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 😊

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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How to Spring Clean Your Home to Bring it Back to Life

Spring is in the air; the clocks go forward at the end of this month; and we are all dreaming of longer sunny days and hoping that the winter we never had doesn’t suddenly appear with a vengeance.

When the sun comes out; our thoughts normally turn to starting to tidy up the garden, planting bulbs and cutting the grass for the first time since the Autumn. But what about the house?

Having an untidy house is very distracting and the constant need to tidy can get in the way of you being productive – therefore, a great big declutter and spring clean could be the answer! This is your chance to prepare your home ready for those long lazy summer days; when you don’t want to be wasting time on cleaning but instead be enjoying quality time with family and friends.

It’s also a great opportunity to learn to love your house again, to get it looking its best and make the most of your space to decide if it still works for you or you need to improve it in some way. This could be from adding additional space in the form of a conservatory, extension or loft conversion.  You could also re-jig your existing space to make it work more efficiently for you; or even make the decision to move to a new house. Spring and Summer are prime moving times and this is when the housing market springs into action. Therefore, now is the time to get your home looking great should you decide to put it on the market (and it also means less clutter to move).

But where do you even start? This is often the hardest part as you look at your house in despair and have absolutely no idea where to even begin tackling it…

Tackle it room-by-room
To stop you getting overwhelmed, try approaching your house room-by-room as this is the most effective way to clean your home. Draw up room checklists; so, you can focus on the parts of your home that have been neglected all winter.

Organise and clear the clutter
Now is a great opportunity to organise your belongings and get rid of clutter you don’t need; to make the cleaning process a lot easier. Start by sorting your belongings into three categories -rubbish, give it away/sell it or put it away. But don’t throw it all away as many of your old belongings will still have a good sale value; so you could either use a selling site like Shpock, Facebook or eBay or have a garage or car boot sale.

Don’t throw away old bed linen and towels; as you can either donate them to homeless shelters or refuges or to animal homes to help those in need. Alternatively, keep items like old sheets for protecting furniture and carpets/floors when you need to redecorate.

Get cleaning!
Once you have worked through all your clutter you can begin cleaning; so ensure you have all the products and tools you need like bin bags, dusters, sponges, hoover, mop and bucket and multi-purpose cleaning products. Avoid buying countless different cleaning products as you are better off with one good all-purpose cleaner and microfiber cloths – otherwise you will have yet more clutter. Remember to work in well-ventilated rooms when using any cleaning chemicals and wear protective clothing if needed; especially when it comes to the dreaded oven!

Get the whole family involved
If the state of your house is freaking you out; get the whole family involved as that will make it quicker and even the most unwilling helper can make a big difference to the task in hand. Put on some music or offer a family reward as an incentive to get the work done.

Tackle the seasonal jobs
There are some jobs that only need doing seasonally but don’t always get done at the end of the summer e.g. outdoor chores like cleaning BBQ’s, patios, and even windows; but if you tackle them now you will be ready when the summer comes.

Try to establish new cleaning habits
To make spring cleaning easier the next time around; it helps to establish new on-going cleaning habits; as simple 15-minute clean-up routines and decluttering every few days can make it a lot easier to keep your home clean and tidy all year long.

We hope this has helped you get ready to attack the decluttering and spring-cleaning and learn to love your home again. Happy Spring-cleaning!

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.

Open Plan Living comes into its own at Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on The Team – Jade Turney

Jade Turney – IT Technician

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

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

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

Three things that inspire Jade:

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

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

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

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

Spotlight on The Team – Tony Keller

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

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

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

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

Three things that inspire Tony:

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

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

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

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

 

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

What Christmas Decorating Traditions do you have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 tips for anyone thinking about improving their house

You gain new experiences and knowledge in everything that you do, and that’s no different for us and our clients. Every project is a learning process, be that for us or for the clients; here are some tips from previous clients for anyone looking to make some changes to their homes in the future. This is what our previous client said:

Find out what foundations you have before the ground is broken.
Some previous clients didn’t know to have this checked before their project started. They later discovered that a small tree in their neighbours garden meant that they had to have a custom designed foundation.
Fortunately for them their builder had seen the same circumstance, so they were about to get them designed beforehand and the groundworks were correct from the beginning.

Choose your builders carefully.
Finding a reputable, well-organised builder will help you immensely as your project progresses; they are likely to know the local building inspector’s particular likes/dislikes, additionally, they should be able to recommend some good subcontractors. If you get the chance, go and look at some of their work. Try not to worry too much if they have no website, they should be organised enough to tell you when they will start your project and how long it will take. During the process, get involved by taking a look at where they’re at as often as you can, and if something doesn’t look quite right, talk to them about it.

Give as much detail as possible to your builder.
Giving the builder as much information as you can from the beginning will help both the builder and yourself in achieving a smooth project. If you can, get it included in your contract so that all parties involved know what is expected. Try to include window sizes and finishes, the type and amount of sockets and lights that will be needed, what size and type of heating you would like, and subsequently how many radiators if applicable, whether you want the steels hidden or not, door types, sizes and finishes among many other specifications. This level of information helps the builder, and helps you to clarify your expectations. Also discuss things with your builder; they may have ideas for how to deal with certain things that arise. If you’re unsure of how to convey all of this information to builders, we can help with that in our building regulation stage.

Pay your builders bills on time.
This helps to keep the builder on your side, and also keeps the project moving forward smoothly.

Make sure all subcontractors liaise with your builders.
If you use subcontractors alongside your builders, eg: Kitchen designers, make sure that they work together with your builders as per the requirements.

From a Building Tectonics point of view, these are all sensible points but where foundations are concerned, there are cases where the existing foundations are less important. Also, the design of the new foundations sometimes need to be modified once the foundation trench has been excavated. It’s the one area that, in our view, the builder can justifiably say that his price is provisional and may have to be adjusted. Using subcontractors instead of using one main contractor to organise all the work can lead to problems about who is responsible for health and safety on the building site; remember that there are very heavy fines and even prison for serious breaches of site safety.

Unusual requests

More often than not at Building Tectonics, we’re commissioned to work on residential projects but every once in a while we do get the odd unusual request. Our clients can get very creative with their architectural visions, for example, a holiday resort abroad and Kazubaloo are probably at the top of our list.

On occasion it’s not so much the project that’s challenging, sometimes it’ the process of surveying. Barn surveys don’t sound like they would be particularly complex to do…unless there is an electric fence involved. Fortunately, any injury incurred by the team member involved was minimal, so the office can reminisce about it whenever we need a good laugh.

You learn something new every day

Despite the fact that we usually try to keep up to date with the latest technologies and inventions, we can be surprised sometimes; like when we were approached to produce a scheme to place a Kazubaloo in Milton Keynes. For those of you who aren’t aware, a Kazubaloo is a waterless public toilet which can be installed anywhere outside without the need for water, chemicals or electricity. It depends entirely on dehydrating the solids and evaporating the liquids in order to reduce waste by up to 90%. Its unique construction places a special chimney on it, creating airflow. It’s that simple.

One of the biggest projects we were commissioned to work on was a holiday resort abroad, including holiday homes, bars, restaurants and a wedding venue. Due to this rather large list of requirements, coming up with schemes was a lot of fun, but they needed a lot of thought and consideration to go into the architecture. Structures for this type of venue not only need to fit in with the surroundings and reflect the culture in its design, but also need to be structurally appropriate for both the climate and the ground upon which it’s to be built. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time on the design process for this project but it also allowed us to expand our knowledge and skills as a team.

Although it’s not very often that we receive these out of the ordinary requests, every time we do it becomes a learning experience for us in the office, making us more equipped to deal with any more unique requests.