In celebration of World Architecture Day on Monday 4 October, we’ve had a chat with RIBA Chartered Architect, Allan Corfield, to get his views on his job, the industry and to offer some advice to self-builders.
Based in Fife, Scotland, Allan has overseen the design of over 420 low energy homes across the UK. Since 2009 he has grown his specialist Custom & Self Build Architecture practice, AC Architects to a team of 16, and recently he created AC Structures, a leading engineering business, providing engineering support for all of ACA’s clients.
What inspired you to become an architect?
I am one of those fortunate people who always knew what they wanted to do in life, well after I discounted astronaut and fighter jet pilot! After visiting York Minster as a young teenager, I asked my Dad how was such a building created and he explained what Architect’s did and I was hooked from that point on. Before my Dad retired he managed and owned a successful surveying firm, so I was always exposed to buildings and how they fitted the topography.
What is the best thing about your job?
Firstly, I get to do the thing I love. It’s really important to enjoy your work! Secondly, we get to help families visualise and then build their dream homes, Architects are very lucky! I’ve always been drawn to residential projects, I like the smaller, more personal scale of working with private clients. I also love that we are creating more energy efficient homes, which have far less of an impact on the environment.
What advice would you give someone considering building their own home?
Do it! It’s a great journey, it’s not easy but it is completely worth it. As long as you do you research, have a realistic budget and timeframe, surround yourself with the best design and build team – then it will be a success. Becoming the best self-builder you can be is really important, this will be the single biggest investment you will make, so learn as much as you can! Go to shows, seminars, read magazines and books to become more educated.
Are you noticing any new trends in self-build homes?
The push towards Passive House or Zero Carbon has become more evident in the last couple of years, which is great. All of our homes are ‘A’ rated and we utilise the Fabric First Approach and Passive House software (PHPP) to accurately estimate the thermal performance of our buildings – at design stages. These design approaches are aided by the use of MMC, to help create highly insulated, factory tolerance buildings which are inherently air-tight.
Tell us about the best project you’ve worked on – what made it so good?
It’s difficult to pick out one project, as we have now completed over 400 self builds across the length and breadth of the UK. All of our clients love their homes and that’s the key part, its theirs not the architects, after all. We play a big part, but it’s the clients ideas and aspirations that we help transform.
We love the journey from hand sketch, to 3D model shown in state of the art 3D, the challenge of obtaining Planning and Regs approval and then see it taking shape on site.
Do you foresee any changes in the way homes will be designed and built in the next ten years?
I hope that with the Future Homes Standard 2025 we will see Fabric First (Passive House or Zero Carbon) becoming the norm in terms of energy standards.
One of the biggest changes in large scale housing will be the normalisation of Custom Build housing as a mainstream housing delivery route in the UK. This will see energy efficient homes designed to clients’ custom requirements, delivered at scale using MMC and volumetric modular production solutions.
At what point in the process should a self-builder involve an architect?
As early as possible and ideally before they have purchased a plot! We offer a free initial site review service, to check whether there are any major challenges and to make sure the house they want can be built on that site. We also have our engineering firm AC Structures, who we get involved to complete a Soil Investigation study, this involves a site visit to check ground bearing capacity (type and condition) and also to check the porosity of the ground. Both of these services are vital and will save a lot of money and time moving forward.
Allan is a leading expert in modern methods of construction, and his goal is to provide prospective self-builders with the inspiration, support, and education they require to build their own cost effective, energy efficient, dream home. He is a member of the Structural Timber Association, Passive House Trust and NaCSBA. He has a monthly column in Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine and delivers expert talks at various Homebuilding Shows across the UK.
AC Architects is organising Self Build seminars at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre on 27th & 28th of October. If you are planning to build your dream home, book your place and prepare to start your Self Build journey here.