grand designs inside 3

How to make your
grand designs come to Life

So, you want to know how to build a home worthy of Grand Designs magazine? Many self build properties are, by default, unique but what truly does put an abode into the bracket of Grand Designs today?

What are Grand Designs homes?

The word ‘Grand’ conjures up images of seismic builds of epic proportions, with perhaps intricate details and almost castle-like structures. The word ‘Design’ evokes outlandish journeys into shapes, materials and colours and, while that’s not necessarily the whole story, it’s certainly that design element that takes a build from the ordinary to the extraordinary. 

A grand design property is something uniquely conceived and often, almost utterly selfishly, reflecting the complete desires of the owner. It’s safe to say that this is about lifestyle, perhaps statement living, bearing of values, as well as creative indulgence and, of course, the realisation of dreams.

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Howle Hill top view

Are your House ideas Credible?

While you are wielding your architectural pen with Harry Potter-like wizardry, it’s wise to get down to the basics of practicalities and even legalities as you create your luxury house plans.

If you are wanting large areas underground, you’ll need to consider the geology of your plot. Got a passion for glass? Think about where the sun will be coming from or you might be turning your home into an uncontrollable retina-burning greenhouse, or running into expensive preventative measures that are counterproductive to the concept.

To build your dream home, are your desired build materials durable, how easily sourced are they, will you need specialist services (and do you know them?), or will they be style over substance, will they date and you’ll tire of them? Is your property layout truly liveable? Will it ultimately be high maintenance? Does your proposed build fit with neighbourhood plans and any site restrictions? 

What about outside? Let’s just leave that question exactly as it is.

gb guesthouse terrace

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How much does it cost to build a Grand Design?

The 30-30-40 Rule

Cost of your Grand Design really is a loaded question. The word ‘budget’ has to figure somewhere, though in this case it’s less of a ‘low cost’ implication and more of a ‘quality means investment’ reconcilliation. There is a theory that, out of your overall spend, which includes land/plot purchase, planning and design costs, build and finishing, that 30% should go towards Planning, 30% towards Building and 40% to Finishing.

30% Planning

30% Build

40% Finishing

It’s not a bad model to follow and you might want to start with the final figure in mind and work backwards to evaluate where to allocate your money.

Let’s take a scenario of a total spend of £500,000

As a new build this would be zero rated for VAT. However as a conversion of an existing building it may by 5% or even 20% vat so the budget needs to reflect on this amount.

As a general rule total fees for a project including all consultants (architect, engineer, environmental surveys etc) is in the order of 16% to 20% of the project cost. Again is this on top of or included in the over all budget.

Don’t forget site costs and landscaping this can add 15% to your project costs to include things like laying down lawns, planting, and driveways and gates.

Then you have your build rate. For a grand designs house you are looking at £2500 to £3000 per sqm of floor area which is the total value of the project. More entry level specification can be procured at rates in the order or £2000 per sqm of floor area.

Green energy alternatives, unfortunately are still more expensive than fossil fuel alternatives, and whilst there are grants to aid installation costs, the running costs are not as low as they should be to motivate self-builders to take the plunge. The essential rule is go for fuel diversity and include multiple fuel systems such as wood burners, air source heat pumps, and renewable systems such as solar thermal, and solar PV.  A typical house install for a green fuel alternative to oil or gas is in the order of £20k to £30K.

Modest build

Build rate per sqm£2000
Eco Heat and Power£20k
Professional fees16% to 20%
VATBetween 5% and 20%

Grand Design

Build rate per sqm£2500 – £3000
Eco Heat and Power£20k – £30k
Professional fees16% to 20%
VATBetween 5% and 20%

“Any work of architecture that does not express serenity is a mistake”

Luis Barragan
Grand designs house herefordshire

Where is the best place to build a grand design house?

At the moment planning policy governs where housing development can be located. The best places to find development sites are on the edge of major villages, and converting existing rural buildings into residential development.

The only way to get a home in the open countryside is through the National planning Policy Framework, this is national not local policy. As such the planning tests are a high bar to reach and requires an iterative approach to the design with multiple pre-applications to work with the Local Authority and a third party design review panel.

Avoid the common mistakes and download the Self-build Project Planning Pack

Further reading

temp urban backland development 01 1

Free Self-build Project Planning Pack – Building Your Own House

This FREE self-build project planning pack produced by Architect Garry Thomas is designed for anyone who wants to build their own home and wants to know what’s important when designing and self-building their own dream home.

The guide will help you on your way to build your dream home, and:

  • understand how to build a house from the ground
  • help you make the right decisions when choosing to self-build
  • provide help when choosing a house plan
  • work out how much space you need
  • estimate the per square footage cost to build a house
  • learn about the home building process
  • put you in touch with a mortgage provider
  • assess if your site meets planning policy