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

Top Tips to Get your Home ‘Fit’ for Summer

We are all dreaming of some kind of normality this summer and being allowed to invite people into our homes; instead of huddling outside in the garden. You have probably spent time tidying the garden before the last easing of lockdown restrictions; but is your house ready for when friends and family can venture inside in a few weeks’ time? If not, here are some quick and easy tips to get your home ‘fit’ for summer.

Air your house
Over the winter your home tends to trap smells like damp, smoke from fires and wood burners, cooking and pet odours. Now the weather is warming up, throw open those windows and doors and give your home a good freshen up throughout.

Let the sunshine in
When the sun is out, it highlights all those dirty marks on the windows and glass doors; especially children’s handprints. Giving them a good clean inside and out will instantly make your home look fresher, let the light in more and remove all those spiders’ webs that have built up over the winter.

Clean those handprints
With the kids being at home more than normal over the winter; it is likely the walls are also covered in dirty finger-prints. Give them a gentle wipe down to freshen them up and concentrate on those areas around the door frames which get filthy. You may have also noticed lots of little black dots around the house; these are spider poos – but just wipe off easily!

Freshen up your lounge area
If your sofas and armchairs are looking worse for wear; it’s time to freshen them up. Remove any fitted cushions and vacuum up crumbs and other debris. Use a steam cleaner on the cushions or alternatively just use a good quality upholstery cleaner. However, if your sofas and armchairs are overdue a deep clean and you are really not confident – get a professional in. For sofas with removable covers; you can pop them in the washing machine on a hand-wash to get any stains off.

Wash your home furnishings
It’s time to put all those heavy blankets and snuggly throws away after giving them a good shake outside and washing and drying them. Most cushion covers are removable and can be put on a hand or 30-degree wash and you will be surprised how dirty they actually are. If they are in need of an update; just pop a new cover over the old one and try mixing and matching yellows and bright colours/patterns for a summery feel.

Change your furniture around
In the winter we tend to move our furniture for a cosy feel around a focal point like the fireplace; and away from the radiators to maximise the heat. However, in the summer we want to enjoy the views of the garden and the sunshine coming in, with our windows and doors all left open. There is nothing better than curling up on a armchair by the door with the sunshine warming you up.

Make updates to rooms
Sometimes all it takes to refresh a room is to move photos or artwork around or update some of your accessories by adding a new statement piece of artwork or a new clock on the wall. Get yourself in the holiday mood (if we are lucky enough to go away this year) and have a selection of happy holiday photos printed and framed. Fresh flowers also really improve your indoor space and make you feel happy and summery.

Deep clean your bathroom
With us being at home more, our bathrooms have been getting more use than ever and with no visitors using them recently; they may well have become neglected! Get your rubber gloves on, concentrate on any mould patches and let your toilets soak overnight with bleach in for those tough limescale marks.  Always air your bathroom after showers and baths to avoid damp or mould building up from condensation. When it’s sparkling again; get some new towels if they are looking shabby and add candles and lotions and potions.

Cool and refresh your bed
In the cooler months there is nothing better than staying in a nice warm bed; so, our beds now need a really deep clean. Strip your beds, turn the mattresses and wash or replace mattress protectors.  Give your mattress a good hoover on both sides and then put some cool fresh bedding on.  Store your throws and blankets away and remember to swap your winter duvet for the lower tog option to keep you cooler at night.

Put winter clothing away
Once you are confident the warmer weather is here to stay, put your winter clothing into the loft to make more room for cooler summer clothing. It can be placed into vacuum packed bags to take up less room.

Tidy your outdoor space
If your garden is not quite ready for visitors; just cutting the lawn can make a world of difference. Tidy the pots and flowerbeds and give your decking or patio a brush to get rid of dust, leaves and other debris. Pressure washing it can give amazing results or just use a hose, broom and scrubbing brush. Wash your chairs and tables and check they are still useable and have no cracks. If you haven’t yet enjoyed the first BBQ of the year; check it’s clean and ready for use; as it could still has the remnants of last summer’s sausages sitting there!

Love your home
Our homes tend to get neglected over the winter as we just want to snuggle up on the sofa in front of the fire. However, once the weather starts to warm up; its all about connecting with our outside space again. Take time now to prepare your home and you will then be ready to entertain and catch up with all those friends and family you haven’t seen for months without worrying. It is also the ideal time weather wise to get the outside house maintenance jobs carried out that you ideally need better weather to carry out.  

We hope these tips have been useful to help you organise and transform your home ready for the first visitors of the year 😊

Get your Home Autumn Ready

You may have spent the last 6 months undertaking those neglected DIY jobs and bigger home improvements; but have you kept on top of the important house maintenance jobs that need undertaking throughout the year? Next week is the official start of Autumn and the best time to prepare your home for the chillier months – especially if we should go into a second national lockdown. We thought we would help by sharing some simple tips to get your house Autumn ready which will help save you stress, time and money.

Get your boiler serviced

Getting your boiler serviced can be expensive which is why not everyone gets round to it. However, the last thing you want is for it to break down in the depths of winter and you end up with no hot water or heating. There is also the worry that you may struggle to find someone who can fix your boiler right away and therefore, end up paying out of hours rates or emergency callout prices.

Having your boiler regularly serviced means it is working in tip top condition plus it will have been checked for carbon monoxide leakages. If you want complete peace of mind it helps to have a monthly service plan. This often includes your annual service but does mean you are covered for any break-downs or work needed. You then have more chance of getting your boiler fixed in the winter months and can enjoy a cosy home without the worry of it potentially breaking down.

Insulate your pipes

Another way to make your heating more efficient during the winter months is to lag your pipes.  Lagging is where you put foam insulation tubes over any external pipes. They are inexpensive to buy, easy to install and not only reduce heat loss but also protect your pipes from freezing and bursting in cold weather.

Get your chimney swept

If you love your cosy open fire or wood-burner during the cooler months; it is important to make sure it is regularly swept to get rid of the build-up of soot and things that can drop down your chimney. Chimney sweeps are very in demand once Autumn starts so get booked in now to avoid the rush.

Check your garden fences

Both Autumn and Winter can feature very wet and windy weather; so, check all your fences to see if any repairs are needed or reinforcements; as again once the bad weather hits fence repair companies will be in high demand.

Clear drains and gutters

Autumn brings stunning coloured leaves but also means these unfortunately drop into your drains and gutters and can easily cause blockages. When heavy rain or snow then occurs you risk leaks or damage to your home if water cannot drain away properly. Make sure you check for obvious cracks or damage and clear your gutters and drains of leaves and moss before the Winter weather sets in.

Take care of your windows

Houses that have wooden window frames or windowsills might need more care as wet weather and freezing temperatures can make untreated wood expand and even rot. Protect your windows by filling in any cracks, check that any sealant around the edges is still firmly in place and tidy up any paint where needed.

Check your roof and chimney

The roof on your home is an area you might not pay much attention to or even think about. However, if your roof or chimney are leaking, water can damage your home, discolour your walls and cause a lot of damage to your property and belongings in the loft and rooms below.

Check that your roof tiles are still firmly in place and that any flashing and pointing is in good condition. Even if it looks ok, all you need is heavy snowfall or a bad period of wind and rain to dislodge tiles or mortar. This then allows draughts and water to sneak into your home.

Being prepared will pay off come Autumn and Winter

Autumn and Winter are traditionally thought of as being the cosy time of year where we snuggle up on the sofa in front of the fire with the family.  However, if your house isn’t prepared ahead of time, you may find that the colder weather brings plenty of problems that you need to fix at a time when there will be big demand and therefore, extra expense. By undertaking these jobs now, you can relax and look forward to snuggly nights without the worry of something breaking down or going wrong; as the temperatures get colder and we have more rain and blustery winds.

Top Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

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 😊

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.

How Clerestory Windows Can Bring Light to the Darkest Home

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.

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Team Trip to Kingspan to Learn about Timber Frame Housing

It is always very productive and a change of scene; to get the Building Tectonics team out of the office together to learn more about particular areas that we work on.  So, on Thursday 14th March we all went on a trip to Kingspan Potton, based in Great Gransden, Bedfordshire who specialise in fabricated timber frame housing.

The walls, floors and roof of the houses are fabricated in large panels in their factory and are then taken to site and bolted together to construct a house (or other types of buildings).  Although there are several companies who already work in this area; Kingspan have moved away from the mass housing market and instead of supplying the larger house builders, now just supply one or two units to small developers or even one-off houses.

On arrival the BTL team were greeted in the meeting room by the National Sales Manager; who gave a presentation about the different products they produce and then showed them around the factory where they are made. They saw how the process works from start to finish; from when the wood comes into the factory to when it leaves on the back of the lorry.  Following this, they drove 15 minutes away to the Potton Self-Build Show Centre in Little Paxton, near St Neots where they have 5 show-houses. The team had the opportunity to look around the show-houses; which showed them the different materials that Kingspan manufacture and the different structures that they are capable of producing.

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Kingspan can help with the design of any house and have a pattern book of designs you can choose from; but obviously being an Architectural Practice, we already do the design for our clients.  However, Kingspan can take our bespoke design plans and prepare “shop drawings” showing the panels so that they can then be fabricated in their factory. It was very interesting for the BTL team to know all about the process and the types of systems available; for those occasions when a client wishes to have a timber frame house.

There are alternative systems available from other timber frame fabricators: –

Open Panel Systems
The majority of timber frame companies use an open-panel system for the internal loadbearing of the cavity wall.  These are made in a factory from a softwood timber frame covered with a structural sheet material such as plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) and fixed into a structure on-site.  They have a waterproof membrane on the outside and are left open on the inside.  The windows and door frames are fixed on-site and when the house is watertight; the electrical and plumbing casing is installed and the insulation put in place finished off with a vapour-proof barrier and plasterboard.

Closed and Advanced Panels
These systems are used by most of the Scandinavian frame companies and are delivered fully furnished and insulated, with the services in and the windows and doors already fixed – with the advantage that it is an airtight structure that needs minimal on-site work. However, it does mean decisions need to be made early on in the design about services and outlets.

Green Oak Frame
This is the most traditional timber-frame building method and is often referred to as exposed timber frame. The oak is often jointed using mortise and tenon joints, draw-pegged with tapered oak pegs and then integrally braced with curved oak bends jointed into the frame.  Insulating panels are then infilled into the massive oak skeleton and it is made waterproof using a system of perimeter trims and water bars; before being rendered on the outside, leaving the timbers exposed.

SIP Systems
Structural insulated panels (SIPs) are high-performance building panels used in floors, walls, and roofs and are typically made by encasing a core of rigid foam plastic insulation between two structural skins of OSB, but other skin material can also be used.  The panels are manufactured under factory-controlled conditions and can be custom designed for each home.  SIPs are fixed to the outside of the timber frame, so the entire frame can be exposed in the interior or covered up, depending on the look you want to achieve.

Kingspan are first and foremost an insulation company and therefore, have naturally moved toward the highly insulated end of the market.  Timber frame housing can be extremely well insulated and this form of construction lends itself to the addition of a lot of insulation without making the walls unduly thick (unlike brick and block walls).  However, the really interesting development is the SIP technique as these panels can achieve incredible levels of insulation and therefore, are often found in zero energy projects where no heating is required; other than the heat that is created by simply inhabiting the house (possibly with the addition of some solar heating).

Building Tectonics have designed a couple of very low energy houses and are greatly interested in this area. SIP panels also offer really low air infiltration so therefore, help reduce heating bills and increase comfort as they avoid drafts and cold spots.  They can be very strong and rigid and can be used in floors and roofs; which is a real game changer in the construction of houses, but the building industry has generally not embraced this new technology.  Houses built like this can be erected on-site superfast incorporating all the services and the standard of finish can also be superior.

As a practice we would like very much to use this technology wherever we can; but the question is whether our clients will choose something brave and new.  The major practical difficulty is using prefabrication techniques for extending existing buildings, which is where most of our work lies. Ironically, the big problem would be bolting something so perfectly made (1 or 2 mm accuracy) on the side of an existing building where the building tolerances can often be measured on several centimetres. What we need are clients who can see the benefits of such new techniques and we stand ready to help in any such project should it arise.

A Day in the Life of an Architectural Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 – 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.