Monday, 14 March 2011

Planning and Design

This is where our adventure started to get really exciting. We had secured our plot and we were on to the next stage of designing and planning our new house. Whilst searching for our plot we had accumulated considerable information in the form of leaflets and brochures from manufacturers about their building products and services and this was a good place to start the self build research. We visited the 'Homebuilding and Renovating Show' at the NEC on a couple of occasions from where we picked up many ideas and other information leaflets from manufacturers and where we first came across 'Trent Jetfloor', an insulated block and beam floor construction system. 'Thermalite' also had a stand demonstrating the 'Thin Joint Blockwork' method of laying blocks, common on the continent, and a system which we were to use later in our build. We read and researched continuously including building books like  Mark Brinkley's 'The House Builders Bible', 'Barry' 'The Construction of Buildings' and 'Building Your Own Home' by Snell and Armor. The leaflets we obtained from suppliers proved invaluable and in the case of 'Jetfloor' they described precisely the method of construction of their Block and Beam flooring.. The Kingspan insulation leaflet also proved very useful as it described all the different methods of constructing an efficient roof covering. Whether you are going to construct your own home yourself or by the use of  tradesman it pays to be clued up about  all the construction techniques that will be used in your house by reading as much as possible beforehand.

Another view of our plot

We had in mind to build a traditional brick, block and tile house with specific features which we wished to include, like sash windows, high ceilings, galleried landing, on-suites etc, and we had a good idea what we wanted the outside to look like.We wanted a solid, traditional looking, quality building with rustic brickwork, stone cills,cast iron looking water drainage system, windows set behind the reveals and curved heads to the windows.
It had to fit in with the village 'vernacular' a term often found in planning speak, and because we wanted to have a considerable input to the build and to save money we had to keep it simple,so we borrowed  a design from a house which we had admired (and also photographed)in our locality and one that followed the vision which we had. 

We also had a good idea how we wanted to construct the house and how it had to be achievable without the use of too much manpower and machinery. Our original plan was to use ground workers to do footings up to above ground, ourselves to do internal block work by the 'thin joint' method whilst a brickie did the brickwork and joiners and roofers did the roof. We decided to use block and beam  in the ground and first floor with short beams for handle ability and to provide a platform on the first floor to work on as we were going to do the internal work ourselves up to plastering, it was going to be open to the weather for longer than normal so timber on joists was not an option. We also planned to fit out the rest of the house including wiring and plumbing and tiling, kitchen and bathroom fitting ourselves,  phew!!

And that was the quick method!!

That's me doing some measuring up during the planning stage

You can draw and submit plans and negotiate with the local authority yourself but as we had neither the drawing facilities or the experience to negotiate, we decided to employ someone to do this on our behalf. How to find someone?? Yellow pages,local ads or recommendation, well as we had no recommendations and did not trust local ads we resorted to the 'planning register'. Eureka! the planning register lists the name of all the architects, planning technicians and private applicants alongside the applications and by looking for regular contributors and successes we had a good idea where to find a recommended designer. This is how from a short list we came to choose Geoff, our planning technician.  

Planning Technicians are not architects and will not be able to give the same level of service, however they are cheaper and if you know what you want and can specify your build then its a good way to go and they do know their stuff.

Geoff was quick to catch on here, he was able to use our ideas (and photographs) to produce drawings and specifications that met our requirements and subsequently steer them through the planning maze very efficiently, however it still took several months to get final approval, but eventually we were off!

Next time on 'The Real Self Build Blog' I will tell you how we moved on to site and started to build.

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