Townhouse Extension in Broughton, Milton Keynes

With Milton Keynes being a relatively new city; it includes amongst its housing stock a large number of townhouses. They are a popular choice for many housing developers due to them still offering 3-4 bedrooms to potential customers but on a considerably smaller footprint. Therefore, more houses can be packed into housing developments.

Whilst they are popular with the younger generation who find the living space works for them sufficiently, further down the line it can became more difficult when growing families struggle to make the space work for them.

Many clients are now contacting us because they either already owned one of these townhouses or have recently purchased one and want to know what their options are. They are desperate for more downstairs living space to accommodate the children’s toys and other belongings that they have built up over the years.

Back in 2014 we were asked by a kitchen design company, that we worked with to make contact with the owners of a house in Broughton. The townhouse was built in 2009 and like so many houses built now, suffered from not enough family space on the ground floor. With it being a 3 storey; it benefitted from plenty of bedroom space. It also featured a reasonable sized garden but on the downside the kitchen/dining space was relativity cramped for everyday family life.

The obvious solution was to extend the kitchen area and create a family open plan area that could be used all year round with plenty of light coming in. Whilst we knew what needed to be done to improve the house; it is always the extra care and attention to the design that can really make the end result special for the client.

Given the window configuration to the upstairs, which the clients did not wish to alter, we had to choose a roof shape that would be compatible with their existing design. This in turn facilitated a double aspect skylight configuration, which really does make this room space special.

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Our clients have dressed the room beautifully and the kitchen designers have really made the most of the new space. They have given them a stunning open plan eating/living area that they can really enjoy spending time in.

As an architectural practice; it gives us a real thrill to know that we have been instrumental in achieving such a lovely space and knowing that without any exaggeration, how this can transform people’s lives.

If you have a townhouse and would like to know more how you can benefit from extra downstairs living space; please do give Building Tectonics a call on 01908 366000 to see how we can help.

Kitchen Extension – Woughton on the Green

Our clients in Woughton on the Green desired a new updated kitchen which made the most of the fabulous countryside views from their garden; so, therefore came to us for ideas and design options. Due to the L shape layout of their house it meant we could explore a number of locations, orientations and designs as to where was best to locate the new kitchen extension.

A new design was chosen by our clients and achieved exactly what they asked for – a light and airy kitchen with an island for cooking and socialising; which they did not have before with roof lights which really open up the space. The bi-fold doors across the back means more importantly it now connects with the surrounding landscape whilst overall integrating better with the house.

Our clients said “We thought you’d like to know that John Foster has practically finished our extension now and we are extremely happy with the design and plans”.

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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”.

Spotlight on the Team – Mantas Mackonis

Mantas Mackonis – Architectural Surveyor

Mantas started working at Building Tectonics straight after he finished Sixth Form nearly 3 years ago. After working in retail for a short period, but not knowing what he wanted to do career wise, he was put in touch with Tony who gave him the opportunity to work with him and the team.

Originally Tony hired him to try and teach him how to measure a house; as whilst everyone in the office can use the software to draw, no one could actually measure a house apart from Tony. Therefore, this was an area that the team needed additional help with.

His role at Building Tectonics is as an Architectural Surveyor so he basically goes out to the clients houses and obtains all the required measurements, then comes back to the office and draws all the measurements on the system ready for the team to work on potentials schemes.

Three things that inspire Mantas:

The End Goal – The biggest thing that keeps me going is the end goal; as in this industry things can get tough but when you think about the future and how much of a difference you can make on people’s lives, that’s what really motivates me.

Happiness – I love that look on someone’s face when they are smiling, their eyes are bright and their body language is open and jovial – that full-on happiness is inspiring to see. It’s infectious and it’s awesome.

Dreams – Everyone should have dreams that they work towards in their life. Seeing people go after their dreams is inspiring, and it makes me work harder to achieve mine.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
My favourite building in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai; purely as it is the world’s tallest building. It’s mind-blowing to think about how tall it actually is, and this magnificent centrepiece of Downtown Dubai stands at 828.9 metres high. The task of creating the world’s tallest man-made structure was awarded to the Chicago office of American architectural and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings and Merril LLP. It’s crazy to think what the future holds and if there will ever be a taller building…

Choosing your designer.

I’d like to make it clear that we’re not the only good architectural practice in Milton Keynes. However, we’re hearing some horrendous stories about some other so called professionals taking clients money, and then disappearing.

Clearly, this is awful and it reflects badly upon my profession. I would always suggest using someone who is a member of a professional body, because a professional body would insist that standards are maintained. The two main bodies within our field are The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT), to which we belong, and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Building Tectonics is also included on Milton Keynes council’s Buy With Confidence Trading Standards approved scheme. Of course, there are unaffiliated individuals that are also trustworthy, but you should be wary. Check that they have a digital footprint, such as a website, Facebook or Linked-in profile page and how long they have been trading. Although not many will have been trading for 30 years like us, you would want them to have some history, and have experience in making planning applications. You should also ask for details of their professional indemnity (this is not just third part insurance). If you wish to give a new company a go, and we all have to start somewhere, get their name, address and telephone number at the very least. Note that you will receive extra protection if you pay by credit card as this will allow you to claim should the company fail to deliver or suddenly go out of business.

I certainly don’t want to put anybody off, and I can see that the whole process could be daunting. Dealing with the architectural profession is bad enough, but then you have to deal with the builder! The builders we work with are honest and professional, and the worst you can say is they can be a bit disorganised and messy. Even so, if you bite the bullet and extend or alter your house to fulfill your dreams, in a few months you can join all of our other clients and look back and say that it was very worthwhile, I am sure.

Invest in your home.

According to the consumer magazine Which, the best way in which to add value to your house may be to add a garage, and although they noted that this was disputed by some estate agents, people who are contemplating converting their garage should take note. What was more interesting to me was that the next best improvement is to add a bedroom. The third most profitable improvement was the addition of a reception room. Of course, to add another bedroom for most people will mean they would have to extend the ground floor footprint too, or possibly convert the loft.

The exceptions are those people with an attached garage or a single story part of the house which can be built over, and we get our share of these projects as well. However, it’s clear that most homeowners intuitively know that an extra bedroom or extra living space adds value and that is why extending your house has once again become one of the UK’s favorite pastimes.

We do have a significant number of clients who just want a new house layout where it doesn’t involve extending but most of our projects (about 85%) want more space. Interestingly, a growing number of our clients are retired or at least nearing retirement, so you wouldn’t think another bedroom is necessary. However, if you’re looking at where to invest your savings with the knowledge that over a longer period of time you’ll get a good return, adding well designed and thoughtful space must be considered.

This type of investment doesn’t involve researching the shares market, and it doesn’t require paying brokers of fund managers, but you do get the benefit of a nicer surrounding until you cash in your investment and even best, all of it’s possibly free tax-free. Many people aged 55 and over can now withdraw their pension savings (subject to a one-off income tax), and according to the Treasury more than 85,000 people have dipped into their pension plans so far, cashing in 1.3 billion. It looks to me that the more canny aren’t spending this on holidays or new cars, but are investing in what is already their best investment ever; their house.

We must presume that when the time comes, they will downsize and mete out the proceeds as a pension. That may be the tricky part, but if interest rates have recovered by then, they may be able to live on the interest I suppose, since it could be a sizable sum, especially if we have some significant house inflation in the meantime – and we mustn’t discount this.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics.

A charming addition.

This early 20th century house had been extended and altered many times before, and each alteration seemed to have concentrated on a particular requirement or area, often to the detriment of the house as a whole. What was required was a holistic approach to improve the overall layout, whilst providing some additional accommodation and enhancing “kerb appeal”. The house had some attractive features created by architects already and it was important not to lose sight of these in our proposals. It is fair to say that our initial proposals encouraged our clients to raise their expectations and together we came up with the adopted scheme. By carefully crafting the design, whilst keeping a careful eye on the practical and the budget constraints, the project was carried through to completion with a minimum of fuss.

The end result has produced a most beautiful house, retaining its charm, improving its poise and creating the additional space our clients required. Often it is the requirement of a client for more space that triggers our involvement but, we can achieve so much more with a house than just adding space given the right ‘tools’ so to speak.

Before outside    After outside


Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Feasibility Schemes & older houses that have been altered before.

A potential new client wrote: We moved into our house a few years ago and are now looking at ways of maximizing the current structure. The original part of the house dates back to approx 1890 but it has been extended several times since. We feel there may well be a better way of utilising the current design, and may even need a small extension.

This is a problem that is pretty typical of the older house that has been altered a few, or many times before. It is exactly the type of problem we undertake to resolve. Often houses that have been altered numerous times suffer from a lack of coherence due to a poor spatial relationship or juxtaposition of the rooms. This can come about because each incremental alteration has been an attempt to satisfy a particular occupiers need but often fails to work holistically in terms of the overall house layout. Some times it is the layout that is imperfect, such as having to pass through a less pleasant space to reach a lovely lounge for instance, or perhaps the spatial balance is wrong where for example a beautiful ground floor, has been created but the full value of the house is hampered by having a small cramped upstairs.

Building Tectonics commence such a project with a what we call a Feasibility Scheme Stage.

In brief this involves me visiting the house, listening to the requirements, measuring the house and surroundings and taking the information necessary to produce workable schemes. This visit takes about 3 & 4 hours. So you can see we are pretty thorough. Following this visit and survey we produce a feasibility Scheme, or more usually, feasibility schemes, for the clients consideration, as we like to give the client as many options as possible. We normally get these schemes back to a client about 4-5 weeks after the visit. Once a client has had a chance to evaluate our schemes we like to receive the clients thoughts so we can then further explore a particular idea, altering it as necessary.

Once the client is happy with the proposals we would normally send the scheme to the Planning Department for an informal view. This is not a formal Planning Application at this point, it is an informal enquiry. On receipt of the Planning Departments comments we would try to factor in any comments they may make. It is possible that they may say that you do not require Planning Permission and it is useful to have such a letter on file for when you come to sell your house.

For a ground floor extension It would be prudent for us to carry out a so-called Asset Enquiry which means we will check whether any sewers run under your property as this may prohibit the building work you require. If we carry this enquiry out, the water authority will charge and so we have to make an additional small fee.

Once the scheme has been agreed we can then assess what further costs will be incurred in order to proceed. We can obtain an approximate build cost from a competent builder if wished. We can also obtain any structural engineering costs from a Structural Engineer, which may be required in order to move to the next stage. We are thoughtful designers and we do our best to keep our clients costs down. We often spend a little extra time producing a scheme that is more cost-effective to build. By careful analysis of the requirements a design can sometimes be produced that does not requires an Engineer. This care can also benefit the client by reducing the build cost and the disruption to the clients home – particularly important and often overlooked.

Our fee for all of the above service is usually £600.00 for local jobs but please contact us if you are interested, to see if this is still applicable.

Once this stage has concluded we can then quote you for the preparation of detailed plans for the local authority applications namely, Planning and Building Regulations. We are able to give a fixed price quotation for Planning and Building Regulation at this point because we now know what the scheme consists of. We can also advise you of other matters that you may have to be aware of such as Part Wall / 3 Metre Notices, which is sometimes needed.

If you have any queries or comments at any time, we would invite you to contact us and please remember, we have found from many years of experience, that it pays to be thorough at the outset of a project by thoroughly examining the clients requirements and seeing how the existing house can be adapted. This is why so many of our projects get built on time and on budget and with the minimum of drama on site.

Please note that Building Tectonics reserves the right to change or withdraw the above details at any time.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.