Planning granted in Hill Head

We are pleased to have gained planning permission for an interesting project that is located a close distance from the sea in Hill Head, Hampshire.
Contemporary House Hampshire

Having worked successfully on two of their earlier projects, our clients were keen to unlock the potential in their new bungalow by building a whole new floor above the existing.

The bungalow originally built in the 1980s with a very shallow roof offered no scope for a loft conversion to create first floor accommodation without raising the ridge line. Working closely with our client we developed an idea that would see the entire roof removed, the walls raised by around 1m and the new steeper angled roofs placed on top. Simple though it might sound, extending a property in this manner can often lead to objections from both the neighbours and the planning authority.

Our design creates a contemporary barn style property with a double height hallway with galleried landing, oversized windows with sliding shutter doors and acres of natural wood cladding.  The property will increase by 151m2 at first floor level with the finished overall internal floor area of the living accommodation over the two floors being 274m.

Outline of proposal on existing bungalowInside the changes to the internal layout will be just as dramatic as the exterior. Three of the original ground floor bedrooms will be opened out to create a 9m long kitchen and social area. with a very large area being created on the upper floor, only three bedrooms are proposed with each having its own ensuite bathroom whilst the master suite will have a balcony on the south elevation.

Despite the increase in size our careful crafted proposal helped ensure that there was no opposition to the proposal from neighbours and that the planning application ran smoothly.

 

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Planning granted in Alverstoke

3 storey basement extensionWe have just gained planning permission for a multiple level contemporary extension on a detached house in Alverstoke, Gosport.

The house originally built to an individual design is located on a deep plot with a significant change in level between the front garden at street level and the rear. The garden to the rear of the house drops away with a steep bank which meant that linking the ground floor of the property with the lower garden level was crucial to the design.

Existing house

Despite the long rear garden, the depth of the house is quite small with the existing kitchen and living rooms running front to back at ground floor level with the overall depth of the property from external front wall to the external rear wall being just 5.2m. The shallow depth of the house therefore provided much scope for extending to the rear.

The brief required us to create additional living space, two additional bedrooms, alterations to create a social kitchen and a clever way to link the house to the garden. Our solution creates a cellar which is level with the rear garden and a double storey family room to link the existing ground floor with the garden.

Working with the existing hipped roof design of the original property, our design introduces three additional hipped roofs to the house with new walls in render and timber. New bedrooms are created at first floor and cellar level, a timber deck and patio area are accessible at ground floor level with the patio area being cited above the cellar guest bedroom.  Our design rearranges the ground floor layout and opens up the rear rooms to a two storey rear garden room that links the house to the garden.

Our detailed design smoothed the path for gaining planning permission.

3 storey basement extension 2

 

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What happens when the builder goes off-piste?

The problem

We have had a number of instances where during the build the builder has decided to go it alone and change things from our detailed design. In deviating from the design these builders have moved from a safe area where by following the drawings the work would meet Building Regulations and client approval to one where there is no certainty that the work will meet regulations, the homeowner maybe unhappy and withhold payment and the responsibility for failure shifts from designer to builder.

A set of plans and drawings does not mean that the build or method of construction cannot be varied, but those variations do need to meet the stringent criteria that the original design met. The sort of issues we have come across suggest that the builders involved had not studied the plans and had little understanding of certain building principles resulting in the work contravening Building Regulations due to serious structural issues.

Roof spreadWhat are the risks?

The type of worrying changes we have seen lately include changing the specification of roof beams and their positions, omitting important structural details and fabricating from sections of steel beams a corner lintel, where a tried and tested manufacturer of corner beams had been specified.

The risks associated with the incorrect installation of roof beams can lead to excessive deflection and cracking of finishes or roof spread where the roof would simply push out  the walls. Moving from a specialist corner lintel to one that has been “knocked up” by the builder or his steel supplier are less obvious. Whilst the steel beams might be strong enough, has the method of connecting them to each other and method of weatherproofing and insulating been given the same degree of research and thought as the specialist item? Or to put it another way, the knocked up one is just a one off prototype made by a bloke with a welding torch, compared to one made by a national company that has been making them for over a decade in factory conditions by a technical team who base their designs on research, sound engineering principles and feedback.

Why do it?

Builders may decide to change something to save money, speed up the supply of items to the site or simply due to a lack of understanding.

There is no defence for changing structural elements without the approval of the homeowner, the designer and the Building Control body. It is unlikely that a project of extending or altering an existing house is going to run on such a tight schedule that lead in times for ordering of glulam beams or corner lintels cannot be met. However if the lead in time does necessitate looking elsewhere for specialist items, the homeowner, designer and Building Control Office should be consulted to arrive at the alternative that is costed and approved before proceeding. 

The message

If a builder plans to make changes to the design, homeowners should be aware of the implication to the costs and possible knock on effects to other parts of the build. If the change is to save the builder money, what deduction and saving will be passed on to the client? The next step is agreeing the change with the designer and the Building Control authority.

One final point worth considering when deciding to accept those changes or not, is the implication to the planning consent. If the change involves the external appearance of the building the Planning Office may require either an application for a minor amendment or in some cases a fresh planning application.

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Planning granted for Coppershades

Contemporary flat roof house designWe have just been granted planning permission to dramatically remodel Coppershades, a 1970s chalet bungalow near Netley Abbey. Working largely with the existing footprint of the building we created a tailored design that will nearly double the first floor accommodation, whist reducing the overall height of the building. Our proposal removes the existing flat roofed dormers and tiled roof to create a contemporary flat roofed home with wrap around glazing and high levels of insulation. The design rearranges the ground floor layout and opens up the rear rooms to create a large social kitchen and family room which will have access onto a private courtyard in the vicinity of the old garage.

Sited within designated countryside, a strategic gap and bordering the Netley Abbey Conservation Area and part of the former grounds to the abbey, planning permission for such a contemporary design could have been tricky. Despite local opposition to the proposal on design grounds, we were able to work with the local planning office to deliver a proposal which they considered to be of good design, adding to the mix of house styles in the area.

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Conflicts in regulatory requirements

We regularly come across scenarios where there appears to be a conflict between the requirements of one regulation or requirement and another.

Requirement B1, Means of warning and escape of the Building Regulations requires means of escape windows in the upper storey of a house to be positioned in such a way that people can readily climb out of them in the event of a fire. This requirement can create problems when trying to design a layout that involves placing a room in the centre of the house with a window overlooking a side boundary. Whilst the Building Regulations require the escape window to be positioned with the opening no higher than 1100mm above the floor level, the planners will want to protect the privacy of the neighbouring property and they do this by controlling the type of glass or the position of the window.  If the proposed window would look out over a boundary to an adjacent property the planners are likely to ask for the window to be either non opening and obscured, or positioned at a height of more than 1700mm above the floor.  A non opening window with obscured glass in a bedroom is likely to be claustrophobic, would not comply with B1 or indeed F1 Ventilation, whereas a window placed at 1700mm above the floor would also not comply with the requirements for means of escape. Even though B1 is concerned with saving people’s lives in the case of the fire it will not trump the planning requirements for protecting the privacy of neighbours. If your design relies on this solution it is time to come up with another design.

In  Victorian or Georgian properties sash windows are often positioned with the cills a short distance above the upper floor level. Heights of 450 to 600mm for the height of the window above the floor level are not uncommon.  The design of any extension to these properties is likely to work well when the position and shape of windows in the extended or altered part has some relation to the existing windows, indeed the planners may actually insist on it. Here the conflicting requirements stem from requirement K2 Protection from Falling of the Building Regulations which aims to protect people from falling out of an open window that is less than 800mm above floor level.  A solution to keep both the planning office and building inspector happy is to incorporate a fixed guard on the inner face of the window at a height of 800mm.

Another conflict which clients often complain about appears to be between L1B Conservation of fuel and Power in Existing Dwellings and F1 Means of Ventilation. At first glance the need to have trickle vents to all rooms and mechanical extract fans in kitchens, bathrooms and WCs, or an alternatively system of permanent vents in the ceilings linked to a passive stack system appears contrary to the requirements of high levels of insulation and draught proofing as required to conserve energy and reduce CO2 emissions. But a greater understanding of the problems associated with condensation in buildings with highly insulated envelopes explains the reasons why the ventilation is so essential.

Requirement B1 can also require dramatic changes to the escape route when a two storey house is converted to a three storey building with a loft conversion.  These requirements include the need to create a protected stairway from the new 2nd floor which would necessitate the existing doors in the house from bedrooms, living rooms and the kitchen that access the hallway and staircase being replaced with shiny new fire doors.  Proposing this change on a listed building is likely to rub the Conservation Officer up the wrong way.

A full understanding of all regulatory requirements at an early stage of the design by a professional designer such as Space and Style Home Design can prevent the design running into unforeseen problems further down the line.

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England v Germany – The Property Game

The Property Ladder

On a recent visit to Germany I was reminded of the stark differences between the German housing system and our own. In the UK people are encouraged to get on to the property ladder as soon as possible, with the age of first time buyers being seen as a crucial part of the economy with statistics regularly reported on in the media. Once on that ladder, people and families move up through the ladder to increase the size of their home in line with their growth in income all at the expense of ever larger mortgages. New housing is dominated by large house builders who generally build the same few house types the length and breadth of the country, adding a token different cladding or tile here or there to appease the local planners. Houses are sold by number of bedrooms not size and as discussed earlier and are nearly always undersized. But despite Government intentions to increase opportunities for self builders, plots are rare to come by, expensive to buy and difficult to get planning permission on, so the dream for the majority of Brits wanting to build their own home remains as a dream.

An Alternative System

Due to a number of factors the age of first time buyers in Germany is typically much older than in the UK, but Germans do not buy into a property ladder, they buy a house to be the all time family home. So how refreshing it was to visit a show village for new houses in northern Germany.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Musterhauspark or model home park in Bad Fallingbostel has 12 different house types to view ranging from traditional German to a contemporary flat roofed house. But what made this show village different to English show homes is that none of them were for sale on the site, the advertised prices and details are the cost for them to be built on your plot. No, the German system does not expect you to move into a new house that has already been speculatively built on a plot of land by a developer in the hope that it will suit your needs. The biggest difference comes about from the actions of local councils. In both the UK and Germany local authorities control the provision of new land for housing, but unlike the UK where parcels of land too big for an individual to be able to develop are granted permission for say 500 new houses and sold to a developer, in Germany the local authority buys the land, builds the road and infrastructure and waits for people and families wanting a new house to buy individual plots from them. The result, more individual houses, planning permission is virtually guaranteed as long as a few principles are followed and missing out the profits of developers reduces the costs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musterhauspark

So if developers are not building the 500 houses on the edge of town who is building the houses? Well the answer is mainly the homeowner with differing degrees of professional and technical support. At one end of the spectrum you have people who approach an architect or designer to conceive their dream home and then employ a local contractor to build it. At the other end of the scale, you have people who want a less hands on approach, they employ a company who specialises in building new homes, who have a portfolio of houses to choose from and are only left with deciding on which house to choose and the style of bathrooms, kitchens and finishes etc. The Musterhauspark in Bad Fallingbostel is simply a portfolio of houses to visit, allowing potential buyers the opportunity to experience their future home albeit in a different location. Altogether at their parks the company has over 50 house types to view and that is from just one builder. Either by employing an architect directly, or by employing a house builder such as at Musterhauspark, the German homeowner ends up with greater choice and involvement in the process as well as better value for money.

house 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Houses

From visiting the houses it soon becomes apparent that our UK obsession with bedroom numbers does not cross the Channel, the houses at the park are mainly three bedrooms but the smallest of these is typically bigger than the so called master bedroom in the UK. The ground floors all have large open plan spaces and feel light and airy. The houses are also technically very good, with high standards of fabric insulation supplemented by renewable energy sources, as a result, most houses have plant rooms that are used to house the boiler, tanks and heating controls for the various solar panels, photovoltaic cells or heat pumps. For an example of this brilliance, one house on the site which is shown below had a roof slope comprising entirely of solar panels with no tiles underneath, now UK housebuilders have to go someway to match that.

 

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