The process of building your own home in the UK has almost universally been referred to as ‘self build’. In 2011, the Government’s Housing Strategy for England introduced the concept of ‘custom build’. Rather than doing everything yourself, including finding a suitable plot of land as you would expect a self-builder to, custom build involves working with a specialist company like Facit Homes to help deliver a home on a ready-made, serviced plot, whilst still tailoring the design to your exact requirements. With the main hurdle of finding a plot on which you can get planning permission already overcome, and a larger panel of mortgage lenders willing to finance the project as many of the usual risks have been mitigated, custom build has the potential to open up the opportunity of building your own home to a much wider audience.
The largest custom build development in the UK is the pioneering Graven Hill, near Bicester in Oxfordshire, which is located on an old 188 hectare MOD site. Promising to deliver 1,900 new homes over 10 years, around 40% of that total will be made up of serviced plots on which people can build the homes they want from scratch.
Facit Homes were approached by a London-based couple, Marc and Laura, in the summer of 2017 whilst they were in discussion with the team at Graven Hill about suitable plots for their future home on the site. A long held desire to build their own home had for years been tempered by the enormity of the challenge.
As Marc says “The effort of finding a suitable plot and battling through planning, with all the associated risks and unknowns was just not something we wanted to take on. So the ‘plug and play’ concept of custom build seemed like the perfect answer to the problem, smoothing the path and making it feel achievable. I really don’t think we would have done it otherwise.” They had been keeping an eye on Graven Hill for a while, the first phase of which was launched in summer 2016. “Graven Hill is in an area we know and is close to the Cotswolds which is a place we love. As well as the advantages of purchasing a serviced plot, we were attracted by the kind of community it will create, being mostly made up of people like us who have decided to build their own home. The masterplan looks well thought out and it will have all of the basic infrastructure we need such as a primary school and is an easy commute in to London for work.”
Graven Hill street illustration
With a couple of plots under consideration, Marc and Laura were poised to make a decision when at the last minute the perfect plot came back on to the market. Situated on a quiet, rural road, it was slightly larger than the others and looks out on to the site’s main feature, a hill on top of which sits an ancient woodland. Having already had a number of discussions with us about the aspirations for their new home, as well as the budget, they felt confident enough to reserve the plot straight away and appoint us to the project.
”We’d seen Facit Homes on Grand Designs a number of years ago and the unique process stuck in our minds. We thought it was such a revolutionary idea so when we decided to look for a plot at Graven Hill they were always going to be in the running. The idea of a single company who would take the project from start to finish and guide us through the whole journey really appealed to us. We get to be a part of the team during the design stage but can then leave it to the professionals to crack on and build our home, so it’s the best of both worlds.”
As we had already worked up an outline project brief with Marc and Laura by this point, we were able to get straight on with the concept design after their kick-off meeting with our architect. With all of the statutory requirements and infrastructure being taken care of by Graven Hill and a streamlined planning application process, the programme is on a fast track and we plan to have them settled in to their new high performance home by next Christmas.
Initial GF zoning diagram
For Marc and Laura it promises to be a dream come true. “We’ve always been fascinated with the idea of putting down on a piece of paper how we want to live in a home and then watching as it comes to life. To live in something that we’ve had a hand in designing, rather than something that was made for someone else; it’s the ultimate way of creating order for your own life.”
Initial FF zoning diagram
We plan to follow the project across a series of blog posts, explaining more about the overall custom build process along the way in the hope of inspiring more people to seek out such developments for their own homes.
Find out more about Graven Hill at gravenhill.co.uk