Frequently Asked Questions

Building your home doesn’t have to be complicated and we have an answer for nearly every question.  The simple nature of our process will avoid many of the dilemmas and problems associated with the normal self-build housing route.

We have an experienced team of Architects and Architectural Technicians and will be able to answer most of your questions or point you in the right direction. The information on this site will give you a good starting point but, if you can’t find the answer, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Can I change the design?

The various house types will hopefully give everyone the house size and style they need and are designed with this in mind.

Minor changes can usually be made to the design without changing the fundamental structure, although sometimes changes become too significant and we will need to re-engineer the structure, so we would try and avoid too many changes.

We charge a basic additional hourly rate to change designs and have them checked by our Engineer – as always, we would inform you of the likely costs before proceeding.


What does ‘Planning in Principle’ mean?

This is a basic form of the normal full planning approval and covers the principle of the development rather than the detail. The local authority will assess the development against policy rather than the actual look of the proposals.

It is becoming more and more common for local authorities to ask for details such as drainage to be confirmed at this stage and, as such, is not as straight forward an application as it previously had been.

It is preferred that, when buying a plot, that at least outline planning approval is in place, but this is not essential. We can carry out a ‘Planning in Principle’ application for you, for a reduced cost, if the chances of approval are not certain.


Detailed Planning Approval

Full planning permission is required before proceeding to Building Warrant Approval. A full application can be made, sometimes referred to as a Reserved Matters Application when following a ‘Planning in Principle’ consent.

Detailed plans, elevations, sections, site plans, location plans and design statement accompany the application, providing enough information to allow the local authority to assess the proposals. All the above is carried out by Andrew Black Design on your behalf as part of Stage 1.


Building Standards Approval

An application must be made for new buildings in Scotland under the Building (Scotland) Regulations. The application is made to the relevant local authority and covers details of items such as wall, roof and floor construction, structure, drainage, insulation and heating.
We do this for you, preparing the drawings and specification and making the building standards application for you.  We do all the negotiations with the Building Standards Officers and organise the Structural Engineers’ SER certificate for the whole project, which covers the foundations, exterior beams and lintols and the timber structure, including the roof trusses.


Do we sell kits only?

Unfortunately not, but you are free to use our drawings to send out to timber kit companies, who can provide you with a competitive quote for the supply of the kit. Alternatively, your contractor may be able to organise this direct, which has advantages for VAT purposes.


Value Added Tax

New build houses are normally zero-rated by HMRC. You normally require to use a Main Contractor to avoid paying VAT up-front.

If you use separate trades, you can usually claim the VAT back following the guidelines from HM Revenue and Customs or contact your accountant or tax professional for further advice.

VAT is unfortunately charged on our professional fees regardless of the zero rating of actual build, in line with all professional services related to building.


SER Structural Certificate

This can only be issued by an Engineer who is an Approved Certifier of Design (Building Structures). This certificate is issued with the application to local authorities for Building Standards Approval and ensures that all aspects of design of the structure of a project satisfy the requirements of the Building (Scotland) Regulations. This will include the kit structure and elements like the foundations, exterior lintols and the staircase.

We organise this for you, and this cost is included within the Stage 2 fee.


Who do I get to build my house?

The actual builder of your home will be the key to the success of your project.  The decision to appoint a contractor should be based on thorough research of potential candidates and should include details of similar, previous projects and references, current workload, suitable insurance cover and key sub-contractors.
A NHBC registered builder or membership of suitable organisations such as Federation of Master Builders is helpful, but relevant referrals are usually the most important.  We don’t usually recommend carrying out a building project without any professional inspections, unless you are relatively experienced and have a good knowledge of the contractor.

The most important part of any construction relationship is the contract and agreement between you. Always use a contract, which states the cost, payment frequency, retention sums, what is included and not included and dispute resolution procedures.  We suggest you use a standard homeowners contract if you aren’t using a professional and these can be obtained from SBCC online.

We offer to refer you to a small list of preferred builders who we have worked with in the past. We also suggest that you take suitable advice prior to appointing any builder and have a third-party professional to inspect the works on your behalf.


Inspections for Mortgage Purposes

You may need to organise some form of inspection to satisfy your mortgage company that the works have been carried out to a suitable standard.
Architects can supply an Inspection Certificate or Council of Mortgage Lenders Certificate (CML) if they inspect the works at various key intervals throughout the build process.

A CML certificate is not a warranty so, if you need a higher level of cover, you can use a warranty service such as NHBC or Zurich, which offer self-build covers.
We can carry out this service for you as detailed in Section 3. Alternatively, when the location makes our service uneconomical, a suitable one can be found by contacting the RIAS –

The above cover does not prevent small defects or deal with contractual disputes, so make sure you get suitable, professional advice on the actual build.


What is ‘Timber Frame Construction ‘?

We normally use tried and tested timber frame technology, avoiding some of the more complicated alternatives that are still proving to be problematic. Engineered to high levels of accuracy and quality, the system allows speedy construction.

Now used in over 75% of new homes in Scotland, the skills are readily available to make the most of this efficient building process. Using timber from managed forests, timber kits are by far the most environmentally friendly way to build.

Some key benefits:

  • Significantly simplifies on site construction
  • Allows speedy construction to wind and watertight reducing costs
  • High levels of insulation easily integrated
  • Off-site manufacture leads to greater control and quality


Energy Efficient Homes

We appreciate that energy use and its resultant cost is a major factor for most self-builders. Further to this, our designs allow integration of many alternative energy saving technologies and offer the option to upgrade insulation levels and specification.

Timber kits allow the use of the highest efficiency insulation materials and reflective breather membranes, meaning walls can exceed current building regulation. We also make the most of Accredited Construction Details, issued by the Scottish Government. which, when followed correctly, allow the reduction of air leakage in the building, reducing heating and energy bills substantially.

Preparing energy calculations such as SAP and U-values in house, allows us to design our houses around the whole energy use of the building, rather than just individual elements. We can then take into account the heating, lighting, solar gain and heat loss to ascertain the actual energy use and C02 created.

Our house designs will allow the easy integration of various alternative technologies. Whether you are planning a heat pump from water, ground or air sources, our floor constructions can be altered easily to allow underfloor heating to be used, the most efficient use of heat pump technology.