In Summary

The idea of designing and building your own home becomes a dream come true for thousands of people every year. This article explains some of the main things to consider when designing a house.

Your do it yourself dream could sour if you do not think through the whole project and what to consider when designing a house. For instance, how many bedrooms should we have? Can we have a games room? And what about that study I was always promised?
Designing your own home is the perfect chance to be as creative as you like and unleash your inner architect, but for those looking to live the dream, there are at least five potential pitfalls you need to avoid unless you want to end up paying through the nose. Our top 5 tips when designing your own home generally involve being realistic, and doing your homework.

The land should be right
Site constraints are clearly going to affect the design of your home and could even mean added construction costs. Soil conditions are particularly important for slab and footing construction, and the wrong type of soil conditions can provide many difficulties for home construction, according to masterbuilders.com.au.

It is simple – the flatter your site is, the more economical it will be to build on. You cannot fit a square peg in a round hole. So if you do not want to spend a fortune, try to avoid slopes and rocky areas, and give serious consideration to your location in the first place. For example, you may need to have a powerful sprinkler system in place should your block of land be in an area prone to bushfires.

Direction of living spaces
A common mistake is simply facing your most commonly-used living spaces in the wrong direction, which is likely to result in a hot house during the dry season and cold house in the rainy season. If you want the best of both, orientate your bedrooms and living areas to face the north in order to provide sun penetration to as many rooms as possible (get the advice of an architect!). Of course the importance of room alignment varies depending on what part of the world and country you live in.
According to archicentre.com.au, homes built in the tropical north can become unbearable after a hot spell, especially those built with high thermal mass construction as these will absorb heat during the day and retain it for longer periods during the night.

Sam Kisa, an architect and architecture lecturer at Makerere University, says the direction the house faces depends on the part of the world one is in. “So if you are in area where it is very hot, all you have to do is try to avoid putting people spaces in the direction of the sun and if you can’t then you will have to change the dimensions of the house to try to avoid the heat.”

He says wherever the house is built, there will be a part of the house where the sun heats, so the trick is either in putting people’s places like bedrooms and sitting rooms in directions where the sun doesn’t heat directly or adjusting the dimensions of the building.

Nature of your open design
Open plan is not the be all and end all, and can cause privacy and acoustic problems that are difficult to reverse, according to homedesigndirectory.com.au. However, an open plan house can also bring many benefits; light flows much easier throughout the house and they generally look more aesthetically pleasing.

The modern trend for living spaces is to design houses with a good compromise between the large open plan spaces you might want and the intimate, cozy spaces you will almost certainly want for a degree of privacy. Large open internal spaces, combined with flat walls and hard floors, increase the internal reverberation of all noises created inside and outside the home. You might want to design your open plan areas with a few more walls and doors than you had originally planned.

Expert advice
The final trap people fall into regularly is not getting advice from experts in the field. While you know what you want and should not stray too far from your original plan, there will always be limitations and things you can’t do. This is where you need advice and recommendations from an experienced professional. Just because you are building your own home, do not try and get too clever about it. Using standard construction methods will keep costs down. Sam Kisa , a Ugandan architect, says there are regulations in the building act of Uganda that direct people on ceiling standards.

Duncan Mushabe, a civil and structural engineer in Uganda, says the standard height in Uganda is 3mm internal, but it depends on the fitness of the ground, for example, how strong the slab is and type of buildings. Storeyed buildings are different from bungalows.

Designing your own home can be very difficult and there will no doubt be many people during the process that will have an influence on the final product. But you are the one who is going to live there, so keep these influences in check and remain focused on your original plan. Consider your budget, ideas and the scope of the project before searching, and remember to ask a lot of questions.

For some home owners, the dwelling and the land on which it stands is a major asset, and for many it is their main asset. After all, your home is probably going to be the single biggest investment you ever make. So take your time, make sensible decisions, and design a realistic, functional family home.

House fit for family
Unless you want to pay for some extensive renovations later on, make sure you analyse the way you and your family live and ensure this is reflected in the design of the home.

For example, your kids are probably going to want to play outside, so locate your outdoor play area next to the kitchen where you can see them. You might also want to not have any stairs, and a fence around the property to begin with.

Culled from www.canstar.com.au
Additional reporting by Kelvin Atuhaire