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UK self build context

Almere has over 700 plots including 3000 houses and flats

There is a rapidly growing interest in self build in the UK, but what is self build?

Well it tends to be a term used to mean almost any personal input into the building process related to the owner’s house  (or in the case of communal self build, the group’s houses). This can include anything from major DIY right through to building a whole project. It can also mean total hands on involvement through to management. At the management end of the spectrum the term “custom build” implies very little involvement in the actual building process.

Self build and custom build can include extensions, major improvements and alterations. This is why the statistics concerning the amount of self build in the UK vary so much.

This is all in contrast to houses being simply a salable commodity produced by building companies with no input by the purchaser (except of course huge dollops of money).

The present government has backed the idea of self build through several initiatives including:

  • requiring councils to make land available for self build projects
  • naming seven sites which will be made available along with £30m. of funding to help cover short-term loans for schemes of five or more units over the next three years. These loans can cover 75 per cent of initial costs such as land acquisition, site preparation, section 106 obligations, and construction. The sites are at:
    • Trevenson Park, Pool, Cornwall
    • Kingsweir and Torpoint, Bristol
    • Spencers Park, Hemel Hempstead
    • Pleasley Colliery, Bolsover
    • Upper Tuesley Milford, Surrey
    • Wilson Road, Hanford, Stoke-on-Trent
    • Chase Avenue, Walton Park, Milton Keynes
  • jointly publishing a Self Build Portal along with various building companies
  • appointing Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame as a ‘champion’

It has also held up as an example the Almere self build development in the Netherlands which is in the process of creating 3000 new self built homes.

See  Laying the Foundations and the full report  An excellent report into the state of self build in the UK is produced by The Building Societies Association.

This report mentions how many self builders would like to use timber in construction projects and this is understandable considering how much more user friendly timber is than the wet trades of masonry, plastering etc. However the UK must be seen as very behind in timber framed buildings compared with most of the continent or the US. There is simply very little of a timber culture here and this impacts on self build.

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