My house build journey : Design

In the previous article, I shared my experience about how I bought a site (tomt ). In this article, I will share about how I made up my mind on the house design.

Since the inception of building a house had struck my mind. I had started sketching in various forms. Some in my thoughts, some on papers and searching for house design tools. Then I discovered Google SketchUp. I believe this tool made 3D design easier and affordable at least for people like me. I am no way near expert but can manage. Some old designs intended for build in a different country.

Grand Designs is another show that became one of my favourites which is a UK based architecture TV series where people usually share their unique house design idea and journey towards achieving it. Some are self builds. Mine is not a self build although I have to get my hands dirty in various phases and due to budget constraints but we will see when we get there. There is a Swedish equivalent of Grand Designs called as HusDrömmar on SVT. Some of my colleagues suggested I should apply to be on this show :)

The climate where we build has a big influence on the design of the house. Coming from a tropical country, back then my design thoughts were about getting the right layout, framing structure, sunlight, cooling etc. I did not know about insulation, heating, ventilation which are major factors to consider especially in cold countries.

In search of design inspirations, spent many hours of YouTube and reading a lot of articles about building design and techniques.

One of the thoughts was container houses but gave up on that after thinking about the practicality and not so good effects of spray foam insulation, space constraints etc

This particular model was one of the candidates for some time . It is called the Containers of Hope. https://studiosaxe.com/projects/containers-of-hope/. Checkout this video as well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skFeEI-GsV4

Oh btw, One does not really have to go through all the steps involved in building house. If you go for a totalentreprenad (most house builders that offer) solution, they take care of all the details.You probably only have to select what color, what kitchen, etc . It comes with its own pros and cons.

Before buying the site you also get a plan of the street/property which also contains some building restrictions. The other thing that I learnt after buying the site or when I was signing the contract is that I needed to get a nybyggnadskarta ( building map of your site for new construction) . Nybyggnadskarta is a dwg/pdf file that contains site measurements, elevation details . It also mentions some restrictions on what is allowed to be built etc. It is obtained by asking the municipality and it also costs! 😀

Boverket (The Housing Authority) is the authority that makes building and planning rules in Sweden.

The double rhombus means total height ( totalhöjd )of the building in meters.

The single rhombus is byggnadshöjd “distance from the ground plane to the intersection of the facade floor and a roof plane with a 45 degree slope.” It has a bit confusing(atleast for me) calculation. Details found on boverket site at this link.

Byggahus.se is another forum/blog/website which has a ton of information and discussions about building houses in Sweden.

And some restrictions are open to interpretation which required back and forth communication with the municipality.

Meanwhile I had came across Loft Home (based in Netherlands) or Barn style ( ladhus in Swedish) architecture and fallen in love with it. My house design is heavily inspired from it. They use Structural Steel Framing which I always had some special love towards. I initially thought I should get Loft Home, in fact had reached out to the company that made the materials kit and also the architects. They were kind enough to offer a quote but unfortunately I realized it might not be best of the value and with my budget constraints. I don’t know if that decision was good or bad but probably could have ended up in some issues given the travel restrictions we have now. There were few Swedish builders who do similar style of houses but again out of budget and choices are limited and It is hard to get it customized to the building technique level I had in mind. Hence decided to go the delentreprenad route where in I need to hire contractors for different stages.

It is a bit of chicken and egg issue in the design phase because the building restrictions, use of materials will affect the design and cost. The municipality is very specific about the facade of the house. Probably it comes with a lot of policy to retain neighbourhood in a certain architecture style and some probably due to safety considerations. The facades that were allowed are either brick facade or rendered paint facade. I am not a fan of using paint, in fact this whole build will not use any paint if at all needed it will be as minimal paint as possible. So rendered facade option is ruled out. The only option left is to use brick facade. Although I would have liked to use wood facade.

Thinking about laying bricks with mortar etc makes me exhausted. I started researching about modern solutions and came across a bunch of solutions that has brick panels system. It usually has a panel that we mount to the insulation studs and fasten the bricks with a screw. Some of the vendors did not cater to this market. Finally, I managed to find Wienerberger Skärm Tegel (Screen bricks). This is a recent product launched about a year ago or so and Copenhagen’s Krøyers Plads neighborhood is one of their showcase for this product. It can actually be used for roof as well, but I plan to use metal roof. It also seems easier installation that traditional bricks and is one of the things that I will have to get my hands dirty with.

Researching about different insulation techniques I came across trä fiber isolering which led me into another rabbit hole called CLT, Cross Laminated Timber ( KL Trä, Kross laminerad Trä in Swedish), also known as the concrete of the future. After spending a lot of time reading about it, I have taken the KL Trä pill and waking up to benefits such as Speed of construction, better moisture adaptability, insulation, easier to work compared to steel and availability of CLT builders in Sweden. You can read a lot of other pros and cons about CLT. There is a ton of material on the web. There is also a CLT handbook available (English and Swedish) at Svensk Trä site (everything that you want to know about the Swedish wood). It was really useful for me to refer construction drawings.

Summarising my evolved design taste

  1. Square, Rectangle, Box shapes
  2. Open plan layout
  3. Good sunlight
  4. Industrial architecture
  5. Speedy construction(at least the building envelope)
  6. Exposed steel frames (Dropped due to budget constraints, redundant with K L Trä)
  7. Exposed electrical and plumbing installations( where possible)
  8. Functionality over aesthetics

Espresso house (a popular coffee chain in the Nordics), apart from great coffee, has some eye catching industrial design architecture in their coffee shops.

Finally, after a lot of different considerations and some compromises, I made up my mind of the following design.

  1. North view: Not primarily intended but North facing door. I guess one of tick marks with vastu design.

2. South view: More south facing to maximize sunlight

3. East View

4. West View

5. Ground floor layout: Open plan

6. Loft floor layout

7. Wall, Root construction details

Status at the time this article was first published

Days left for final inspection: 336 days

I have received the building permit decision and trying to understand and preparing for next steps. In the next article, will explain about the building permit process.

Still uncertain times. Stay Safe!!!

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