Self-build is the practice of creating an individual home for oneself through a variety of different methods. The self-builder's input into this process varies from doing 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. An important reason, above all in poor countries, is that they might not be able to afford their housing on the open market. Another motivation of self-builders can be the wish to create something tailored to their family's requirements and/or their lifestyle.
Self-builders create their homes through a variety of methods – and seldom build it entirely themselves. In rich countries a lot of them 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 in its wider meaning is an ordinary practice in many developing countries. It is also common among certain religious communities like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) or subcultures such as 'hippies'. Usually ecovillages are realised through self-building techniques. In most developed countries self-build is regulated by the public administration, while in developing countries self-build is sometimes supported by NGOs or international organisations like, for instance, United Nations Volunteers.
In 2010 the World Bank estimated that self-build housing (also described as self-help or self-provided housing) was supplying more than 95% of Ghana's total housing stock, and that it was contributing with around 300 billion USDs per annum to the national economy. Self-build is not just practised by the poorer households but also by middle-income citizens. Most of Ghana's post-colonials governments like Nkrumah's have been implementing state-run housing schemes because their socialist-oriented agendas avoided to promote self-help housing in order not to boost private ownership by individuals or families. In 2009 the Government of Ghana, in its Draft National Shelter Policy, recognized the importance of self-help and self-build housing and other non-conventional approaches to housing, even if not as a priority.
In Italy self-build has been, for 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.
In Mexico a very rapid urbanization occurred between 1940s and 1970s, attracting much migration from rural areas. During this period government programmes were not able to ensure enough housing and also the private production was unattractive due to the low wages of a large part of the population. It is estimated that even after the creation of two national housing funds, FONHAPO and INFONAVIT, just 1/5 of the effective demand was satisfied. In this difficult situation, many irregular settlements developed, and some researcher and politician started to sustain that supporting and improving self-build processes rather to fight them was a possible solution to the popular housing issue. So during 1970s public policy started to support low-income self-builder offering them services, core units and in some cases land-ownership regularization. These schemes were criticised by orthodox Marxists, persuaded that ensuring proper housing to people was a government duty and that lack of houses was a structural product of capitalism. Anyway, self-built accommodation became the most common form of housing and, in Mexico City area, it increased from 14% in 1952 to 60% in 1990. Later on, the public policy priority shifted from house production to enhancement of real-estate market, local infrastructures and improvement of existing houses.
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. The Association changed its name to the National Custom & Self Build Association (NaCSBA) in July 2014 – borne out of a desire to officially welcome the custom build community.
Since 2016, local authorities in England are required to maintain a register of people and groups who want to build their own home.
- 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.
- Wael Salah Fahmi (2014). "Types of self built houses". The Adaptation Process of a Resettled Community to the Newly-Built Environment A Study of the Nubian Experience in Egypt: A Study of the Nubian Experience in Egypt. Universal-Publishers. p. 279. ISBN 9781612334233. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- Matthews, Robert (2002). All about Selfbuild: A Comprehensive Guide to Building Your Own Unique Home. Blackberry Books. p. 131. ISBN 9780951529522. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
- ”Mormons help people build homes in Visayas”, Manila Standard Today
- Westendorff, David (2009). Self-built housing in developing countries: current contributions and challenges to local development through volunteerism (PDF). Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos.
- 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 9 July 2014)
- Padova: "Progetto Sperimentale di Autocostruzione del Comune di Padova co-finanziato dal Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali", 2 April 2010; on-line: operanomadipadova.blog.tiscali.it (accessed on 9 July 2014)
- Programme of the 'course in 'Tecnologia dell'architettura of Politecnico di Torino; didattica.polito.it (accessed on 9 July 2014)
- Peter M., Ward (2010). "Self-Help Housing and Urbanization". Colonias and Public Policy in Texas and Mexico: Urbanization by Stealth. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292773929. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 July 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 August 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Self-build and custom housebuilding". GOV.UK. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
Self Build Resources
- U.K Self Build, Conversions and Extensions Guide
- Build It magazine, expert advice & inspiration for UK self-builders at self-build.co.uk
- Homebuilding & Renovating magazine, advice, case studies, directory and ideas from homebuilding.co.uk
- The Self Build Guide
- The Self Build Portal - The gateway to more custom build homes (from the National Self Build Association)