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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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!

Re-modelling of Woburn Sands Cottage Interior

Whilst some clients have a design idea visualised in their heads from day one of how they would like to extend or alter their properties; equally there are other clients who contact us to ask for our help. They are often unsure what they require and need us to come up with potential design concepts to make their homes work better and more efficiently for them. This was the situation with our lovely clients in Woburn Sands; who contacted us on recommendation from a number of past clients, to discuss re-modelling and enlarging their two-bedroom cottage.

After an initial discussion, they took time out to go away and firm up exactly what they were trying to achieve from the design process. This allowed them to then come back to us with a clearer idea of what they needed. Having made the decision to go ahead; they thereby engaged us to generate some ideas for them of how to make their space work best within their budget.

Although it obviously helps when clients are clear about what they are trying to achieve, it is not unusual for us to help them clarify in their own minds exactly what they are trying to achieve from the design process. While our clients had clarified what their needs were and had developed some ideas of their own, they acknowledged that they had no prior experience in extending or modernising a house. They therefore, needed an architectural design company to challenge their assumptions of what could actually work.

One clear problem they identified to us from the start was that the layout upstairs needed to be altered. They needed to be able to access all the rooms from the hallway instead of the current layout of having to go through one room to another.  In addition, they also wanted to add a third bedroom with natural daylight and install a new family sized bathroom. On the ground floor they craved a more open plan layout with kitchen and family space that linked the downstairs space with the garden.

A very steep staircase needed some consideration; as to whether it could be either altered or relocated. We looked at the option of a loft conversion or two or three different layouts to achieve the third bedroom. A strong winner soon emerged which involved altering the ground floor layout to achieve the open plan layout they desired. This meant a first-floor extension would sit neatly over the top. Whilst a loft conversion would have been possible, it would not have worked out as financially economical.

When it came to the staircase re-design, we tried a few scenarios and again a strong contender soon emerged. Whilst there were a couple of issues during the building work; we were happy to help and advise the builder, as even experienced builders sometimes like a second opinion. Sadly, this is not always the case as not all builders are happy to declare their uncertainty over some aspects.  This is a shame and we as a consultancy try to encourage builders to talk to us about any aspects that they are unsure of.  It is always beneficial to foster a team spirit and both sides can learn from discussions on-site and use it for future reference. In this case it involved the correct choice of roof tile for a modified roof pitch.

Following the building work, our clients are very happy to have moved in and have provided us with some photographs of their new home which we are always grateful for. We wish them well in their new extended, enlarged and improved home and look forward to visiting in the near future to see this great space for ourselves.

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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…

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.

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.