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.

Building Regulations in the United Kingdom

If you’re looking at extending your house in the UK, you might have heard the term “Building Regulations” mentioned. In essence, these are a set of rules which must be adhered to in order to receive consent to allow the building work to be carried out. The document is split into numerous parts, each tackling a specific area of the building. Such parts would include structure, fire, sound, thermal, drainage, stairs and electrical safety.

Whilst the Building Regulations in their current form were first introduced in 1965, the origins of the British version of these legislative documents can be traced back to London around the turn of the 1200’s. Constant fires due to the popularity of timber and thatched buildings as well as how crowded cities such as London were, led to many residents voicing their concerns with some matters dealt with in court.

Perhaps one of the most important events which led to the rules becoming more stringent was the Great Fire of London in 1666. The widespread damage which this caused laid down strict rules on how Buildings were to be constructed, as well as which materials should be used. This was done in order to avoid a repeat of the devastating fire which wiped out most of the City of London.

Since the introduction of the Building Regulations as we know them today some 50 years ago, many improvements in Building Technology and materials has warranted the amending of the Regulations every few years. The current Regulations which were introduced in 2010, have been amended two or three times for instance. Evolutions in the way in which Buildings are constructed have meant that new methods and techniques have been adopted as standard practice in most domestic scenarios. Cavity walls filled with Insulation have allowed houses to be warmer than ever before whilst new buildings are required to be wheelchair friendly in their design. The latter of which helps to make new homes somewhat future proof and accessible by everyone.

Although there have been leaps and bounds in the standard of quality expected from the Regulations, they don’t cover everything. A good set of Building Regulations drawings with plenty of details should be produced to aide with this. At Building Tectonics Ltd, we pride ourselves in being able to put together the details needed to create a package that can both be used to gain Building Regulations approval, and can also be used by the builders to work from. Some things such as floor and wall finishes and positions of plug sockets tend to be best left to the client and builder to discuss, although most of the hidden detail is shown within the detailed Building Regulations drawings.

Photo of a large spacious room with off white walls, a grey corner sofa, wooden floor and wooden coffee table. Next to that there is a grey rug,matching the sofa. There is a glass dining table with large wooden legs, and wooden chairs with grey cushioning.

Makeover in Dunstable

Yesterday, I happened to visit and photograph a project we’ve designed, it was a last minute opportunity so taking these pictures in the evening never shows off the architecture as it should. However, I thought it would be nice to share them nonetheless.

Our clients loved the location of their house, but not the design. Some areas were very nice, but what let the house down was the long journey from the road to the front door, long internal corridors and the overall style of the house. It had been extended a few times previously, and a holistic overview was needed to revamp the house to put these things right, and also to add some more accommodation. We suggested moving the lounge so that the entrance led into this very impressive hall type lounge, thus removing the long distance from the road and parking to the front door. This also removed the long corridors because they now became rooms that themselves connected other rooms together. More accommodation was added to create a two storey bedroom wing and the house was given an external makeover at the same time, I can’t wait until I’m invited back!

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

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The Fenny Kitchen Restaurant

The main bulk of our projects here involve working on our client’s houses, but every now and again we also get involved in some commercial projects. We recently designed and project managed the interior of a restaurant, this has been ongoing for some time with the work being split into two phases; the first of which was the refurbishment and restoration of the external timber together with some structural alterations. Due to the fact that the building is a Grade 2 listed building, the Local Authorities Conservation Team had to be consulted along with the Planning Department, Structural Engineers and Building Inspector. Many of the details had to be resolved on-site and communicated to the builders on a daily basis.

The building itself was originally a farmhouse built around the 1630’s, it’s been built with a timber frame and brick infill which is of a high standard. As the photo above shows, the top of this timber column has been carefully carved, which leads us to believe that the farmhouse was built for someone of a high status.

When confronted with carrying out work to an older building, it’s good practice to make it clear what’s new and what’s original. In this respect, a bit of ingenuity is sometimes required when necessary structural improvements need to be carried out.
In the photo above, the layering of the structural enhancements can be clearly seen; the dark oak in the middle has been sandwiched between pitch pine in Victorian times, which has subsequently been sandwiched by a steel plate and bolts in modern times. Thus, the existing structural frame is on show but with sympathetic improvements. A carpenter has then filled in some of the oak which was then rotten and decayed with some new oak, and no attempt has been made to create an ‘invisible mend’ quite deliberately.

Once all of the structural work was completed, the second phase could commence. This was working on the interior, which wasn’t easy. A different team of tradesmen were brought in with a different set of skills, but they proved to be unreliable, so we had to replace them with others. The case was the same with the electrical company and by the end of the project, we had a great team of builders, electricians and plumbers.

Often, good design can come about by following obvious structural necessities. In the above photo, a new steel column with cap plate was required to support the timber frame above and following good practice, the new and the old should be bolted together.

The restaurant opened on Sunday to much acclaim, and we are proud to have been involved.

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