Why it Pays to Consult an Architect for your Home Renovations

Home Renovations

When you first start planning any home renovations; it is easy to get carried away dreaming about the end result and not always consider the how you get there. The first step should always be to consult a professional experienced designer as soon as possible.

Their expertise, together with your ideas and requirements, are so helpful to arrive at the final design quickly; without impacting the cost and quality of the build. The professional designer is not there to block your home renovation dreams but help steer you to a realistic design; whilst keeping in mind any building construction techniques, building regulation and planning requirements.

Equally, there are occasions when the homeowner may not be confident sharing their ideas and dreams or has no idea how to even go about creating more space. However, a top-notch designer can tease the client’s woolly idea and with encouragement and adding meat to the bones; they can develop a stunning and practical solution together.

Unfortunately, some homeowners bypass this step and go straight to a builder for their extension, loft conversion or re-modelling of their home layout; therefore, causing more stress months (or even years) down the line. This can involve problems coming up during, at the end of the project or even worse years later when they decide to sell.

This is just one example of the many requests Building Tectonics receive as an architectural practice: –

“Back in 2014, I carried out a garage conversion to turn the space into an art studio. At the time I was advised by my builder that planning permission was not required as the garage could not be accessed from within the house, had no toilet facilities and was less than 30m2.

I am now selling my house and the Buyer’s Solicitors are asking for a Certificate of Completion, a Certificate of Regulation and drawings of the garage prior to and after the work was completed. I do not have any of these items; so, therefore, need professional advice or an inspection of the garage conversion”.

Whilst the majority of builders are trustworthy and should identify any issues that could potentially occur before they start a home renovation project; there are many who are just as eager to get going and take the money and therefore, aren’t as prudent when giving advice.

Having a reputable design company on board also helps with the finer details that most of us rarely think about; but if designed incorrectly could potentially end up being a costly mistake. They can advice you on reputable local builders, project manage the build and keep it within your budget. As they are subject to a statutory code of practice and have Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect their clients; you are more importantly covered in all areas.

It is always advisable to plan ahead as much as possible on any home renovations and see if they will cover potential future life events like having children or elderly parents moving in with you further down the line. This way it will then save you both time and money in the long run. Always make sure the correct planning and building regulations have been adhered to and certificates received; to save you a lot of time and stress further down the line.

If you need any help or advice on this area or would like Building Tectonics to conduct a Feasibility Scheme to assess your home renovation options; please either call us on 01908 366000 or email:- email@building-tectonics.co.uk

Spotlight on the Team – Josh Lockwood

Josh Lockwood – Design Technologist

Josh originally started with Building Tectonics 6 years ago on a week’s work experience; and after being made a job offer, he never left. However, as he had only just started his Sixth Form study, it was a tough decision as he was doing well at school but unsure what he wanted to do for a job. He realised the work experience suited his skill set, accepted the offer and has never looked back. After joining, he decided to attend college once a week to continue his education and achieved the grades needed to enrol at university. He is now in his 5th out of 6 years at university (due to being part-time), and will become qualified in 2020.

Having started off drawing surveys onto the computer by reading the measurements taken from Tony’s survey notes, it wasn’t long before Josh was trying his hand at producing schemes and submitting Planning Applications. As our Design Technologist, he prepares the Building Regulations drawings and has constant communication with our clients along with dealing with party wall issues, sewer build-overs and occasionally working on 3D models to help clients visualise proposals and buy into an idea.

Three things that inspire Josh:

Making a difference in people’s lives – I take great joy and pleasure out of helping people get what they want and achieve their goals and by designing extensions, I am fulfilling that passion. One day I hope to take it to the next level and design bigger and grander buildings or ideally, should my career prospects take me down the right path, work on redeveloping towns and cities to make a difference to whole communities.

Self-Improvement – There is always room for improvement and every day alters the way in which I view the world and myself, even if only slightly. Learning from other people, past mistakes and precedents keeps pushing me to strive for more.

Invention and Innovation – I thoroughly enjoy seeing new ideas come to life whether that be in terms of Architecture, Technology, Science, Music, or Sport. I have the utmost respect for talented people as it baffles me how people can create or achieve such things as mere human beings. Seeing the progression of various concepts throughout the decades to see how ideas have evolved over time is satisfying.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
There are lots of architectural marvels that I could list such as: Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (still under construction), Milan Cathedral, and for more modern examples, The Scalpel in London (recently completed) and Aldar HQ in Abu Dhabi.

However, the one that has stood out the most and been with me the longest has to be the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao which was designed by Frank Gehry. I’ve covered this in a previous University blog, but in essence, not only was the design controversially wonderful at the time, it has also sparked regeneration in Bilbao. In an age where grand Cathedrals are rarely built, and clusters of skyscrapers are the new way to identify cities, Frank Gehry had tried something different and ambitious which has paid off massively. It has proven hard to replicate such an iconic building elsewhere as the recipe for success isn’t quite right for other projects, whereas the Guggenheim was somewhat of a perfect storm.

Retrospective Approval for Planning & Building Regulations

We have been asked to deal with more than the usual number of Retrospective Planning and Building Regulation Applications. One of the reasons for not making the requisite application is that the lay person sometimes does not understand that for many projects there are two types of approval required, namely Planning Permission and Building Regulation Approval. Simply put, Planning is all about the use to which a building is put and how it looks, Building Regulations is about structural issues, heat loss and drainage etc.

However for some projects, only a Planning Application is needed and for others, only a Building Regulation Application is required. Some clients do genuinely get confused and when told they do not need to make a Planning Application they assume they do not need to make a Building Regulation Application either. Having said that, some people probably use that as an excuse and hope to get away with it. Burying your head in the sand is not a good idea, especially when it is mixed with cement and water.

Having said that, the main reason for the growth in this type of work appears to be caused by builders who miss advise their clients, possibly sometimes because they need the work now and want to get on with it, without the delay that following the proper procedure would cause.

We regularly have to make Retrospective Applications for conservatories where the client has been advised by the conservatory company that Planning is not required. For conservatories it is usually true but not always and some conservatory companies are not very vigorous at checking. It is a very unpleasant surprise for a home owner to answer the door to a Planning Enforcement Officer and be told that an application has to be made and even worse, that it may not be approved.

Planning is a very blunt instrument and the building work is either acceptable or not and if the application is refused and an appeal is dismissed you will have to demolish the building work. Fines and ultimately jail will result if you refuse. This can seem very harsh especially when the contentious building may look fine to some but unacceptable to others.

The situation with Building Regulation is different in that you can nearly always find a solution to a problem building. This is because you are trying to solve a technical issue and generally, every one involved is working to find a solution. The difficulty for us is that we often do not know what the builder did, we do not know what materials he used or the size of the timber joist he used or how he fixed two components together. Unfortunately the only option sometime is to cut open the work, which is a terrible shame when the work is satisfactory.

If you should find yourself with any of the above problems please contact us at Building Tectonics to discuss the particulars of the case. We have over the years dealt with a very broad range of issues.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Planning Permission and Building Regulations

Planning Permission and Building Regulations
It is apparent that many clients and potential clients confuse Planning Permission and Building Regulation Approval.  What I am about to explain is not intended to be definitive or comprehensive but only a rough guide to a subject that many find unfathomable.

Very roughly the Planning Department is concerned with the use to what the building or land is put, ie is the building or land a shop or a house for instance. This is because it may be undesirable to have a noisy factory, or a business with many customers creating a parking issue, in the middle of a housing estate. The other issue that concerns Planners is what will the building will look like. They use terms like massing, style and scale, all terms effectively relating to how the building relates to other nearby buildings or the building you are trying to extend. Very simply for most of Building Tectonics work these are the sort of issues that we have to talk to the Planning Department about.

Building Regulations.
Building Regulations started off as mandatory building codes to ensure the safety and well-being of people using a building. Simple examples would include structural stability and damp penetration. This is still at the core of the Building Regulations but they are now also used to implement Central Government policy regarding heat loss and disabled access. Think of Building Regulations as the technical standards you have to achieve.

This is of course very simplistic and one could list many examples that contradict the above.

We have had many clients including professional people such as solicitors who have not had a grasp that there are these two regulatory areas and even though Building Tectonics will deal with these two aspects for a client, they still have to be aware that both types of approvals are required – unless the work is exempt of course. Now, this issue of whether the work is exempt or not also requires an understanding of the two areas because the work may be exempt from one but not the other.

I will blog again on Planning matters and Building Regulations but in the meantime I hope the above is useful.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.