Getting the design right is a crucial part of any self-build project. Having spent time finding the right partner, in the form of RA Design, the next stage was to look in detail at factors such as the site, our requirements and the local planning climate.
Researching the design
Commissioning a topographical survey from a recommended firm was crucial. This detailed technical information allowed us to properly understand the site, its various levels and its relationship with the views and surrounding properties.
It was important to ensure that these levels were taken not just on our land but of all surrounding features and properties. Looking forward it will also help us in making clear plans for landscaping the whole garden area.
Submitting a pre-application was a worthwhile exercise, too. This gave us some direction from the local planning authority over what might be acceptable. So it was money well spent in helping to guide our designs.
The location is all about the views, out over the Mounts Bay coast and across the iconic Porthleven clocktower which makes the national papers each year when it is battered by South Westerly storms. Therefore the build needed to do these justice.
Setting a brief
Before coming up with any ideas or suggestions, Chris from RA Design was at pains to ensure he had an absolutely clear brief from us and guided us to think about all the relevant elements.
After several discussions onsite this began to distill for us: maximise the views, ensure the design wasn’t dominant in the landscape, make sure it wasn’t so ‘creative’ that we could afford to actually build it and in the exposed location ensure it was a home for all seasons.
We also wanted to incorporate a second development property into the proposals, which will be crucial to help us finance the whole thing.
A design emerges
Chris’ design was unlike anything that we had imagined for the site and from ideas suggested by other architects that we had spoken with.
His suggestion was for a pair of green roofed, glass fronted semi-subterranean properties which boast both shelter and views. They cleverly work with the sloping site: dug into the earth, hidden and protected to the rear, whilst opening out to the Atlantic ocean at the front.
Furthermore the box-like design has been well thought-through and means they will be cost effective to build.
It was important to ensure that our design was well understood by everyone. Planning drawings only go so far and we took some time with Chris to make sure our written planning statement explained the philosophy for the buildings clearly.
The application went through with very straightforward planning conditions. After our initial elation, however, it's clear that this was only the very first step. Now it’s onto the real challenge of actually building them.
To begin with, sorting family possessions and clearing the site in preparation will take some time.
We also know that digging down and retaining the properties at the rear will come at a high price; we must get building regs, structural calcs, SAP ratings and decide whether to use a quantity surveyor or not.
It’s now crucial that we find the right builder, fully understand our costs and financing and plan out the landscaping of the entire garden before we move forward.