Blog: 19 February 2016Snuggle up to Self-Build Design

Tom Macklen

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Tom Macklen

Architectural Associate

Bristol office

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As the housing crisis rumbles on, so does the conversation around self-build providing a valuable answer to solving both affordability and supply issues.

Indeed, the beauty of self-build homes such as the SNUG, is that they give people choice, ownership and control of their home. But what does such a home look like?

Hopefully you are aware (see previous post – Could innovative DIY design be the affordable, sustainable answer to the UK’s housing crisis?) that we are currently developing the prototype design for the SNUG Home. Utilising simple and effective design, the aim is to make the SNUG as flexible and adaptable as possible for homeowners.

The modular structural design is based on a simple ‘o-beam’ design, which is commonly used on the continent in places such as Amsterdam. Residents choose the number, size and arrangement of prefabricated modules for the size of home they need. The then part-finished modules are delivered to site for either residents to complete themselves according to their own specification or can be finished by the SNUG team.

This simple, adaptable and cost-effective approach merges the advantages of prefab design with self-build. It’s easy to create terraces or apartment blocks by stacking the modules, and they lend themselves well to more collective ways of living, such as cohousing, where homes can be smaller as people also have access to shared living spaces.

The team has worked hard to develop a design that offers the following benefits:

  • Low cost
  • Ecological materials
  • Energy saving/producing
  • Visually attractive
  • Modular
  • Customisable
  • Moveable by road
  • Stackable/joinable in a range of ways
  • Giving a flexible range of layouts
  • Potential for a range of end uses
  • Playful
  • Can be temporary or permanent

The SNUG Home has been designed with a number of features in mind: it’s an efficient and sustainable dwelling with creativity at the core for its residents. The walls are super insulated with blown cellulose made of recycled newspaper, creating a simple, well-insulated box to keep energy bills to a minimum. Whilst the top-floor windows are set back to provide an additional terrace area and provide important shading to the upstairs area to prevent overheating, a chamfered south-facing balcony/canopy with strong accents of colour provides shading to the living space below whilst creating visual interest particularly when part of a terrace composition.

Externally, the use of timber battens clad vertically with splashes of colour across the elevation aims to produce a straightforward but bold design. Internally, the design again provides an efficient layout, with the living/kitchen space and bathroom on the ground floor and a sleeping area on the first floor. The SNUG Home makes use of basic passive sustainable principles: minimising openings to the north to reduce heat loss and increasing openings with solar shading devices to the south increases solar gain in the winter months, all helping to reduce mechanical heating demands.

The SNUG Home can be clad or wrapped in a wide variety of sustainably sourced and vernacular materials such as: timber battens/shingles, brick and rain-screen cladding (to name a few), giving flexibility and the opportunity for people to engage with the design and be creative with their new home.

Appetite for alternative housing is increasing, and although design and ease of construction are vital for self-build homes, I believe that as prices of homes and land constantly go up, we still have work to do on changing people’s perceptions of how housing should look and, indeed, work.

Clever design can help house people quickly and economically but the SNUG Home custom-build project is not just about building their own home, it provides opportunity for developing new skills, creating new jobs, forging stronger communities – ultimately empowering homeowners.

The SNUG home has just won ‘Outstanding New Business Ideas’ at the EDGE Awards! The Awards provide a stage to celebrate, recognise and reveal the best in design, gadgetry and entrepreneurialism in Bath, Bristol and Gloucestershire.

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Self-build, Prefab