We’ve moved.

Today’s, and any of our future posts will be posted to Building Tectonics website from now on, so if you’d like to continue following our blog, please click on the link above and go to that website in the future. We hope you continue to enjoy them.

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Planning problems

Our client had waited since last November to go in for planning, and eventually after a redesign and new application, the client was invited to go to a planning committee meeting. At the meeting, he had to sit outside the room as there wasn’t enough space for him and they didn’t hear what he had to say because there wasn’t time.

It’s such a shame that things like this can happen because Milton Keynes planning department have improved so much when it comes to smaller ‘run-of-the-mill’ applications such as extensions for example, but when it comes to anything involving new housing, infill or listed buildings it seems much more arduous.

This is what Building Tectonics do, we deal with this sort of application and process all of the time, but with a 96% success rate in the smaller works applications, we usually get there in the end.

The type of work we’re getting.

We’ve had some interesting work in the office within the last few months, including remodelling houses in some of the more prestigious areas and designing a restaurant in Central Milton Keynes. Some of which are in a conservation area, and some are listed buildings. In the case of these, in addition to planning permission, you also need to get listed building consent which adds another level of burocracy, paperwork and detailing.

If you have a property which is listed or in a conservation area that you’d like to alter in some way, you will be required to give a lot more information to the local planning authority, including a detailed specification of the materials you’re going to use. In a conservation area, the planning authority will be mainly concerned about the outside appearance and will be eager to maintain the local genre. With listed buildings, the emphasis is sometimes as much about the inside as with the outside.

It’s not always about the appearance of the listed building, but sometimes it is the historical value that it has. Some of the concrete pillboxes from wartime are now listed, and these were not made to look pretty in the slightest. They were purely practical, reinforced walls with small holes from which to shoot from and for this historical value a few of them have been protected.

Conservation areas influence the way in which the local planning authority deal with planning applications which may affect the area in some way. Permitted development rights in these areas are also restricted, that means that you need a planning application for certain types of work you usually wouldn’t need consent for

The restaurant is an interesting project we have on at the moment, as most of our work comes from residential projects. It’ll be an African style buffet themed place to eat, so we’ve been trying to come up with interesting design ideas for both the interior and the exterior of the building, trying to give it a modern look with an African influence to it.

This blog is moving!

This is the first of a couple of announcements we’re going to post across our social media sites about our blog moving to a different web address.

We’ve recently re-designed our website and given it a whole new layout, which includes a better blog section. We’ll be moving this blog to our main website www.building-tectonics.co.uk and hope that you will continue to follow our posts for more tips, information and news.

Invest in your home.

Hand putting coin in model house bank

According to the consumer magazine Which, the best way in which to add value to your house may be to add a garage, and although they noted that this was disputed by some estate agents, people who are contemplating converting their garage should take note. What was more interesting to me was that the next best improvement is to add a bedroom. The third most profitable improvement was the addition of a reception room. Of course, to add another bedroom for most people will mean they would have to extend the ground floor footprint too, or possibly convert the loft.

The exceptions are those people with an attached garage or a single story part of the house which can be built over, and we get our share of these projects as well. However, it’s clear that most homeowners intuitively know that an extra bedroom or extra living space adds value and that is why extending your house has once again become one of the UK’s favorite pastimes.

We do have a significant number of clients who just want a new house layout where it doesn’t involve extending but most of our projects (about 85%) want more space. Interestingly, a growing number of our clients are retired or at least nearing retirement, so you wouldn’t think another bedroom is necessary. However, if you’re looking at where to invest your savings with the knowledge that over a longer period of time you’ll get a good return, adding well designed and thoughtful space must be considered.

This type of investment doesn’t involve researching the shares market, and it doesn’t require paying brokers of fund managers, but you do get the benefit of a nicer surrounding until you cash in your investment and even best, all of it’s possibly free tax-free. Many people aged 55 and over can now withdraw their pension savings (subject to a one-off income tax), and according to the Treasury more than 85,000 people have dipped into their pension plans so far, cashing in 1.3 billion. It looks to me that the more canny aren’t spending this on holidays or new cars, but are investing in what is already their best investment ever; their house.

We must presume that when the time comes, they will downsize and mete out the proceeds as a pension. That may be the tricky part, but if interest rates have recovered by then, they may be able to live on the interest I suppose, since it could be a sizable sum, especially if we have some significant house inflation in the meantime – and we mustn’t discount this.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics.

Time to remodel.

We’re doing a bit of ‘remodelling’ here in the office, not the sort of remodelling you might be thinking though, we’re remodelling our website.

We thought it was time to revamp the Building Tectonics website and give it a fresh look, we’re also adding some different features to the site to make it more user-friendly. We’ll try and make it as painless as possible so that the public can still access it without any outages.

We apologise for any disruption which may be caused when trying to reach our website around the 16th July 2015. We’ll post here and let you know when it’s all up and running. In the meantime why not click on the link above and have a look at some of the content we’ve got up there.

Domestic clients and the new health and safety regulations.

If you’re having work done on your own home or the home of a family member, and it’s not in connection with a business, you’ll be a domestic client. The only responsibility a domestic client has under CDM 2015 is to appoint a principal designer, and a principal contractor when there is more than one contractor.

However, if you don’t do this, (as is common practice) your duties as a domestic client are automatically transferred to the contractor or principal contractor. If you already have a relationship with your designer before the work starts, the designer can take on your duties, provided there is a written agreement between you and the designer to do so.

For builders, here is a useful link to an app for your smartphone to help you to comply with your requirements:

http://www.citb.co.uk/health-safety-and-other-topics/health-safety/construction-design-and-management-regulations/cdm-wizard-app/

Velux and Dormer Windows

Following the subject of loft conversions from last week’s blog post, we thought we’d discuss a particular aspect which clients need to think about when getting a loft conversion, and having a room in the loft space. Should you get a skylight or a dormer window installed?

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Skylights

You can buy various types of skylights, or velux windows, in a wide variety of designs. They’re angled towards the sky which means that they allow much more light into a room than you might get with a dormer window because, unlike a dormer window, there are no extra walls or a roof to exclude any light from entering the room (but sometimes a velux can let too much light into the space). Although if you’re putting an extra bedroom in the loft space, you may want to think about the noise of the heavy rain hitting a skylight during the night as well as how much light it will allow. Velux windows are usually cheaper than a dormer, and usually don’t need planning dependant on the size of the window, the external aesthetics and a few other points. If you have young children around then a velux might be safer than a dormer window because it is higher and therefore not as easily accessible to young curious minds.

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Dormer

One of the major positives of having dormer windows installed is that they maximise headroom in the loft space. Dependent on the surroundings your property has around it, it may also facilitate a nice view out of the window. As stated earlier, one of the downfalls of the dormer window is the lower amount of light being allowed into the space as you would get by having a skylight. Dormer windows are usually more expensive than skylight windows, and most also require planning permission as they alter the exterior of the house.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, if you’re currently trying to make this decision and are unsure about which to go for, then why not ask your designer/architect for their opinion?

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics.

The Tiny House Movement: Ecocapsules

Following the tiny house movement, which is a movement in which people are downsizing the space in which they live. The main reason for choosing this lifestyle is financial gain. What they’re not spending on their home, they have to spend elsewhere.

A Slovakian architectural company called Nice Architects Studio have taken this idea and created what seems to be one of the next eco friendly tiny houses.

Their product, the eco capsule, could become the next big thing in the tiny house movement. It’s 86 square feet of eco friendly space, off the electrical grid, and it’s also portable. Each capsule has solar panels across the roof of the egg shaped exterior, and a retractable wind turbine so you can get power in all kinds of weather. If you are in very poor conditions and need backup power there is a high capacity battery built into the structure which you can use, so that hopefully you’ll never be without power. The design of the capsule allows rainwater to be caught on the surface, and run down the side into a space at the bottom where there are filtration systems in place so that the fresh water is safe to use, hot or cold.

They would also fit into a ship container, and so could be taken overseas if the owner were a keen traveller, or a scientist, explorer or anything which required being out of the country.

These will be available to pre-order at the end of 2015 with shipping starting in early 2016.

Keeping you up to date with live project.

We’re trying something which we haven’t done before; that is tracking a project and keeping you all up to date on its progress via fortnightly posts on facebook.

The first project which we will be keeping you up to date on is a bungalow which is a bit dated in both style and layout. Our brief was giving them a design which provided a larger kitchen and entertaining space on the ground floor, and to create a first floor with a view above the top of the trees growing in the valley below. We have also been asked to give the external look of the building and make it more contemporary.

The design which was chosen means raising the ridge with a steel frame to create the first floor space needed for this kind of layout. It will be a special house when the building work is complete, and so we look forward to when it is finished.