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DBD consultations during Covid 19 Pandemic

Whilst we are all getting used to a very different way of life during the Corona Virus lockdown, some of us have been given the luxury of time. For many of us this is something we have rarely had the opportunity to experience in our fast and busy working daily lives. This is a good time to put it to good use, you may have been thinking about having that extra office space that you now wished you had had done now you are working remotely from your bedroom/living area. What about those plans for that bigger kitchen or that extra bedroom that you so desperately need. Well now is the time to contact DBD who can help you to set the ball rolling and put those ideas in place. Due to Covid 19 we are not able to visit you at your property, but DBD can offer a free no obligation quotation over the telephone or via email, and if you are able to send in photographs and estate agent plans of your property, that would be even better. We are working to offer you the best service that we can and making the changes to accommodate our customer needs, whilst ensuring health and safety is priority.

contact us today to discuss your ideas and for further advice

Cutting the cost of heating your home

You may have seen the rising fuel prices and you are thinking of using re-newable energy, solar panels and the like to reduce your fuel bills.
Before you consider the various alternative systems for providing the heat or power, first you must consider the efficiency of the property in the first place. Making improvements to the basic fabric of the building will ensure that whatever energy source you use to heat it, that you are not losing the heat through the walls, windows and roof.

Anybody who has bought or sold a house since August 2007 will be aware of the energy performance certificate (EPC) the multi-coloured chart similar to that of a washing machine that tells the purchaser how efficient the house is likely to be currently, and after improvement how much better it should be. Usually rated very efficient A grade (green) through to not very efficient G grade (red). Improvements can be made to older properties by focusing on insulation and airtightness (draughts). Newly built houses since 2006 have been tested for air leakage (draughts) as part of process to determine the energy efficiency of the building.

Once you start talking about improving the insulation of a property, you will no doubt be introduced to the ‘U’ value. Every element of a building – walls, roof, windows, doors etc is measured using U values in terms of the thermal efficiency. A ‘U’ value is a measure of heat lost through the element (for example a window) in watts per square meter of the element for every degree cooler outside (W/m2K). You should be looking for the lowest ‘U’ value to give the best insulation value. For example a single pane of glass you can expect to lose about 5 watts of energy through a square metre of glass for every degree colder outside. This means on a cold night about freezing temp 0°C outside and 20°C inside you would lose about 100 watts of heat through a window 3 feet wide x 4 feet tall. A double glazed window around 15 years old would have a better ‘U’ value of around 2.2w/m2k would lose only around 44 watts for a similar sized window, this is about the same as the insulation value of a solid 9inch brick terrace house wall, or house built before around 1920. A more recent A rated double glazed window however could half that heat loss again, to around 20 watts heat lost and have better thermal insulation than an un-insulated cavity wall.

A house built in 1985 would be expected to have about 100mm (4 inch) deep insulation laid between the ceiling joists in the loft space. A newly built house would have multiple layers of insulation laid across the lower layer to equal around 300mm (12 inch) in total (say 150mm laid between the joists, with a second layer laid at 90 degrees over the top.

Be wary when reducing the draughts, especially to rooms with gas of solid fuel fires. Fires need air to burn, sealing a room of all draughts reduces the efficiency of the fire, and it will soon start using your air supply!! New houses have air bricks dedicated and ducted to the fire to ensure this isn’t a problem.

Listed Building or Conservation Area

A conservation area is generally defined by the town council as an area of particular architectural or historic merit, and are typically the older parts of a town, perhaps the town centre or the area surrounding the village green.

Purchasing or owning a property within a conservation area may not be apparent until you decide to make some alterations to the property. You may find that the permitted development rights currently enjoyed by property owners outside a conservation area are none existent.

Making a simple house planning application for an extension within a conservation area also involves the submission of additional information and documentation. There is likely to be restrictions on the use of materials, such as the use of stone or slate, timber windows or any other restriction peculiar to the area to preserve the character of the area. Simply changing the windows without permission and using a different style may resulting in a visit from the planning enforcement officer and receiving a stop order to cease all work. You may be required to replace the new windows, with a like for like replacement or the original style, conversely the style of the windows previously installed may not have been in keeping with the surrounding area and may have been installed before the council gave the conservation designation.

Having a property in a conservation area doesn’t mean that you cannot make alterations, it just that any application will be looked at carefully by the local authority to ensure the proposal will either enhance or preserve the local character and appearance of the area. Proposals must be sensibly designed and justified within the context of the conservation area and carefully presented to the Planning and Conservation officers.

Listed buildings are categorised for their special architectural or historic interest. The building itself does not need to be located within a conservation area, in fact they could be located within a reasonably recent development area.
You will need to obtain Listed building Consent if you want to alter or extend a listed building which would affect the character of the building.

Repairs and maintenance to a Listed building can generally be carried out on a ‘like for like’ basis, it is recommended strongly to check with the Conservation officer as to what constitutes as like for like repairs.. It is advised before embarking on carrying such repairs, you take a photographic record of the existing condition and a series of photographs during the process to confirm that the materials and details used to carry out the repairs or maintenance as the same as the original construction. For example a sliding sash window originally built around 1800’s would have very fine timber glazing bars only ½ to ¾ inch wide, a more recently built window would have glazing bars at least twice this thickness, which alters the character and appearance of the window and the building quite significantly.

The listing of the building can include the structure and any part of the building, it is commonly the buildings exterior but it may include a particularly fine example of a staircase, fireplace, floor tiles, decorative ceilings, or other historically important man-made object or structure. It is always best to check with the local authority conservation department what is part of the listing.

It is a criminal offence to carry out any work to a Listed Building without obtaining consent and can carry a penalty of up to 2 years in prison, in addition to the cost or restoring the building back to its former state.

Are you planning your dream home ?

Are you planning your dream home? Perhaps you want carry out alterations or extend your existing house?

Before you start digging foundations or laying the bricks there are two distinctly different but often confused and misunderstood stages that regulate what you can build and how it should be built.  The majority of proposed building works two separate applications are necessary because you may require both Planning and Building Regulations consent.

The Planning stage is concerned with the external appearance of the building, how it relates to the environment or may affect the neighbouring properties.

There are a number of planning concerns which may affect whether you can build, such as:

The size of the plot, layout and siting. Appearance, landscaping, and impact on the environment.  Neighbours have a right to privacy and light.  Space for parking, means of access, will road users be affected?  Work to a listed building or conservation area raises other concerns.

The planning website: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk has an interactive house that shows what can be built without planning approval under permitted development, but it may be beneficial to apply for a certificate of lawfulness to avoid delays in the conveyance process brought by the solicitor’s searches when you decide to sell.

The Building Regulations ensures that buildings are constructed properly and in accordance with current standards & regulations. This is done by inspecting the construction work as it progresses on site.

The Building Regulations comprise of a number of booklets known as the Approved Documents, they can be downloaded free from the planning website: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk.  They cover all aspects of the construction from the Part A – structure, foundations, etc through to Part P for the electrical installation; including fire safety, drainage, heating and energy/heat loss.

The majority of building works requires building regulation approval with only minor works and small structures being exempt.

There are two methods to obtain Building regulations approval –

Full Plan Check:  Before starting work on site you submit a copy of plans showing full construction details of the proposed scheme. Once approved site inspections will be made when work proceeds.  With the Full Plans approach you have the assurance that providing the work is carried out in accordance with the approved plans the regulations will be satisfied.

Building Notice:  Is suited to simple domestic schemes such as internal alterations and small extensions. The Building Control Officer will try to anticipate potential problems but it is the responsibility of the person carrying out the work to ensure that the requirements of the regulations are satisfied.

Having a set of full plans approved, means you can get competitive quotes from builders to carry out the work you want, rather than an interpretation of what you want. The ultimate success of your project depends upon your ability to describe clearly the requirements and functions of your building. It is easier to make a change to a drawing, than altering work you don’t like on site.

Seek professional architectural advice to describe your intentions and requirements, for a full service addressing design and function of the building and ensure compliance with the law relating to construction work at every stage of the project.

Extending your property.

Are you planning your dream home? Perhaps you want carry out alterations or extend your existing house?
Many of the properties I have visited to discuss an extension have for sale signs outside. The owners have decided they need a larger house for whatever reason, but they cannot find the right one, in the right area, or not as nice as their existing property, and so they think about extending their house.

Generally the householders have identified the space they are lacking with their house, for example a larger kitchen, extra bedroom, or bathroom. They have also probably identified the best place they want the extension to be – front, side or back of the house. It likely they have planned it out on a scrap of paper, napkin or whatever, but mostly it is still in their minds. It isn’t uncommon to see chalk outlines of an extension on the paving flags though.

Depending upon the size of the extension and its location, it is likely that planning permission is required. There has been a lot of publicity recently about the relaxation of the size of extensions allowed under permitted development, 6.0m deep extensions at the rear of a semi-detached house, inside of the 3.0m that was allowed. In reality I haven’t found a property where this would be permissible, because the extension starts to take away the light, overshadows or overlooks the neighbour. A rule of thumb is to strike a 45 degree line from the middle of the neighbours window of a principle room (lounge, dining room or bedroom) and if the extension crosses the line, it would not be allowed. If theses windows are close to the boundary, you cannot build very far out before crossing the line.

Accessing the extension without long corridors is always something to be mindful of and usually there needs to be some compromise. Consider a rear extension to give a larger kitchen, this is ok as long as the space of the existing kitchen is used in the room, or else you have middle rooms with no light. Side extensions can be more complicated because the house is usually designed with either rooms, or the stairs on the outside wall, again ok if you are making a larger room, but creating access to a new room, may mean taking space off an existing room to gain access via a corridor to the new room, particularly if the stairs are on the party wall.

Planners generally require an extension to be slightly smaller than the original house – the term subservient is the words they use to describe this. This is achieved by setting the walls of the extension back slightly from the face of the house, which reduces the width (or depth) of the extension compared to the original, and by simple geometry the ridge height of the new roof is lower than the main roof.

One reason for this is to stop the street looking like a row of terraces, imagine if every pair of semi’s in the street extended sideways to the boundary, the whole row would become linked. A builder recently suggested that it highlights the extension. Potential buyers to the area will see the extension(s) and decide that it is an affluent, or up and coming area where people are improving their houses and that will persuade them to move there. How much truth there is in that, I am not sure, but the recess between the old and new creates a shadow line and mis-matched bricks is not quite as pronounced as if they were flat against each other. Setting back the extension helps to ensure that the original building keeps the essential character and design once the extension is completed, for example an extension on the side of a pair of semi’s would ‘unbalance’ and change whole appearance of the property, but setting back the extension maintains the original appearance.

If you are considering extending your property, seek professional architectural advice to get a design which will meet your needs, and hopefully also keeps the Planning Department and importantly your neighbours happy.

Welcome to the DBD website mark 3

Welcome to the DBD website mark 3, which has been digitally re-imagined (or some other technical jargon) by Thrive Creative based in Congleton.

The main reason for the re-vamp is to allow me to provide news items, about DBD Architectural Consultancy and also the construction industry, Planning and Building Regulations.

So here goes my first captains log:

DBD Architectural Consultancy entered the third year of trading in April, and has chalked up 20 planning approvals for house extensions and one factory extension.   DBD Architectural Consultancy also won planning approval for 3 separate barn conversions into dwellings, 5 new bespoke houses, 1 pub conversion into 8 houses, planning approval on 5 new build agricultural barns and 3 new build small workshop/trade counter commercial  premises.

I am pleased to announce that we are now registered with Constructionline which is the UK’s largest Government owned register of contractors and consultants for the construction industry, which is a pre-qualification process to demonstrate that our company meets industry and government standards.  A big thank-you to everyone who supplied the references.

I am working on some exciting projects around the Staffordshire Moorlands, which I will share on the website news page.