Kunle Barker and Olaf at Grand Designs Live NEC 2021

Ask an Expert Weekend returns with self-build for beginners panel talk

A sneak preview of the Kunle Barker-hosted panel discussion for first-time self builders

By Victoria Purcell | 1 February 2022

Thinking of building a house from scratch and don’t know where to start? Sign up for Grand Designs Live Online’s Ask an Expert Weekend for advice from experts in architecture, planning, project management and more.

Ask an Expert Weekend returns from 26-27 February 2022 with panel talks hosted by property and construction expert and broadcaster Kunle Barker.

Panel talks include A Beginner’s Guide to Building a House from Scratch, Tips for Your Self-Build Project, and How to Build a More Sustainable Home. Before the events, Grand Designs Live Online is offering a preview of what you can expect from some of the discussions.

Grand Designs Live Online Ask an Expert Weekend is back for 2022

Grand Designs Live Online Ask an Expert weekend returns in February

A beginner’s guide to building a house

First up is a panel discussion offering advice for those embarking on their first self-build. Kunle Barker asks the experts for guidance on a number of self-build issues, from where to start with a self-build, to getting the right team in place, adhering to planning permission, the importance of the pre-construction phase, budgeting and project management.

The panel

  • Julian Owen of Julian Owen Associates, who founded the Association of Self Build Architects and published Self-Build: How to Design and Build Your Own Home with RIBA
  • Ruta Benetyte of Vita Architecture, a London and Surrey-based practice
  • Peter Warren of EAB Homes, which specialises in high-end residential projects
  • James Bryden of CLPM, which provides quantity surveying, project management and energy advice for self builds and renovations
  • Chris Whitehouse of NextPhase, which specialises in planning applications and planning appeals
  • Carle Gerber of Life U Design, which specialises in architecture, project management and party wall surveying

The discussion

Chris Whitehouse on planning permission

‘Planning is quite complex at the best of times. So one thing you don’t really want to do is start to irritate the local planning authority after you’ve already gained the permission. The most important thing to do from a planning perspective, once you’re in the process of formulating your team, is to make sure that everyone is aware of this specifics associated with the permissions. If you have pre-commencement conditions and you haven’t addressed them before you put a spade in the ground, that can cause a lot of problems later on.’

Kunle Barker quizzes Olaf Mason about his self-build project at Grand Designs Live in 2021

Kunle Barker quizzes Olaf Mason about his self-build project at Grand Designs Live in 2021. Photo: Media10

James Bryden and Julian Owen on setting and managing budgets

James: ‘Certainly the one piece of advice I would give is to make sure you are very open with your architects about your budget, to give them a fighting chance of actually designing something you can afford in the first place.’

Julian: ‘I find things are always more expensive than clients are expecting. And they always take longer than expected. It’s so important to spend the time making sure everything’s properly set up in the early stages. As I tell self-build clients, the process should be fun!’

Julian Owen on risk management

‘I’m a great believer in risk management, especially with self-builds. The approach I like to take with my clients is to start by identifying the key risks – what can go wrong and what to put in place to mitigate that. Cost them in. The biggest risk of any project is that it’ll go over budget. Then there’s time, and then there’s building quality. You need to have the right professionals in place to make sure that, when those problems arise, you’ve already got a strategy in place and you can deal with them. Part of our job is to make sure that those things that we know could go wrong, don’t.’