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2015 Self Build Competition Winner Announced

Niall Maxwell of Rural Office for Architecture is the winner of the 2015 ‘Self Build on a Shoestring’ competition run by the National Custom and Self Build Association. His design for a flat-pack home took the top spot.

Mr Maxwell, who won the top prize fund of £5,000, was proclaimed the winner at the Grand Designs Live exhibition on October 8.

His proposal included the use of CNC cutting to create plywood shapes for the floors, walls, and roof of the 40 square metre starter home, which would cost an estimated £39,800 to build.

Mr Maxwell estimated that four people could construct the house within a week, and use wood, timber, or metal sheeting to cover it. He suggested that the home should be regarded as the building equivalent of flat-pack furniture, but with the added benefit of later relocation, extension, or alteration.

Mr Maxwell’s firm, Rural Office for Architecture, is an award winning architectural practice head-quartered outside Newcastle Emlyn, West Wales. It focuses on producing design responses to the rural vernacular context in which people live and work. Recently the rural location of design projects has spread to England, but Rural Office for Architecture continues to respond contextually to each site.

The 2015 ‘Self Build on a Shoestring’ competition encouraged designers and architects to come up with creative ways of building a basic and flexible starter home for £40,000.

It also requires all entrants to clearly demonstrate how the house design could adapt to accommodate household expansion over time.

The panel of judges, which included self-builder Geoff Stowe, architect Luke Tozer, and Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, all had positive things to say about the winning scheme. They said that the solution was based on a similar test structure that the team built last year. This fact suggests that the scheme is practical to build as well as affordable. If such homes were mass-produced, they could be built for around £840 per square metre.

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Alex Taylor of MSA Architects took second place for his SplitHouse, while third place was awarded to Leila Ferraby for an entry called Bauelements.

In 2014, the prize was won by Levitt Bernstein, which prevailed over Mole and John Broome Architects.

An exhibition consisting of 16 projects on the competition’s long-list is now on display as part of the Grand Designs Live show at Birmingham’s NEC.

‘Self Build on a Shoestring’ is a competition dedicated to unique self-build ideas, run in collaboration with Grand Designs Live. Anyone can enter by designing homes that can be built for a small amount. The judges look for affordable, sustainable, and beautiful designs. Selected entries are displayed at Grand Designs Live, and all winners share in a £5000 prize fund. The competition is run every year: the launch takes place each May during National Custom & Self Build Week. The deadline for entry submission is in September and the winner's ceremony takes place at at the Grand Designs Live event in Birmingham in October.

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