35 Years in Business for MK Architectural Practice

35 years in business

The 10th July 2020, marks 35 years in business for ‘Building Tectonics Ltd’ as an architectural practice in Milton Keynes. Whilst we want to take the opportunity to celebrate this notable accomplishment, we also wanted to reflect on how things have changed significantly over the years especially in terms of technology, what we have learnt and our biggest design achievements to date.

We Design, You Enjoy
Over the last 35 years we have re-designed, altered and extended hundreds of happy clients’ houses across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Many clients have come back to us a second (and even third time) when they have decided to make further changes to their homes or moved house. We have always endeavoured to exceed the aspirations and desires of our clients whilst providing a personal and friendly service. Our aim is to generate innovative and intelligent design ideas that often achieve much more than the original client brief.  Indeed, that is why our business slogan is ‘We Design, You Enjoy’.

Where it all started
To go back briefly to the beginning; Building Tectonics Ltd, was formed by Tony Keller, our Chief Designer in 1985; following a career working on large commercial projects in and around London.  The business moved to Fenny Stratford in 1998 after completing the conversion of a Grade 2 listed building into three commercial units and three flats; after which the team moved to our current office space in an old Salvation Army Hall. It was completely refurbished to create a wonderful studio space that we now enjoy together with other companies.

Tony Keller – Chief Designer


High quality architectural design
Our ethos is to provide a high-quality architectural design led by a careful feasibility planning process to make clients projects a reality, without suffering the pitfalls that many owners of properties face. With Tony’s excellent organisational and communication skills and extensive knowledge of what does and doesn’t work design and build wise, it means all the projects that we as a company take on are managed successfully to completion.

How technology has changed over 35 years
We have seen many changes over 35 years in business with technology being the biggest shift. When we started out in 1985; there was no internet, emails or social media and everything was done via the telephone, fax or post. Computers were slowly coming into use but were not at the same technical level as today. Drawing boards were used (many architectural technologists still draw by hand even now) and we had no laser measuring equipment or Google Earth. It was a slower pace of life as you had to wait for responses, documents and fees via the post instead of just logging into a system.  

The introduction of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn has meant us constantly having to reassess how we work and promote ourselves to potential new clients. This includes how we share useful information through to how we promote our new projects. Our website is obviously key to showcasing our work; but websites such as ‘Houzz’ are also becoming critical to view a professional’s previous design and/or building work.


Home design across the years
Home design is very different to 35 years ago; when it was mainly featured in company brochures and renovation magazines.  It is now heavily influenced by the many TV programmes on renovation, design, interior design and DIY across numerous different TV and streaming channels. Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are key for clients to consult to get ideas for designing a room (or their entire house) and there is not much you cannot find on there if looking to extend, remodel or make any changes to your home. Social media influencers are constantly piling pressure onto people to try and achieve the same lifestyle as them by showing their rooms off and endorsing household products and styles.

Increasing popularity of open-plan living
Open-plan living is still one of the most popular schemes that we as an architectural practice get asked to design; as families aim to spend more time together whilst also having zones to enjoy individual time in. Loft conversions are also becoming more and more requested as children stay at home for longer and therefore, need more space with many families not able to afford the next step up on the housing ladder.

Staff have come and gone over the years and each one has contributed a great deal to the business and its clients. Our current team have a varied skill set but each have their individual areas that they excel at and work together to meet our clients varied needs.

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


Still here after 35 Years
We are proud to have survived as a business for 35 years despite several recessions, the twin towers disaster, hurricanes, record heat, rules and regulations and of course the latest COVID-19 crisis and currently are lucky to be busier than ever. This unfortunate crisis with people having to spend months locked in their homes has meant they have now identified more than ever what they want to change about their houses. Therefore, following the ease in lockdown restrictions we have been contacted by numerous home-owners to ask for our help with design ideas for changing the layout of their houses.

Tony Keller, Owner and Chief Designer at Building Tectonics says “We are still here despite the economic and health crisis’ mentioned above and still really love our job. Our aim is to help people with sometimes tough choices, sometimes helping those with what we call the problem of choice (too many choices and can’t decide), sometimes achieving what the client dreamt of but dare not hope was possible and sometimes saving an old building by showing how it can have a new lease of life. We hope to continue helping our current and new clients realise their home dreams for many more years to come”.

Building Tectonics are proud to be a member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists and an approved member of Milton Keynes Buy with Confidence Scheme; so, you know you can put your trust in us. We aim to leave you with a house that is designed for a modern family lifestyle.  If your requirements are just a simple home extension or a loft /garage conversion, you too could benefit from our expertise and experience.

Please look at our projects on Facebook, our website and Houzz to get a taste of what we can do and why we have so many delighted clients. You can contact the Building Tectonics team on 01908 333000 or message us via Facebook and we will be only too happy to discuss whatever project you may be looking to undertake.

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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Adding Energy Efficiency to Your Home Construction or Remodelling Plan

The repair, maintenance and improvement market for UK housing is about 25 billion per year according to the Construction Products Association (CPA) economic forecasts. In fact, most homeowners are seeking energy efficient improvements as part of a larger home remodelling project according to CPA. There are a number of things you can do to enhance energy efficiency in your home during construction or remodelling.

Double glazed windows and loft and wall insulation
Put in double glazed windows to keep your home warmer, quieter and safer. You can also enhance the warmth and quiet by adding loft and wall insulation, which is much cheaper than replacing all your old windows with double glazed windows. Loft insulation is meant to stop heat from escaping through the roof while wall insulation prevents heat loss through walls. If you have solid walls, external wall insulation could be the best choice for retaining heat in your home. However, if your walls have a cavity, this can be filled up with insulation material to stop heat from conducting through the walls. Insulating your home can save you money on your fuel bills, and improves the energy efficiency rating of your home.

Energy saving appliances
Electrical appliances have made things like piles of dirty dishes very rare in most homes, and although they cost money to run there are tumble dryers, dishwashers, fridges, washing machines, ovens and other appliances that are incredibly energy efficient. For example, the Miele TMG840 WP heat pump dryer uses hot air to suck out moisture from clothes. The machine also switches off when its sensors detect that the clothes have dried.

Saving energy with the light bulb
Another way to enhance energy efficiency in your home is by installing LED light bulbs. Investing in the latest expensive LED light bulb could save you up to £240 each year according to an article in The Telegraph. You can also install smart LED lighting in your home to add to your list of control options instead of being restricted to on and off. For instance, the Lifx light bulb is compatible with the three main voice assistants, which means that you can control it with your voice. These lights also have apps that you can download on your phone and use to control the lights.

Energy saving appliances and light bulbs are reasonable options if you are renting or cannot afford extensive home remodelling projects at the moment. However, if you are constructing a new home, you can start making your home energy efficient from the moment the foundation is being laid.

Two Bungalows for the Clarkson Bros

Building Tectonics were commissioned to produce architectural designs and gain the necessary approvals for two bungalows in the rear garden of a house in Bletchley. Both properties are very popular and have been completed, they could be sold many times over. The bungalows are quite deceivingly large with two bedrooms at first floor level and a third bedroom/study on the ground floor.

The light and airy feeling they engender internally is complimented by the way they sit within the site, responding as they do to the surrounding features. It can be quite a difficult feat for an architect to get all of these features right.

It is important for us to retain and utilize existing features such as trees to enhance the architecture and hopefully, perhaps, visa versa too.

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Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Something special.

This house was to be built next door to a Mr Stevens family home, and at the time of building, he had not yet decided whether to live in it himself or to sell it. Either way, it was going to be a little special, using the best materials.  We believe the client has decided that he must now live in it, which is perfectly understandable.

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Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Family Centre – NCH Action for Children

We were commissioned to build a family centre for an organisation called Action For Children, and so the new Greenleys Family Centre in Milton Keynes was opened in June 2000.

The new building had to be designed to fulfil a number of roles. It had to provide a “drop-in facility” for adults and children in a similar way to a local community centre. With play areas both inside and out, and kitchen facilities. The building had a more serious side too, as counselling rooms and administrative office space were also required.

It was an essential requirement that in addition to meeting the various users needs, it had to give a relaxed non-institutional vibe. Budgetary considerations dictated a very compact and efficient layout with a “no frills” building. Nonetheless by careful design we managed to create an interesting and functional building. Our philosophy of making a virtue out of necessity means that even the building fabric can be used to enliven an otherwise mundane building.

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The organisation of the spaces was difficult in that the orientation, direction of access and garden resulted in North facing rooms. To provide at least a degree of natural sunlight, a tower was introduced that illuminates the centre of the building. The tower improves the roof scape externally but, even more importantly also creates a “stack effect” driven ventilation system. Generally, renewable resources and a green agenda were at the forefront of the design.

The building was delivered on time and on budget.

 

tower

 

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.