6. Writing a Brief


Briefing your architect

Communicating what your house is to be is an essential part of the design process. The key is to get as much as you can down on paper - this will help your architect produce a clear brief for the building design that will match your needs and desires.


4 factors driving the design:


1 Quantity

  • How many rooms do you need?

  • How are you going to use them?

  • Are there restrictions on how you can use the site?

  • Are these needs likely to change with time? (eg expanding/contracting family)


2 Quality

  • How do you see the style of the house? Have you got images you can share?

  • What sort of materials do you like? Walls? Roof? Windows? (see Green materials below)

  • Are some spaces more important to face the sun than others? (eg living rooms)

  • Can you think of the moods of the rooms (eg a colourful bedroom for children)

  • Are you restricted in how the house appears (eg conservation area/national park)


3 Budget

  • Green building is commonly associated with costlier materials and construction. Whereas this can be largely true, there are many aspects of Green building that cost either nothing or very little while making significant reductions in environmental impact - often referred to as ‘easy wins’ or ‘low hanging fruit’. 

  • We discuss the no / low cost key design strategies that can provide the ‘easy wins’ here.

  • Assessing the ultimate cost of Green building is often complicated by a high initial capital outlay (aka ‘First cost’) which only becomes a benefit over a period of time. Calculating ‘bangs for bucks’ is not straightforward - you could elect for different strategies according to your specific needs. Talk to your architect about your priorities when investing in materials and equipment.

  • Do your homework into available materials and equipment. We provide information and guidance to help you make the decisions that are important to you. 

  • Don’t build more space in your house than you actually need. It will cost more in terms of budget, heating bills and environmental impacts. 


4 Environmental Preferences

  • Talk to your architect about how you feel about environmental issues. This will include climate change, resource depletion, pollution, well-being etc. 

  • Green self-builders fall into a spectrum of ‘Green’ .  Depending on how important it is to be Green, you will likely find yourself on the spectrum between low and high importance. In environmental parlance this will be between ‘Green’ and ‘Dark Green’.

  • For reasons discussed elsewhere, the fundamental environmental design principle for new buildings is ‘Fabric First’. This means that before attaching equipment such as solar panels, the building must already have a high degree of energy efficiency provided through its design and use of building materials. A Green architect will understand this and be able to advise.

  • Your choice of materials will be governed both by your commitment to being Green and your budget.  Some Green materials attract a premium because they still represent a niche in the market dominated by volume house builders.

  • Technology such as solar panels, wind turbines and heat pumps have a strong association with the idea of Green. However, their use depends on a number of factors working in conjunction. Often very costly, their application is not always appropriate.