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, so 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, and 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 giving a stunning open plan eating/living area they can 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 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 and 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 and so 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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If 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 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.

Green Design, Green Upkeep: Building and Maintaining Your Environmentally-Friendly Home

Residing in an energy efficient building not only lowers your utility bills, but can add an average of 14% to your home’s value, meaning it is not only good for the environment, but also beneficial for you as the homeowner. When setting out to build a green home, there are several factors to take into account, but the most important one to keep in mind is that a green home needs to be treated as such, from inception and throughout its lifetime.

The first, and perhaps most important, step in building a green home is a design conducive to environmentally favourable construction. A green home is much more than simply designing the living spaces, but must also account for the mechanical systems and materials used to qualify as a green construction. Once you have your design in place, you can move on to choosing which green materials will make your home as efficient as possible.

Sustainability is Key
Choosing sustainable products is one of the most important aspects of constructing a green home. You’ll want to make sure you select building materials that are certified as such by a specialist organisation and to research those materials in terms of eco-friendliness and stability in the long term. For the larger portion of the construction, you’ll need to procure sustainably forested timber, and perhaps to look into a roofing material that can be recycled or repurposed at the end of its life cycle.

For the interior of the home, there are many green products that are aesthetically as lovely as anything else on the market. From flooring and skirting boards to countertops and backsplash tiles, there are a multitude of sustainably produced, recycled or recyclable, and re-purposed materials to select from that will fit any style. With green building being so popular now, manufacturers are quick to disclose such properties and advertise themselves as appropriate for ecological construction.

Pay More Upfront
Energy efficiency is one of the main components to green building and you’ll want to take this into account in all aspects of the home, from windows to mechanical systems. High efficiency systems may cost more upfront, but will save you energy and money in the long term, eventually paying for themselves. Many of these systems will come with a guarantee, and the manufacturers will have already done the maths on your projected savings over the life of the home, so you’ll quickly be able to see how much you’ll save.

A Finished House Isn’t the End
Once you’ve completed a sustainable, green home, you have to keep in mind that environmentally-friendly maintenance must be part of the plan. Some of this maintenance should factor into the home design, especially in terms of landscaping. You’ll want to select plants and grasses that are native to the area, therefore, requiring less water and fertilisation. Additionally, you’ll want to explore some eco-friendly cleaning solutions, as many cleaners use harsh toxic chemicals that can be damaging to the environment.

Committing to a home that is environmentally responsible is one that will last a lifetime. The process may be challenging, but keeping your goals and reasons for undertaking such a project is key. The financial commitment upfront may save you some money in the long run, but it will take more effort and money to bring your green home dreams to life, and to maintain it thereafter.

Zero-Energy
Designing and maintaining a zero-energy home takes a lot of thought and consideration as well as a know-how on the best way to get the most out of the technology involved. Technology is rapidly changing which means that the trends of today are often out of favour a few years later. Government subsidies and schemes can play a big part of how well companies market their preferred product in terms of benefits, efficiency and cost so it is important to do your research.

The bulk of the battle to become zero-energy often lies with simple aspects such as making sure the building is well insulated and air-tight. Thought should also be given to the orientation of the building in relation to the sun; as natural light can help reduce energy bills in terms of lighting, heating and cooling. Using some form of brise-soleil (an architectural feature of a building that reduces heat gain within that building by deflecting sunlight) can prevent overheating in the summer; whilst still gaining the warmth and light from the low winter sun. Trees that provide shade can also help.

Moving onto the technology side of things, there are many routes available that each have their benefits and drawbacks. Where energy is sourced from is perhaps the main hurdle to overcome. Whilst solar panels are one of the more well-known ways of reducing energy costs, other alternatives to look at include Micro CHP boilers, air source and ground source heat pumps. Upgrading appliances to more energy efficient ones is often overlooked. Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery can remove stale air whilst retaining some of the heat which transfers to the fresh air entering the building which reduces the amount of heating required.

Remodelling 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 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 improving 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, allowing 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 and 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 to allow all the rooms to be accessed off the hallway instead of currently 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 and 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; meaning 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; which is a shame and we as a consultancy try to encourage builders to talk to us about any aspects, 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, which in this case 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 – Ina Cicu

Ina Cicu – Design Technologist

Ina joined the Building Tectonics Team almost five years ago as a Design Technologist. Having an Interior Design degree background, she was always fascinated by buildings and architecture but it wasn’t until she started to work here, she discovered the back stage of this wonderful creative process.

Due to her colleagues’ patience and professionalism, she has learned to redesign client’s houses; to undertake the technical part of projects such as Building Regulation drawings and how to deal with the planning applications.  Ina’s favourite part of the job is to design people houses, to create new space and to bring life to them.

Three things that inspire Ina:

Nature – this is the most amazing ‘architect’ as everything is perfect – shapes, colours, sounds, etc.

Travelling – this is one of my passions as travelling from place to place you can discover the different architectural styles influenced by culture, geographical area and time. You also meet new people who share with you their amazing life stories and visions.

Successful and intelligent people – these are the ones who inspire me the most – both in my personal and work life.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
My favourite architect is Antoni Gaudi and his work transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by natural forms. One of my favourites is his masterpiece Casa Batllo (pictured above) as like everything Gaudí designed, it is only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense.

The other example of Architectural design which inspires me is Tianjin Binhai Library, in Tianjin, China; which was designed by a Rotterdam-based architectural firm along with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute, a group of local architects. Due to its tight construction schedule by the local government, the project went from preliminary drawings to its doors opening within three years in October 2017.

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.

Remodelling to add space and beauty.

This project began when our clients visited the Tecton Art gallery, and saw some of our projects on display. It later transpired that they had realised that their house needed a different layout for some time, but had not known who to approach for such a project and how far some of the structural changes that were clearly required were feasible. The main element of the project was to re-design the space so that all of the rooms were accessed from a corridor or hall, as some of the rooms could only be accessed from others – which was a cause of a lot of frustration! They also wanted to re-orientate all the main living rooms to the back of the house – which faces fields and is much quieter than the front of the house, which overlooks a road. Several of the rooms were also peculiar shapes (due to badly thought out historic extensions) and therefore impractical, and there was no en-suite for the master bedroom. The existing heating system was also inadequate – another implication of the aforementioned extensions, and therefore the house was very cold in the winter. We discovered that our clients had a love of art, and so they had many paintings and objet d’art and wanted the new space to do them justice. As is always the case, the house had many nice features such as high ceilings, and it was not without a certain ambiance, but there was clearly a lot that needed to change.

Best before DSCF5290

Our first set of schemes went to the heart of the problem, starting with the small L shaped lounge. It was clear that it was too narrow, but it had to stay where it was (although we often move rooms around with projects like this). So the only way to resolve the problem was to extend into part of the garden. Our clients took some persuading about this as they were worried about losing garden space, but the plans told the whole story in a way which words could not; they showed that it worked and in fact the impact on the garden was minimal. After about eight iterations, we had achieved all of the requirements and more. We like to give value for money and as part of the design process, we were able consider how the thermal efficiency of the house could be improved.

DSC01055

The cherry on the cake was showing how the house could be given a new look on the outside. Our clients had never liked the external look of the house and wanted to replace the cheap roof tiles with the original slates, but we were able to show how increasing the size of the eaves overhang and introducing sprocketed eaves would also improve the look of the building. We also drew up some visuals to show how, at a later stage, cladding on the front of the house would soften the appearance of the frontage. Not many balconies are worth the effort, but we also came up with the idea of a balcony leading off the master bedroom which our clients absolutely love. It really is gorgeous and again, overlooks the fantastic rural scene, complete with cows!

Balcony

The house now has plenty of space to do justice to the art, and there are a range of room sizes to match the family mood. Now the arrangement of the rooms is almost perfect. Some wonderful, and comfortable smaller intimate spaces have been retained, and in some cases new ones have been created. Even the lounge extension has helped to create a lovely private seating area outside to overlook the adjacent field.

We do not consider ourselves as interior designers, we prefer our clients to create the ambiance which they desire. However, once you understand what the client ultimately wants, you can facilitate this by creating the right type of spaces. It should always be kept in mind that you cannot force a certain interior style on all types of space and vice versa.

Ensuite blue (2)   Stained glass window

I think that we are good at creating the right spaces, and working with the existing structure/building to bring this about economically, without too much stress. We always advocate working with the building, rather than against it. We take time and trouble to understand the building, its history and the way it was built as well as taking time to understand the clients wants. Clients do not always know what they are after, and even if they do, expressing it can be quite a difficult task, even for the most articulate. Furthermore, sometimes people are coy about their wants because they are reluctant to be seen as asking for the impossible. I try to encourage new clients to open up and tell me what they would like, even if they think it is unattainable. We do not have a magic wand, but we do have an immense amount of experience in this type of project; if you are thinking about such a project, don’t be coy – contact us.

Please also note that our client has her own business sourcing art works of all types for private and public spaces.  If you would like to contact her please email marie@lyndone.co.uk

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.