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.

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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Connect Your Home to Your Outside Space with a Garden Room

Garden Rooms are often thought of as being a separate cabin style building down the end of your garden; which you would typically use as an office, craft room, a spare bedroom or as a separate summer only additional living space.

However, did you know that a Garden Room can also refer to a fixed structure that is part of your house? This can be from designing a new structure to extend your existing living space, or by altering a conservatory into a more usable room that connects your living space to your garden as a conservatory does; but with the benefit of being able to use it all year around not just in the warmer months.

Whilst conservatories have their uses and in the summer are great spaces to relax in and make the most of the sunshine streaming in; they can become too hot at the height of summer as the heat becomes trapped inside and they are difficult to cool down. At the other end of the temperature scale; come the winter, they then become too cold so people end up shutting them off from the rest of the house and using them as storage; as they are simply too cold to even open the door to let alone use the space. This is a shame as it is often a good-sized space that is not being fully utilised and thereby restricts your overall living space during the winter months.

However, there are a number of options available to make this space more useable. These range from swapping the glass/polycarbonate roof to an insulated tiled roof to help maintain a consistent temperature; through to swapping the structure for a more permanent structure that can be put to full use throughout the year.

Additionally; many clients are now asking for a garden room to be added to their house when they have no existing structure there in the first place. They love the idea of having a room that they can relax in and enjoy the garden views from whatever the time of year; making the most of the summer or winter sunshine but with it still being part of their house rather than separate.

Whichever route you are considering, replacing a conservatory with a permanent structure that can be used all year round will not only add value to your home but will make it more attractive to sellers should you decide to move later down the line.

Here are some examples of Garden Rooms we have worked on for previous clients:

Garden Room – Milton Keynes
Our client wanted a garden room which could be used all year round without costing a fortune in heating bills. Therefore, we produced a light airy room that connected with the garden and the rest of the house. We also advised on the reshaping of the garden and rebuilding of a garden wall to create an adjacent outdoor sunspace. They were very happy with the finished outcome and said “The project was delivered on time to a high spec. Building Tectonics engaged with us throughout the process ensuring that any changes were managed and we would highly recommend them”.

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Conservatory Conversion – Milton Keynes
When Tony, our company director, brought his house it included a conservatory so one of the main upgrades he made was to put a ‘proper’ roof on it.  This required getting builders to form a foundation outside the conservatory, construct the necessary steel-work, remove the old plastic roof and replace it with a new traditional roof. The glass sides and floor were left as they were but it had a super insulated roof installed. Although the conservatory was already there; Planning and Building Regulation approvals will often still be necessary for this type of work.

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House Remodel – Bedfordshire
Our client had bought a very tired 1960’s house which they thought needed remodelling. The house had a very un-inspiring appearance, an outdated internal arrangement, very poor insulation and lacked connection with the garden. An architect had produced some plans but the client thought these were unsuitable. Therefore, we were asked to perform our magic and remodel the house and make it a home fit for the future. We are pleased to say that everyone has been delighted with the results.

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Do you have an existing conservatory or outbuilding that you would like to make better use of and to connect it with the garden for all-round year use? Or would you simply like some ideas for how a new garden room structure could be added to the back of your house? Please do get in touch to see how Building Tectonics can help you.

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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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”.

A photo of a white building, with four columns on the front of the building , then two arches either side with two columns on each one.

Palladian Design

Palladian design is a philosophy of design which was based on the work and books of a 16th century Italian architect Andreas Palladio, who is the only architect to date to give his own name to an architectural style. Palladio’s style was heavily influenced by ancient Roman architecture, and one of the main architects whose ideas he followed were those of a man called Vitruvius. Palladio made several attempts about domestic Roman architecture which was based upon partial ruins which had been found, but then these ideas were widely imitated throughout Europe, especially in 18th century England as British designers drew on these ideas to create a classical British Style.

Palladian style is still being used some 500 years later and has many clearly defined characteristics. These include columns with acanthus leaf capitals at the top, symmetry, designs over doorways and windows usually on the outer surface of the building, but occasionally on the inside. This style also incorporated masks based on Greek and Roman art and scallop shells into the building design as in Roman mythology, the goddess Venus was born of the sea, from a shell.

The RIBA is currently hosting an exhibition in London whose dates coincide with the 300th anniversary of the two books which spread the ideas worldwide. The exhibition showcases different aspects of Palladian design and how various architects such as the 17th century Inigo Jones and the 18th century Lord Burlington turned it into a national style.  Despite the rise of modernism in Britain and America and subsequently post-modernism, many designers and lay people would gladly harp back to Palladianism given the chance. It’s thought that one of the reasons it became popular in the first place was because wealthy landowners and industrialists, keen to suggest they had breeding and were well educated, were very happy to be associated with anything Ancient Greek in the hope that this air of sophistication would rub off on them. I suspect that this is still one of the reasons why so many would still choose this as the style of their mansion, given the chance. To some extent the Palladian look often described as Georgian (another reincarnation of Palladianism), was overused in the 70s by house developers as a “one style fits all” type of architecture. When done well, Palladian is magnificent and very stylish but when watered down it is pretty horrid and frankly pathetic. I suspect another reason for the popularity of such styles is that it is invariably symmetrical and this seems to visually please many. Generally the UK Planning Authorities are not keen these days on the Palladian style and you’ll probably have a fight on your hands if that’s what you want to build.

Architectural style

A lot of the recent enquiries which we have been receiving here at Building Tectonics have been from clients who may not know exactly what they want to do to their property, but they do know that they would like it designed around a certain architectural style.

Style is a big thing nowadays, not to say that it hasn’t always been! With the internet, and social media becoming the quickest way to share something with everyone who is online, if you happen to walk down the street in some ghastly number that the fashion police would condemn, you can almost guarantee that someone down that street has snapped a photo and stuck it on the internet for all to see and judge.

Now the same thing could be said about buildings and the style of architecture in which they are designed. The main difference being that a building designed in a style which is not befitting to the surroundings stands out for more than a mere day of humiliation walking down the street. However, that being said, if an architect were to try and create a whole new style of architecture…that is a completely different story. Unlike Lady Gaga and her dress made of meat, if an architect wants to pioneer a new style and invoke a reaction, they can do so and be commended for trying even if it doesn’t quite work as a new revolutionary style. Sometimes, the things critics deem ‘ugly’ in architecture can turn out to be the very thing that other architects like, and so begin following the same form…thus creating a new architectural style.

I hear a lot of people using the term ‘contemporary’ when describing styles of architecture which they like, or would like for their property. Others use terms like ‘modernist’ and ‘neo-classical’.

Do you have a favourite style of architecture?

Contemporary_style_house_at_Waterloo_Port_-_geograph.org.uk_-_278671

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics

Bauhaus Architecture

There have been a lot of influential movements throughout history, but this blog is about one art movement in particular – The Bauhaus movement. At the time this style was so different that it was shunned by the major political influences of the time, but it is now one of the main influencers of modern design in architecture.

This movement was only around for 14 years or so, from 1919 to 1933, but it has left such a lasting impression. It brought about the idea of using simple shapes like rectangles, triangles and circles in building design, which is what much of modern architecture today consists of.

Bauhaus got its name from the school that taught the style, which was founded by Walter Gropius in Welmar. The term ‘Bauhaus’ is German for ‘house for building’ and its influence has clearly transpired to architectural design, although the school did not have a department especially dedicated to architecture.

A distinctive feature of this movement was the fact that they insisted on using only primary colours (red, yellow and blue, but black and white were also allowed within the pieces). This simple colour palette, together with the simple geometric shapes led to a distinct idea of what the Bauhaus movement should be perceived as.

In most modern architecture, there are two distinctive options which an architect can choose when designing a scheme for a client:

  • They can play it safe and basically copy a modern building which already exists.OR
  • Apply the general principals of Bauhaus to a brand new design by using simple shapes and unusual angles.

Anyone who was designing with Bauhaus in mind would have had to embrace the views of trying to embrace new technological developments which unified art, craft and technology. The Bauhaus movement were primarily characterised by its simplistic take on design, and its economic sensibility and focus on mass production.

This movement, as with anything which has a lot of influence on society, was not accepted by everyone.

It was always under scrutiny from the Nazi movement which preferred classicism over modernism. They criticised the Bauhaus style because they didn’t agree with the modernistic styles, they even went as far as to labelling it ‘un-German’ and calling it a front for communists, Russians and social liberals.

A lot of design movements look more and more outdated as the years go on, but the Bauhaus philosophy lives on, having a constant influence on modern design. Major cities still use this 94 year old theory when designing new buildings, that theory being ‘form follows function’, including white walls, clean lines and glass.

Gropius had a clear vision, which was to ‘bridge the gap’ between art and industry by combining crafts and fine art. Before the Bauhaus movement, fine arts such as architecture and design were held in higher esteem than craftsmanship, but Gropius’ movement asserted that all crafts including art, architecture and geometric design could be brought together and mass produced. Gropius argued that architecture and design should reflect the new period in history and adapt to the era of the machine.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.