Blog 2: Starting on Site


In our last blog we began the self-build journey with our clients, Stef and Pauline. We saw what it looked like to appoint an architect and work through the initial design process, making sure all the discussions that needed to happen had taken place. We finished the blog just after we had worked with Stef and Pauline to gain plot passport compliance. This blog will pick up Stef and Pauline’s journey from this point, showing you how they got from there to seeing the first materials getting delivered on site at their Graven Hill plot.


Technical Design


The next step along the journey, after being given the go ahead for the house design by Graven Hill and the local authority, is the technical design phase. This is all about making sure the necessary information to actually build the house is put down on paper, alongside all the building regulations that proves the building can stand up and is safe. Ultimately this allows builders to price for, and eventually construct, the new home. Important design features like where steel beams might go, where services run, or how the timber frame aspects will be put up, are finalised at this stage.

We are the co-ordinator between all the different professionals at this point, and we even help the client with their selection of these professionals. We made sure that Stef and Pauline were in control of all the companies that had started to come on board with the project at this point. This is especially important as several parts begin to move fairly simultaneously in the technical design phase. We were talking to the structural engineer to make sure the design is seen through, as envisioned, and that the calculations had been completed. We were liaising with Graven Hill to make sure that the Golden Brick was moving in the right direction (more on that later). And, importantly, we were shortlisting different contractors to make sure Stef and Pauline were choosing the best company for the job. Our Ultimate Graven Hill Self Build Checklist is a useful document for helping you to get your head around what happens at each part of the design and build process.

Image: Our team now begins to work with other professionals to produce the technical design


Appointing a Contractor


Stef and Pauline wanted to work with builders who they could trust to build their home exactly as it had been designed. Once we had the relevant information about the materials needed, we tendered out the project to several contractors. At this point we were working in Stef and Pauline’s interest to make sure that they were receiving a fair price for their build, whilst also helping them to decide who they could trust to deliver their project. We compared the different companies and analysed their tender returns to make sure there was no unnecessary costings or stipulations. For Stef and Pauline, it was Drewett and Hunt contractors that ended up winning the contract. We had worked with Drewett and Hunt on Build It’s Self Build Education house, so we knew that they understood the Graven Hill process, and Stef and Pauline felt like they could place their trust in them.


Golden Brick


In addition to everything being designed above ground, we also had to be involved with the works below ground. At Graven Hill there is a process called Golden Brick. This involves Graven Hill providing the foundations of the build up to DPC (Damp Proof Course) level (essentially the foundation plus the first few layers of bricks, you can see what this looks like in the images below). Graven Hill will also make sure the services, such as gas and electricity, are in the right place to provide the building with energy and other amenities. This Golden Brick process means that when Stef and Pauline exchange with Graven Hill the plot will be VAT exempt.

Image: The work on the Golden Brick foundation begins


The idea of another contractor and company providing the foundations was a little strange to Stef and Pauline, but both Opinder, director of lapd Architects, and Nick, director of Drewett and Hunt, went down to the plot whilst the Golden Brick foundations were being put in place to make sure they could have confidence in what was happening. Both Opinder and Nick made sure everything was running smoothly and that the foundations were being laid correctly on site. These first moments on site, even though the plot was not yet fully Stef and Pauline’s, were very exciting. They were the first real sign that a house will be built on this plot. To see actual work start on site is always exhilarating, and even the low level foundations were something to be proud of. Stef and Pauline were able to appreciate the scale of their home by walking through the ground floor – a wonderful milestone along the journey to their dream home!

Images: The foundations are now complete up to Golden Brick DPC level


Exchanging with Graven Hill and the First Materials Arrive


Once the Golden Brick was completed, the exchange on the plot could happen. Imagine the excitement of getting the keys for your new home, but instead of a finished home you are greeted with all the amazing potential of just the foundations and floor slab. Your designs in hand, you look at this plot of land, which you now own, and contemplate the fact that in the near future a home completely designed around your life will be standing right there. Stef and Pauline’s dream was about to become a reality. We remember well how excited Stef and Pauline were when the first materials began to arrive on site. Truckloads of actual material. They could touch the very components of their soon to be home. The scaffolding began to go up, the contractors were on site, the cranes were lifting timber frame panels into position. It almost seemed surreal to Stef and Pauline, and it was a moment of excitement for all involved. We love sharing these big moments with our clients.

Images: The first materials (the flat pack timber frame) arrive on site


Stef and Pauline are now well and truly on their way to building their dream self-build home. In our next blog we will be seeing what the start of a build on site looks like at Graven Hill, watching as the first components of the timber frame are put up on site.

If you would like to talk to us about exploring the options of self-building, either at Graven Hill or elsewhere, then do not hesitate to get in touch. We offer free initial consultations over zoom. If you are considering self-build, and want some more information, why not visit the award-winning Build It Self-Build Education House that our director, Opinder Liddar, designed? This first of its kind project allows you to explore a real self-build, and see what it actually looks like, helping you to think through your dream project.

Call us

We’re available to chat about your dream home any time Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm

01865 407722