Zoopla.co.uk property news author Ewan Robertson is based in London and has extensive knowledge of both UK and international property markets. Here he looks at some of the most impressive self-build homes from around the world.
It’s a page straight from Dwell Magazine: a modern, light-filled home that complements the surroundings, tucked elegantly into a London street or nestled into a rolling country dale. It’s a familiar scene in the US, Australia and Europe, but prefabricated luxury self-build homes have yet to capture the imagination of many in the UK. The Guardian recently reported that self-builds account for over half of last year’s new homes in parts of Europe, but in Britain that number was only one in ten.
Why? Land restrictions and red tape frustrate would-be self-builders, but councils are taking steps to make it easier. From urban Swindon to idyllic Devon, building codes are changing to ease restrictions and set aside land for self-builds.
Shows like Grand Designs can make self-builds look expensive and messy, but some of the show’s most successful projects have been prefab homes that were built off-site – one came together in just five days. Modern prefab homes are also amongst the chicest homes available, evidenced by their popularity in design-forward Scandinavia and publications like Dwell. Finally, by 2016 all new builds in the UK will have to comply with strict carbon-neutral restrictions, so the ultra-efficient eco-homes favoured by many prefab companies can only be a good thing – for homeowners and the environment alike.
If building your own home is too stressful, you can snap up someone else’s luxury self-build without the hassle. It’ll be a bigger investment, and may not be tailored to your tastes, but it will still have more character than most homes on the market – occasionally projects from Grand Designs even hit the market.
We take a look at the Wired LivingHome project for a bit of prefab inspiration.
Wired Magazine has paired with LivingHome for a few years in a row to create luxury prefab show homes in the US, packed to the gills with smart technology and green innovations but not short on luxury.
The first home, designed with Ray Kappe in 2007, only took three days to put together on site in Los Angeles. Wired boasts: “Wired homes use prefab construction — factory built to save on materials, reduce construction time, and allow homeowners to mix and match floorplans from renowned architects.”
Technical features include a kitchen countertop that wirelessly charges mobile devices and powers small appliances like toasters, kettles and food processors with nary a cord or plug in sight. Digital frames power off when nobody is in the room to save energy, and a connected system monitors energy use throughout the house. The much-discussed Internet of Things makes an appearance as well, gathering data from the gym, kitchen and bathroom scale to keep you healthy, along with discreet and top-spec air purifiers.
The Smart Home: Green and Wired is run by the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, and opens occasionally for guided tours and demonstrations – check the website for details.