Many busy people most likely prefer buying completed houses which suits their life styles. Buying an already completed house has a lot of advantages. You save time on supervisions; you don’t have to worry about the quality or quantity of materials to be delivered to site, security of the materials is none of your business, taking care of site personnel and so on. On the negative side of buying a completed house, the main disadvantage is the high cost of the property.  In most cases, a completed house will come at a high price due to the fact that profits will have been added by the builder. In some parts of the world, especially the developed world, building your own house might not come too easy according to the laws and building regulations of some countries. However, in many other parts of the world – mainly the developing world, building your own house is a sure way of achieving the goal of your dream house at a slightly lower cost than buying a completed house.

Let us now look at the initial steps to be considered in the quest to have your own dream house constructed.

First Step:  First and foremost, you need to know or have a clear idea about the type of house you want. If you already have a family, it might serve you right to consult your family members as these are the people to be occupying the new house with you. There are a lot of house types to choose from; bungalows, cottages, farmhouses, decks, ranches, apartments, manufactured houses, mansions, the list is endless. This is where your accurate choice is needed. All design solutions are really based on your lifestyle needs, ensuring that your home offers you the highest levels of comfort and overall livability. Many times, the success of your project depends on whether you have an ‘emotional connection’ with your architect or designer. It is then possible to have budget assessments to understand what you can achieve with the budget you have allocated. This can only be possible as part of your lifestyle assessment looking at your proposed project and give you some initial thoughts on how far your budget can stretch.

Budgets can make or break designs. Too low means you won’t like what has been designed and won’t love the end product. While too high, means you will never find financing to complete your project or may take too long that you might lose interest.
Second Step:  After knowing exactly what type of house suits you and your family’s lifestyle, a qualified Architects’ door will be your next stop so that your preference is put to design. The Architect will come up with what we call the Architectural plan of your dream house. An architectural plan is the drawing which shows details of a proposed development or building, its location, size and positioning.

 The Architect will want to know the size of your family, the size of the house you want, the topography of your area of construction, and any other special features you might want in and around your house. Apart from the standard features of a modern house like the kitchen, living room, dining area, shower rooms, bath, verandah or balcony, garage and bedrooms, there are other special features which an architect will not include in your house design unless you specifically request for them. These special features may include; a fire place, home library, home office, children’s’ play room, swimming pool, and many others as your preferences might dictate.
Also in design, the architect will have to put into consideration the cultural or traditional aspect of the family –for instance, does the family tradition dictates squatting in preference to sitting on the toilet while defecating? Are certain in-laws allowed to share the main house with the family heads? Is it acceptable for grown up children to continue sharing the main house with their parents?
The architectural plan is important for the aesthetic purposes and comfort of you and the neighbours around the area being developed. To the authorities, a properly designed architectural plan maintains order and ensures comfort for you and the public.

The plan should have the details of the building such as dimensions of the different rooms, wall sizes, window and door sizes and site plan which specifically shows the positioning of the building in relation to the plot and its surrounding. It should also have a drainage plan, location plan and a range of details to help the contractor when building to do the right thing. The plan should be approved by the relevant authorities.

Features you should look out for on your architectural plan.

a. The Title Block: This includes your name and address, Architects’ name, description of the project and the date at which the architectural plan was drawn and completed. It also indicates the people who drew and checked the plan; the scales used which accurately represent the exact size of the building on the paper.

b. Location Plan: This should have a direction compass, showing the roads and the site. It should also indicate the neighbouring plots and key landmarks such as public buildings or schools that can help to locate the area to be developed. The location plan also has to indicate – if any, a brief on the services within and around the plot such as water mains, Gas pipes, Telecom cables, or Power lines.
Still on the location plan, the topographic layout of the plot to be developed should be clearly defined, indicating the nature of the ground.

c. Direction Compass: This gives the geographic directions or positioning of the plot to be developed.

d. Detailed Building plan: This is the plan for the whole house and this plan will depend on your preference, but done with the guidance of the Architect. It should have the size of the rooms and the circulation space addressing the comfort of the people to occupy the house. The rooms are designed in particular areas to allow maximum levels of comfort, for example, a bathroom cannot be built facing the sitting room directly.

e. Building section or sections:  This is to show the heights of the building. That is, the walls, beams, floor slabs, windows, doors and roof heights. It briefly highlights the materials to be used on the house, foundation and superstructure.

f. Elevations: These are derived from the sections. Elevations give the picture of the building and how it looks like from the sides.

g. Site Plan: This shows the detailed positioning of the building and different services proposed within the plot to be developed. It shows the building layout, drainage plan and storm water management, parking space and any green areas maintained as required by the building and planning regulations.

h. Construction notes: These give a brief but very important descriptions and specifications of the major materials to be used. Construction notes mainly highlight details of the roof, walls, doors and windows, foundation and the topography of the area. Other special features on the building may be highlighted in the notes as it may deem necessary by the Architect.

i. Roof plan: The roof plan shows how the roof drains the water, how it moves the storm water, and how the movement of the water is directed.

j. Architects stamp and sign: This is a legal requirement which ensures that the architect needs to own their work and it should be a registered person by a relevant professional body. With the Architects’ stamp and sign, together with all necessary checks being done, the house plan is now ready for submission for approval to the relevant authorities.

After these two steps – which fall under preparations, major ‘building development’ activities get underway. I will be highlighting the activities involved immediately after your house plan has been approved by the authorities, right here, very soon.