Problem-solving partners for Australian-inspired timber frame design
Helen and Steve Fairley’s timber-frame self-build was inspired by a family visit to Australia. “My brother lives in Australia and we love the houses over there”, explained Steve, “so it was always going to have an Australian theme.”
Steve’s role as project manager meant an extra level of stress, compounded further by financial issues due to a family rift. They paid £30K over the market rate for the plot, and Steve decided to design the house himself, with the help of Google SketchUp and lots of paper! Though without previous experience, he came up with a design for a three-bed family home. Key elements were lots of light and spaciousness, and an integrated garage to house Steve’s classic cars.
Steve’s designs were turned into drawings by another company, but the local planning department said the plans were likely to be rejected due to the scale and nature of the design. Steve went back to the drawing board to conceive a new design less likely to be turned down by the planners.
While Steve was at work on the redesign, he and Helen visited the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon, and met Fleming Homes’ MD, Hayden Martin. A few weeks later, Hayden visited their site. The couple were impressed by Hayden’s ideas and enthusiasm, and equally impressed by the price.
“I met Steve when he was a little disillusioned with the company he’d received the planning drawings from,” says Fleming Homes’ MD Hayden Martin. “He was bound by their design, had limited flexibility, and struggled to receive quick information from them to inform his decision-making. We were able to provide a solution at every step, and he liked our full specification, its high quality, and the flexibility of our materials and designs”.
“We met the Fairleys to address some of the design inefficiencies affecting their budget, and presented a very cost effective price compared to the other options they were considering. Steve could also see the value of having one point of contact through the timber fame construction phase.”
Fleming Homes were invited to provide a full specification kit for Steve and Helen. This included the structural timber frame, Rationel alu-clad windows and doors, full Superior Insulation, plasterboard, staircase, internal doors, skirtings, architraves, ironmongery, and more. We also did their building regulations approval, including timber frame engineering and SAP calculations. This allowed Steve to concentrate on his project management role.
Building regulations service
Fleming Homes also provided a building regulations service for a low one-off fee. “This went through without delay or issue,” says Hayden, “creating a complete set of working copy drawings for the various trades on Steve’s build. This made his tender process for other trades (builders, roofers, electricians, plumbers, etc) easier, because he had a set of plans to go by. Our supply also included our erection team. Steve and Helen couldn’t believe how hard our team worked – all daylight hours – and helped with the other trades.”
Steve had trouble with his main contractor onsite, so looked to Fleming Homes a lot to steer him in the right direction. This simplified his ‘self-manage’ process: when he needed anything, he just got in touch with the team. “Steve loved that he could speak to us and get an answer, whether it was our responsibility or not. We have everything ready and waiting to go, so all he needed to do was make a call. We had a few issues along the way, as you often do, but these were seen to right away.” Hayden says Steve and Helen had a pretty tough time with their main contractor. “Steve recognises now that it helped him massively to have someone to take his frustrations out on! I think my team and I probably spoke with them over 50 times during the process.”
Architect or self-designed?
The lack of full technical drawings posed some problems, and Steve concedes that were he to build again, he would employ an architect. “We had to make things up as we went along quite a bit. The subcontractors would ask for drawings for certain elements, but they didn’t exist, so they had to work it out as best they could. On reflection that wasn’t the best way to go about it.”
The absence of technical drawings also meant that some aspects of the house have not turned out quite the way Steve planned. The eaves were meant to overhang much more, but the depth of the external blockwork meant they are much less pronounced – an element of the build he regrets. Nonetheless, he’s delighted with the end result, and with how the Fleming Homes team pulled the project together.
“Fleming were amazing from start to finish,” says Steve. “When I was having a bad day on site and was sounding off at everyone, the team at Fleming would listen and offer solutions, even when the problem was not related to their timber frame. I could not have done it without them.”
Read the complete case study as featured in SelfBuild & Design Magazine.
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