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, but of course 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; so, 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.

As an experienced architectural practice, once a potential client makes contact with us, we would always start with a Feasibility Scheme which is a fixed fee service and involves visiting your home at a time that suits you, to listen to your requirements. This visit normally takes about two and a half to three and a half hours.

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 that works for you, whilst still having the best chance of getting it approved. 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 second stage is the Scheme Acceptance which is where we proceed with your chosen scheme followed by putting in a Planning Application to the Planning Authority, preparing the Building Regulations Application and then Project Managing your scheme to completion.

Whilst this may sound fairly simple and you would think that any company could offer this service; it is rarely an easy transition and there are always queries and issues that pop up along the way. This is where an experienced architectural practice has the advantage over a fixed fee drawings company; as 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. We have close relationships spanning over 30 years with the local planning authorities and 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, Building Tectonics has had many clients come to us after choosing the cheaper option and then later regretting 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, so they therefore, ended 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 or they do 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, but they 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; as 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 Building Tectonics a call on 01908 366000 to see how we can help.

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…

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.

4 tips for a successful house project

We give all of our clients 4 simple tips to have a higher chance of a successful, smoothly run project. Of course, this is not by any means a guarantee that all projects will go without any problems at all, these tips will just help you to avoid the unnecessary hiccups which happen all too often due to poor planning.  So our 4 tips to you are as follows:

Tip #1 – Have a well thought out scheme.

If you have carefully considered all aspects of your plans, and decided upon a final design then you can start the process and begin to make the design a reality.

If you don’t consider everything carefully, and change your mind about something part way through the work, you will be causing a lot of unnecessary hassle for yourself and your builders, it could cost you more and would probably take more time to complete.

Tip #2 – A good set of technical plans which explain to the builder how it should be built.

Getting a reputable architectural company to create a good set of technical plans for your project is key to getting everything built exactly as you’d like it.

The technical plans will tell the builders how the design should be built, and it can also act as a communication tool, and a contract between the builder and the client.

Tip #3 – Choose your builder with care.

You may have seen some of the TV programmes on TV showing builders who do a botch job on clients builds. These are not staged and this does happen very often if you’re not careful! So choose your builder with care and be sure that you do not end up on one of these shows.

Tip #4 – Don’t change your mind about anything once the work starts.

If you change your mind about anything whilst the builders are on site, you will cause unnecessary hassle for everyone. The project will probably become delayed and perhaps more expensive.

If you follow these tips, you are more likely to have a hassle free, smoothly built project.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Elevations vs. perspective drawings

Historically we, like most architectural practices and designers, have used plans drawn in parallel projection, that’s to say that they are not in perspective.  We do this because plans in parallel projection can be to scale and from a technical standpoint it’s less easy to cheat and/or mislead.  However, perspective drawings can add something to the communication process as some clients find it easier to read these types of plans, whereas a projection drawing requires the reader to use their imagination, and some people cannot do this as well as others.
 
Before computer graphics, a perspective drawing would be drawn on paper or film by a draftsperson or a specialist perspective artist, it could be either quite sketchy or almost photo realistic. Even now, we in the Building Tectonics office still sketch something out in perspective, usually to communicate something to another member of the team so being adept with a pencil is still very handy. 
Of course the computer and the software we generally use can generate very complicated 3 dimensional models and from that a perspective drawing, but it does require a lot more information and time to do this. You may also be surprised to know that these types of graphical representations of a job can take all night for a computer to process (even quite a powerful computer). For this reason we have to charge extra for such work and if the client can do without it then all is well and good.
 
There is another side to this subject. Perspectives can be very misleading as they can give an impression of a building and perhaps its surrounding, or indeed the inside of a room but it will not be to scale, and by playing with the perspective vanishing point the impression of space and proportion can be altered. There is a trend now to produce photo realistic drawings too and these can be very seductive, but we worry that the client is wooed by the image and does not concentrate on the actual architecture. Most people will come into contact with perspective or a 3D type of representation when they order a new kitchen, and I have heard people say that the end result, when the kitchen is installed does not always have the same feeling or sense of space that was engendered by the graphical representation.
 
Planning departments and builders still require parallel projection because they can trust them (if properly prepared) to give them the accurate information they need.  However perspectives, walk throughs and fly round visualisations are required by some clients and so we do, if asked, produce them for an extra fee. 
 
We would be very pleased to learn of your experience of viewing types of graphic display, whether they helped you to make a decision about a particular design, and ultimately, did the building or kitchen live up to the promise of the presentation?
Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.

3 reasons for and against open plan homes.

If you follow our blog, you may have noticed that we have recently published a post including photos of an open plan ground floor for a building in Milton Keynes, which the client has separated into different living areas.

There is an ongoing difference in opinion in the open plan vs. separated rooms argument. So we will explore some of the pros and cons of both, but this will be in no way a definitive list, there may be many other points which we have not touched upon in this post. Feel free to add any thoughts and opinions in the comments.

We come across a lot of clients who say that they would like an open plan home to live in, and they like the architectural plans on paper. But later on down the line some realise that while they like the idea of an open plan home, it is more idealistic and not as practical as they initially thought for their household.

Reasons for calling the open plan homes ‘the idealistic view’ vary, but below are just a few of those reasons.

Open plan homes are a great way to make cooking and cleaning a more social activity. It allows people to converse with each other whilst doing different things in separate areas of the house. One person could be cleaning in the kitchen and having a conversation with someone else in the living room without the need to shout through rooms. When you have a closed plan home and you are in a different room to everyone else, you can sometimes feel a bit secluded if you are on your own.

They can also be much better for watching children whilst getting other things done, rather than juggling rooms to keep an eye on kids whilst getting chores done. If you need to watch your children in the living room, but need to hoover the dining room at the same time, then you have to juggle a bit in a closed plan home. In an open floor plan, you can just look across the house to see if everything is okay. Although bear in mind, if you can see them, they can see you too!

Open plan homes are a great way to allow light into your home as any architect will tell you. Due to the lack of walls, there is only furniture to obstruct the light which is travelling into your home. You can even use dividers rather than walls to separate the area into areas, still open plan but with its own areas. An example of a divider could be a bookcase in the place of a wall.

So an open plan floor sounds good, but here are some of the realities to think about if you are considering an open plan home.

Is your family messy? If the answer to this is yes, and you don’t like people seeing your mess, then I’m afraid to say that an open plan home may not be for you. One of the best things about open plan is also one of its biggest downfalls; anyone who comes into your home can see everything as soon as they step through the front door in an open plan home. This can be troublesome if you or your family have left anything lying around in the living room, as it can be spotted immediately when you have anyone around. For example if you leave any pots, pans or dishes in the kitchen whilst you have dinner, everyone at the dinner table will see it, there aren’t any walls to temporarily hide the mess their meal created.

Are your family loud? If again, the answer is yes then maybe you should rethink this idea of an open floor plan. Noise travels, so when you’re trying to quietly get on with work in your home office, or get some homework done in the study area, people watching a movie on the other side of the house will be a huge distraction because you will hear every word being said, every explosion and every step. Imagine if you’re trying to have a private conversation on the phone, we would usually go into a separate room and shut the door. If you’re in an open plan home then you can forget that because there are no rooms to go into, or doors to shut unless you fancy taking a walk outside which is not always ideal.

Although open plan homes are good for easily having conversations from different areas of the house, some of us like to have a bit of ‘me time’ included in our days. We like to have a space we can go to and just relax, hang out and do our own thing with no distractions. It’s difficult to have that in an open plan home. If you are keen on art, and have a lot to hang up then be sure to get a large house if you’re opting for open plan. The wall space is substantially low compared to closed plan.

What are your thoughts? Which would you choose?

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

How to read architectural plans.

We are currently coming up with different ideas as to how we can present our drawings to lay-people, in an easy to read manner, which would be good enough to show at an exhibition.

We have found that 3D plans have usually been less easily read by clients.

Reading plans is one of those skills which is easy, when you know how. If, when you look at your architects plans you find yourself bewildered and not sure how to start, then try this trick which we will share with you:

Find the front door. Once you find the front door, or main entrance, you can then navigate your way along corridors and into each room. This, for most people, will make the plan come alive. Once you have done this for the ground floor, you will have found the foot of the stairs on your virtual journey. So then you can go to the first floor; look for the top of the staircase as this will be your starting point on any floor other than the ground floor.

 

We are on a bit of a mission at the moment, trying to find better ways of presenting information to clients, and we would be very pleased if you could help us. One of our frustrations is that some clients ask us to present plans in a 3D format, and occasionally we are asked to produce computer generated models. The reason given is that it will help with the understanding of the space which we are designing, but it is clear that in some cases, clients are seduced by the clever graphics, but still do not really understand, or “feel” the space, so to speak.

Please look at the two simple static architectural plans we have provided below, and do the following with your newly learnt skill.

We ask you to have a look at the 2D plan below and use the trick which we have explained above – locate the front door, and then work your way through the plan. Is it east to get to grips with the layout?

A4 proposed ground floor with furniture but no words

Now identify the location of the kitchen, is this easy to find?

Now repeat the process for the 3D type presentation. Is it any easier?

3D model

Please let us know your opinions in the comments.

This subject is important to us because we are very tempted to produce more sophisticated images like some of our competitors but we are not always sure whether this actually helps with the process of understanding architects plans, and this is very important is the client is to make a valued judgement on various schemes which we usually produce.

Kitchen design companies usually produce these 3D perspective drawings included as part of their service, and I know quite a few people who have felt the final installed kitchen does not engender the same sense of space which the graphics seemed to.

Your thoughts and comments would be most appreciated.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.