The road to building your own home can be a long one, fraught with potential hidden costs, battles with planning departments, and communication problems with tradespeople. It is therefore no wonder that so many go down the package build route.
But, with so many package suppliers out there, how do you choose the right one?
Benefits of Package Suppliers
Package companies specialise in offering self builders a one stop, hassle free design and build solution with design, material supply and labour all part of the package.
They can either conduct the project to weathertight stage for you to takeover when it comes to fitting the interiors, or provide a ‘turnkey’ service where they complete the project and hand over the keys for you to move in.
The biggest draw is the fixed price element — they will provide a cost based on your chosen specification which is reassuring for those who are concerned about budgets.
Finally, it is appealing to many self builders to have one point of contact for their build, rather than having to liaise with a troop of architects, contractors and builders, as is the case in the regular self build route.
Before commissioning a package supplier, carefully decide how much involvement you want. This could be influenced by your own expertise, your budget, and what kind of construction you want.
Here is a checklist of those vital decisions:
- Do you want to have a big say in the design?
- Do you want to act as project manager?
- Do you want to take part in the build?
- Do you want the house finished, or just to weathertight stage?
Structural Choices and features
- Do you want timber or masonry construction?
- Do you want energy-efficient options available?
Time and Money
- What is your budget?
- Do you have a time limit?
If you can approach a package supplier with answers to these questions it will be much easier for them to assist you.
Timber Frame or Masonry?
If you want natural materials, a lightweight structure and a quick build time then timber frame is the way to go. It is seen as a sustainable option and can be erected and weatherproofed in a matter of days (prior groundworks are essential of course). This is not to say masonry should be ruled out — companies such as Design & Materials specialise in offering solid structures in this well known construction system. It is also worth noting that the build method and materials used are more familiar to most labourers meaning that repairs or additional work post-project will be easier to sort.
With self build comes the opportunity to achieve a lower cost and greener way of living so it is worth knowing which package suppliers offer the best eco solutions. Most package companies are aware of the eco movement and have great eco options amongst their designs, but the following companies are renowned for their eco offerings.
Huf Haus are a German package company well known for their timber and glass designs. In the ‘green [r]evolution’ design all of the structural elements of the timber frame use a highly efficient thermal insulation layer to significantly reduce any thermal leakage. Even the basic specification of the green [r]evolution design offers an air-to-water heat pump, underfloor heating and increased insulation.
Scothaus are producing super airtight homes with fewer than three air changes per hour (as opposed to the 10 accepted by current Building Regulations). They will also integrate renewable energy systems of your choosing.
Potton, who were the first company to build to Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Homes, can provide a timber frame envelope for the client to create a passive house if they wish.
Design & Materials
Design & Materials provide a minimum U Value of 0.17 for a masonry build and combine this with an airtight structure.
Weathertight or Turnkey?
Turnkey is the hands off approach. WeberHaus for example with include the following in their turnkey service:
- project management
- carrying out (and completing the build)
- installing plumbing
- installing electrics
- installing a boiler and hot water cylinders, heat recovery ventilation and underfloor heating as standard
- installing any specified renewable energy
- skirting boards
- fit bathrooms, kitchens and doors
- paint and decorate throughout
Hanse Haus, Baufritz, Scothaus, Welsh Oak Frame, Hebridean Homes, Flight Homes, and Carpenter Oak & Woodland are a few of the other major companies offering this service. Companies which usually complete the house to weathertight stage, but don’t offer a turnkey service, can put you in contact with recommended tradespeople whom they have worked with before. This option may be preferable for those working to a tighter budget, or those who want to be able to say they had a certain degree of hands on involvement in their project.
Some package suppliers offer exciting technologies which can make your self build extra special. Baufritz have a new, unique feature called the ‘cabriolet roof’. As you would expect from the name, much like a convertible car, it allows you to raise the roof at the touch of a button, turning the top of your home into a roof garden or terrace. Home automation is another popular add on. Hanse Haus cover anything from programmed media devices to fully integrated saunas and swimming pools. Their security and safety products include the power to mimic light and shutter functions whilst you are away from home; shutters and lighting which activate in the event of an intruder; and escape route lighting and deactivation of ventilation systems in the case of a fire. Much of this technology can be controlled with a mobile phone or from a central unit.