Not all plots are perfect, but with a good architect on board, you'll be able to tackle any issues head on and still create your dream self-build home. 

small self build on no utility plot - grand designs 

Image: Echo Living 

Searching for a plot for your self-build home is no easy task. Not only do you have location, views and infrastructure to consider for your new property, but also planning permission and any site restrictions that may be in place. 

However, even if your dream plot has a few undesirable qualities, that doesn't mean you can't build there. Work with your architect like these 4 self-builders did to overcome any obstacles on a tricky plot. 

Flood risks

self build on a low risk flood plain

Image: Border Oak 

The edge-of-village land Ben and Merry Albright bought in Herefordshire had a mixed flood classification although it contained only a tiny brook, had never flooded, and is at a distance from and higher than the river. Built on a section of the plot assessed as no risk, the couple still had to prove there were emergency exit routes for a 1:1,000 year flood event, and the house was also designed with a raised slab that is 700mm higher than any recorded flood.

They opted for a design by Border Oak with a handmade frame and structural insulated panels similar to those found in other local barns. Its U-shape reduces its visual impact from the village, too. The project cost around £800,000 including the plot, garage and landscaping.

Read more: How to build a flood-proof home

No utilities 

timber clad self build with solar panel - grand designs

Image: Echo Living 

There was no mains electricity or water available on the windy site on which Duncan and Ashley MacGregor chose to build a bothy on their working farm, on the side of the Campsie Fells north of Glasgow. The property, designed by Echo Living, copes with the conditions year-round with a squat outline, high levels of insulation made from sheep’s wool for walls, floors and roof, a wood-burning stove for heat, and south-west facing double-glazed patio doors that provide heat from solar gain.

As it’s off-grid, solar panels bring power, bottled gas heats the water and fuels the cooking appliances, and water comes from a natural spring in the hills. The house enjoys panoramic views although the elevation to the north is windowless. The cost of a similar building would be around £70,000 installed with fixtures, fittings and finishes. 

On a slope 

self build on sloped plot - grand designs

Image: Roderick James 

This timber-framed home was designed for a steeply sloping site on the Cornish coast by Roderick James Architects for a retired couple who wanted a house by the sea. In response to the plot, the house has numerous levels as it steps down the slope, and features both green and low-pitched zinc roofs that help reduce its impact on neighbouring buildings.

The frame is made from Douglas fir that was painted to give it a seaside-style look, and it has an open-plan layout. It was orientated to maximise the sea views with large expanses of glass. The project cost £2,500 per sqm.

Read more: 3 innovative houses built on sloped plots

Small plot

small self build house in london - grand designs

Image: Tim Crocker 

Architect Charles Betts of Gpad London had an area of just 6 by 7 metres within which to construct a home that would allow him and wife, Vicki, to break into the London property market. The former garage site had been rejected by others for its tiny proportions, but Charles designed a two-bed, three-floor house that uses brick at ground floor level to complement its Victorian neighbours, and brass cladding on the first floor.

Inside, space is maximised with a minimum of partition walls and circulation space. To boost light and air, the staircase is bounded by oak slats, which let light from the roof window reach ground level. Furthermore, the living room doors open to a central courtyard. Dual-aspect rooms and large windows and doors also help make the small house feel much bigger. The project cost under £250,000.


Which of these tricky self build projects is your favourite? Let us know by tweeting us @granddesigns or posting a comment on our Facebook page



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