A Day in the Life of an Architectural Practice

Have you ever wondered what it is like to work in an Architectural Practice for the day and envisaged all the dreaming and designing that goes on? Well now is your chance as we get inside the head of our Chief Designer, Tony Keller to find out what a normal day entails for him and the Building Tectonics team from start to finish.

Tony says “A normal day at Building Tectonics encompasses a number of different tasks but generally starts with a team briefing (accompanied by a cup of tea) to run through which stage we are at with each of our client jobs; to make sure everyone is up to speed and we know where our focus is for the day.

We make sure that any emails, telephone or Facebook messages that have come in overnight are responded to immediately; as we always try to reply within 24 hours where possible. If it is a new enquiry, I will ring the customer to find out more about them and what they are looking to achieve; and we arrange a time to meet them to see how we can help with their project.

Depending on what stage we are at with a particular job, one of the team may go out to a client’s house to get the accurate measurements of their home and also to measure their land boundaries.  It is vital these measurements are correct; as they are entered into our online system and used to draw up the existing plans, elevations and sections that will eventually be submitted to the Council Planning Department and thereafter the client’s builders. These measurements also start the process of drawing up the client design options and from time to time we also use them to produce 3D models for certain projects.

As a team we need to familiarise ourselves with Permitted Development Guidance, Planning Policies and Building Regulations for specific projects and a member of the team will fill in the Planning Application forms and deal with the queries from Planning Officers and third parties.  Detailed Building Regulations drawings will need to be drawn up and the site evaluated to look for any potential hindrances such as sewers, trees, flood risk areas, radon prevalence etc.  As part of this we will purchase and download Ordnance Survey mapping data for Planning Applications and other uses along with Drainage & Water Enquiry maps.

There is obviously a great deal of administration involved for the Building Tectonics team on a daily basis; as we respond to multiple emails and phone calls every day, scan all our client documentation onto our computer system and file all paper copies of projects as part of our audit trail. This then acts as our own Project Management tool to see where a particular project is at any time; and we conduct quarterly job reviews where we check the current status of every live project to make sure nothing gets missed at any stage.

With us being a hectic office, we need to make sure we don’t ever run out of any office stationary including printer ink, plotter rolls and paper as these are essentials for our office to run like clockwork (along with cups of tea!!).

It is very important that all of the team are up to date with the latest developments in the industry and any new changes to legislation, so we all attend regular CPD Seminars (Continued Professional Development) both during and outside of work hours and keep up-to-date on relevant industry news.

There is a great deal of research involved in design projects relating to anything from Planning, Building Regulations, construction problems, product information, Party Walls, Sewer build-overs to just general questions that we get on a daily basis from our clients.

Marketing is essential to all businesses to thrive and we try to regularly blog and share content that is of interest both to our current clients and potential new clients to update them on the industry and jobs we are currently working on.

Working in an Architectural practice, no single day is the same; but I really love working for myself.  I enjoy the variety of work it brings, the opportunities to meet new people and work with other professionals but most importantly seeing the happy faces of our clients when a job is finished. I always meet face-to-face to go through design drawings with my clients; as this is essential to ensure everything is covered to avoid any hiccups at a later stage of the project.  I thrive on being busy but obviously could not do it without the support of my committed team”.

Spotlight on the Team – Mantas Mackonis

Mantas Mackonis – Architectural Surveyor

Mantas started working at Building Tectonics straight after he finished Sixth Form nearly 3 years ago. After working in retail for a short period, but not knowing what he wanted to do career wise, he was put in touch with Tony who gave him the opportunity to work with him and the team.

Originally Tony hired him to try and teach him how to measure a house; as whilst everyone in the office can use the software to draw, no one could actually measure a house apart from Tony. Therefore, this was an area that the team needed additional help with.

His role at Building Tectonics is as an Architectural Surveyor so he basically goes out to the clients houses and obtains all the required measurements, then comes back to the office and draws all the measurements on the system ready for the team to work on potentials schemes.

Three things that inspire Mantas:

The End Goal – The biggest thing that keeps me going is the end goal; as in this industry things can get tough but when you think about the future and how much of a difference you can make on people’s lives, that’s what really motivates me.

Happiness – I love that look on someone’s face when they are smiling, their eyes are bright and their body language is open and jovial – that full-on happiness is inspiring to see. It’s infectious and it’s awesome.

Dreams – Everyone should have dreams that they work towards in their life. Seeing people go after their dreams is inspiring, and it makes me work harder to achieve mine.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
My favourite building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai; purely as it is the world’s tallest building. It’s mind-blowing to think about how tall it actually is, and this magnificent centrepiece of Downtown Dubai stands at 828.9 metres high. The task of creating the world’s tallest man-made structure was awarded to the Chicago office of American architectural and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings and Merril LLP. It’s crazy to think what the future holds and if there will ever be a taller building…

Adding Energy Efficiency to Your Home Construction or Remodelling Plan

The repair, maintenance and improvement market for UK housing is about 25 billion per year according to the Construction Products Association (CPA) economic forecasts. In fact, most homeowners are seeking energy efficient improvements as part of a larger home remodelling project according to CPA. There are a number of things you can do to enhance energy efficiency in your home during construction or remodelling.

Double glazed windows and loft and wall insulation
Put in double glazed windows to keep your home warmer, quieter and safer. You can also enhance the warmth and quiet by adding loft and wall insulation, which is much cheaper than replacing all your old windows with double glazed windows. Loft insulation is meant to stop heat from escaping through the roof while wall insulation prevents heat loss through walls. If you have solid walls, external wall insulation could be the best choice for retaining heat in your home. However, if your walls have a cavity, this can be filled up with insulation material to stop heat from conducting through the walls. Insulating your home can save you money on your fuel bills, and improves the energy efficiency rating of your home.

Energy saving appliances
Electrical appliances have made things like piles of dirty dishes very rare in most homes, and although they cost money to run there are tumble dryers, dishwashers, fridges, washing machines, ovens and other appliances that are incredibly energy efficient. For example, the Miele TMG840 WP heat pump dryer uses hot air to suck out moisture from clothes. The machine also switches off when its sensors detect that the clothes have dried.

Saving energy with the light bulb
Another way to enhance energy efficiency in your home is by installing LED light bulbs. Investing in the latest expensive LED light bulb could save you up to £240 each year according to an article in The Telegraph. You can also install smart LED lighting in your home to add to your list of control options instead of being restricted to on and off. For instance, the Lifx light bulb is compatible with the three main voice assistants, which means that you can control it with your voice. These lights also have apps that you can download on your phone and use to control the lights.

Energy saving appliances and light bulbs are reasonable options if you are renting or cannot afford extensive home remodelling projects at the moment. However, if you are constructing a new home, you can start making your home energy efficient from the moment the foundation is being laid.

New Year, New Home (Without Having To Move)

It’s that time of year when all you see online are countless blogs talking about New Year, New You and how to get the body of your dreams whilst improving your health. Whilst we obviously aren’t going down that route; as we are architects and not fitness experts, we do instead want to simply say the words ‘New Home’…

To most people when you say the words ‘New Home’ they automatically think of upping sticks and moving house to get their dream home; but you don’t need to take such a drastic step to achieve a new home.

Many houses even if they were only built in the last 20-30 years can quickly start to look tired and in need of an update; let alone the houses built in the decades prior to this. However, what many people don’t realise is that the solution is often sitting right under their nose in their current home, which with a little love and care and a change in its interior layout or exterior look could indeed become their dream home for a lot less than the cost and hassle of moving home.

With the cost of homes still rising and more people struggling to either get on the housing ladder or make the next step up to their dream home, more people than ever are looking at what they can do with their current house to make it work better and more efficiently for them. Everywhere you look scaffolding appears to be popping up; as lofts are converted and extensions are being added to make more space for ever growing families.

An alternative option though; either on its own or alongside an extension or loft conversion is simply to change the existing layout of your home to make the space work better for you. Many houses over the years as they have changed ownership have had extensions added without any real thought for what is really needed and how the house would flow. This ranges from kitchens with extensions added on to make a kitchen/breakfast room or a utility room; through to houses with conservatories and sun rooms just stuck on. Some houses often end up with a big dark corridor going down the middle of the house with countless rooms going off it which leaves all the rooms disconnected from each other.

If a previous homeowner ended up with elderly relatives living with them at some stage, they may have even changed a downstairs room into a bedroom ending up with a layout that just does not flow. Another scenario is houses that have previously been rental properties; meaning many of the general communal areas were changed to bedrooms with extra extensions and bathrooms resulting in a house that just does not work for an average family.

The upstairs of a house can often be no better as often when a 2-storey extension has been built, it can mean space has been taken off one of the existing bedrooms for a corridor to access the new bedroom; or even worse you access the new bedroom through one of the existing bedrooms which is a nightmare scenario.

Whilst people envisage changing the layout of their house to be a massive upheaval it is often not as difficult as they think and can provide them with a house that meets their needs; rather than moving again and still not finding their ideal house or layout. It is essential in the first instance to speak to an architect to get some possible ideas for what could work and to help identify areas such as load bearing walls before you go any further.

If it’s the exterior of your house that is making you want to move, this is also easily rectified by updating it from a tired and dated exterior to give it a modern ‘wow factor’ look that not only makes it look like a brand-new house but also adds value to your property.

With over 30 years’ experience of re-designing, altering and extending houses across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire; Building Tectonics endeavour to exceed the aspirations and desires of our clients, and do this by generating innovative and intelligent ideas that often achieve much more than the original brief. Our Chief Designer, Tony has extensive knowledge of what works design and build wise and often finds solutions to issues that builders may have with a client’s design thereby, finding a compromise that both parties are happy with.

If you are thinking now is the time to evaluate your home to see if you can improve it; please contact us to arrange a time to meet with you and conduct a feasibility study to find out what your initials needs are. From there we will come up with some initial schemes to make your home layout work more efficiently for you and your family.

Building Tectonics always aims to leave you with a house that is designed for a modern family lifestyle and even if your requirements are just a simple home extension or a loft /garage conversion, you too could benefit from our expertise and experience.

Spotlight on the Team – Josh Lockwood

Josh Lockwood – Design Technologist

Josh originally started with Building Tectonics 6 years ago on a week’s work experience; and after being made a job offer, he never left. However, as he had only just started his Sixth Form study, it was a tough decision as he was doing well at school but unsure what he wanted to do for a job. He realised the work experience suited his skill set, accepted the offer and has never looked back. After joining, he decided to attend college once a week to continue his education and achieved the grades needed to enrol at university. He is now in his 5th out of 6 years at university (due to being part-time), and will become qualified in 2020.

Having started off drawing surveys onto the computer by reading the measurements taken from Tony’s survey notes, it wasn’t long before Josh was trying his hand at producing schemes and submitting Planning Applications. As our Design Technologist, he prepares the Building Regulations drawings and has constant communication with our clients along with dealing with party wall issues, sewer build-overs and occasionally working on 3D models to help clients visualise proposals and buy into an idea.

Three things that inspire Josh:

Making a difference in people’s lives – I take great joy and pleasure out of helping people get what they want and achieve their goals and by designing extensions, I am fulfilling that passion. One day I hope to take it to the next level and design bigger and grander buildings or ideally, should my career prospects take me down the right path, work on redeveloping towns and cities to make a difference to whole communities.

Self-Improvement – There is always room for improvement and every day alters the way in which I view the world and myself, even if only slightly. Learning from other people, past mistakes and precedents keeps pushing me to strive for more.

Invention and Innovation – I thoroughly enjoy seeing new ideas come to life whether that be in terms of Architecture, Technology, Science, Music, or Sport. I have the utmost respect for talented people as it baffles me how people can create or achieve such things as mere human beings. Seeing the progression of various concepts throughout the decades to see how ideas have evolved over time is satisfying.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
There are lots of architectural marvels that I could list such as: Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (still under construction), Milan Cathedral, and for more modern examples, The Scalpel in London (recently completed) and Aldar HQ in Abu Dhabi.

However, the one that has stood out the most and been with me the longest has to be the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao which was designed by Frank Gehry. I’ve covered this in a previous University blog, but in essence, not only was the design controversially wonderful at the time, it has also sparked regeneration in Bilbao. In an age where grand Cathedrals are rarely built, and clusters of skyscrapers are the new way to identify cities, Frank Gehry had tried something different and ambitious which has paid off massively. It has proven hard to replicate such an iconic building elsewhere as the recipe for success isn’t quite right for other projects, whereas the Guggenheim was somewhat of a perfect storm.

Remodelling of Bletchley Bungalow Interior

Having purchased this bungalow in Tavistock Street, Bletchley with the intention of renovating it by enlarging its footprint and remodelling the interior; our clients contacted us for help with the design and planning of the project.

The main aim of the remodelling exercise was to open up the bungalow roof space to create a usable first floor which would then house a new bedroom; in addition to creating ‘drop lighting’ into darker areas of the ground floor where a new kitchen area would be situated.

When it comes to loft conversions, they can be quite tricky at the best of times, but providing the shafts for the drop lighting added an extra structural difficulty we needed to plan for.

Our clients have worked very hard to project manage and, in some cases, even provided the labour for this project with the end result being a stunning kitchen/diner with lots of natural light flooding in and a new light and airy bedroom upstairs.

If you are embarking on a project like this it is essential to have a thorough set of good detailed plans; and a pre-requisite to this is a good scheme where all of the fundamental difficulties have been considered and preferably designed away. This means that even a quite large design change is easier to manage if thorough plans have been produced beforehand, and in our client’s case we are now tying up some changes initiated during the building work.

We always recommend to clients that once the work starts it is best not to change the design, but sometimes it is inevitable, especially with old buildings and this was the situation here. However, because we had plans to work from, it made the process much easier and I am sure you will agree that they have done a fantastic job project managing it and we have thoroughly enjoyed working with them to create their dream living space.

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Open Plan Living comes into its own at Christmas

Christmas is traditionally the time when families, often scattered around the country, come together to catch-up and spend time together whilst enjoying a lavish Christmas meal. This is when open-plan living can really come into its own; as the space lends itself to many layout options and more importantly allows for a big (or extended) table to be the centrepiece of the celebrations with everyone gathered around it.

During the festive period, although more formal dining is popular; open plan dining is still the preference year-round of most homeowners; as separate dining rooms have yet to make a real comeback.  Whilst some people (generally the older generations) still prefer the dining room set-up, if you have a big family it can be challenging to try and fit your own family around the table, let alone grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins; therefore, an open space has an advantage. In houses that still have separate dining rooms but also enjoy an open plan kitchen/diner/living area, it is often the case that the old dining room has been converted into a snug, playroom, office or sometimes even a downstairs guest bedroom.

Homes with open floor plans offer great light and views (often across the garden) and are very sociable for entertaining and bringing family and friends together; but they can be tricky to decorate at Christmas. The high ceilings and minimal walls can make it hard to define areas, create transitions and get the scale right and can sometimes make the Christmas tree look too small for the area.

Therefore, whether you prefer a fresh-cut tree or an artificial version, buy the tallest and fullest tree that will fit comfortably in the spot you choose and upsize your Christmas decorations so you can see them from anywhere; making sure your tree lights are bright enough to make it dazzle as part of the overall décor. When your living room, dining room and kitchen are all one big space, it helps to pick a spot to be the focal point of the decorations which could be the fireplace if you still have one?

Whilst it is great to have all this space, it can sometimes not feel very cosy, which is why it is important to structure the space to give defined areas for eating, socialising and quiet time thereby, making it much more functional and useable.

In properties where the original dining room is now being used as a playroom or office, if you came to sell, the agents would more than likely still refer to it as a dining room in the marketing literature. However, by giving it an alternative description, such as calling it a dining/family room, it shows potential buyers the flexibility of the space and how it could work best for them.

All houses need to continuously evolve over time to suit the changing needs of their owners let alone a new buyer, so the use of the dining room will probably change a few times over the years. Although open plan gives more options, it needs to be clear where people could easily put their table and chairs. The trend for staying in more and hosting dinner parties or gatherings in your home, does mean that open plan living is a bonus, as it makes it more informal and guests can socialise with the host in the kitchen whilst they cook.

The kitchen is still the heart of the home and it’s really important for many families especially as the children grow older, to try and sit down together once or twice a week (depending on parents work times) around the table and catch-up on what’s been happening to everyone that week.

Whatever your preference; be it modern, open plan dining or the traditional dining room for family get-togethers, the beautifully decorated dining table will always be the centre piece of your social gatherings over the Christmas and New Year period and where all your memories are made.

If you have considered making changes to your property to have an open plan living/dining area to give you more flexibility; please do contact Building Tectonics Ltd to see what we can suggest to make your space work more efficiently for you.

We would like to wish all our clients (past, present and future) a wonderful and prosperous Christmas and New Year!

Spotlight on The Team – Jade Turney

Jade Turney – IT Technician

Jade has been with Building Tectonics for nearly 6 years; joining originally through an IT Apprenticeship. Tony was so impressed by her work that he offered her a permanent IT Technician role at the end of her apprenticeship.

Jade’s role involves anything that IT encompasses – from maintaining the network and developing the database software to making sure that all the team’s PC’s are working correctly and performing regular maintenance on them.  She also covers network security, makes sure that all the printers are running, fixes anything that goes wrong hardware and software related, and is responsible for the installation and maintenance of software.

So Jade basically keeps Building Tectonics running smoothly so the rest of the team can do their individual jobs without any problems; as well as being responsible for maintaining the Building Tectonics website.

Three things that inspire Jade:

Gaining knowledge – constantly learning and bettering my own knowledge; which can then be applied at work or in my personal life.

Fixing things – finding out how things work and being able to bring something that’s broken back to a working condition is so rewarding!

Helping people – I know how frustrating it can be when something goes wrong and you don’t know how to fix it, especially when it comes to technology.  So being able to help people get back up and running is always very satisfying.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
My favourite building is the Bayterek Monument in Kazakhstan; as the abstract element of the design inspires me and also the fact that it was dreamt up based on a local folklore.  The folklore follows Samruk, the holy bird of happiness, who lays a golden egg upon the tree of life, otherwise known as Bayterek.  At the core of the story, it represents the constant struggle between good and evil. The building itself is 97 metres tall to signify the year Astana was officially named the capital city of Kazakhstan.

Spotlight on The Team – Tony Keller

Tony formed Building Tectonics Ltd in 1985; following a career working on large commercial projects in and around London. Their ethos is to provide a high-quality architectural design led by a careful feasibility planning process to make clients projects a reality, without suffering the pitfalls that many owners of properties face. With his excellent organisational and communication skills and extensive knowledge of what does and doesn’t work design and build wise, it means all the projects that the company take on are managed successfully to completion.

Building Tectonics moved to Fenny Stratford in 1998 after completing the conversion of a Grade 2 listed building into three commercial units and three flats; after which the team moved to their current office space in an old Salvation Army Hall. It was completely refurbished to create a wonderful studio space that they now enjoy together with other companies.

Renovating listed buildings takes a certain skill set which, fortunately as a practice, Building Tectonics have and it also helped Tony realise his other dream of owning his own restaurant and they converted their original office in the Grade 2 listed building into ‘The Fenny Kitchen’ an Anglo Mediterranean Restaurant which opened in August 2018.

When he’s not visiting clients houses or working on plans, Tony can be found in the kitchen of the Fenny Kitchen drinking wine and trialling new recipes to try on his new restaurant customers.

Three things that inspire Tony:

Making things work – arriving at a design that creates a workable layout, a pleasant interior and exterior and is practical in its build

Pleasing people – giving them something that they can dream about and eventually reside in

Running my own business – It’s tough but somebody has to do it

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
My favourite building is The Barcelona Pavilion which was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and was the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain.

 

A close up of some green Christmas tree branches with two red baubles hanging off of them, and some star shaped cookies in the background with white icing.

What Christmas Decorating Traditions do you have?

Christmas is fast approaching and the first Sunday of Advent is typically when people put their Christmas decorations up; which this year falls on the first Sunday of December. Advent comes from the Latin word meaning ‘coming’ and while we regard Advent as a joyous season, it is also intended to be a period of preparation, much like Lent.

However, every year it seems to get earlier with some people starting to put their Christmas decorations up from mid-November whereas others may leave it as late as the weekend before Christmas. This is influenced heavily by what’s in the shops as many stores start selling decorations as soon as the kids go back to school in September.

When it comes to painting and decorating the interiors of their homes, each individual has a different idea of colour schemes they prefer and how they like to accessorise their rooms; and it is the same when it comes to decorating their houses at Christmas. One family may have an 8ft Nordmann fir and spruce it up with lavish baubles, toppers and lights, and another may simply decorate a fake tree that cost a tenner.

The traditional Christmas decoration colours used to be red and green with green representing the continuance of life through the winter and the Christian belief in eternal life through Jesus; and red symbolising the blood that Jesus shed at his crucifixion. Whereas, in the past you used to just decorate your lounge and hallway with some tinsel, paper chains, mistletoe and holly with possibly a nativity scene set up, now Christmas decorating is big business and competition is fierce amongst the high street stores and online retailers; with so much variety to choose from and personalised options on wreaths and just about every accessory you can think of.

It’s now socially acceptable to have a different colour scheme in every room of your house and people go to great lengths to co-ordinate their houses, with some even going as far as to hire an interior designer especially for the Christmas season. Basically, when it comes to decorating your home for Christmas, anything goes and there is a theme and colour scheme for everyone.

One family may dig out the same decorations every year whereas others may start with a clean slate and colour scheme each year. If you really want to be on trend for 2018; this year the fashionable colours are varying within the range of purple, blue and grey so if you fancy a change try this out?

For many the central element of the festive decorations is still the tree; and this can now range from having one tree up in your hallway or lounge through to trees in each of the main rooms. Traditionally, people would have chosen a real fir tree but now the options are endless from artificial trees with integrated lights or decorations through to trees with music systems build in and one of the newest trends in the last few years – upside down trees to allow room for more presents to be stored underneath. More people are starting to think about their choice of tree and realising that an artificial tree they bring out each year is so much better for the environment; and with the improvement in their build quality, it is now sometimes difficult to tell the difference between real and artificial trees.

Tinsel used to take over houses for decades with every colour you can think of and then took a downturn with some feeling it looked cheap and nasty, but is now having a revival; however, it’s best not to overuse it but just choose carefully where you feature it in your overall decorating scheme.

Decorating the exterior of your house used to only be for the rich; but is now becoming increasingly popular with decorations ranging from garish inflatable snowmen right up to lights that change colour across the house in time to music; and front gardens filled with reindeer and sleights.

It’s all about personal choice but there is no need to spend a fortune if you can’t afford to (or simply don’t wish to) as you can just take your inspiration from nature and get the kids involved. Take a walk in the local country park or forest and collect greenery, fir cones, berries etc and make your own wreaths, candle displays etc and have fun making craft creations as a family.

Do you prefer a modern clean and contemporary look to your Christmas decorating or do you prefer a traditional red and green colour scheme and hang family baubles on your tree and add to it year on year? We would love for you to share your photos with us of how you decorate your house at Christmas.