Monday 5 October marks World Architecture Day, which is celebrated across the globe. At Frame Technologies we have the pleasure of designing forever homes with very talented architects across the country. This month, we’ve spoken to the brilliant Ruth Reed, self build architect, based in Shrewsbury, who has spoken to us about architecture and timber frame.

Ruth Reed, self build architect

Can you sum up your career to date?

I went to the University of Sheffield to study architecture where I also completed a Masters in Landscape. I became an architect in the 1980s and my career has crossed both public and private practice. Over the years I have designed homes for some truly remarkable people and have worked on some wonderful properties.

In 2009 I became the first female president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in its 175 year history, a landmark for British women in architecture. Now in its 186th year, there have been two more female presidents. Throughout my career I have also examined at the Welsh School of Architecture, the University of Plymouth, University of Bath and University of Kent and became a Professor of Professional Practice at the Birmingham School of Architecture where I ran the professional practice course for 6 years.

I now work with my brother as a director at Green Planning Studio Ltd in Shrewsbury where much of our work is in the self-build sector, particularly where there are tricky planning issues to overcome.

Building my own home with Frame Technologies in 1997 really helped me to appreciate the self-build journey. Going through the process myself gave me a deeper understanding of the challenges that self-builders can face, but it also put me in a strong position to explain the benefits of building your own home, especially when it’s with timber frame.

What are the benefits to working with an architect when designing a home?

Many prospective self-builders have an idea of what they want from their new home, but it takes a professional to really listen to how a family wants to live and translate that into drawings and designs. Architects can offer solutions or new ways of living that might not have been previously considered, and above all can really add the ‘wow factor’ to a home.

What benefits do you see in using timber over other building materials?

There are a lot of misconceptions about using timber frame but it’s hands down my favourite material to build with. Using timber frame as a building material brings many benefits, but this is especially so for self-builders.

As well as creating high quality homes and the having the ability to meet design needs, it offers an incredible speed of build – which helps with build programmes and budgeting – and it performs much better from a sustainable perspective than any other material. It has the least environmental impact as a material, and delivers energy–efficient homes, which ultimately saves the home-owner money in bills during the lifetime of the property. Plus, as much of the manufacture takes place offsite, it is cleaner and result in lower waste than other build methods.

Since working as an architect, have you seen any changes in architectural trends and where do you see the self-build market heading in the UK?

Over the past 10 years there’s been a big shift to open plan – which I love! However, that might change in the short term as people reassess the way they live and work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Spare bedrooms are fast becoming home offices, and we’ve heard this year that prospective self-builders are wanting spaces in their home where they can work, which are usually separate from their ‘living’ spaces.

If I compare working as an architect now to when I first started, a key thing is that attitudes toward women in architecture has changed significantly – thankfully!

There is also much more design literacy these days. Thanks to programmes like Grand Designs and the popularity of social media, people are much more interested in building their own home and have specific ideas about what they want their home to be like – and are able to articulate it clearly too. Pinterest can be a helpful briefing tool.

We have access to so much information now it can almost make life harder – but that’s one of the reasons why architects are still in demand, as the professionals can help make sense of it all.

Do you have any advice for self-builders?

As a champion of timber, I would always recommend considering timber frame for your project, and offsite manufacture as part of this. It is cleaner, reduces your waste, its dimensionally controlled and gives you a more predictable result in terms of your timings and build programme.

I would also recommend seeking advice from the professionals early in your self-build journey, and engage with a company like Frame Technologies (in fact, just get in touch with Simon today!) as they can give you access to technical information and provide so much support.

And finally my advice would be to go for it! It’s an extraordinary opportunity to be able to have a home designed to your personal desires and needs. The journey will be challenging, but it’s incredibly rewarding.

Ruth Reed, self build architect, will be the keynote speaker at our inaugural Frame Technologies event on 6 March 2021 at the NSBRC. For more information keep an eye on our Events page.