The opportunity to build a house in or around London is a unique prospect packed with potential. But it requires an architect who understands your vision, your lifestyle and the local protocol. Scenario Architecture has been designing high-end, hard-working contemporary homes across London for more than a decade.
One of the top small architects in the city for house building, Scenario has featured in Elle Decoration, Dezeen and Houzz, and its modern design has been shortlisted for several prestigious architecture prizes – including the 2018 RIBA London Awards. When you build a house in London, Scenario is a skilled and proven partner.
We established our boutique firm in 2007 with a vision to develop a uniquely collaborative architecture, where clients who wish to build a house get a high-functioning first-class partner. Devising a liveable, modern design is the product of a deep understanding of each homeowner’s unique lifestyle. That shows in our design, and it’s made Scenario one of the best small architects in London for building a house.
Your intention to build a house
Build a house in London
If you plan to build a house in or around London, Scenario is here to help.
Most architecture projects in London require planning permission from the local council. With our successful record securing planning permission for House Building projects on behalf of our clients, we can claim home advantage across the capital.
We’ve created a brief illustrated overview to help you understand each stage of the House Build process.
TipDiscover if your chosen architect has had success steering planning applications through your local council. Visit the “planning applications” page of your council’s website and enter the architect’s name in the search criteria.
AdviceTo help you understand what it takes to obtain planning permission to build a house in London, we’ve created this helpful guide. Download it below.
Build a house with Scenario Architecture
Working with Scenario Architecture to build a house London
Scenario is a boutique architecture studio focused on high-end House Building projects in and around London. Through our bespoke modern design service, we tackle projects of every scale and complexity, from self-build homes and full renovations down to interior alterations and refurbishments.
Our highly skilled team can walk you through the steps required to build a house. We collaborate closely with our clients from the initial drawings, detail design and planning applications through tender and construction to the project’s successful completion. On time and on budget.
We use innovative 3D design and visualisation tools as a standard for all projects. Our experience shows that real-time visualisations and virtual reality are efficient tools for choosing finishes, fixtures and fittings, and simulating natural light.
And our expertise with 3D building information modelling (BIM) technology produces reliable construction information, so all our project data comes from an accurate, coordinated 3D model. Using this cutting-edge technology collaboratively with consultants and contractors saves our clients time and money.
A Chartered Institute of Building case study featuring a Scenario project demonstrates the great benefits of this advanced technology for domestic architecture.
Scenario Architecture is a RIBA Chartered Practice. We comply with the strict criteria of the Royal Institute of Chartered Architects, covering insurance, health and safety and quality-management systems.
Your project >> Further Reading
Londoners have long since been creative with their property. But only in the past couple of decades have residents begun to create new property from the space in between traditional residential plots. The release of brownfield sites, redundancy of old industrial property and partitioning of gardens has freed up untold square metres for development, from a fraction of an acre in a south London rear laneway to a multi-acre parcel of land north of the centre.
London’s new “right to build” homes scheme – born, in part, to help relieve the city’s housing shortage – requires local councils to keep registers of land suitable for self-builders, and to green-light more proposals to develop that land. It also asks developers to allocate fractions of their land purchases for local self-builders. This means new opportunities for imagining new ways of living in the city and beyond – at a lower price than you’d imagine. Today self-builders account for nearly 10 per cent of private self-build homes in the UK.
To build a house in London and beyond requires a trusted architect, a commitment of time and a budget of upwards of £2,000 per square metre. This money will cover not only a bespoke living space with all of today’s modern conveniences, but all the troubleshooting that arises when building in an open space, like planning permissions, insurance, party-wall issues, awkward access, sustainability requirements, expert consultations and financing (it can be tricky and time-consuming to secure a mortgage for a self-build home).
That said, many self-build homes are exempt from community infrastructure levies, VAT and the high stamp duties calculated for existing homes. And some of the build costs of building anew could pan out to be blessings in disguise – having control over the environmental standards of a home, for instance, can create an eco-friendly home that will reduce your cost of living for years to come. Self-builders are generally believed to spend 20 per cent less on land and build costs than other home-buyers, for a more individual result.
Consulting an architect in an effort to build a house in London and beyond the city will not only ensure a tailored, functional living space but could also reduce the need for expensive furnishings that deteriorate over time. An architect familiar with your needs will build in banquettes, platforms, kitchen installations, storage and wardrobes that will accommodate a growing family. Within about two years of finding the ideal land on which to build homes, you could be moving into the house you’ve always envisioned for yourself.
Do you pay VAT on a self build house?
Anyone choosing to build a house is exempt from paying most VAT. This came into place to ensure the rules were fair for those building a home as well as for those buying a newly built home.
Self builders can claim back much of the VAT on their build, although not everything is an expense that you are able to claim on. You can find out the rules in VAT notice 431NB, “VAT refunds for ‘do-it-yourself’ builders and converters”, which you can get from HMRC. It applies to people building their own home or converting a property to a residential property, but not developers.
If you want to make a claim to get some of your VAT back, you need to do so within three months of completing the build. You have one opportunity to make a claim, so ensuring you get it right is essential.
VAT-registered builders and contractors should not charge VAT on labour-only or supply and fix contracts. Self builders have to pay VAT on the materials they buy, and they can later claim much of it back. Some examples of what you can claim for interiors include fitted kitchen units, wood flooring and paint, whereas freestanding kitchen units or carpets would not be allowed.
You can make a claim for VAT on your self build house by filling in HMRC form 431NB for a new build or 431NC for a conversion. It’s important to keep a list of expenses and invoices as evidence.
In our clients words
Great ideas and vision to help with our substantial improvement of a Victorian terrace. In our experience Scenario’s method prioritises the final result. That may mean more professional fees or higher quotes from contractors, as they understand the exact requirements.
Great, professional service. Good drawings and models and ultimately passed planning at the first attempt with Hackney Council. Would certainly recommend!
Scenario Architecture have created an outstanding design and space that was beyond my expectations. The design was through their unique process of understanding the client’s daily scenarios and collaborating with the client to come up with a unique design. The design process is one of the most memorable parts of the process and they also stretched my existing ideas to help create this unique space. A stress free journey throughout the whole process which Scenario were indispensable by giving advice on many difficult design and build decisions.
We wanted to renovate our house in a conservation area in central London. Given this involved a complete demolition and new build with an extra floor on top, getting planning approval was always going to be tricky. Scenario did an amazing job on the new house ‘envelope’ and throughout the planning phase. We couldn’t have wished for better from them and having succeeded in gaining planning approval owe them a very big ‘thank you’.
Scenario were great at thinking imaginatively and coming up with a design for a ground floor extension that was more ambitous than other architects we spoke to. They also helped us find a contractor who was able to complete the project working within timescale and our tight budget. I would recommend for mid to large sized projects with sufficient budget to allow for full utilisation of their creativity.
- Scenario based design – We start each and every project with a meticulous analysis of our client’s vision, requirements and aspirations. We do this by asking our clients to imagine their everyday scenarios living in the completed house and describe their desired interaction with it.
- Uniquely interactive - Our client’s deep involvement in the process does not stop with completion of the brief. Our design meetings are highly interactive, informal and fun.
- Designed to reflect you – Based purely on your lifestyle, aspirations and requirements and free from externally imposed concepts, metaphors and pre-conceptions, a completely fresh and unique design will gradually emerge and it will tell your story not ours.
- Collaborative – We start the conversation with planners early and advise most of our clients to seek pre-planning advice prior to submission of a full planning application. Our experience shows that when properly consulted and liaised with, most planning case officers will be receptive to conduct a professional dialogue, increasing chances of successes.
- Strategic – We tailor a custom planning strategy for each project based on its circumstances such as planning history, local context and specific challenging elements. We sometimes split applications or introduce minor tweaks to the scheme during the consideration period in conversation with the officers to prevent one contentious element from jeopardising approval of the main scheme.
- Professional – Our experience shows that the quality and clarity of the submission in terms of background research, planning history of the property and context, precedent and of course the arguments presented to support the case has a tremendous effect on success rate.
- The decision period clock only starts ticking once the application is validated by the Council, This requires then to check that the forms are completed correctly and that the submission contains all the necessary drawings, statements and reports.
- Although required by law to provide a decision within the statutory eight weeks period, it is not uncommon for councils to miss the deadline of the consideration period, normally only by a few days, sometimes longer.
- In some cases the council may ask us as your agent for an extension of time, this may be requested due to internal reasons or as an acceptable result of a professional discussion that we are conducting with them about certain aspects of the application that they are not sure about.
- Our experience shows that planning officers respond better to projects when they feel consulted and collaborated with. We find that when we truly listen to their often helpful and valid feedback and treat them as consultants for the projects and not representative of an evil enforcing authority, they tend to collaborate well with us and demonstrate increased flexibility.
- Although the council in theory have eight weeks to consider your application, in practice they are constantly overloaded. They will only look at your application in the last few days of the consideration period. If this is the first time that they come across a scheme that they were never consulted about, our chance to secure permission for you in a single attempt is significantly compromised.
- The standard practice is for the council to consider the full planning application as submitted and then issue a yes or no decision. Case officers are not required or even encouraged to enter a discussion with us or accept resubmission of minor changes to the proposed scheme during the consideration period.