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First Ideas

Collecting information

This section is about all the inspiring information you can find, much of it on the net. Collect all the best ideas you can –

  • Remember how past experiences felt. For instance on holiday or when you were a child. Try to remember specifically what made you feel good about certain houses and places, and what to avoid
  • Read A Pattern Language and The Timeless Way of Building to get at the basics of what makes a building ‘alive’, truly functional and beautiful.  Visit their website. (It has a small monthly subscription charge for the parts of it dealing with the patterns.)
  • Collect cuttings from magazines and newspapers. Collect photographs of houses and aspects of houses that inspire you. Do this as a memory prompt, not as something to slavishly emulate
  • Get hold of videos, e.g. Grand Designs
  • Visit houses you like and photograph them. Talk to the people.
  • Visit exhibitions and shows
  • Go on courses
  • Inspirational books

With all this, create a kind of scrapbook visual presentation so that when your architect asks you what you want you can come up with your most important ideas.

Web Sites

check out the following organisations and web sites


•Planning and Building Regulations differ greatly between the UK and the US. Building methods also differ greatly, with the US having a long tradition of building in timber and the UK only recently getting into it seriously.
•The general approach to aesthetics diverges considerably
•The high density of population in the UK contrasts with that in the US and this creates a different use of space.
•The green movement in building is proceeding in a different manner in both areas

Although there are plenty of American selfbuild books on the market they tend not to be of much use in the UK context for several reasons.

Having said that, some of the US literature can be quite inspiring in freeing up the imagination. Most of the books on this web site are chosen for being relevant to the UK.

There is an excellent range of green build books in Germany for anyone with the language.

General books

There are a few books which are ‘standards’ on selfbuild in the UK

  • All About Selfbuild by Robert Matthews is an excellent book and with well over 500 pages of dense information is excellent value at a little over £20
  • The Housebuilder’s Bible by Mark Brinkley is also a stalwart. It is aimed at small building companies first and foremost but is excellent for self builders because it goes into costings quite thoroughly.
  • Building Your Own Home by David Snell. A very good introductory book to Self build.
  • The Green Self-Build Book by Jon Broome. An excellent book for the self builder by an architect who has been involved with green self build for as long as the concept has been around.
  • The Self-build Book: How to Enjoy Designing and Building Your Own Home by Jon Broome, and Brian Richardson. It documents the building of a timber frame, Segal method, house and also goes into some community self build initiatives. There is very little written about self build timber frame in the UK  (unlike say the US where it is usually the starting point). This book is a little out of date now but the principles in it are good.

Inspirational books

There are lots of books to get your creative juices flowing though many of them may not be entirely appropriate to the UK context.

  • Living Spaces: Ecological building and design A good one to find out what is happening with eco-housing on the continent.
  • Homework – Handbuilt Shelter This is a beauty in terms of inspiring photos of imaginative, often eccentric self built houses. Rather Californian hippy but no worse for that. By Lloyd Kahn.
  • A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander et al. This book explains in depth what makes for long lasting, effective and creative design in buildings.
  • The New Natural House Book which manages to combine being pretty in a ‘coffee table’ sort of way with also being very informative and ethical.



Always good to see what others have actually done and there are some excellent blogs on the net (though not all these are especially green). If you would like to include your blog please contact us below.

Our Self Build Story

Timber framed house on the Isle of Skye. Heating via a GSHP and borehole

The Meaden Project

Virtual rebuild of a semi derelict rural house.

Self Build Blog

Only as far as retaining walls to date (14/08/14) but a lot of interesting detail about the process so far, especially design, planning and finance.

Passivhaus Scotland

Passivhaus in Scotland


Self build house at Whitstable

A house designed to CSH  level 3.

The Self build blog 

A large timber framed, masonry clad house on quite a steeply sloping site. Quite well documented.

The Self Build Diary

Neil Grimshaw documents the building of a 3 storey stone house in Huddersfield. Laced with dry humour.

The Build Blog (From Here to Eternity)

An excellently humorous blog about the building of a large solid timber house in the north west of  Scotland.

The Real Self Build Blog

A three storey traditional brick/block cavity wall construction with concrete beam and block floors and a part attic truss roof. This blog is outstanding for being a slide show of 647 pictures detailing the building process

All hands on deck to construct the steel frame

Self Build Blog

Only as far as retaining walls to date (14/08/14) but a lot of interesting detail about the process so far, especially design, planning and finance.

Inglehome – Transforming a typical Hull terrace into a cosy low energy home

Osborne House, Fulford

Osborne House, Fulford

Passivhaus plus on a budget

And see an account by the architect

‘The girl in a hard hat’

Renovation of a derelict barn in Scotland

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