When instructing your design team you will need to have a clear idea of what
you want them to design for you.
Your housing needs survey and other information will help you decide on the
scheme you need to build:
- the tenure types: social rent, intermediate market rent or
- the sizes of homes: 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom etc
In instructing either your design team or the developer, you will need also
to take some decisions in relation to the specification and layout of the homes.
If you aspire to build homes with reduced environmental impact and low running
cost, you will also need to consider the approach to be adopted to achieve this
and what factors matter the most to you.
Levels of involvement
Your opportunity to affect the design and specification will depend on the
- if you buy homes from a developer for onward sale or rent, you may
have no choices open to you other than to agree to proceed: or to withdraw.
- If the developer’s homes have yet to be built, you may have the option
to pay a bit more for an amended specification but the layout of the site
and the homes is probably still fixed.
- if you choose design and build, you are to some extent hoping that the
developer will use their experience and knowledge to choose materials and
suppliers which achieve the specified standards at the lowest possible
price. You can still however ask to agree the site and dwelling layouts (but
should aim to take on board the developer’s views about what might add or
reduce cost) and could require the developer to agree such things as the
- if you employ the professional team to design all aspects of the scheme
and invite tenders to build it you can control all aspects of the design and
specification. But you will still need to make sure the architect brings
site and dwelling layouts to you for approval; and that you are able to say
no to higher cost design or specification elements that he or she may wish
In all cases building control and planning regulations will ensure that the
dwellings conform to legal requirements: your role will be in relation to
If funded by subsidy from the Homes & Communities Agency’s National
Affordable Housing Programme, it will also be necessary to meet particular
standards of design as set out in the HCA’s Housing Quality Indicators. These
cover all the issues discussed below and provide a means to assess your schemes
against a set of design standards and the percentage score will be a
consideration when the amount of grant you are asking for is considered.
The sizes of homes that used to be required by English Partnerships and the
Housing Corporation (as was) are as follows. In the private sector, sizes may be
smaller as dwellings are often underoccupied and bedrooms may in practice be
used as studies for example. Part-ownership homes too may be underoccupied but
probably less so: rented homes tend to be occupied to capacity. While these
sizes are not mandatory for HCA funding and a good layout can mitigate a reduced
size, these sizes are quite a good guide to what might be acceptable.
There are two sets of plans which you will need to think about: the site
layout and the dwelling layouts.
On the site layout, your designer – whether an architect or a developer –
should have in mind a range of issues: whether living spaces are south facing,
opportunities and problems of solar gain generally, security (the ”Secure by
Design” designation involves the police in looking at the site layout to make
sure common spaces are in plain view well-lit etc.), overlooking between
dwellings, access roads which slow vehicles down or keep them away from houses,
parking, fencing (height and type), tree and hedge planting. You should have a
meeting with him or her to explain the approach that has been adopted on a range
of topics of this kind and to provide you with the opportunity to agree or
disagree with what is proposed.
Another meeting should be held on the dwelling layouts to look at the sizes
of each room, the choice of kitchen/dining +living rooms versus kitchen +
living/dining, whether bathrooms have windows or are internal, how the
circulation space works (e.g. whether there is a hall or whether the staircase
is open plan), separate wcs, storage and which way the homes face. The kitchen
and bathroom layouts may also be worth looking at. Again your role is to
question what the designer is proposing.
The Code for Sustainable Homes will measure the sustainability of your home
against nine design categories: Energy and CO2 Emissions; water; materials;
surface water run-off; waste; pollution; health and wellbeing; management; and
ecology. The Code operates under a rating system of one to six and currently all
homes are required to meet the sustainability criteria set under Level 3. As
such it will be necessary to consider your construction methods and the
contribution this makes to the durability and sustainability of your home.
It will be possible to construct your homes to meet the various standards of
sustainability and design set out above cost effectively. B There may be a cost
trade off between better insulation and lower heating costs. A very well
insulated home may be capable of being heated with a single wood burning stove
combined with circulation of warm air or with an air-source heat pump, saving
the cost of full central heating. Similarly low cost materials like straw or
waste wool may be used as insulation so that high sustainable standards do not
necessarily mean high costs.
Points are awarded for each category forming a final score in the style of a
hotel-style star rating system, ranging from 1 for the least sustainable homes
to 6 for those that are the most energy efficient, water efficient, and friendly
to the environment. It is currently mandatory for new-build homes to achieve a
rating of 3 as measured by the Code. This can be achieved through
environmentally friendly construction techniques and building materials. For
example, the use of timber frames in the building of the home and incorporation
of solar water heating panels into the design can contribute to both sustainable
construction and energy efficiency upon completion.
A short information leaflet on what the Code for Sustainable Homes is and to
For more technical information and an array of resources on the Code please visit the
A particular valuable resource is the
Guide to Sustainable Construction published by Cumbria Rural Housing Trust.
This discusses environmentally friendly planning and design issues when building
sustainable homes in addition to consideration of cost effective methods trusts
may want to pursue.
In addition to the sustainability of your homes, it will be necessary to meet
the standard building regulations laid out in The Building Regulations 2000.
Information on these can be found on the
CLG website. General enquiries around building regulations ought to be
directed to your local authority as they have a duty to implement and enforce
An authoritative guide to standards and quality in the development of affordable
housing can be obtained from the National Housing Federation at a cost of £75.
This provides a guide to meeting standards of minimum design which comply with
planning policies in addition to approaches to achieving Levels 3 and 4 of the
Code for Sustainable Homes. See
https://www.housing.org.uk/OnlineStore/, titled: Standards and quality in
development: A good practice guide (2nd edition).
When embarking on the design and development of their homes, CLTs should also
be aware that it is necessary to obtain a 10 year Structural Warranty on newly
built homes. The most usual providers are NHBC and Premier: BuildZone may also
provide guarantees for self-build and for other unusual build methods. While
this is not legislated, it is an integral element of lending criteria for banks
and it may impact upon the ability of prospective purchasers to obtain a
mortgage. This warranty will provide cover in the event of defects arising from
the design or workmanship of the property that lead to a structural problem. See http://www.build-zone.com/
for more information.