"Self-build" is the practice of creating an individual home for yourself through a variety of different methods. The self-builder's input into this process varies from doing undertaking the actual building work to contracting out all the work to an architect or building package company.
People build individual homes for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because they want to create something tailored to their family's unique requirements; or something architecturally appealing in all manner of styles; or because they want to live in a home that they might not be able to afford on the open market. There is something uniquely rewarding about building a home for you and your family, it harks back to the most basic of human instincts. Nowadays, however, self-build homes are not just about shelter and security, they are about expressing yourself and changing your lifestyle. For many, self-build is a chance to create the life they have always dreamed of.
Self-builders create their homes through a variety of methods - and very few actually build it entirely themselves. The majority employ an architect to come up with the design of the new home and contract a builder to construct it; others use so-called 'package' companies to provide a one-stop solution. Many others find themselves managing building sites and dealing directly with planners, tradespeople and materials suppliers.
Self-build is an ordinary practice in many developing countries. It is also common among certain religious communities like the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) or subcultures like Hippie. Usually ecovillages are realised through self building techniques. In most developed countries self-build is somehow regulated by the public administration.
In Italy self-build has been, fore some decades after World War II, a common practice among the lower class, widely used in squatting areas like the Borgate Romane (Rome) or the suburbs in the north of Naples and around Palermo. Nowadays self build is rather used as a partial support to house building where the construction of the structural parts (foundation, walls, roof ....) is committed to professionals companies. Another application field for self build in Italy is the support to disadvantaged ethnic groups like Sinti. In some middle-sized cities like Ravenna and Padova masonry classes and build materials were offered to people living in gypsies equipped areas in order to help them to improve their huts. In the early 1980s self build also entered the Italian university programmes: in the architecture faculty of Politecnico di Torino Giorgio Ceragioli introduced in his course of Architectural technology the Laboratorio tecnologico di autocostruzione (Latec), a laboratory where students were allowed to practice several self-build techniques.
The term 'self build' is specifically used in the UK and Ireland when an individual obtains a building plot and then builds their own home on that plot. The term doesn't necessarily refer to completing the work yourself - more usually, self-build is defined as the act of 'commissioning' a bespoke home.
It's estimated that there are between 10,000 and 20,000 self builds in the UK every year. This is less than 10% of all the homes built annually but may constitute as much as 1 in 3 new detached homes built in the UK. Over the years, self-builders have been at the forefront of advances in house design and technology, being responsible for the dramatic uptake in recent years in eco-features such as solar power and heat pumps; underfloor heating; open plan design and smart home technology. These are features that take many years to filter through to commercial housing developments. There is also an increasing drive for people to self-build overseas, either as investments, holiday homes, retirement homes or relocation.
Individual houses can take all forms from the traditional to the radically modern, and the term is also used to refer to people who create individual homes out of old buildings.
The main impediment to the UK self-build market is the shortage of building plots available to the self-builder, high land prices and the restrictive planning regime. in 2008 the National Self Build Association (NaSBA) was established to order to put pressure on relevant bodies, including the Government, to remedy this situation. The founding members of NaSBA are Bath and District Self Build Association, Build It magazine, BuildStore, Potton/Kingspan, Architecture Verte and Ecomotive.
- Broome, Jon (2007). The Green Self-Build Book: How to design and build your own eco-home. Foxhole, Dartington, Totnes, Devon: Green Books. ISBN 978-1-903998-73-1.
- Pollan, Michael (1997). A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-41532-9.
- Mormons help people build homes in Visayas, article of Manila Standard Today on manilastandardtoday.com
- L'alternativa autocostruzione: una proposta delle cooperative; Rosario Pavia, in La Metropoli "spontanea": il caso di Roma : 1925-1981, sviluppo residenziale di una città dentro e fuori dal piano, Edizioni Dedalo, 1983; on-line versione: books.google.it (accessed on 9th July 2014)
- Padova: "Progetto Sperimentale di Autocostruzione del Comune di Padova co-finanziato dal Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali", Aprile 2nd 2010; on-line: operanomadipadova.blog.tiscali.it (accessed on July 9th 2014)
- Programme of the 'course in 'Tecnologia dell'architettura of Politecnico di Torino; didattica.polito.it (accessed on July 9th 2014)
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Self Build Resources
- Build It magazine, expert advice & inspiration for UK self-builders at self-build.co.uk
- Info for the Self-Builder in Ireland
- BuildStore (UK)
- National Self Build Association (UK)
- Homebuilding & Renovating magazine, advice, case studies, directory and ideas from homebuilding.co.uk
- UK sustainable selfbuild information
- The Self Build Guide
- ebuild: Self Build Guide (UK)
- The Self Build Portal - The gateway to more custom build homes (from the National Self Build Association)
- Self-building project in the Netherlands
- Info for the Self-Builder in Australia
- Self Building Resources in America
- selfbuild.com - International Self Build forum