield sites and grant planning permission for building on them and trying to get private developers to put land aside too. By 2020, it wants councils to have allocated enough land for 20,000 new custom and self-built homes. So don’t miss out, building your home is much easier than you think, especially outside of the south, so do consider it if you want a dream home you have had designed for yourself.

 

 

Featured projects

These projects carried on whilst working at RRA, are designed by Architect Garry Thomas and were builds filmed by Grand Designs.

Both are rural open countryside locations. Garry Thomas managed to unlock planning potential on these difficult sites.

Grand designs houseGrand Designs House

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