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.




 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

What should I clean after Covid 19?

 

A lot of industries and companies are struggling financially due to the pandemic, and there is probably some temptation to try and reduce costs by cutting back in the cleaning department.  However now is not the time for that.  We need to be ramping up the amount of cleaning we are doing and looking at what extra cleaning practices we can add in.  This isn't just to prevent spreading germs further, but also to maintain safety standards.



One of the vulnerable spots is in restaurant kitchens.  The extractor systems can get grease build-up, which in turn can lead to fires.  It is really important that extractor cleaning records are kept and that restaurants, cafes and industrial kitchens ensure they are cleaning their extractors frequently enough to keep the grease build-up below 200 microns.  Anything above this level can risk starting a fire.


With all the changes we are seeing in office buildings, for example, with new partitions being put in and different ways of using spaces, building managers must make sure that their air ventilation cleaning regime is still suitable, and that all ductwork is kept clean.  This will be vital in stopping the spread of the coronavirus along with other germs.  All cleaning regimes should be documented and detailed records kept to make sure that things can be monitored.  In some places, the existing ventilation system won't still be suitable so steps should be taken to install an appropriate system that will be appropriate for the new ways of working.



From now on, companies will need to reassure employees, customers and clients that it is competent and taking all possible measures when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness in the workplace.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Is Passive House certification worth it?

With Passive Houses on the increase in the UK over recent years, there are some that say you can simply build to Passive House standards, there's no need to really get full certification for it...but is this true?  Why get Passive House certification?  There are many benefits so let’s take a look….

Firstly and most importantly, let’s give the quick answer.  Yes, you should definitely get the full certification.  So, let me explain a bit about why.  By getting Passive House Certification, you get your construction team to be held accountable for what has been built.  There are rigorous standards to meet before certification will be given, so by getting it certified, you know that you've got the real deal.  You can rest easy knowing that your Passive House construction is quality assured, with long-lasting performance, and energy efficiency.  Knowing for definite that it is built to the Passive House standards will give you great peace of mind.  This will also in turn add to the value of your property as it has been independently certified.



Certification gives you the reassurance that the energy efficiency level that was agreed will actually be achieved.  It will also potentially save you money because by having your designs independently checked, you are more likely to pick up any errors before it's too late and costs you money to correct.



You wouldn't study for your GCSEs, then not take the exam, would you?  Look at Passive House certification as the same!


Friday, 7 August 2020

How do I build an eco friendly house?

There is so much to consider when building a house, but here are just some of the key basics to think about when building your sustainable home.

Location of your build is really important. A south-facing site is the ideal for building a sustainable home.  It not only helps to reduce heating bills by using the heat from the sun but also provides a higher amount of rays for PV usage if you decide to have them.  If the house is too exposed, you will need to take more care ensuring your house is airtight to avoid draughts.

Before you employ anyone to get involved, make sure you speak to people who have built a similar property.  Their knowledge and experience will be invaluable and could save you time and money in the long term. Ask them what went well and what issues they had?  Ask them if they have any contacts that they recommend using?  Make sure you speak to as many people as you can and learn from their experience.  




Make sure you are clear in your mind with what you do and don't want.  Changing your mind at a later stage can be time consuming and costly. (Remember, this is all before you even employ an architect!) The last thing you want is for a overly keen architect to design their dream home in your name, and before you know it you're living in a house that isn't entirely what you had in mind.  So before you start, brainstorm, draw pictures, write lists, get clear on what you want.  Think about layout, what you'll want to use each room for, any materials you want to use, type of heating etc.  Once you have your lists sorted, then you can employ an architect to design from your ideas and dreams.

Your architect will be able to advise you based on your requirements and budget.  You should also consider consulting a structural engineer, electrical engineer and plumbing engineer.  These all bring their own specialty in to the mix, and it can sometimes help to get them all working together.  It can be good to keep your architect involved throughout the build - just in case you need any aspects of the design amending, or if you need extra drawings to get you through planning/building regulations.



To keep your heating bills as low as possible in your new home, you need a high level of air tightness to reduce the draughts.  People create moisture naturally, as does cooking etc, so you will also need mechanical ventilation to make sure that moisture is removed to prevent damp, but also so that you have clean, fresh air in your home.  Mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery (MVHR) ensure that the heat in your home isn't lost through this transfer of air, so it saves you money on heating bills.

When you're thinking about insulation for your home, make sure you have plenty, and consider what type you use.  The more insulation you have, the lower your heating bills are likely to be.  There are so many different types of eco-insulation now, you will need to do your homework to find one that is a sustainable source, but that also delivers the performance that you want it to.  Natural insulations tend to level out the heat loss more gradually, so you have more of a steady temperature in your home.  For further reading on this, visit www.passivhaustrust.org.uk or www.aecb.net





Whether you know exactly what you want your new home to look like, or whether you have no idea yet, there are always people out there to help and advise, so don't be afraid to ask...and keep asking questions until you have your dream eco home!

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

What do I need to do when I move house?

Moving house can be a really stressful time, its there in the top 5 most stressful events in our lives! For most of us it isn't something we do that often fortunately...but it can be hard to remember all the important things to do.  

Here is a handy reference list to make your move as stress free as possible!

1)  Decide on a moving date as soon as exchange happens - avoid Fridays and weekends as these will be most expensive for van hire or removal team hire as they are the most popular days
2)  Shop around for the right removal company or van hire company - prices can vary considerably. Don't forget to be a bit cheky and ask if they can do a slightly better price...never hurts to ask and could save you some pennies!
3)  Have a clear out!  We all have things we don't actually want or need.  Send these to a charity shop before you move - no point in moving with them.
4)  Most removal firms provide boxes at a cost.  Don't overfill them.  Make sure you can still lift them.  Then make sure you label them with what is in them (for you to unpack) and which room they need to go to (to help the removal men).  Some removal companies pack for you - make sure you specify if anything needs to be put in a different room in the new house.  Make sure you tell them you want to make a note on the boxes they pack so you know what is in them.


5)  Make sure your belongings are insured whilst in transit.  This will be a combination of the removal company insurance and for anything you pack and they transport - probably your home contents insurance - but check to make sure on both fronts.
6)  Make sure you have someone to look after your pets and/or children on moving day.
7)  Consider hiring professional cleaners to clean your new home before you arrive. Whilst this is an extra expense it can make the day much easier especially as you never kno what time you are going to complete.
8)  Pack an essentials box - cups, kettle, milk, tea bags, biscuits, loo roll etc.  That way if your boxes don't arrive with you, or you don't feel like hunting around for the box with the kitchen stuff in, you can still celebrate moving day with a cuppa
9)  Consider leaving an instruction page for the people buying your old home - bin days, appliance manuals, keys etc.  It can be a nice touch for your buyers to receive a 'welcome to your new home' card with your best wishes.


10)  Get all the keys for your old property together and take them all to the estate agent.
11)  Arrange a redirection of your post with Royal Mail.  Keep a record as you change your address with companies, and then when things are redirected, add them to that list to make sure everyone is covered before your redirection runs out.
12)  If you're moving to a new area, make sure you notify your GP and register with a new one - same goes for dentist and any other medical services.
13)  As soon as you get to your new home, register to vote - you don't want to miss out on having your say.
14)  Make sure the removal company has a set of keys to your new home, or travel with them.  Make sure there is someone there to let them in to your new home if this isn't possible.


15)  When you arrive at your new home, check that all utilities are working (water, gas, electric) and read all the meters.
16)  Consider changing the locks on your new home when you get there - you never know who the previous owner gave a set of keys to.
17) Finally...relax...your in your new home. Weall rush to unpack and get sorted as soon as possible but really what is the rush? Get out what you need and enjoy your new home. It's been a busy day and the boxes will still be there tomorrow to unpack!

Monday, 3 August 2020

What is sound insulation testing?

Sound insulation testing is compulsory for all new build homes in the UK, and has been since July 2004.  So what is it and how is it done?



Basically, sound insulation testing is a check to see if your new build prevents the passage of sound adequately.  This is both sound travelling through the air, and through the materials in the build itself.  Your new build should be reducing the amount of noise being carried, which is why it is so important to carry out sound testing between two adjoining properties.  

The number of tests that a property needs can vary depending on its design. A rule of thumb is 10% of the development. For example if you have 50 flats you will test 5 sets of floors and walls. If the wall and floor make up is different or not consistent you will need to test that wall or floor individually.  When working out the no. of tests though make sure you round up...its better to be safe than sorry!

A sound test is carried out by a qualified engineer who will come to your site.  Please make sure the property is ready to test though! Too many times I have turned up for a test and the site isn't ready.  Any half decent sound testing company should issue a checklist before the engineer goes to site to make sure you are ready.



At the test itself, a range of background noise is measured before the test.  A sound source is placed in one side of the party wall / floor and a microphone measures the sound transmitting through the wall/floor.  (This is an airborne sound.)  When testing the floor we test for both airborne and impact. (Impact sound is created by using a small machine that has a set of hammers which create the impact.) 

The only time you do not require a sound test for a party wall or floor is if you registered and used "Robust detail". This is a set of details proven to meet the sound criteria. The company "Robust detail ltd" may turn up to test the wall / floor.

Sound is a science, please DO NOT take short cuts. If you are converting buildings with existing walls, please get a pre test and get recommendations from a specialist sound  consultant to design your wall and floors to meet the necessary requirements. This will save you time and money in the long term.



To learn more about sound testing take a look at the below page - the video explains the process and how you need to prep in full:

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