The design of your home is a critical stage of your self-build; it’s important that you make the right decision about who will design it. But before you decide on the Who?, you first need to decide the Which? ie which type of designer? The main options are:
… Architectural Technologist
… In-house designer at a timber-frame manufacturer
… Do It Yourself
Each option has its merits but you must consider very carefully whether your particular project and your own circumstances will suit your preferred option.
Factors to consider are:
Complexity of the project
A simple house design might be a 3-bedroom house on foundations from a previously-demolished dwelling in an urban setting. This might be one that you could tackle yourself if you felt confident enough. A complex project could involve anything from sloping ground and limited access to restricted outlooks and height limitations. For such a project, you might engage the services of an architect or an architectural technologist.
Your time and skills
If you feel capable of a DIY house design, consider how much time it would take to absorb the full range of information that you would need to produce a competent design. This might include learning a new piece of CAD or modelling software.
The costs involved
For a relatively simple house design, the cost of employing an architectural technologist could be less than half of the fees charged by an architect. It’s possible there would be very little discernible difference in the result. Alternatively, if a Shell Package manufacturer is able to produce a design that fits your requirements, there could be an even greater saving in fees.
About the House Designers
Architects generally have 7 years of training behind them plus membership of the architects’ body, the Royal Institute of British Architects. As long as they have the requisite Professional Indemnity insurance, they can operate an architects practice in the UK. No-one else can call themselves an architect.
With this professional status, architects can command high fees. Fortunately, the days of all architects working to a percentage of the build costs are largely over but, be careful, there a still a few practices that have not moved to a more equitable fee structure.
Architects are good for:
- cutting-edge design
- fully embracing eco principles
- exploiting the latest materials and techniques
- difficult sites, where their training will assist in overcome challenges such as steep gradients, restricted access, flood locations and poor ground conditions
Architects are not usually very good for … your bank balance.
A growing number of architectural technologists operate their own businesses in the private residential market. Although they are not able to call themselves architects, they often promote themselves by offering “architectural services”. They have an expertise in contemporary house design and with a very competitive fee structure, they tend to be excellent value for money.
These are professionals that have a long tradition of working alongside architects and their professional body is the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists. The degree course for architectural technologists is shorter than the typical architecture course but, nevertheless, they are suitably qualified to prepare house designs for self-builders.
In-house designer at a Package Supplier
By employing in-house designers, Package Suppliers are able to offer the complete package, from house design through to planning, fabrication and build. This can be very attractive to the self-builder who has little opportunity or desire to get hands-on with their self-build. It can also be a very cost-effective solution. Some Package Suppliers offer a design catalogue; you can often get a very good deal if you select a house design from the catalogue, making only minor changes.
A significant proportion of self-builders actually design their own houses. If you feel capable of producing your own house design, then the DIY option is perfectly reasonable. While you may not optimise your design in the way that a trained house designer would, you will save thousands in fees. You will also have the pleasure of knowing that you designed as well as built your own home!
There are various 3D modelling software packages available, such as Sketchup and Revit, that allow you to draw in both 2D and 3D. Obviously, you will need to spend time assessing which software is suitable for your skill-level and your needs.