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AVOIDING grand designs disasters

Architect Julian Owen takes a closer look at common selfbuild pitfalls and how to make sure your project doesn’t fall victim to them
Architectural practice Melt Design Hub ( took a holistic approach to the interiors and structural design of this building; a photography studio and space for guests to stay.
The integrated approach has created an impressive response to the challenging site and brief

Bad luck can affect any of us at any time, and the same holds true with self-building. Perhaps the neighbour that objects to your project turns out to be an influential councillor; a gas main is in a completely different place to the maps and didn’t show up on the survey; a 500-year-old skeleton is discovered beneath the centre of your proposed dwelling; and so on. Some things you can come up against are simply out of our control, regardless of how much preparation you’ve done.

It seems nearly every episode of the big self-build TV shows features something that doesn’t go according to plan. Many mistakes made are because the owner underestimated the risk of a potentially vital part of the preparation or process. In fact, a wellorganised self-build probably wouldn’t fit the director’s brief for good TV viewing because of the lack of drama. Coming in on time and on budget would no doubt leave viewers feeling cheated of entertainment. But if you aren’t keen on giving Kevin McCloud the chance to dissect your mistakes, here are some scenarios you’ll recognise from the television and how you can avoid them.

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January 2018
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About Build It

Get your self-build or renovation project started with advice & inspiration from Build It magazine. Here's what to expect in the January issue: • How the Rogers built an Arts & Crafts-style modern home • The latest on smart home technology • Are woodburning stoves eco friendly? • Heating options for renovations • Avoiding grand designs disasters • Plot Watch: Did they get planning consent? ...and much more!