How To Design Your Own House

Design Your Own House With These Easy Steps

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Below are some of the necessary factors that you must keep in mind when deciding to design your own house.

  1. Formulate a vision of your dream house

  2. Planning Requirements

  3. Site Conditions

  4. Budget

  5. Function

  6. Design Form

  7. Privacy

  8. Energy Efficiency

  9. Construction materials

  10. Construction methods

Formulate a Vision

SANS 10400 - XA Building Regulations South Africa Energy Efficiency in Buildings - archid architects fourways south africa Design your own houseThe truth is, before you can formulate a vision you should at least have an understanding of all the other items listed above.  Otherwise you may spend your time working on a vision that will only be cast aside later when you are confronted with the items mentioned above. A vision must at least take into account what is possible.  Taking off with a vision that won’t fly is pointless.

This means that before a vision is hatched you should at least have bought a site/plot of land, visited your local authority and you should at least know how much you can afford in order to build your dream house. Logic and feelings have to meet at some point.  Since the design of a building is the domain of architects/designers, going this route alone requires a very clear and sober mind. For most people however things usually look too simple to contemplate going it alone. The reason for this is due to the greater satisfaction in having all your requirements catered for and to build a house that is designed around your specific individual needs.  In other words, the benefit to design your own house, for many people, is too tempting to ignore.

This is all possible as long as you take measured steps into the process. Other than knowing your family’s needs and lifestyle, you should also ensure, among others, that your home will not cost you more to maintain and run in the long run than if it was designed by an architect.  For example, to achieve this you will need to do a thorough research in the technicalities of designing quality energy efficient homes.

In some countries or states there are already guidelines and standards for general home building.  So it will makes sense to spend a little time going through these guidelines to learn about basic considerations that otherwise, architects would deal with in their day to day operations.  It is also for this reason that the list above is compiled to assist in this regard. So a safe bet would be to go through the list above and ensure that you have an understanding of each of the items listed.

Planning Requirements

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The process to design your own house is not done in silos. Every country or state have unique planning and zoning laws that governs specific areas of property development.  These laws stands between your design and the actual building work that is necessary to bring to life your dream home. Most homeowners would usually appoint an architect to help them navigate around these laws and regulations. If you want to design your own house without involving an architect then it makes sense to research and learn as much as possible about these technical requirements. Remember also that in most countries or states only a registered person is permitted to prepare and submit building plans for approval.  So that alone sets you in an isolated path where you have to either acquire such recognition and certification first or find a registered person to help you prepare your building plans for submission to the municipality.

In most cases the municipality would look at two aspects of your project. Firstly, the townplanning rights must be satisfied by every homeowner before their building plans can be approved. This means your house plans must first satisfy various stipulations of the local townplanning scheme in relation to the following items:

  • Consent Use - the rights that your property is entitled to be used for as stipulated in the townplanning scheme.
  • Building Lines - The side space that must be observed around the boundary perimeter of your property. No building is permitted within this side space.

 

  • Height Zoning - the limited height that all houses with similar Use zoning can go up to.
  • Density - The number of residential houses or units that can be build in a specified area.

 

  • Coverage - The ground area that a house can cover in a given plot of land.
  • Floor area ratio - the total area (m2) of all floors per area (m2) of the plot.

Secondly, your building plans will be scrutinized for conformation with building codes and regulations. These will look at the different sections of the building codes such as the following

  • Plumbing

  • Electrical

  • Roofing

  • Weatherproofing

  • Fenestration

  • Energy efficiency

  • Insulation

  • Glazing

  • Structural elements

These building codes can be obtained online or from your building office. Note that some of these codes may require a sound technical knowledge in order for you to fully grasp the various concepts outline thereof.

Site Conditions

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So right after your visit to your local authority’s offices, you need to start visiting your site often and taking note of all existing features surrounding your plot.  These will include the following:

  • Access - All factors that may affect how you access the plot must be noted. These may include vegetation and obstacles that may obstruct free movement into the plot.
  • Existing vegetation - the location of trees around the property should be noted. You must make a note of all trees and vegetation that can removed.
  • Contours - the steepness of the site must be noted so that the design can either follow the gradient or necessary work be carried out to level any severe areas of the plot.
  • The sun’s orientation - the position and path of direct sunlight must be considered. In colder regions, one will have to ensure that a house is build and orientated to receive as much sunlight as possible.
  • Privacy from neighbouring plots - the position and orientation of neighboring homes (if built) should be noted so that there are no conflicts for privacy.
  • Physical services (ie. electrical poles, manholes, etc) - The position of any other physical element that may affect the layout and orientation of the house must noted.
  • Traffic patterns - traffic patterns must be noted to avoid traffic noises or any other conflict with access into the plot.
  • Security - Any exposure to risky areas must be noted and all security precautions be considered.

These features together with items listed in the last section (Planning Requirements) should then bring you closer to formulating a sound vision of what your house will look like.  But before you put pen to paper, you need to know how much you will afford. Which bring us to the next section.

The Budget

property values property valuer - archid architects south africa design your own houseYou’ve sure heard the expression “Rome was never built in a day”.  What most people don’t mention is “how much” it cost to build Rome. It may sound far fetched but fact is, most people overlook the critical role of finances in building a home.  Building costs are forever escalating. So in order to avoid disappointment, one should carefully look at the cost implications, before, during and after the house is built. Always remember that the figures you receive from your financing institutions will look a lot more different from the figures you will receive as bills in your post in years to come.  So before you rush into concluding home loan deals, ask yourself the question: Will I afford to repay this loan after paying all my other debts and monthly utility bills?

If your answer to the question above is NO, then re-look at you loan amount.

A 20 or 30 year mortgage repayment with fluctuating interest rates will not be kind to you if you stretch your affordability right from the beginning.

Function

Now that you have resolved your finances and you’re certain that you will cope with monthly repayments on your loan amount, it’s time to start putting pen to paper.  Your vision should also be clearer now.

Function should be your next consideration.  Here you will look at your families needs and lifestyle.  Remember that you may not be able to cater to every need of each family member.  Trade-ins will have to be made. Needs will also be categorized in order that similar functional spaces are kept together and not isolated. Here you will look at all your site’s limitations, rights and physical conditions mentioned above, and bring this into effect.  The result of this process should further clarify your vision and make it even more practical. To Successfully design your own house will be meaningless if the final product doesn’t represent the lifestyle and interests of it inhabitants. For example, a person who enjoys cooking will want to have a spacious kitchen that provides for all the items and appliances that they will need to prepare their delicious meals. As car enthusiast will want to have a larger garage so you’ll be able to store all your tools and equipments.

It would therefore be wise to ask every member of the family to make a list of their needs, wants and luxuries that they will want featured when you design your own house. Given all the other considerations discussed above, the family can then consider what functions are prioritized and which ones can be sacrificed.   

Design Form

This will certainly be the most exciting part in the process to design your own house.  Here you will form a vision of how the house will actually look like.

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Most people will want to make a statement in how the exterior form of their house looks. To do this one will need to visit as many websites, read as many magazines as possible. You will want to visit all the upmarket neighbourhoods where you can gather pictures of all the houses that has the type of features that you like. Even when you will be appointing an architect, it makes more sense to form an image in your head of how the house should look like. Having said that, the design form should not only be limited to the exterior looks of the house. You will also want the visual pattern of the inside to express the lifestyle and character of those who will occupy the house. Most people will want their finished home to look the part and to impress visitors to the house.

Privacy

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“Home Sweet Home” is not just a saying but a feeling. Everyone once that feeling of freedom and privacy when they enter their home. You will want to consider all the necessary factors that affects privacy of your home. A home that has living areas facing a noisy street is undesirable. No one wants to have their swimming pool and entertainment spaces to be face to face with the neighbour’s entertainment spaces.  

Most gated communities contains rules and guidelines that ensures that every home is designed and built in a way that the affords a degree of privacy every house within the community. Architects are also very critical in how privacy if afforded to the design of a home. So when you design your own house, even outside a gated complex, you will want to pay special attention to how the privacy of your family is cater for. For example, you may want all your upper floor bathroom windows to have frosted glazing so as to ensure privacy when you take a shower in your bathroom.

Energy Efficiency

We have all heard how global warming is becoming a real threat to our own existence. Besides, the cost of electricity is now becoming unsustainable for most working class families. This makes it imperative for homeowners to find new ways to save electricity.

Besides, most governments around the world are waking up to the global warming reality.  A growing number of municipalities around the world now requires some form of energy efficiency measures to be presented when submitting building plans for approval. As a result, your architect would be well versed with any such regulation and statutes.

Construction Methods & Materials

Building methods and materials vary between countries and provinces all over the world. Conventional methods of construction has been made routine by centuries of building practices that have been proven to withstand the elements, are cheaper and most importantly, there are industries in place, ready to cater to such methods.

When you design your own house special attention must also be given to the kind of skill sets available in your region. It’s pointless to want to build a log cabin in an area where there are no specialized carpenters who can cutting logs.  So it would help to do your research on what the common method, styles and construction skills are available in your region.

Secondly, you will want to ensure that you design your own house to conform to the way in which the house can be built within your budget.

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