Why it Pays to Consult an Architect for your Home Renovations

Home Renovations

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.

If you need any help or advice on this area or would like Building Tectonics to conduct a Feasibility Scheme to assess your home renovation options; please either call us on 01908 366000 or email:- email@building-tectonics.co.uk

Why it Pays to Plan Ahead on Home Improvements

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 Benefits of Choosing an Experienced Architect over a Cheap Drawings Company

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.

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.

Don’t move, improve: Extending your home.

If you can extend a house to create more usable space then it is probably worth doing in the current market. This is especially true if you can create another bedroom, and even more so if you can create another bedroom whilst simultaneously making more living space to keep the house in balance.

So when our client came to us and asked if we could devise a way of creating a bedroom for the expected baby, we looked at how we could do this. However, we were not about to forget that the downstairs living space should be increased as well.  The obvious way to increase the living space on the ground floor was to convert some, or all of the garage; this is what actually happened. As I have blogged before, in my view garage conversions should be carried out, only if you have an overriding reason to convert. What I mean by this is that if you can create more usable space by extending then it must be better to do than converting a garage. When you lose garage space you probably lose storage space rather than a parking space, so you would need to find alternative storage space, unless of course you can dump the contents, and even if you can what about the next inhabitant. Garages do have a value and this should be considered when looking at the economics or converting the garage.

In the case of this house, extending was not an option because the garden was so small, but they would desperately need extra living area not only to keep the house in balance, but also because babies take up an inordinate amount of living space.  So we created a new kitchen and a utility room, again really useful when you have babies or young children because it becomes the laundry room effectively.

So the scheme was to convert the roof space over the garage and partly convert the garage leaving enough to act as a garden store. The bedroom produced was enhanced by the creation of a dormer window.  Even a small dormer window can make a big difference to a small bedroom as it increases the area that you can stand in, and of course it is a connection with the outside.

The main area of difficulty with projects like this is that we have to be able to make the floor plan work so that you do not have pass through one room to get to another. We were able to achieve this.

The extended house has enabled the family to live there for longer, and will easily recoup the cost of development when it is time to sell.  Of course some of the increased value would have happened anyway, with house price inflation, but they have had the benefit of the additional space in the meantime and they can move when they want instead of being forced into it at quite possibly, an unsuitable time.

When you are buying a small house it is worth asking if the house was designed so that it can be extended. It is government policy to encourage extendable homes and often architects are asked to consider this by developers. But not in the case of this house- but we did it anyway because that’s what we do at Building Tectonics.

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Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

The iron garage.

The client on this particular project wanted to have somewhere safe to park their cars and van, somewhere they could lock it up (which would vastly improve on their temporary ‘anti-theft’ precaution – putting a clamp on the front wheel every time they left it outside the house). Their current garage wasn’t large enough for all of their vehicles and so they wanted to expand.

We designed an interesting garage for them, which would improve the overall aesthetics of the property as well as being functional. This garage was a new building built next to their existing garage and had a specific space built especially for the van to park in – this was an area with brick and steel gates(but looked like iron), much like the sort you might find around stately homes, as well as additional space for two more cars to be stored there.

This new garage with its metal fencing and space for the van gave the clients peace of mind about the safety and security of their vehicles. It also gave a feeling of enclosure, as if they had their own courtyard. But it’s got to be better than putting a clamp on your van every day.

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Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Somewhere to be loud.

Our client wanted a space to allow his growing family to relax and get away from it all. Somewhere they could go and potentially make some noise, or just make a mess, whatever they wanted to do, without disturbing the rest of the family. We had to create a room in which the adults could relax and the kids could play.

Before.

Before outside garage

As you can see from the photographs we agreed upon a garage conversion, the garage roof was lifted to create the room. With this type of project it is essential to plan the interior with care so that it links with the existing house in a satisfactory way.

After.

After outside garage     After inside garage

Over garage extensions can be ideal as music or games rooms. It’s just a nice place to go and relax. Although over garage conversions can be an ideal room to add a room away from the house for mess or noise, you won’t see many in Bedford as in Victorian times, cars weren’t really around yet, so what need would they have for a garage? However, you would probably have more of a chance of seeing a garage conversion in Milton Keynes.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.