In October we were invited to the Grand Design Live show in Birmingham having been shortlisted for the self-build on a shoestring award with our entry: A Self Build Guild. Happily, as a practice of two we were awarded second prize as runners up to a massive multi-disciplinary practice – we’ll take that. In the long term, this is an idea we would like to develop further and pilot with a small group of residents.
Finance is often an obstacle to self-building. Access to land, specialist and expert knowledge, and not least funding, preclude many would-be self-builders, and render self-build as a privileged housing option available only to aspirational ‘grand-designers’. As opposed to focussing on the design ‘Starter Home’ as a product, we have addressed the design of a process. This approach is rooted in the understanding that the process of making, doing, even imagining and designing your own home has many benefits for a wide number of people. Be it skills building, confidence, a creative output, a sense of self-achievement and reliance, these are gains often cited by self-builders.
We call our model the self-build guild – a cooperative set-up to provide access to specialist knowledge, technical assistance, and professional equipment and machinery. The Guild benefits from the skills and knowledge brought by consultants who work with the organisation, and works to negotiate and purchase land for self-build projects. Most importantly, the workshop facilities enable self-builders to make the component panels of their homes, based on an easy-build, cost-efficient timber cassette system to achieve high construction standards through off-site fabrication.
In the Guild tradition, makers with limited financial assets can trade time (or sweat equity) for materials, providing a way in which self-build could feasibly be made available and accessible as a first-time housing option for many people.