Creating a Design Brief for An Architect

11 April 2019 Potton News

How to Create a Design Brief

When asked “why do you want to build your own home?”, most people would agree that it’s so you can live in a house that’s exactly the way you want it. After all, why spend time searching high and low for the perfect home when you can create it yourself?
3D CGI drawing of a self build house
This is why a self-build planner and the early stage of working with an architectural designer are absolutely critical in the grand scheme of planning your home.

Not only will this ensure that everything looks the same way as it does in your mind’s eye, but it’ll also provide an opportunity for your practical expectations and requirements to be assembled into the initial build budget. All of this is communicated into an architectural design brief, which is essential for a successful build.
Before you get too ahead of yourself — stop! Don’t worry about what can be done or whether you need to apply for planning permission, and put away the iPad and close down your free version of SketchUp.

While you’re expected to ask the questions and set the parameters of the project itself, you’re not expected to find the solutions to those questions. That’s what experienced house designers do, so let them use their passion and expertise to design you the best home possible.

What to Include in a Self Build Design Brief

First of all, and above all else, the designer needs to establish the scale and basic parameters of the house. The following items should be up front in your brief:

●    The proposed build cost budget: How much do you want to spend on the build cost and who is building the house? What is your absolute limit?
●    The plot: Include a site plan, some photos and, ideally, a topographical survey to give the designer a visual indicator of what they have to work with. The size, shape and terrain of your site will have a huge influence on what you can and should design.
●    The planning context: Does the site already have planning consent and if so, for what? Is the site in a specially designated area and are there likely to be any special planning restrictions on what can be built? Find out and jot it down in the brief.

Now that’s done, let’s think about those basic must-have items. You should also include in your brief:

●    The number and approximate size of bedrooms and ensuites.
●    The number of garages and whether they’re detached or integrated.
●    Practical design considerations, such as disability requirements.

Design for Day to Day Living

Vaulted landing with glass balustrade
Now the fun part begins! Take a step back and think about how you will be living in the house. The best way to do this is to try to list a handful of key “experiences” that you’re aiming for. This will be different for everyone, but some examples could include imagining your perfect Sunday morning.

How does it begin; with a relaxing morning coffee at a breakfast bar, followed by preparing dinner in the kitchen while the kids do their homework? What does your dream home experience look like in your head? Where will these experiences take place?

Put these thoughts and ideas into the brief, as they are important for designers to better understand your needs. They’re also really helpful to keep you motivated and so you know what to aim for.
  • Kitchen: Do you want a separate dining area or will it form part of the same room? Do you want to include a pantry or laundry area?
  • Entrances: Do you want to enter the house from the garden and if so, where? What about a boot or cloakroom? Is a grand hallway important? 
  • Other “utility” spaces downstairs might include a home office, a snug/library or a playroom. Consider whether your designer needs to find space for these. 
  • Living room: Where will you sit down and relax? Watch television? Entertain friends?
  • Bedroom: Think about the master suite and what you want to include. How about a sitting area?
  • What about the space between the bedrooms? How close to the kids do you really want to be?
  • Finally, think about these rooms in relation to the views they might have — not just of your site and garden but also the surroundings.
  • When thinking about sizes, a good way to work is to design from the detail up. If you really want a large freestanding bath in your en suite or a large walkaround island in the centre of the kitchen, put it into the brief, as these will influence all other aspects of the room.
The end part of the brief can feel the most difficult to approach. You will almost certainly have strong ideas as to how you want your home to look, both internally and externally. Try not to be too prescriptive. You should include no more than a handful of pictures of things you like and don’t like with a few notes to clarify, otherwise you’ll get too lost in the detail and might set yourself up for disappointment if certain elements won’t work together or aren’t practical for your budget.

Finally, let the designers do their stuff. If the brief is comprehensive and disciplined, it should allow a talented designer to take your requirements and add a huge amount of extra value on top. This is the magic that should surprise you and make you go, “Wow!”

Design Brief Template

It is the designer’s role to expand your vision - to do this they need to understand you, your site, and your aspirations. To do this they need to know your priorities from the start.

Download our handy design brief template so you can brainstorm all your ideas. Pass this to your designer so they can understand your thoughts behind your dream home.

Download a Self Build Design Brief Template

Potton Design Brief Cover Page
Potton Self Build Show Centre customer appointment

Discuss Your Dream Home With Us

Still not sure how to get everything down on paper? Get in touch to discuss your dream home with our expert self-build consultants, designers and architects, or meet us at the Potton Self-Build Show Centre. Call 01767 676400

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