Planning the Project
Many factors will influence your decisions about what is the ideal property to build. Amongst these are the building plot and its topography, the style of the surrounding properties, local planning requirements, your budget and also, very importantly, your specific day to day living requirements.
The shape and slopes of the building plot can often be incorporated into novel designs and shapes of building which take advantage of the natural features. For example, steeply sloping land may well lend itself to incorporating garage space and utility basement areas under the main living area of the house.
Look critically at any existing natural plant growth and trees, and decide in advance what will be retained. If there is a stream running through or adjacent to the property, consider the possibility of flooding and ensure you build above flood levels. Check on any previous use of the land to ensure its suitability for building on. If your plot is in a mining area where subsidence could be a problem, make sure you have the appropriate surveys done first to ensure the stability of your land.
Think also about the orientation of your building relative to the best views and which rooms should overlook these, to the sun position in the morning, and in the late afternoon. Think too about the slope of the land and consider where water will drain to naturally - you may need to consider altering the land levels to ensure flow away from your building.
Take into account factors like where you might have vehicle and pedestrian access. Look also to see where existing mains services are located and consider how these will be routed into your property.
Look carefully at the style of surrounding properties, check also that there are no covenants affecting what you can and cannot do with your building. Check also with the planning authorities for area based design requirements - local building regulations can often restrict choices in the interest of retaining the character of an area. Make sure your planned style will fit in well with the locality.
One of the main reasons people end up building their own homes, apart from the financial benefits that can be achieved by doing this, is so that they can design the property to give a perfect match for their living requirements. This is fine but do remember to think ahead for the changes that time will bring.
For example, if you have young children, the rooms that may suit them today will need to be adaptable enough to still be right when they are teenagers. Think also about the adults in the house - will the layout, pitch of any stairs, door sizes, etc., still be suitable when reaching a more advanced age?
Think too about the possibility of resale - try to put yourself into the shoes of prospective purchasers; does your design and living space lend itself readily to different uses for other needs? Consider the advisability of incorporating features that will make the property suitable for the disabled - ramped access to entrances, wider than standard doors, turning space for a wheelchair in toilets, bathrooms and kitchens, position and height of power points and light switches - most of these are things that can easily be done at the build stage at negligible extra cost, but which can make the property much more flexible in its potential use.
At the end of the day much of your design will probably be dictated by the size of budget available - unusual roof lines, non-standard window shapes, and other special features can add considerably to your costs. The more use that can be made of 'standard' materials the better from a budgetary point of view.