Behind the scenes: Grand Designs ‘The Street’ part 2.


David Somerset, Principal Engineer, Utilities & Energy Infrastructure

Enabling the dream at Graven Hill.

Grand Designs: The Street is a six-part series on Channel 4 following people undertaking self-build projects at Graven Hill, the largest self- and custom-build scheme in the UK.

We are proud to have been involved in multiple aspects of this exciting development from an early stage. You can read about the involvement of our Sustainability team on the project here.

Providing all the necessary utilities, infrastructure and energy to the development was a key challenge. It was vital that we ensured they were distributed to the diverse range of homes and businesses, while meeting the various project servicing requirements across the site. Our Utilities & Energy Infrastructure team, have been working on the Graven Hill development since 2015 to ensure that the services to the site are available where and when they are needed.

Alongside the 150 self-build plots, we needed to consider services and infrastructure delivery for more than 1,000 new homes: from passive terrace houses, to all-electric residential blocks, schools, shops and new commercial spaces.

Bringing it all back home.

The infrastructure strategy for the Graven Hill site had to consider how both people’s homes and the rest of the units could be serviced in an all-encompassing utility plan that was straightforward to deliver. We had to go ‘back to the drawing board’ regarding traditional service connections and, instead, rethink how services could be simultaneously delivered as a combination of traditional supplies to buildings and a solution for the self-build plots.

Our solution involved working closely with multi-utility providers, architects, civil engineers, the main works contractor, and developer to provide every single self-build plot with an electricity and water service plinth at the boundary, plus adjacent ducts for telecoms and gas. This meant that an ad-hoc build out could be achieved, providing construction supplies during the self-build projects that could later become the final supplies – both minimising the costs to the purchaser and making the connection process as simple as possible.

The plot passport.

Simple documents called Plot Passports provided guidance for the self-builders. We produced a simple crib sheet that showed where to find supplies for construction (including boundary coordinates), how to extend these supplies later when the buildings were ready, and – ultimately – how to get connected.

Interestingly, the greatest challenge to-date has been helping the purchasers move the supplies from their plot boundary into their homes.

Many of the purchasers are building their first – and last – homes and, as such, we understood they wouldn’t have the experience to understand the consequences and nuances of not considering their utility supplies fully at an early stage of design. Because of this, we are working closely with the Graven Hill sales team, architects and civil engineers to help shape how the homes are delivered.

To-date, we are continuing to enable every single home to connect to the site’s infrastructure, ensuring services can be delivered to an acceptable standard and helping to make those home-building dreams a reality that works!

Make sure to tune-in on Thursday evenings, Channel 4 at 9pm. Grand Designs: The Street runs until 9 May 2019. You can catch-up here: