Self Build on a Shoestring

The original self/custom build design challenge!

A unique ideas competition, run in collaboration with Grand Designs Live (GDL), open to all, where you have to design homes that can be built for a measly amount. We look for cost-effective, green and beautiful designs. Selected entries are displayed at GDL and the winners share a £5000 prize fund! We run this competition annually: the launch in May during National Custom & Self Build Week, the deadline during September and the winner's ceremony at the GDL event in Birmingham in October.

2016's unique ideas competition was to design a stylish 65 sq m Starter Home that can be built for £50,000 – ideally less. The design had to be capable of being customised to suit the owners – so internal layouts ideas and a menu of finish or specification options were required.The judges wanted the Starter Home to work as a standalone or terraced property, but it could also be stacked to deliver a modest block of maisonettes or flats.


Winner announced. Read more>>

This year NaCSBA recieved some of the best quality entries since the competition started - with designs from the across the UK, and international entries from Australia, Mexico, Vietnam and Ireland. A shortlist of five has been chosen from this year's top 12 entries.  

An exhibition of the 12 projects will be displayed at Grand Designs Live at the NEC from 19-23 October. The overall winner will be announced on Thursday 20 October. 

Click here to discover this year's winner and finalists

2016's competition guidelines

The Government has recently announced plans to build 200,000 ‘Starter Homes’ between now and 2020. It defines a Starter Home as a property aimed at first time buyers under 40, and costing less than £250,000, including the land. (In central London properties qualify as a Starter Home if they cost less than £450,000). We believe it is possible to build a Starter Home for much less than this – for example through the use of low-cost ‘modular’ solutions, or by offering a home that the purchaser can finish off themselves.

There is a total prize fund of £5,000, which will be distributed by the judges. In addition to identifying an overall winner, the judges reserve the right to also commend other entries. The judges will decide how much to award to each.

We want entrants to design a Starter Home that provides a reasonable living/dining area, kitchen, bathroom, study area and one or two bedrooms. Your design should provide a minimum of 65 sq m. This must be capable of being built to a fully finished state (ready for occupation) for no more than £50,000. We believe it may be possible to provide a solution for less. The home needs to be capable of sitting on a typical level fully-serviced building plot. Your design could be for a standalone or a terraced house, or capable of being stacked to create a block of maisonettes or apartments. You may be able to devise a solution that can be used in all these situations.

Your Starter Home must offer purchasers a range of different design and layout options. People are attracted to custom and self build because it gives them the opportunity to customise their home to suit their needs. So you must show at least three (ideally more) different layouts, and a range of internal finish options. One of these might be a ‘self finish’ option for those purchasers who want to fit their own kitchen/bathroom and take care of their own tiling and decoration.

The technical detail will be important – so you should explain exactly how your home would be procured and built – who would construct it (a traditional builder, an offsite manufacturer etc), the materials proposed, insulation levels, heating systems and the method of manufacture. We also want you to think about how the costs might be reduced further, if the homes were produced in large numbers.

Further inforamtion

To find out more about past shoestring competitions, follow the links below:

2013 Design a home for a family of four

2014 Design a 20 home development in the city

2015 Design an adaptable starter home