When you first start planning any home renovations; it is easy to get carried away dreaming about the end result and not always consider the how you get there. The first step should always be to consult a professional experienced designer as soon as possible.
Their expertise, together with your ideas and requirements, are so helpful to arrive at the final design quickly; without impacting the cost and quality of the build. The professional designer is not there to block your home renovation dreams but help steer you to a realistic design; whilst keeping in mind any building construction techniques, building regulation and planning requirements. Equally, there are occasions when the homeowner may not be confident sharing their ideas and dreams or has no idea how to even go about creating more space. However, a top-notch designer can tease the client’s woolly idea and with encouragement and adding meat to the bones; they can develop a stunning and practical solution together.
Unfortunately, some homeowners bypass this step and go straight to a builder for their extension, loft conversion or re-modelling of their home layout; therefore, causing more stress months (or even years) down the line. This can involve problems coming up during, at the end of the project or even worse years later when they decide to sell.
This is just one example of the many requests Building Tectonics receive as an architectural practice: –
“Back in 2014, I carried out a garage conversion to turn the space into an art studio. At the time I was advised by my builder that planning permission was not required as the garage could not be accessed from within the house, had no toilet facilities and was less than 30m2.
I am now selling my house and the Buyer’s Solicitors are asking for a Certificate of Completion, a Certificate of Regulation and drawings of the garage prior to and after the work was completed. I do not have any of these items; so, therefore, need professional advice or an inspection of the garage conversion”.
Whilst the majority of builders are trustworthy and should identify any issues that could potentially occur before they start a home renovation project; there are many who are just as eager to get going and take the money and therefore, aren’t as prudent when giving advice.
Having a reputable design company on board also helps with the finer details that most of us rarely think about; but if designed incorrectly could potentially end up being a costly mistake. They can advice you on reputable local builders, project manage the build and keep it within your budget. As they are subject to a statutory code of practice and have Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect their clients; you are more importantly covered in all areas.
It is always advisable to plan ahead as much as possible on any home renovations and see if they will cover potential future life events like having children or elderly parents moving in with you further down the line. This way it will then save you both time and money in the long run. Always make sure the correct planning and building regulations have been adhered to and certificates received; to save you a lot of time and stress further down the line.
In 2020; lockdown resulted in millions of households turning their kitchens and living rooms into offices and classrooms; as we adapted to a new way of working often with the added challenge of home schooling. This resulted in an influx of enquiries to architects and builders from homeowners for home improvements; ranging from extensions through to re-modelling of their existing home layout – but all with the same aim of achieving more living space.
The shift in family life Despite two previous lockdowns; research from online retailer, Furniture and Choice, shows that 37% of people surveyed admitted they still don’t have a dedicated space to work from at home. Home Offices have become the most asked for home improvement with homeowners realising that they do not have enough room to meet their changing family and work needs. Buyer expectations have also shifted as more people plan to work from home more frequently. Gardens and proximity to outdoor space have also become a necessity for many buyers; meaning thousands have now moved out of the city into the countryside.
Working from home – the new norm?
Now we are in Lockdown 3.0 and working from home and/or home schooling are yet again the new norm for at least several months. The start of a new year is usually the time (in normal circumstances) when homeowners consider what they would like to improve about their home during the next 12 months. Or it’s when they decide if they need to move home instead to be able to achieve their long list of home requirements.
Improve don’t move If you have not yet jumped on the band wagon and are still trying to work out what you actually need to do to make your home work more effectively for you; then Building Tectonics is here to help. It is always hard to find your perfect home (unless you are stupidly rich) but it is not always the case that you need to move to obtain your dream home. Even when people undertake a self-build, they still don’t always achieve every little detail they would like or end up changing their mind several times as they go along. You often need to live in a house for a while to see how you utilise it – which has certainly been the case for us all over the last year.
What are my options? In most cases; extra family space can be achieved by either adding an extension (side, rear or front) or by converting your garage. Or you may be able to build upwards if you already have a single-storey extension (although this will obviously depend on the foundations of the current extension). Alternatively, an external pair of eyes in the form of an architectural practice can open your eyes to different options including re-jigging a few walls or changing a draughty conservatory to create a warm more permanent part of your home – whilst also suggesting extra design features that you may not have considered or even thought possible.
Look to the roof The biggest space in your home; that is often overlooked but can drastically change your home and how you utilise the other rooms; is the loft. In most cases it is full of rubbish and by converting it via a number of different options; you can create one or several bedrooms up there, or if you prefer a children’s playroom, extra lounge or more importantly in these strange times – a home office.
Re-modelling your living space An alternative option 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 had extensions added without any real thought for what is really needed and how the house would flow. Kitchens could have had extensions added to make a kitchen/breakfast room or a utility room; whereas some houses may have conservatories and sun rooms just plonked on. Whilst people envisage changing home layouts to be a massive upheaval; it is often not that difficult and can provide them with a house that meets their needs; rather than moving again and still not finding their ideal house or layout.
Improving kerb appeal If you love the interior of your property but hate the exterior; this is also easily rectified. It can easily be updated 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.
Future proofing your home When planning any home improvements, it is always a good idea to consider changes in technology and new inventions that could help you and your home. Smart homes are becoming more popular; as homeowners look at ways to make life easier and control devices around their homes at the touch of a button or a voice command. Home automation can include clocks, speakers, lights, doorbells, cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, appliances and even cooking utensils. Many of these options are not too expensive; but bigger options like advanced surveillance cameras require a more serious investment of time and money.
Make sure you plan ahead Although we cannot predict the future (as we have seen over the last 12 months); all we can do is try and plan ahead as much as is possible when it comes to our home improvements. When considering what you want to change about your home; try and see if the improvements would cover any potential future life events like having children or possibly elderly parents moving in with you further down the line. This way it will then save you both time and money in the future. How Building Tectonics can help With over 35 years’ experience of re-designing, altering and extending houses; Building Tectonics aim to generate 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 2021 is the time to improve your home; 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. We always aim 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.
The 10th July 2020, marks 35 years in business for ‘Building Tectonics Ltd’ as an architectural practice in Milton Keynes. Whilst we want to take the opportunity to celebrate this notable accomplishment, we also wanted to reflect on how things have changed significantly over the years especially in terms of technology, what we have learnt and our biggest design achievements to date.
‘We Design, You Enjoy‘ Over the last 35 years we have re-designed, altered and extended hundreds of happy clients’ houses across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Many clients have come back to us a second (and even third time) when they have decided to make further changes to their homes or moved house. We have always endeavoured to exceed the aspirations and desires of our clients whilst providing a personal and friendly service. Our aim is to generate innovative and intelligent design ideas that often achieve much more than the original client brief. Indeed, that is why our business slogan is ‘We Design, You Enjoy’.
Where it all started To go back briefly to the beginning; Building Tectonics Ltd, was formed by Tony Keller, our Chief Designer in 1985; following a career working on large commercial projects in and around London. The business 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 our current office space in an old Salvation Army Hall. It was completely refurbished to create a wonderful studio space that we now enjoy together with other companies.
High quality architectural design Our 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 Tony’s 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 we as a company take on are managed successfully to completion.
How technology has changed over 35 years We have seen many changes over 35 years in business with technology being the biggest shift. When we started out in 1985; there was no internet, emails or social media and everything was done via the telephone, fax or post. Computers were slowly coming into use but were not at the same technical level as today. Drawing boards were used (many architectural technologists still draw by hand even now) and we had no laser measuring equipment or Google Earth. It was a slower pace of life as you had to wait for responses, documents and fees via the post instead of just logging into a system.
The introduction of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn has meant us constantly having to reassess how we work and promote ourselves to potential new clients. This includes how we share useful information through to how we promote our new projects. Our website is obviously key to showcasing our work; but websites such as ‘Houzz’ are also becoming critical to view a professional’s previous design and/or building work.
Home design across the years Home design is very different to 35 years ago; when it was mainly featured in company brochures and renovation magazines. It is now heavily influenced by the many TV programmes on renovation, design, interior design and DIY across numerous different TV and streaming channels. Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are key for clients to consult to get ideas for designing a room (or their entire house) and there is not much you cannot find on there if looking to extend, remodel or make any changes to your home. Social media influencers are constantly piling pressure onto people to try and achieve the same lifestyle as them by showing their rooms off and endorsing household products and styles.
Increasingpopularity of open-plan living Open-plan living is still one of the most popular schemes that we as an architectural practice get asked to design; as families aim to spend more time together whilst also having zones to enjoy individual time in. Loft conversions are also becoming more and more requested as children stay at home for longer and therefore, need more space with many families not able to afford the next step up on the housing ladder.
Staff have come and gone over the years and each one has contributed a great deal to the business and its clients. Our current team have a varied skill set but each have their individual areas that they excel at and work together to meet our clients varied needs.
Renovating listed buildings takes a certain skill set which, fortunately as a practice, Building Tectonics have and it also helped our Chief Designer, Tony realise his other dream of owning his own restaurant after converting our original office in the Grade 2 listed building into ‘The Fenny Kitchen’ an Anglo Mediterranean Restaurant which opened in August 2018.
Still here after 35 Years We are proud to have survived as a business for 35 years despite several recessions, the twin towers disaster, hurricanes, record heat, rules and regulations and of course the latest COVID-19 crisis and currently are lucky to be busier than ever. This unfortunate crisis with people having to spend months locked in their homes has meant they have now identified more than ever what they want to change about their houses. Therefore, following the ease in lockdown restrictions we have been contacted by numerous home-owners to ask for our help with design ideas for changing the layout of their houses.
Tony Keller, Owner and Chief Designer at Building Tectonics says “We are still here despite the economic and health crisis’ mentioned above and still really love our job. Our aim is to help people with sometimes tough choices, sometimes helping those with what we call the problem of choice (too many choices and can’t decide), sometimes achieving what the client dreamt of but dare not hope was possible and sometimes saving an old building by showing how it can have a new lease of life. We hope to continue helping our current and new clients realise their home dreams for many more years to come”.
Please look at our projects on Facebook, our website and Houzz to get a taste of what we can do and why we have so many delighted clients. You can contact the Building Tectonics team on 01908 333000 or message us via Facebook and we will be only too happy to discuss whatever project you may be looking to undertake.
Our client found us on the website called Houzz and, after reading all the positive reviews we had received from previous clients, contacted us regarding their 4-bedroom detached property in Luton. They had lots of ideas for potentially extending or remodelling their home including creating an open-plan living area; but needed our help to turn the ideas into workable schemes. Having read about our Feasibility Scheme on our website; they rightly assumed that this would be the way forward.
Our Feasibility Scheme involves us visiting a client, listening to what they feel is lacking in their current house or what they wish to achieve and then carrying out a survey of their property. We are then in a position to formulate workable ideas which we typically send to clients 3 to 5 weeks after our visit.
They were not short of ideas for what they hoped to achieve and the ideas ranged from an open-plan dining/breakfast/kitchen/living space which would become the ‘hub’ of their home to possibly adding another bedroom.
Discussions also revolved around a better designed kitchen, a utility room to hide away some of their appliances and the washing when it was drying indoors. Their existing dining room was also quite dark so they were looking at possible solutions to provide an area for working from home or for the kids to study in.
Once the process got going it was clear that they really only needed a single storey extension; which meant demolishing their current conservatory and then remodeling some of their existing space. Other ideas that had been considered included the possibility of a Loft Conversion but we soon established this would involve a new roof as the ridge was too low.
They needed us to help them decide what was economically feasible given their lifestyle, family needs and what was a sensible spend on their particular house. The scheme they chose resulted in a rear extension, creating a stunning open-plan kitchen/breakfast/dining/living area that the whole family could “live” in, but also has individual zones to work unhindered.
The build was finished this Summer and now they have just put the finishing touches to the interior; so it is now all ready for Christmas. Early in the new year they will also lay a patio area outside the new bi-fold doors; ready to make the most of the outdoors in the Summer. In the meantime they can also enjoy the view during the colder winter months.
Our clients said “You worked up many ideas before we chose one for our extension; which was at the end of last year and we finished the build late this Summer. Many thanks for the great variety of designs that really helped us get to where we wanted along with the help guiding us to what was structurally sensible, the Planning Process and Building Regulations too, of course. Thank you as it looks great and we are really pleased with the end result”.
Almost overnight the mornings now have a distinct chill, the evenings are already getting darker earlier; and the warmth of the summer sunshine is becoming a distant memory. As the evenings start to draw in, it’s time to start looking at your home and garden to see what needs organising before the chill sets in and how to make it cosier and work more efficiently for you.
Summer versus Winter In the Summer it’s all about connecting with our outside space and spending as much time outside enjoying our gardens, patios and decking. Blinds are used to keep rooms cool and we use air-conditioning and fans in the really hot weather. However, as it cools down the opposite is true with windows being closed (also to try and keep the many spiders out) and central heating and fires being lit to warm our homes.
Move your furniture In the warmer seasons; we tend to turn our furniture more towards the windows to enjoy the sunshine coming in, with our windows and doors all left open to let the fresh air in. However, in the winter months furniture is rearranged for a cosier feel centred around the fireplace or another central focal point. Make sure you move any furniture away from radiators to maximise the heat coming out.
Roof ventilation In the Summer months, the roof space can literally bake and if there is nowhere for that heat to go it will build a stack of hot air in the roof which will eventually force itself into your living space from the ceiling down. It is essential therefore, to install just enough ventilation to stop the stacking effect. In the winter months; you have the opposite problem of all your heat rising into the loft, so it is recommended to consider insulation in the loft to stop the heat rising and the cooler loft space impacting on your downstairs space.
Adjust your thermostat It is suggested that in some circumstances for each degree you turn down the thermostat towards the outside temperature you reduces your heating costs and greenhouse emissions by roughly 10%. Make sure though that your boiler is in tip-top condition and has been serviced within the last year to make sure it is not only safe to use but working as efficiently as possible. Bleed any radiators to make sure they are working properly.
Get snug with textiles and textures When it starts to get chilly; we dig out our jumpers and cosy socks but the other way to keep warm and make your home look cosy is through the use of textiles and textures. You can introduce more fleeces and fake fur throws into your home to put on the sofa; along with cushions in cosy fabrics like chenille to keep yourself snug of an evening and the heating down lower.
Check for any gaps It is a good idea to check around your doors and windows for any significant gaps and seal them to keep any drafts out (and spiders).
Close your doors Make sure you don’t leave all your doors open, so therefore, close the doors to rooms you do not use which thereby reduces the area to keep cool or warm.
Use Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) These bulbs use 75% less energy and produce 75% less heat than incandescent light bulbs which will save you money as well on cooling. Also consider LED lights as they are often cheaper and easier to retrofit. It is a good idea to consider brighter bulbs for those darker days but make sure they are energy efficient where possible.
Clothing If you can get your family members into the habit of wearing a jumper and similar warm clothes; you will save a fortune in heating costs. You will be using your own body heat to help keep you warm, so allowing you to reduce the heating thermostat.
Use an electric blanket at night If you don’t like a hot bedroom but still get a bit chilly, why not use an electric blanket or go old school and bring out your hot water bottle which means not having to heat the whole bedroom.
Put your Summer clothing away Once the last of the sunshine has gone, put your summer clothing into the loft to make more room for warmer winter clothing.
Tidy your garden space When it comes to your outside space, make sure you put your garden furniture away that is susceptible to wet weather (or frost) and could potentially crack. Look at bringing any plants inside that can’t cope with winter or cover them with protective sleeves.
Give your windows one last clean Autumn is a good time to have one last clean of your windows before the bad weather sets in. It also gets rid of some of the many spider’s webs and nests that have appeared towards the end of the summer.
We hope some of these tips have been useful to help you organise and transform your home ready for the Winter 😊
Making your dream home a reality can be a costly process and understandably many people try to keep their costs as low as possible; and stick to a budget – whether this is £5,000 or £500,000. The first step in this process is to arrive at a scheme that gives you what you want. However, it also has to be possible structurally; so, you can then make the decision whether to go ahead with your project.
Therefore, the first point of call is making contact with either an architectural practice or alternatively, a drawings company that offer a fixed low-cost package. Whilst many people think that by choosing the low-cost package drawings firm, they are saving money this is often not the case. We wanted to show you why this is not always the cheapest option and the pitfalls to look out for when choosing a company to design your house alterations.
What are your requirements?
As an experienced architectural practice, once a potential client makes contact with us, we would always start with a Feasibility Scheme. This is a fixed fee service and involves visiting your home at a time that suits you, to listen to your requirements. The visit normally takes about two and a half to three and a half hours.
Which is the best scheme for you?
Following the visit and survey we will produce a number of schemes for you to consider and will work with you until you are happy that you have the best possible scheme for you. It also needs to have the best chance of being approved by planning. Once you have a chance to evaluate our schemes and give us your thoughts, we can then further explore a particular idea and alter it as necessary.
The Planning Application Stage
The second stage is the Scheme Acceptance which is where we proceed with your chosen scheme. A Planning Application is then submitted to the Planning Authority, preparing the Building Regulations Application and then Project Managing your scheme to completion.
How do we save you Money in the Long Run?
Whilst this may sound fairly simple and you would think that any company could offer this service; it is rarely an easy transition. There are always queries and issues that pop up along the way and this is where an experienced architectural practice has the advantage over a fixed fee drawings company. They know every detail of your agreed scheme and can tweak it and liaise with the different bodies along the way from planning through to building control/regulations.
As an architectural practice, Building Tectonics have close relationships spanning over 30 years with the local planning authorities. We therefore, know what is likely to be approved and where you may run into problems; therefore, saving you time and money in the long run.
Over the years, many clients have come to us after choosing the cheaper option and then later regretted it. They have found that the company in question just didn’t have the knowledge or expertise when they ran into problems or they simply didn’t like their design concepts. They therefore, end up coming to us to try to sort it out. We are always happy to take a client on at any stage but it can sometimes take a while to rectify what has been undertaken already by the previous company.
Many of these package drawings companies may also say that they include all fees; but often further down the line you will find areas crop up that are not included. The fees may also not include you making any design changes at a later date. Whilst they can do the basic drawings they won’t think outside the box and give you alternative options that you may not have considered and find a solution that really suits you, your family and your lifestyle.
These services tend to focus on speedy transactions and quick turnover as this is how they keep their costs so low. They just don’t offer the personal architect/client relationship that architectural practices have, where we aim to find the best solution for our clients whatever it takes.
Building Tectonics will design and develop your ideas and work with you to guide you through the whole process step by step. We always go the extra mile to find a scheme that gives our clients the best possible fit with what they desire. Not all clients know exactly what they want and during the exchange of ideas and two or three different schemes, the brief can often get altered several times until the perfect solution is reached.
If you would like to know more about the services we offer and how to take the first step towards achieving your dream home; please do give us a call on 01908 366000 to see how we can help.
With Milton Keynes being a relatively new city; it includes amongst its housing stock a large number of townhouses. They are a popular choice for many housing developers due to them still offering 3-4 bedrooms to potential customers but on a considerably smaller footprint. Therefore, more houses can be packed into housing developments.
Whilst they are popular with the younger generation who find the living space works for them sufficiently, further down the line it can became more difficult when growing families struggle to make the space work for them.
Many clients are now contacting us because they either already owned one of these townhouses or have recently purchased one and want to know what their options are. They are desperate for more downstairs living space to accommodate the children’s toys and other belongings that they have built up over the years.
Back in 2014 we were asked by a kitchen design company, that we worked with to make contact with the owners of a house in Broughton. The townhouse was built in 2009 and like so many houses built now, suffered from not enough family space on the ground floor. With it being a 3 storey; it benefitted from plenty of bedroom space. It also featured a reasonable sized garden but on the downside the kitchen/dining space was relativity cramped for everyday family life.
The obvious solution was to extend the kitchen area and create a family open plan area that could be used all year round with plenty of light coming in. Whilst we knew what needed to be done to improve the house; it is always the extra care and attention to the design that can really make the end result special for the client.
Given the window configuration to the upstairs, which the clients did not wish to alter, we had to choose a roof shape that would be compatible with their existing design. This in turn facilitated a double aspect skylight configuration, which really does make this room space special.
Our clients have dressed the room beautifully and the kitchen designers have really made the most of the new space. They have given them a stunning open plan eating/living area that they can really enjoy spending time in.
As an architectural practice; it gives us a real thrill to know that we have been instrumental in achieving such a lovely space and knowing that without any exaggeration, how this can transform people’s lives.
If you have a townhouse and would like to know more how you can benefit from extra downstairs living space; please do give Building Tectonics a call on 01908 366000 to see how we can help.
Our clients in Woughton on the Green desired a new updated kitchen which made the most of the fabulous countryside views from their garden; so, therefore came to us for ideas and design options. Due to the L shape layout of their house it meant we could explore a number of locations, orientations and designs as to where was best to locate the new kitchen extension.
A new design was chosen by our clients and achieved exactly what they asked for – a light and airy kitchen with an island for cooking and socialising; which they did not have before with roof lights which really open up the space. The bi-fold doors across the back means more importantly it now connects with the surrounding landscape whilst overall integrating better with the house.
Our clients said “We thought you’d like to know that John Foster has practically finished our extension now and we are extremely happy with the design and plans”.
Garden Rooms are often thought of as being a separate cabin style building down the end of your garden; which you would typically use as an office, craft room, a spare bedroom or as a separate summer only additional living space.
However, did you know that a Garden Room can also refer to a fixed structure that is part of your house? This can be from designing a new structure to extend your existing living space, or by altering a conservatory into a more usable room that connects your living space to your garden as a conservatory does; but with the benefit of being able to use it all year around not just in the warmer months.
Whilst conservatories have their uses and in the summer are great spaces to relax in and make the most of the sunshine streaming in; they can become too hot at the height of summer as the heat becomes trapped inside and they are difficult to cool down. At the other end of the temperature scale; come the winter, they then become too cold so people end up shutting them off from the rest of the house and using them as storage; as they are simply too cold to even open the door to let alone use the space. This is a shame as it is often a good-sized space that is not being fully utilised and thereby restricts your overall living space during the winter months.
However, there are a number of options available to make this space more useable. These range from swapping the glass/polycarbonate roof to an insulated tiled roof to help maintain a consistent temperature; through to swapping the structure for a more permanent structure that can be put to full use throughout the year.
Additionally; many clients are now asking for a garden room to be added to their house when they have no existing structure there in the first place. They love the idea of having a room that they can relax in and enjoy the garden views from whatever the time of year; making the most of the summer or winter sunshine but with it still being part of their house rather than separate.
Whichever route you are considering, replacing a conservatory with a permanent structure that can be used all year round will not only add value to your home but will make it more attractive to sellers should you decide to move later down the line.
Here are some examples of Garden Rooms we have worked on for previous clients:
Garden Room – Milton Keynes
Our client wanted a garden room which could be used all year round without costing a fortune in heating bills. Therefore, we produced a light airy room that connected with the garden and the rest of the house. We also advised on the reshaping of the garden and rebuilding of a garden wall to create an adjacent outdoor sunspace. They were very happy with the finished outcome and said “The project was delivered on time to a high spec. Building Tectonics engaged with us throughout the process ensuring that any changes were managed and we would highly recommend them”.
Conservatory Conversion – Milton Keynes
When Tony, our company director, brought his house it included a conservatory so one of the main upgrades he made was to put a ‘proper’ roof on it. This required getting builders to form a foundation outside the conservatory, construct the necessary steel-work, remove the old plastic roof and replace it with a new traditional roof. The glass sides and floor were left as they were but it had a super insulated roof installed. Although the conservatory was already there; Planning and Building Regulation approvals will often still be necessary for this type of work.
House Remodel – Bedfordshire
Our client had bought a very tired 1960’s house which they thought needed remodelling. The house had a very un-inspiring appearance, an outdated internal arrangement, very poor insulation and lacked connection with the garden. An architect had produced some plans but the client thought these were unsuitable. Therefore, we were asked to perform our magic and remodel the house and make it a home fit for the future. We are pleased to say that everyone has been delighted with the results.
Do you have an existing conservatory or outbuilding that you would like to make better use of and to connect it with the garden for all-round year use? Or would you simply like some ideas for how a new garden room structure could be added to the back of your house? Please do get in touch to see how Building Tectonics can help you.
If you need to bring more light into your home without losing valuable wall-space, Clerestory windows could be the answer to your prayers. Although mainly seen in the commercial sector or in contemporary/smart houses and apartments, these little gems are windows at high level (above your eye line). They are often used by architects and designers producing individual homes for self-builders but despite this, many aspiring self-builders do not actually know what they are.
The term ‘Clerestory’ was originally applied to the wall containing the windows above the nave (that’s the middle bit often incorrectly called the Aisle). So believe it or not, the Bride and Groom do not actually come down the aisle, they come down the nave! The windows created light and airiness in our magnificent cathedrals, which is exactly what the architects were trying to achieve. As the building technology developed to create bigger and bigger openings in the structure, the amount of opaque glass got larger and more impressive.
The main aim was to impress and show off to other cities just how technologically advanced they were. However, there is no doubt we are still impressed, even today, by so called curtain glazing or perhaps a well-placed little window that just manages by its position and orientation to allow some light to infiltrate into the otherwise darkest vestige of a house.
As house designers, it is this type of clerestory window that we are interested in because that little chink of light can be so effective in contemporary interior design. It can be unexpected, it can cast shadows picking up the sculptural nature of the structure and it can carry inside the mood of the day. Therefore, connecting you with the early morning sun, the turbulent sky or the hues of the setting sun.
From a practical standpoint, clerestory lighting can be useful to avoid overlooking in compact cities and it is the height of a window that determines how far light will penetrate into an otherwise gloomy room. Even with ordinary eye level windows, the width of the window will determine the light intensity in the room near the window. If you want the light to penetrate in then it is the height of the window that is important. There is also something to be said for orientating the clerestory window northwards because north light is more consistent. It also does not cause glare one minute requiring the blinds to be drawn and dinginess the next, making it necessary to turn the light on.
The other advantage in using north light is that solar gain and over-heating will not be a problem. Beware of using too much glass inclined to the south facing sky because of overheating. You will not need such a big glass area anyway because the light that they will allow in is much more effective than the equivalent window area. Lastly you may wish to avoid roof lights in bedrooms unless you are a very sound sleeper as hail hitting glass is very noisy and can be quite scary.
Another useful feature of a clerestory window is when your self-build or new extension is often overlooked on one side by an ugly wall or other feature belonging to the adjoining house that is very close to you. Therefore, it will provide light at a high level but the narrow size of the window will mean that the ugly feature can hardly be seen.
Clerestory windows are also useful on single storey houses when there is a projection outside the building in the form of a corridor; which is used to get from the front to the rear of a long, thin single storey house. A clerestory window therefore, can help counter the effect of the corridor by reducing the amount of light that enters the house.
When it comes to first floors on houses, you will often find a clerestory window tucked under the roof at the head of a staircase. Many architects feel that staircases often end up depending on artificial light and therefore, if they are properly lit, they can become much more of a feature. Additionally; many architects like to tuck an upstairs clerestory window under the eaves; as you have no external wall structure above that has to be supported by the window frame.
High level windows if fitted with the means to open can be a real joy to allow stale air out of a living space. Drafts can be avoided and, as heat rises, a natural flow of air will circulate upwards, pulling cool and fresh air in from outside. That is if the space is designed with this in mind of course.
If you would like more information on how clerestory windows could work in your current home or proposed self-build home, please do contact Building Tectonics as we will be only too pleased to advise you.