Plot Hunter is a resource run by me, Mark Siddall, an RIBA chartered architect based here in the North East of England (Durham to be precise). As Plot Hunter develops it will help you find land quickly and provide proven strategies you can use to create a home you are proud of.
But what is a Plot Hunter? A Plot Hunter is someone on a quest to build their own home so they can transform their lifestyle and improve their quality of life. What’s the trick? Preparation. You can learn more about Plot Hunter how it can help you on the Getting Started Page.
How Plot Hunter Began
My motivation for creating Plot Hunter comes from a number of places. The core drive comes from recognising how the wrong house can strip away your dignity and leave you feeling lonlely and isolated. I've seen it first hand.
You see, my folks have lived in three houses during the last 10 years. Two were new and speculatively built. One was in a Victorian terrace. But it was when my Mum and my Dad reached their 70th birthday it all came home to me.
In recent years their health has been declining and as years pass they are becoming less mobile. Access in and around the house is becoming more of a challenge. Slips and trips are increasingly common. The closest shops are hard to walk to and require drive in the car.
As they get older it's as though the walls closing in around them. They are becoming trapped.
As you'd expect I'm increasingly concerned for them. The house where my folks live should not incarserate them. It should help and support them. But there is little I can do right now. It all comes down to this....
What we need is better intergenerational housing.
People like you, that want to build their own home, are well positioned to create this kind of housing.
Because of what I'm seeing in my own life I want to use this platform to help everyone benefit from good quality housing that looks after them well into old age.
Now admittedly, to create intergenerational housing you don't have to start from scratch. You could renovate. There are other reasons why Plot Hunter, and the growing community of Plot Hunters, are important to me.
On the back recognising the need to create more cross generational housing there are six more reasons why I decided to create Plot Hunter. They are:
Like many people I'm frustrated by the poor quality and lack of choice provided by speculative housing developers. In my view they create cramped hell holes with too little space, inadequate storage, poor daylight and unnecessarily high energy bills.
In a nutshell. The UK has the lowest rate of self-build in Europe if not the world. By supporting people that want to create their own home on their own terms, I believe we can create more choice and offer a robust challenge to the spec house builders.
I've lived in my fair share of bitterly cold Tyneside flats over the years. They were all depressing though one really stands out - the heating didn't work and the bathroom floor rotted through. ...Living there I reached one of my low points and I put a lot of it down to bad architecture.
My initial intention was simply to use this site to help me refine the Forever Home Formula then, as the idea for the site incubated, I realised it had the potential to help people figure out how to create their own dream home. ...The thing is this was something more than I could achieve on my own - that's why I changed my focus to developing the Forever Home Network.
By drawing upon an ever extending network I can help people like you get to grips with creating a bespoke home, or a custom home. Think of it as an open-source approach to designing and creating your ideal home. With the power of technology only dreamed about when I was a kid, I can help more people, more easily, than ever.
From an early age I’ve always enjoyed discovering new things and helping others by sharing what I’ve learned. As an experienced architect I'm armed with a lot of knowledge and insights that will help people create their forever home. This site is a platform I can use to help people like you.
In 2006 when I discovered homes were failing to deliver the comfort, air quality, energy savings and carbon emissions owners naturally expect. As an architect proud of his profession I was appalled to discover these performance gaps were not isolated incidents. Now that I have successfully addressed a number of these failings this website is a chance for you to look over my shoulder so that you can avoid having these problems in your home.
I find that when I explain a subject I get a clearer understanding of it. This site will help me refine what I know and what I'm learning.
As years have gone by I've have been repeatedly told I've designed 'Forever Homes.' When I realised this meant I'd found a useful recipe for creating a successful home I decided to document what it is I did and how I did it - that was the birth of what I now call the Forever Home Formula. This platform is an opportunity to take these ideas to a whole new level.
Who Is Mark Siddall?
And how does he know this stuff?
I’m a family man in my early forties. Thanks to my Dad, an entrepreneurial digger-driver turned house-builder and property developer, I fell in love with buildings and architecture by the tender age of twelve. I was hooked.
I remember being stood at the foot of the stairs and saying to my Dad "I want to design houses." He replied "That's an architect son." I’ve been on my architectural journey ever since.
You could say I've taken the long way around to getting here. I've worked as a laborour on buildings sites, as a cost estimator for my Dad's house building company and trained to be an architectural technologist before finally practicing as a chartered architect and - dare I say it - becoming one of the UK's leading Passivhaus designers.
Near the beginning:
Even though I have good spatial awareness and am creative thinker, I wasn't suited to the normal academic route taken by 99% of architects. At age 14 I was diagnosed as dyslexic just like architect Richard Rogers (other famous dyslexics include Benjamin Zephaniah, Richard Branson and Albert Einstien.)
By the time I was 16 I had left school and taken a job in an architectural practice. While I was there I trained to become an architectural technologist (an engineer of building technology). Later when I was 20, I left my home town of Ormskirk and went to read architecture at Newcastle University.
In parallel with going to school and university, I spent my summers working at my Dad's house building company. At first I was a site labourer, then a cost estimator.
As I priced building sites and various house types, and thought about my site experience, I gained valuable insight into to the practial and pragmatic sides of construction - something that architectural training doesn't really touch on.
Because of this broad and varied experience, I have a rounded perspective of what it takes to make a building work - technically, philosophically, proffessionally and commercially and its paid dividends time and time again throughout my career.
I’ve now been a chartered architect for over 13 years and design and supervise construction projects - mainly housing. I’m a member of the Architects Registration Board (ARB) - as all architects must be - and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
In 2006 I started researching building performance. I discovered houses were not performing the way they should. As an ethical architect I was deeply concerned. (Think of it as the Volkswagen emissions scandal of the building industry.)
...Without getting into the geeky details of how I did it, by 2011 I had evidence demonstrating that the houses I designed were successfully addressing a number of the technical challenges the construction industry is only now beginning to grapple with.
After becoming one of the the UK's first Certified Passivhaus Designers, I helped co-author the CarbonLite Passivhaus Certified Designer course. This remains the only UK specific Passivhaus training course and I’m still a regular trainer. (I'll tell you more about Passivhaus in articles and on the podcast).
Since then I’ve been a technical advisor for the Passivhaus Trust and found myself a speaker at Passivhaus Conferences around the world (London, New York, Aukland, Innsbruck, Frankfurt to name a few).
In 2008 I became acting chair of the North East chapter of the not-for-profit Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB), then in 2014 I became a trustee.
I’ve also had the opportunity to contribute to three books, written countless articles and papers about architecture, design and building performance. You'll find them in back issues of Green Building Magazine, Passive House Plus, the Architects Journal and more.
In 2016 I was nominated for the UK Green Building Council Rising Star Award (the award recognises an individual’s vision and success in highlighting the importance of sustainability in building and driving lasting change).
My Dad (left) and his second digger (1974) ...I was 1 year old
A cold, wet day visiting one of Dad's sites with my brother Richard (1989).
Before podcasting: My grandfather's home-made long wave radio.
There is nothing worse than people wasting each other’s time. It’s completely pointless. Especially in these days of information overload. Here's how I see it.
Even if you only join the Plot Hunter community, read the articles and listen to the podcast so you can disqualify me from your list of potential architects then that’s a good thing.
At least you'll have had the chance to discover some smart ways to create your ideal home. If you don't agree with what you hear, or it doesn't make sense to you, then you can easily move on.
Meanwhile, if you live in the North East and you want to transform your quality of life by improving the quality of the home you live in, or even if you just like what you see and hear, then I’d love to hear from you.
Mark …is one of the pioneers to introduce Passivhaus to the UK. His experience and ongoing research into building performance makes him one of the UK’s most skilled and knowledgeable Passivhaus Architects.
…I have no doubt that Mark Siddall’s buildings also offer an economical attractive solution to the investors.
Mark's technical knowledge of low carbon design and building performance is breathtaking and importantly for me he also has an eye in what it would take from a construction perspective.
Mark was a pivotal part of this team and his role as Passivhaus consultant enabled us to pull the whole thing together. ...Without Mark's input we would not have been as successful in delivery and consider that we would have suffered unnecessary cost, delays and frustrations.
It was clear when I met Mark for the first time that he has a true passion for his work.
...It has been a joy to work with someone so committed and knowledgeable.
Mark takes a highly analytical and technically expert approach to his work, and is one of the most knowledgeable people about building performance that I’ve ever met.
The exceptional standard of construction documents definitely saved the client money.
The drawings …covered every foreseen detail and problem which could occur in the building process.
When I’m not with my family, or dreaming about building my own home, I love helping people take control of their lives by using imaginative solutions to stubborn problems that limit their quality of life - often, but not always, this means helping them resolve complex architectural and urban design problems as well as addressing project management, contract administration and construction related challenges.
Creating a calm, quiet, healthy, characterful home, are just examples of how I can help you. At my core I’m Strategic Planner, Spatial Analyst and a Systems Thinker. That means I love solving creative problems, introducing order and structure where there wasn't any (or very little) and overcoming practical challenges.
...But architecture is so much more than resolving the technical details, planning policy and regulations. At its best architecture about creating a place you connect with at a visceral level. Connecting the views and vistas - inside and out. The arrangement of rooms and spaces. The play of light. The selection of materials. And much more.
You’ll inevitably find out more about me when you sign up to receive blog updates [LINK] or listen to the podcast on iTunes [LINK] or Stitcher [LINK].
In one form or another I’ve been crash testing building designs for over 25 years. I’ve worked on all manner of projects, from £37 million shopping centers to the design of bespoke homes and much more.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of pioneering housing projects, and taken part in some cutting edge research. As an award winning architect, projects have been featured in Built It, Passivhaus Plus and Green Building Magazine and many regional newspapers.
I’ve also become a successful project architect. In this role I’ve managed design teams and helped families, social landlords, universities and developers (to name a few) create barn conversions, housing estates, offices and laboratories, as well as refurbishing Grade II listed historic building for Newcastle University.
These days most (though not all) my clients want homes designed to either the Passivhaus Standard or the AECB Silver Standard. This is great news for me because I’m passionate about creating homes and communities that satisfy these satisfy these extemporary quality marks. If you're interested you can find my portfolio of projects here [LINK to PORTFOLIO].
I used to say that I was an architect because architecture was in my blood. In many ways it's still true. But these days my true source of inspiration is my family. My wife Jen and my daughter Hannah, and our (Jen's) dog Amber. The best part of my job is being able to be there for them.
Goals for 2017
My Brompton. ...Possibly the best bike in the world.
It’s early days right now but one thing is clear. The community is the reason why the Plot Hunter will succeed.
I've built this website for you and I'm creating a resource that will support you as a part of the North East self-build and custom homes community. For it to offer you real support I need you to provide consistent and regular feeback - that way I can create new resources you can take advantage of. So please get in touch the social media, over the phone or when you find me at an event.
Working together we'll create a framework that will enables us all to transform the places where we live, work and play.