Friday, 18 September 2020

Designing your dream home? What are the starting points?

 


When taking on any project there is a lot to consider and when you're thinking of designing your own home there is even more!



Firstly you need to think of where you want to live. This sounds simple enough but getting the right plot is sometimes harder than you might expect. You will have to think about locality and whether you would get permission to build your home. In order to do this you will at least need to know what type of build you would like and then choose an architect, one that you trust and work well with, to complete your drawings. Obviously there are many more steps in the beginning but this is just a very brief summary.




The biggest part of getting your dream home is in the design.  You need to know what you would like  from your build. Will you be employing green technology? If so, what?

Eco living is often seen as a given these days especially when building from scratch. Why wouldn't you use the technology available to you? We have come so far with technology and compliances to ensure that we really can build the best.

You need to know what you want from your home, so essentially you have to be able to set up your brief and get it right. Take a look around and see what is about. It is far better to know what you would like from the outset. It will be an expensive job to make alterations down the line, especially if construction has already started.  When you talk to your architect provide all the information that you can, extra if possible. Do you have a model, pictures or even sample materials? If not then you should really try to get these or at least some of them. Look at what the materials can do for you, look at what they can do for your build and look at what the aesthetics are like. What design do you want to achieve? There are plenty of ideas out there, you just have to be able to narrow them down.



What will the layout of your home look like? What do you need it to provide? Check and check again that your build will be able to give you the space, room and light that you want. This is your home so don't let anyone else tell you or influence you otherwise. Yes it is a good idea to get advice and feed off the knowledge of others but don't be swayed by someone else's opinions and desires.

When you choose your architect you need to ensure that you both have a similar style as this will help with the design. If you're reading from the same page it makes the whole process a lot easier, believe me.

You also need a budget and timescale and they must both be realistic. If your timescale goes over, then your budget will be affected. If your budget goes over and you run out of money your timescale can be affected. They work together and need to be thought of as a team.



Designing your own home is more than just the 'drawing', it is the idea, the passion and the dream.












Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Eco builds-what do you need to know when taking on an eco construction? Build for the future!

 


When taking on any build there is a certain amount of planning and understanding required. There are many ways in which you can research different methods, materials and design and work out which are best suited to your needs. There is a vast array of information, all you need is Google. But, is this all correct? Is it all helpful? You need to know what to look for, what to believe and what not to believe!




If this is your first eco build and you're starting from scratch, (we all have to start somewhere), then I would suggest seeking out the help of an expert. There are many places you can go for this. ATSPACE (https://atspaceltd.co.uk) has a number of experts who will be able to point you in the right direction. Use them, feed off their knowledge and expertise. You will have to undertake all of the usual compliances, water testing, air testing, extractor fan testing etc and everything in between. However, with an eco build you will need to be able to reach the highest standard in these compliances. What you must remember is even the design of your build can have an impact on the eco standard. So, you should find an architect who understands the impact and who will be able to implement this into your design. This doesn't mean that you can't have the home that you want. Eco isn't there to stop or hinder your dream it is there to enhance it. Your architect will be able to work with an assessor and by getting these people together your green build is half way there. 




Your next step is to think about what level of 'green' you want to go to. As with anything you can just reach the basic level or you can aim to surpass that. Let's face it, there is no point in going through all of this and trying your hardest to be able to be a part of the future of construction if you don't aim for the highest of eco that your budget will allow. 

You must understand that whatever material you decide to use will also affect your build's eco standard. You need to know what you ultimately want from your materials in both style and use. You must use materials that are fit for purpose and each type has its own pros and cons list. Talk this through with your architect and assessor to work out what will suit your build best. With green technology you don't need to compromise on the style of your home. This is often thought to be the case and sometimes is the reason why people steer away from building green; but things have come so far. There are no compromises with eco standard anymore, there is just a bright future to look forward to. 




When you're employing workers to help with your construction it is best to make sure that they understand what you're trying to achieve and preferably have worked with your materials, or at least similar, before. I know everyone has to start somewhere but if you're doing this for yourself then trust the experts and work with those who can help you learn. One day, when you've completed your build and moved on to the next you can repay the favour and pass down any knowledge you have to others. This is your chance to help to shape the future of construction. 


Sunday, 13 September 2020

What does the future of construction look like? Building for generations to come.

 

I have written a few blogs about what construction looks like in the aftermath of corona and where we expect to be down the line. Unfortunately things are looking as if they're going to take a touch longer to get back to normal than what we had all expected and hoped. But what we have to understand is that we have a new 'normal' and we need to work towards that and not look back at what 'was'.



Construction is changing and not just because of the recent events but because of the influence of technology, new materials and the new way of living and we, as builders, business owners, labourers and trades need to find our place and build our own 'new normal'.

Technology is a driving force within our industry and thankfully it is forward thinking which enables us to build the amazing constructions we have today We have new technology, advances in materials and experience to thank for the rise in eco living. The Government has a deadline of 2050 for net zero carbon emissions and this is achievable. We must remember that we can do this and surpass this deadline if we put our minds to it and work together. From low energy bills right up to passive house standard, and everything inbetween, technology plays a huge part in allowing us to progress swiftly forward.



More and more builds these days are adhering to eco standards and in turn we are expecting a lot more from our homes. Not only do we have expectations of lower energy bills and a cleaner healthier environment we also expect our homes to be more versatile. Over the last few months we have experienced many challenges, some of which are still continuing. For example, we now await materials which in turn causes a delay in the construction. I imagine we can expect this to continue for a while, certainly until things start to become a bit more 'normal' and there isn't much we can do to change that. We can, however, look elsewhere, use local suppliers, look at different materials and plan ahead. Is this an ideal situation? No, of course not but it is the hand we are dealt and we need to be able to work with it.

The way in which we utilise our homes has changed. As I have said before, we have new ways of living, we expect more from the same builds. We need more, we need offices, places to school, home gyms and entertaining areas but we don't necessarily have more money to spend to achieve this. As builders we must be able to provide what people want without letting the standards slip. We know what we can do, we have been doing it for years. Let's not let a few inconveniences get in the way. We can and must carry on building the best, building for the future and building green. Construction is a forward thinking, versatile industry and it has proven that more than ever over the last few months. We are lucky to be a part of something so prominent. Let's be grateful, positive and happy that we are the future.









Monday, 7 September 2020

Planning law changes - how will Government changes affect you?

A few new rules have been introduced by the Government over the last few months, and we are all still trying to get our heads around them. Even those in charge can get confused; It's easily done.  Hopefully, this document will at least, be able to shed some light on the never-ending questions.

 




The changes that have been announced refer to a range of new permitted development rights (which will be discussed further down in this blog) and the class order for businesses. Essentially, from the 1st September, the class orders are being altered. This means you could change the use of your business building without requiring "change of use". This will be good news for owners who rent out premises as they will have a broader clientele with more scope on what businesses can open. The more opportunities there are, the more interest you'll get from others. Hopefully, this will also encourage the use of commercial builds that we, as consumers, want, rather than what we are told we need. There are obviously some restrictions with certain classes, but actually, there are more that fall under the change than those that don't. You can find out more information here https://www.forsters.co.uk/news/blog/changes-use-classes-order-england-planning-permission-development-rights




 

The Town and Country Planning permitted development rights have also been updated, and if there wasn't confusion at what you could do before, there certainly is now. The permitted development rights now say that you could possibly have the right to extend your home up by two storeys. This applies to a detached, semi-detached or even a terraced property. There are obviously restrictions. You can't just add as much height as you'd like, as the maximum allowable height is 18m in total including the extension, so essentially from the ground to the tip of the new roof. But for a terrace, you can not extend more than 3.5m higher than the next tallest house in the row.

 

If your house was built between 1st July 1948 and 28th October 2018, then you fit into the right bracket and have ticked the first box. These new rules DO NOT apply to homes that are in conservation areas, so you really need to check that out. You can find out your conservation status with a quick call to your local planning office.

 

Permitted development rights essentially allow you to make certain changes, extensions and alterations to your build without gaining planning permission. You must remember though, that just because you don't require planning permission, you will still need your building regulations certificate so you must involve building control and get each stage signed off. These new changes can make the difference to a family either having to move in order to gain more space or being able to extend and staying put. We have found that recently we have needed our homes to be more flexible and this is certainly one solution. For years now, we have had permitted development rights that have allowed us to make certain changes to our homes, but, never on the scale that has been put forward here.

 

From the 1st August 2020, we will also benefit from the change to permitted development rights to blocks of flats. Essentially flats will be able to be extended upwards with a lot more ease than before. More information can be found here https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/news/permitted-development-new-rights-update-to-come-into-effect-on-1-august

 

These new rules make quite an impact and, I think you will find a lot of people taking advantage of the changes. I will reserve judgement as to whether this is a good thing. It is early days and we seemingly have to put a lot of trust into other people that what they're doing won't change our landscape forever.

 

Friday, 4 September 2020

Can a mezzanine work for you? Create more space on a cheaper budget.

 



When you're looking to update your property or even to add a bit of flair to your build, you might consider a mezzanine floor. This is a raised platform that fits between the floor and the ceiling of the building. The sizes and shapes of these can vary and can be designed around your build. They have the ability to add extra space, additional rooms and fit around your home or business premises.



Mezzanines can work well for office spaces as well as homes. They are relatively cost effective and can add value to your build. If you're thinking about work these are a fairly simple way to add space. To be able to add one of these you would need to use the height of your structure. You obviously won't be able to even consider adding  a mezzanine if you have low ceilings; this really does go without saying.



If you're in the catering/restaurant business these can be an excellent way to make your business more profitable. It will allow for more space to add more tables, for example, which in turn will allow for more business. Some restaurants don't have the space to expand outwards so this can really be an excellent answer to what can seem an impossible problem.

If you're in the retail , leisure, gym or spa business you will often see a mezzanine. Businesses like these really do need to make the most of their space and these levels are an impressive and, as stated before, a cheaper way of expanding. Relocation can often be expensive, as can buying land to be able to extend outwards. Companies really do need to consider their options and I can completely understand why they so often decide on a mezzanine .



Some people do have mezzanines in their homes and they really can look magnificent. These are great, if you're able to include one, and they can really show off the design of your home. It is easily removed should you ever decide to take it out; although once you have one I can't see this ever happening. They are beautiful to look at and to use, they can show off the style of your home from a different angle, allow you to see every corner of your space and create a special piece of tranquility.






So essentially mezzanines are often found in business premises and it is clear to see why they are so popular here. With the extra space they create, the cheapness of construction and the relative ease of removal (should you ever need to do this) they really have very few downfalls.



If you're one of the lucky ones and have a house that will happily withstand a mezzanine level then the benefits from the extra space, the stunning beauty and the views of your home will just wow you and all of your guests.

Any update to your home or business should be carefully thought out. However, if you have that desire, that passion and the means to do it, don't question yourself. Your home is there for you and no one else.










Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Are you solar ready? Let's find out!

 

I know I often talk about renewable energy and preparing for the future but this topic is really important and should be at the forefront of our minds, especially if we have the means to implement some of these techniques.  Unfortunately not everyone is currently in the position to do so, but if you are, where should you start?




One of the simplest ways to improve your home and benefit from eco living is to provide solar panels. These can be fitted to existing properties as well as be integrated into a new build. 

Your home, whether it's an existing build or new build will need to meet certain criteria in order to work with the solar energy system.  You will have to think about things like the location of the building and whether or not it receives enough sunlight, where the sun rises and where the panels would be best placed. If you're thinking of enhancing your home then you really need to make sure that you have the optimal positioning for your new system. 

A solar energy system takes all of its energy from the sun, so it goes without saying that you must ensure that your build isn't surrounded by shade; tall trees, tall buildings etc. These systems can be excellent and really enhance your property as well as reduce your energy bills and if something is worth doing, its worth doing right. 

There are a few places where you can fit your solar energy system; the most popular is to install the panels on your roof. If this is your preferred option then you really need to think about the structure and material of your roof and if it has the strength to withhold the weight of the panels. Houses that were built without these systems obviously didn't have to factor in this extra weight. If you're building from scratch then this is something you will need to consider.  There are other ways to install a solar energy system. 




Some people opt to put the panels on the ground and this works well if you have a large outside space which has little shade. There is also the option of solar tiles, so there are plenty of ideas to suit various needs. You just need to work out what suits you, your property and your budget most. 

You will have to think about where to place the rest of the equipment as there is obviously a lot more to your solar energy system than just the panels. You will need  to know how the panels are going to be fitted, where the electrical conduits are to be placed and where you will position the inverter and safety equipment so it can be integrated seamlessly into your design. 

You will also have to decide whether you want an uninterrupted electricity supply or whether you will need to be able to store your electricity.  A lot of these answers can be based upon how big your house is, what you use electricity for and what you might need from it in the future. It is important to consider your future in this home; the last thing you want is to install a solar energy system that works for now but that isn't fit for years to come. 

There are a few things to consider when thinking about any type of update to your home. Remember, improvements are not just about getting things done right for the present but they must be able to withstand any future additions and extensions. 

Monday, 31 August 2020

What Government help is there for the Construction industry? Are you able to get help


Recently there have been many challenges for all of us regardless of what industry we're in. It has been a tough time with so many set backs and the construction industry is no different...we are needed!




We are needed to build hospitals, infrastructure, homes and businesses. all whilst keeping our heads afloat ourselves. We have had to struggle with getting supplies; delays on materials have pulled us into delayed deadlines and ultimately less work. The restrictions on site to maintain a Covid safe environment have enforced a slower pace of work. We have had to manage a new way of working as well as a new way of living. So far we have adapted well, it may have taken some time but slowly we are moving towards a new sense of normal. But what help is out there for us? I have recently written about the new levels of Stamp Duty and the Green Energy Scheme, but what else is there to help pull us through these challenging times?



A jobs Retention Bonus scheme has been introduced. This is set out to help keep any furloughed employees working. I know that a lot of people who work in construction are self employed or contracted so this won't necessarily be beneficial to everyone but there will be some of us out there that this will apply to. Essentially if your company has furloughed employees this applies to you. For each employee that you furloughed and who still maintains their job as of 31st January 2021 you will receive a bonus of £1k per employee. The Government realises that this is a tough time and that this will hopefully kick-start employers to keep on their workers in an effort to get back to normal.

The Government is also extremely keen, understandably, to get people who don't have work, get back into work. Another scheme allows for thousands of new fully subsidised jobs for young people across the country. The age range for these people will be between 16-24 and they are for those claiming Universal Credit. Unfortunately this age group, through no fault of their own, could be stuck in a situation that they will struggle to get out of.   The funding for this scheme will be available for a 6 month job placement and 100% of the wages will be covered at National Minimum Wage level for up to 25 hours a week. As an employer you will be able to top up these wages should you see fit.  This is a fantastic way to not only allow other people to get back into work but to also keep the economy going and businesses running.



Further funding is going to be made available for training and apprenticeships. Businesses will be given £2k for each new apprentice that they hire under the age of 25.  As we have navigated through these last few months it has become clear that although we, as an industry, are very good at adapting, we do need to find a clear path forward.  With the help that is at hand it can only benefit us to move in the right direction. Yes we will still find bumps in the road and there may well still be a delay on a lot of materials but this isn't going to last forever. Lets inject time and resources back into our businesses and the industry and with the help of the Government there really isn't a better time. The future looks bright in comparison and I have no doubt that we are able to deliver.








Monday, 24 August 2020

Beautiful bathroom design; be your own style.

Whether you're looking to add a sense of more space, design, style or flair to your bathroom you need to plan. You must get your ideas down on paper and not just in your head. It is very hard to communicate what you see in your thoughts to any designer if you don't have some sort of visual representation. There are no mind-readers in construction, although it would make things a lot easier if there were! 

I know this sounds ridiculous but what do you want to use your bathroom for? I don't just mean having a shower, going to the toilet, brushing your teeth or bath time, I mean, do you want a space that you can sink into and escape the realities of life. Do you want a bathroom that is relatively easy to clean?  Do you want your bathroom just to be practical and built around function? Or do you like the nooks and crannies that can home all of your little trinkets?



Bathrooms, toilets, powder rooms are there for a purpose. They have a function but this doesn't mean that you can't make them into something special should you wish. Think of the bath for starters. A lot of people often design the room around the bath. This is more often than not the focal point of the room.  If your space is large enough you may like a free standing bath. There are so many designs out there and these really can bring some flair to your room, and surprisingly they really can create a sense of space. Perhaps, if you have room, you would like separate basins? Maybe you're sick of having to clean it before you use it?  You may decide to get 'His and Hers' who am I to question?



Statement walls and floors are not reserved solely for the rest of the house, they can be easily incorporated into the bathroom too. Just be sure to think about the pattern and design of any update as sometimes too much pattern can create the feeling of a smaller space. If you're dealing with a small bathroom it can sometimes have the opposite effect to what you may want. Some people like to go with a theme, which can help when choosing the colours or fabrics. Make a mood board with selections of different ideas, ones that you like and not based on other people's opinions. Whether you're thinking  of updating the bathroom or any other room you might want to consider the costs. If you're one of the lucky ones who doesn't have to factor this in then that's great. Get shopping, go looking, get inspiration and don't worry about the money side. Do exactly what you want and enjoy! 



If however, you're like (quite possibly) the majority of us, then cost will be a big factor. You might even want to think of the future too. A lot of the time we are perhaps inclined to decorate our homes in line with fashion. However the problem is that when we do this we automatically set ourselves up for more redecorating in a few years time. But if you're happy with that and you enjoy injecting life into your home, then there isn't an issue. Carry on! There are many tastes out there which have stood the test of time. If you're looking for bathroom inspiration check this site out, you might find something here or even decide to mix up a few of the themes.  https://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/room-ideas/g140/the-bathroom-gallery-16975/?slide=12

Decorating can be therapeutic, building can be cathartic and living in your ideal home can be priceless.




Thursday, 20 August 2020

Heating a passive house; the simple way

 


There are so many questions that go around when you're talking about construction, let alone when talking about the relatively new concept of passive house. There is a mountain of knowledge out there but you need to be able to whittle it down and find the right sources, the right information and the right concepts for you.

House building has various different elements; structure, water and drainage system, roof construction and heating system, just to name a few. If you've been in this business for a while then the standard practices are likely second nature but, what about when you're talking about a passive house?

Firstly, how do you heat a passive house without all of the basic elements that we are used to?  Passive houses are designed to be energy efficient. By making sure that the build is airtight for example, ensures that other systems, such as heating , can work at full capacity. The heating demand in a passive house is only around 10%  that of the energy used in a conventional build.

In a Passive House the heat can be distributed relatively easily without too much effort from the supply of air coming from the building's ventilation system. The ventilation system actually serves as dual purpose; fresh air and heating. "A passive house has a space heating energy demand of <15k Wh per square metre of living space per year. Compared to the UK new-build common practice figure of 55kWh/m2/yr" -  https://www.buildingtalk.com/eight-ways-to-heat-a-passive-house-this-winter/

Some passive houses  benefit from the use of electric post-heater. This can be used alongside a heat recovery ventilation system (MVHR)

Solar heating is another option. Panels are fitted to the house either on the side or the roof or even placed on the ground. Again this can be linked with the MVHR system.



Ground Source heat pump is a heating and cooling system and has a low running cost and high performance. The system uses the temperature of the ground as a heat source in the winter and a heat sink in the summer.




An air source heat pump has many of the same benefits as the above. Essentially it absorbs the heat from the outside air and releases it into your home.




As I have mentioned above the MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) is the system that will provide fresh filtered air into your home while retaining most of the energy that has been used to heat the building.

There really are many more systems for you to think about and I could go into far greater detail with the ones that I have listed. The above is a basic outline of some of the different systems that can be used to heat your passive house. You need to work out what is going to be best for your build and remember that building a passive house requires each system and the  structure to work in harmony together.

The key to building passive is in the design and the intricate details. The fabric of the house will provide you with the base that you need.

Build better, build stronger and build passive!





Monday, 17 August 2020

Access and door compliance - The "small" compliance with the big impact

 

Once again we have some more compliances and this time they might not be something that you have necessarily thought about or maybe not even put too much consideration into!

There is so much to think about when building but in construction every last detail needs to be planned. When taking on any project you need to ensure that every aspect adheres to the standards that are laid out in the relevant part of the building regulations. 



You must think about the access to your property and make sure that if there was an emergency you would have available access to your home for an emergency vehicle. If your property caught fire you would need said vehicle to be able to reach the fire and get within a certain distance. This will come under the fire safety regulations of your build and there are many aspects to this and a lot more to consider. Your architect will be able to help you out with these requirements and ensure that your plan is completed correctly to factor them in as there may be more to think about than you realise. 

Access to and use of buildings is referred to in Part M of the Buildings Regulations. This document provides information relating to the ease, access and the use of buildings and will include facilities for disabled people. The ease of moving through a building with wider doorframes and halls, suitable bathrooms and toilets etc must be a consideration. Part M can be split into a few categories; everyone, including disabled people, should be able to access all parts of the building.  Toilets should also be made available to all and if the building is a public building and seating is available then there must also be seating/access for disabled people.  This is an excellent source of information if you need a bit of help regarding Part M of the building compliance  https://www.homeadviceguide.com/guide-to-building-regulations-part-m/




Part Q of the building compliance refers to security and this in turn discusses windows and doors. Essentially all doors and windows need to adhere to the security measures that are set out. This is only in relation to newly built properties. All products used must adhere to British standards PAS 24:2012/2016. This site might be able to help with your questions https://origin-global.com/b2b-advice-centre/building-regulations-faqs-security-approved-document-q Don't forget doors may also be required to be considered for fire safety. 



The other section of the building regulations that you might like to take a look at is Part B. This discusses fire safety and is where you will need to consider the access to your property as discussed at the beginning of this blog. Here you will also have to take into consideration the materials that you've used within your construction to make sure  that they are also compliant.  More information and further details can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fire-safety-approved-document-b

These sections of the building regulations are equally important as any other and they need to be taken seriously when building any construction. Each section of the building regulations can be discussed at length. There are so many different parts and there are a lot of elements covered. Just make sure that you understand each compliance ATSPACE (https://atspaceltd.co.uk) really can help you with any issues and just remember that your reputation will only be as good as your last build. 



Friday, 14 August 2020

What is an active house? The confusion of Eco builds!

 

I have spoken about passive houses and eco builds in general on a few occasions and although I have briefly mentioned active houses I haven't gone into too much detail.  So I thought that I would rectify this and give active houses a bit of the attention this time.

There is a big clue in the name, 'active house'. As its name suggests this house is a provider, it is built with the intention to supply and store energy for you and your family. These houses take passive houses and they bring everything up a level, a step further into sustainable living. An active house should be low energy, low impact and really comfortable to live in. We spend quite a bit of our time indoors, and that's not taking into consideration recent events,  but with so much time being spent inside it is vital that the environment is a comfortable one. 



With both passive houses and active houses there needs to be light. When eco living first came about a lot of people decided against building in this way partly due to the aesthetics of the build. Windows were often seen as detrimental, they were needed for light but at the same time a lot of heat was being lost through them making the home less energy efficient. Now, Velux provides windows that conform to passive house standard. They allow light to enter the build without compromising on heat loss or the  air tightness of the structure.  Technical solutions to the early problems of passive house standard include things such as electric skylights, room layout, orientation and how the light actually reflects inside.




The design for active houses is very intricate. As I have stated above every detail is discussed to ensure that the comfort and aesthetics of the build are not compromised at any stage. The ultimate goal is to provide a home that is pleasing on the eye, comfortable to live in and is highly energy efficient. Is an active house a competitor for a passive house? I don't know to be honest.  I'm not sure I would be totally comfortable in suggesting that these were remotely in competition. Passive house for one is a building standard and Active house is more of a brand.  There are many similarities between these two and there are many standards and concepts that would apply to both but what I believe is that an active house is a passive house that gives back. The principles are the same, but an active house is so efficient, it becomes positive.


Both passive houses and active houses provide sustainable living. An active house aims to not only be energy efficient but aims to generate enough energy so that there is a surplus amount. This excess is then fed back into the grid. So not only do these builds provide zero carbon emissions but they actually produce positive energy.



Whether you decide on a passive or active build you are setting your sights on a concept and lifestyle. The energy efficiency of these builds is second to none, and let's face it, you could even get your home to work for you! Imagine that. Producing energy to send back into the grid by, quite literally, doing nothing. Imagine if we all managed this concept, imagine if we all had a positive energy supply and imagine what difference this could make to our pockets and the environment.




 

Designing your dream home? What are the starting points?

  When taking on any project there is a lot to consider and when you're thinking of designing your own home there is even more! F...