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News

Protection from flooding

The BRE has launced an innovative prototype home to help homeowners mitigate the risk of flood damage 

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East Kingskerswell development plans

Plans for new development in East Kingskerswell, Teignbridge, include allowances for self and custom build

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Could self build costs increase?

A new report from the FMB highlights a surge in the cost of materials since the referendum

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Custom build in East Staffordshire

New custom build development to launch in Burton upon Trent

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Planning overhaul in Scotland

Plans for major changes to Scotland's planning system have been unveiled

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Case Studies

Contemporary Timber Frame Home

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Passivhaus Family Farmhouse

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Steel Farm

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Merlin Haven

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Timber Frame Home, Ventnor

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Aldcliffe Yard, Lancaster

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Walthamstow Social Rent Scheme

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Prefabricated Passivhaus bungalow

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Cookham Dean, Berkshire

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Harvest House

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Bickleigh Eco Village, Devon

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Stoke-on-Trent Serviced Building Plots

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Forevergreen House

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Housing People Building Communities

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Sülzer Freunde, Cologne

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Berlin - 'Building Groups'

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Manor Farm, Kirton

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Straw-baling, Perthshire

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Findhorn

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Almere, Holland

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Hockerton

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Top tips

Custom Build Serviced Plots Loan Fund

Custom Build Serviced Plots Loan Fund Read more

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Utility Connections

Design

Gas, electricity, water, sewage, phones. Together, these constitute the services and you need to have them (or as many as you can get) to turn a building plot into a home.

• A self builder’s first port of call is to get in touch with the local service providers and to ask for a quotation for a new supply. It’s one area where Google is unhelpful — search terms like selfbuild new supply turn up all manner of strange things, but not the New Homes department of your local utilities. You will need to persist and eventually find the people you need.

• You don’t have to own a plot of land to generate a quotation. Obtaining new connection prices is one of the first tasks to undertake when assessing the viability of a plot purchase. Sometimes, the resulting high connection fees can be enough to render a project unviable.

Electricity supply can be extremely difficult to arrange and is often the most expensive. Your local REC (Regional Electricity Company) is responsible for new connections and will quote for a new supply.

• Sometimes you can make this a little cheaper by doing some of the trenching work yourself.  The electricity companies prefer you to locate your meter in a white plastic box, recessed into your wall, which is convenient for them but often pretty ugly and you can insist on an indoor meter.

• It is very useful to have a temporary supply to site whilst construction is underway but you have to do a bit of construction work first to create a suitable housing for it. The REC will instruct you on what is required.

• Electricity supply quotes vary from under £1,000 (unusual these days) to many thousands if anything unusual is involved, though typically charges are between £2,000 and £3,000.

• Mains Gas connection prices tend to be much more reasonable, often £300 or so. Not all properties are near a gas main and so connection is not always feasible, but it’s often worth asking for a quotation because sometimes the main can be extended to take account of a new property coming online.

Water supply seem to hover between gas (low) and electricity (high), though are very variable depending on the length of the run. New homes in England and Wales are fitted with water meters and these are normally placed as near to the highway as possible.

• Once you have accepted a quotation, the water company will normally fit a temporary standpipe near to the meter and leave you to distribute the water around the site. Note that water pipes need to be buried at least 750mm below ground to avoid freezing up.

• Note that water mains are now conventionally run in alkathene MDPE pipe and if you plan on having a mains pressure hot water system, it will pay dividends to use a wide bore pipe (25mm minimum) to ensure the maximum flow into the house.

Mains Drains: you will have to make early enquiries as to whether mains drainage is available and how much it will cost to connect. It’s often the water company that runs the drainage as well, and they will be able to provide you with a quotation before you start work.

• If the road has to be opened, it can be very expensive as the work will have to be licensed and will be inspected by the operator, the highways department and your building inspector.

• Generally, if the cost rises above £5,000 for a sewer connection, it starts to become cost effective to think of an off-mains solution such as a septic tank or a treatment plant.

• Note that in England and Wales, water and sewer connections are subject to a little known tax; the infrastructure charge. Currently, it’s £312 for each service. One piece of good news is that VAT is not chargeable on new connection work (and that includes all the utilities).

Telecoms: these tend to be the easiest and cheapest utility to deal with. They often supply you with plastic ducting to lay below ground which their cabling can be pulled through at a later date.

• Industry standards are to lay gas and electricity and telecoms at around 450mm below ground, water at 750mm. You can save yourself a lot of work if you co-ordinate your utility pipes into one trench.