On 8th May our pop-up office was built for the first time in the atrium of Chesterfield Market Hall. After spending a busy bank holiday weekend constructing the elements, it was great to see it all come together in the space. As the market opened, the ‘home’ half was built and the ‘office’ construction well underway. ThreadShed#2 certainly created a lot of interest, from people curious about its material, to comments that it was constructed better than their own garden sheds!


A steady stream of visitors passed through during the day leading to conversations about architectural education, how to find a site, the RIBA, NaSBA and even the new market hall extension in which we were based. Some of the key questions that we were asked:

– So tell me about self-build…

Self-build simply means people being directly involved in the design and construction of their home. This could mean overseeing professionals to undertake the design and construction work, or going the DIY route and building it yourself. There are also self-build specialist developers, who can help you to Custom Build your own home helping to take on some of the management role.

In the UK only 10-15% of new homes are self-build – the lowest level in Europe where generally around 50% of homes are self built. However, interest in Self-build is growing in the UK. This months RIBA Journal noted that Yorkshire and Humberside as the region second to London in highest percentage of areas interested in Self Build, and the East Midlands is not far behind. This interest will hopefully be encouraged by the National Self Build Association and the 2014 budget that announced a new ‘right to build’ scheme.

If you are thinking of a self-build project but are not sure where to start – take a look at our information on The Self Build Process:

The Self Build Process_Thread Architects

– What’s happening to the old Chesterfield Magistrates Court?

Good question! The former Magistrates Court on West Bar in Chesterfield is an iconic building in the area. Designed in the 1960’s by Prof S Allen and Roy Keenlyside for Chesterfield Borough Council in reinforced concrete with an incredible timber and copper roof. The building was Grade II listed in 1998. The Magistrates Court moved to new premises in 2005 and the building is now vacant. We spotted it up for sale at auction last December and believe it sold after the auction…Whoever bought it has a fascinating building and great project on their hands. One person who visited our stand thought it should be opened as a public debating hall for local community issues. A great idea, but personally we thought it would make a fantastic architects office!

– Do you do just houses?

We enjoy working with people on their homes, whether improving what they have, bringing life back to old properties or starting afresh with a new house. Working directly with people who are going to inhabit a space is always rewarding. We believe homes in the UK should be more like the European model where each home is unique to its inhabitants and that this can lead to a far richer and less wasteful environment. Having said that, we don’t only do houses, we also have a lot of experience with community projects and education projects as well that can help develop communities for everyone who lives there.

– I’d like to do a self-build project but don’t know how to find a site or old building to convert…

Finding a site and getting a mortgage or funding are generally the two hardest starting points for a self build project. We hope that the government and local authroties will start to make the process easier. In the meantime, the Self Build Portal has a great site with links to plotfinding sites : http://www.selfbuildportal.org.uk/finding-a-plot. Finding a plot which already has a house or planning permission on it can be beneficial but may push the price up, but if you spot a plot that has no planning permission, it is always worth ringing the local planning authority before buying to establish if it may be possible to build a home there.

– Do you do projects all the way through or just design?

Architects can offer services throughout a project. We can undertake initial feasibility work to explore options and designs. We can approach local planning departments on your behalf to establish planning requirements or limitations and submit planning applications as agents. We can complete full sets of construction drawings for builders to price and to submit for Building Regulations approval and we can work as Contract Administrators to oversee work on site and check that the work is being done to the construction drawings and answer queries that may arise whilst the project is on site.

The level of service required may vary depending on your previous experience of self-build projects, and how developed your project is. Having a professional involved throughout a project can help to bring consistency to the scheme and ensure that your initial ambitions are achieved successfully. Fees for employing a professional throughout may seem prohibitive, but having a developed set of drawings for a builder to price will help to ensure costs don’t escalate when items not drawn are added when on site, and can help to ensure that your budget is realistic and spent to best effect and achieve best value throughout the project.

The RIBA brochure on ‘working with an architect for your home’ is a good place to start understanding how an architect works with you.

– How long are you staying for?

Just a day unfortunately, but will be popping up again somewhere soon…