Building Your Dream Home

Posted 8 November 2019 by Bruach Architects

Building Your Dream Home
08 November 2019

We are often asked by clients where they should start when considering a self-build, purchasing a plot of land or commissioning a bespoke new build home. We are well placed to help with this, and have noted here some of the key things to consider at the outset.

Let’s start by saying this list is not exhaustive! It hopefully outlines some of the often overlooked issues which are important to the success of your project. We would be happy to provide more specific advice if you are thinking of building your own home, you can contact us here.

Consider what is important to you, just as you would when buying a new house, for example views, and proximity to amenities and family members. It is also important to visit the site at different times of day and night, and in different weather conditions. You should consider surrounding uses which may cause a nuisance to you (for example proximity to railways and flight paths) or if there are any rights of way across the site.

Site Shape
The most straightforward construction will always be on a flat site with easy access, but this is not always available or desirable. Sloping sites can offer more creative architectural solutions, but there is more cost in managing the slope/ reshaping it to build the building. The size of the site is also important to be sure you get a house of the right size for you, any outbuildings like garages or garden rooms, space for parking and bin storage, and a usable garden. The site may also have existing trees which could be covered by a Tree Preservation Order which may need Planning Permission to be felled or lopped.

Flood Risk
Proximity to watercourses and bodies of water should be considered to determine the risk of flooding on the site. Sometimes this can be incorporated into a building design solution (at a cost), but more often where the risk is significant it can prevent construction completely. SEPA have free online flood risk maps which can be used to check the site’s flood risk rating –

Ground Conditions
In addition to the shape of the site, the condition of the ground itself needs to be capable of supporting a house. Poor ground conditions may require deeper foundations, increasing the build cost. Contaminated land may require excavation or additional protection measures to be added to the ground floor construction to protect the building and occupants. This information is normally obtained from a Site Investigation Report which can be arranged by a civil and structural engineer on your behalf.

Services/ Utilities
Often the largest “hidden” cost in a new build is connecting the house to electricity, water, drainage and gas. Any potential site should be assessed or reviewed in terms of the nearest connections, as the further the distance the greater the cost to connect. Existing utility plans can be obtained from utility companies, but there is a charge for this. It may be for rural sites gas is not possible, and drainage may be by a septic tank, and these should be considered early when preparing development costs.

Building Design/ Construction Type
There are a range of “off the shelf” homes available in kit form, which may prove to be a cost-effective solution to a new home, or you may wish to appoint an architect to design something more bespoke to suit your own needs and the specific site. Construction types and methods vary hugely, but we would recommend considering the environmental impact and the energy rating of the proposed construction, to be sure your new home will be easy to heat and provide a high quality, healthy environment. It may also be more challenging to obtain a mortgage for unusual or innovative construction methods, so this should be checked early. It is likely that your home would need to incorporate some form of renewable technology to meet the current Building Regulations.

Getting Value for Money
Unless you are planning to build your home yourself, or purchase a kit-house, we would strongly recommend using a contractor you know and trust. It would always be advisable to get references from previous customers and if possible, appoint a contractor through a competitive tender process, ensuring their price is in line with the current market. We often facilitate this type of tender process on behalf of our clients.

Planning Policies
All local authorities have an approved “Local Development Plan” (or “City Plan” for large cities), which outlines the acceptable uses and constructions on all areas of land. It is worth checking this prior to purchase to be sure a new dwelling would be acceptable on the site, and if there are any developments planned nearby which may impact on your proposals. There are many other policies which should be considered too, including privacy rights/ overlooking, removing existing trees, accessibility, boundaries to adjacent sites and roads, refuse storage and access, and more. We would also be able to advise you on the specifics for any particular site.

Planning / Building Warrant
You will require permission both from Planning and Building Standards to demonstrate compliance with the various Planning Policies and the Building Regulations. There are fees for these applications due to the local authority, the extent of which can be confirmed once the development proposals are known.

Specialist Consultants
We would suggest that you appoint a team of specialist consultants to ensure you progress through the project effectively, and meet all the require legislative requirements. We can advise on the site and building design, manage the Planning and Building Warrant applications and oversee the rest of the design team and contractor on your behalf; a civil and structural engineer can advise on ground conditions, foundations, superstructure and drainage; a quantity surveyor can prepare independent costs for the proposals and check contractor claims on your behalf.

Site Appraisal
We would always recommend having an architect or surveyor carry out an appraisal on a potential development site prior to purchase, to ensure the risks to development are low, and the proposed dwelling is likely to be granted Planning Permission. We regularly undertake this exercise in advance of a purchase to reduce the risk for our clients.

Construction Supervision
If you are planning to employ a builder to erect your new home, you should consider employing an architect to manage the project during construction, or a clerk of works to oversee the build. Although there would be a fee for this, you can rest easy knowing a trained and qualified professional is administering the contract, that the construction will comply with all required regulations, and someone is available to handle any technical queries or issues that arise during the works.
So there you have it! Some things to consider when thinking about building your dream home. Please feel free to contact us if you wish to discuss things in more detail or if you would like us to discuss a specific project.

Make an Enquiry

Bruach Architects is an RIAS Chartered Practice (The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) and our architects are registered to practice using the title Architect through the Architects Registration Board (ARB). We are also Chartered Members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and our team has a combined experience of over 30 years working in the profession. Please send us an enquiry here where one of our team will be back in touch with you as soon as possible to discuss your project, and to provide additional information on the process of commissioning an architect.