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New planning rules set out by the government

On the 5th of March, the Prime Minister set out the plans for a major overhaul of the National Planning Policy Framework which should allow for delivery of more homes for everyone.

Fibre Architects consider this to be at least a positive step in the right direction to try to increase the supply of quality new homes in this country and we hope to somewhat simplify the initial statement for you (and us) as below.

The initial outline seems to focus on the following key points:

– Maximising the use of land

– Greater emphasis on converting planning permissions in to new homes

– These new plans hope to deliver 300,000 new homes a year by the mid 2020’s

– Fast tracked planning permissions to build homes for first time buyers who have been locked out of the housing market

– Fast-tracked planning permissions to build homes for an increasing older generation

– Local authorities will have a new housing delivery test to ensure the numbers of houses required are delivered

– More freedom for local authorities to utilise ‘brown land’ that maximises density and also use of redundant land

– The ability to utilise current buildings and encourage conversions where appropriate

– Greater protection of green belt land and ancient woodland for future generations

– Ensuring developments result in a net gain to the environment where possible

– More transparent planning processes will be introduced

– Greater emphasis on design and functionality – introducing new quality standards so well designed new homes are built in places people are proud to live in

It’s all still in a consultation process at the moment but we’re looking forward to being able to help implement projects in line with the proposed new policies and are planning ahead to ensure we are at the forefront of the changes to ensure we can give the best advice and service in this respect to our clients.

If you are planning on building or developing a new home (or homes) in the near future give us a call for a free consultation.

Tel: 01484 544 410 Email: info@fibrearchitects.co.uk

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How to find the right architect:

Finding the right architect can ensure the success of your project, and getting it wrong can sometimes be expensive and painful.

Following our recent article about things that you need to consider when choosing an architect, you will be fully engaged and ready to talk with one about your plans.

We’ve compiled a few ideas on helping you find the right architect >

Finding an Architect

– Take a look at local architects that you’re aware of. Do you have any contacts that can recommend one? Create a shortlist of firms that you think might be suitable for your project.

– Give them a brief for the work, a rough construction budget and ask them if it is the sort of work they do, and whether they have current availability (the good architects are often the busiest). The clearer and more precise your brief is for the architect, the more likely you are to be happy with the outcome

The next stage

– Aim to meet them at your home (or at the site)to discuss the project in depth

– Ask to see their portfolio, visit their website, even visit other houses they have designed – and ask to speak to past clients and provide references (if they say no, ask why!)

– Make sure you like their style – architects can produce a variety of styles, which can be modern, traditional or a mixture of the two.

– How is the personal chemistry– do you feel confident you can work well with the architect? Are they good at listening and understanding your requirements?

Fees

– Ask them about their fees, different architects can charge in different ways – they can charge by the hour, a flat fee (usually for smaller jobs), and as a percentage of the total build costs(usually for larger jobs); with a payment upfront (25-30%) to cover initial design work. They might give a vague estimate of expected costs, which you should push to understand fully.

– Ask them for an exact scope of services for the fees quoted and what other consultants and fees are likely to be required for the project?

The fine print

– Find out what their level of involvement will be. How much detailing will they provide? For example, will they establish where the walls will be but not the thickness or detailing like where the electric sockets will be located? What exactly will their role be apart from preparing the drawings & specifications? And what happens if things go wrong?

Comparing services

– When comparing your quotes, compare like for like – fees compared to level of service that will be provided.

– Remember you pay for what you get so a lower fee usually means a lower quality level of service, and eventually, a poorer quality finished building.

– Overall trust is important so be prepared to pay your chosen architect a realistic fee for the service you will be getting – it will be worth every penny in the long term!

 

choosing an architect

Things to consider before choosing an architect

Architects can help turn your dreams into reality.

When you decide to build a new home or add to your existing home, you are about to embark on an exciting journey, which is why it is essential to ensure that you choose the right architect.

What do you want to achieve?

Before you talk to any architects, make sure you really understand what you want from the project you are embarking upon. What space do you need and how do you envisage the rooms and building to look inside and out? Think about flexibility and whether your current needs will change as children grow up or you retire. Is energy efficient and/or sustainable design important to you?

What sort of architect do you want?

As well as experience and interest in your type of project, you need to think what else you want from your architect >

– Are you looking for inspiration? An architect strong on creativity can really help you here

– If you foresee problems with planning permission, finding a local architect who has a track record with successful applications would benefit

– If you have a listed building or are in a conservation area, find an architect with relevant experience

– Consider if you want a modern or more traditional build and choose an architect who has designed & delivered projects that align with your preferences. 

Have a budget in mind

Before approaching an architect, have a realistic overall budget in mind for your project and a contingency as you can easily get caught up with hidden costs along the way.

When you do communicate with an architect, understand that construction costs and overall budget for the project are not one and the same. The overall budget will include all professional and legal fees and expenses, the statutory charges for applications for planning consent and building warrants, a contingency sum for unforeseen events and other costs such as furniture, equipment, land acquisition, finance charges and VAT, in addition to the construction costs. 

What do you want your architect to do for you?

When considering choosing an architect, you also need to decide what extent of service you want from them. The range is >

– Feasibility Stage – Broad creative designs which help determine the budget and can be developed into more detailed drawings to obtain planning permission at Planning Application Stage

– More detailed Building Regulations architectural drawings that can be developed into tender drawings and specifications to obtain more accurate prices for the construction work from building contractors

– Overseeing the entire construction process until completion, including preparing & administering the building contract, and certifying work complete and payments due to the contractor at agreed stages. If you want your architect to keep a close eye on your building work, they should ideally be nearby and so be able to visit the site regularly

– Architects generally don’t project manage the work themselves, they oversee the main building contractor who does this and coordinates the subcontractors – bricklayers, kitchen fitter, electricians, etc

– Other consultants are often required at various stages of your project to assist the architect such as Planning Consultants or Structural Engineers for example.

Does the architect need to be qualified?

When choosing an architect, they should have the relevant qualifications in order to take on your project. The Architects Registration Board (ARB) hold the register of architects in the UK and RIBA, RIAI and RIAS are the professional bodies.  Architects must be registered with ARB in the UK and can elect to be a member of another professional body such as the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) if they choose to in order to acquire a Chartered status.  For more information visit the architects’ register.

 

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Development land – how do you assess its suitability?

At Fibre Architects we are often involved in projects from the early ideas stage, this involves assessment of buildings and or land with development potential. If you are thinking of developing land or starting a new project, then you will need expert advice to successfully achieve your desired outcome(s).

We have listed a few things to help you, although we do recommend that you get in touch and arrange a free consultation to get you started on the right path for a successful project.

Finding your perfect piece of land

Local councils are a good starting point as they identify appropriate land and outline the development needs. If you have a piece of land and are unsure if you can develop it then you will need to look at the following:

Suitability is a key word for you – this means a measure of how well the qualities of the proposed land matches the requirements of the land use. Each piece of land is unique, so just listening to friends and neighbours or following what someone else did alone is definitely not advisable.

A good local knowledge of likely planning requirements, possible constraints or abnormalities as well as a keen eye for detail and the relevant development expertise are essential before you make firm plans– it may save you a lot of money before you invest in what seems the perfect spot.

It is possible to change landscapes and their features, but does that fit with local authority wildlife and ecological policies? Each piece of land also has specific use classifications that relate to the council’s overall objectives, so great care must be taken when assessing suitability.

Key areas to consider and seek advice on:

  • Determine area and site size
  • Review all existing information available
  • Site and condition survey(s)
  • Estimating the development potential – suitability, availability and viability
  • Overcoming constraints or issues – what are they and how do you resolve them?
  • Ensuring you have all the relevant background information to prepare your assessment
  • Ensuring that the land you wish to develop is suitable for the appropriate residential or commercial development
  • Check the deeds – planning approval alone does not always give you the legal right to build or develop the land so consult your solicitor
  • Review all drainage, services, transport and parking requirements and consult relevant professionals for advice
  • Architect initial feasibility layouts, designs and plans for viability assessments and any necessary applications
  • Social and economic plans to support your project
  • Research and support from the community, local councils and neighbourhoods will be valuable
  • Once the initial assessment is complete and satisfactory – move to the planning stage based upon sound evidence and assessed risks

Start to prepare an initial programme and delivery schedule for the development, taking into account financing requirements and all necessary approvals.

Fibre Architects are experts in this field so do give us a call for the best advice and a free consultation appointment to discuss specific opportunities or projects.

timber framed buildings

Benefits of timber framed buildings

Many people assume timber-framed buildings are just a lightweight form of construction, but don’t be misled by this.

Timber framed buildings now account for more than 70 per cent of new homes and the popularity of this form of construction is down the many benefits that outweigh traditional methods.

Here are some key points regarding the benefits:

  • – Sustainability is a keen issue for the building trade and timber a building material with one of the lowest environmental impacts if sourced sustainably.
  • – Build time is much quicker than a conventional build. The timber frames are usually erected in a matter of days rather than weeks.
  • – The use of timber frames has a great reputation for high precision manufacture, strength and durability.
  • – Timber is lightweight and flexible, which allows for design flexibility, use of other building materials to complement design and style, and is lightweight in comparison to other materials.
  • – Timber is a natural material that does not leak chemical vapours. It is safe to handle and ages naturally to enhance its natural beauty.
  • – A timber-framed house is long lasting, comparing well with all other standard forms of modern construction. It will easily last the 60 years plus which is the requirement of institutions such as insurers and building societies.
  • – Because timber framed homes are highly insulated as standard, they are very energy efficient – in fact, they are often considerably more energy efficient than current Building Regulations demand. This means that timber-framed homes are economical to run, heating up quickly and retain their heat for longer.
  • – Designs can be traditional, modern or conventional as the timber frame can be clad in any materials including brick, stone or render– there are so many options with this style of house, so your dreams are limitless.

 

Recently, one of our housing developments for 30 new-build properties in Liverpool had some tight programme constraints towards the end. To fit within the developers’ timescales some of the last few properties were therefore built timber frame to accelerate construction. By using this method, the builders were able to complete the build within the desired timeframe and also ensure that they were no different in appearance to the other traditionally built masonry houses.

To develop your ideas and turn them into exciting, realistic and deliverable plans, book your free consultation and let Fibre Architects help turn your property dreams into reality.

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Things to consider when renovating a listed building

We are uniquely privileged in the United Kingdom to have a host of listed buildings from old mills to country cottages to stately homes; but would you take one on?

At Fibre Architects we are experts in this area of specialist planning and renovation and thought it would be helpful to give you a few hints and tips on what is required.

Ownership of a listed building comes with a great deal of responsibility and a listed property comes with very specific rules and regulations; saying that, there is also great pride and joy in knowing you are maintaining and living in a piece of history with all the quirks and unique features that make your home outstanding and different.

Key things to be aware of:

– Always seek expert advice – most listed buildings are pre-1840 and around 92 percent are Grade II listed and must be preserved as close as possible to their original state following specific rules laid out by your local authority.

– Ask your architect or project manager to ensure that you have permission to convert any commercial buildings to residential use – it is an often-missed permission, particularly if buildings have been stood unused for a length of time.

– Check out Historic England who are the custodians of bricks and mortar and ensure your architect is qualified and has the relevant experience in this kind of project.

– Note that it is a criminal offence to alter a listed building without the correct authorisation – this does not mean you cannot alter it; it just means permission to do so is imperative.

– As a rule, you can use like-for-like materials to maintain your building but be careful to use qualified and sympathetic craftsmen who understand the requirements. For example, sash windows cannot just be replaced with plastic and pipes leading into walls would need permission, but a kitchen tap may be fine without permission.

– Ensure you have relevant and appropriate insurance; a standard modern insurance policy will not cover the cost of replacing a listed building.

– Many people are put off by the term ‘listed’ but in fact it can be a real joy to work on projects like this – they are fulfilling and interesting and help preserve our history for centuries to come.

– Also do not think that replication of the old is always necessary as very modern additions and interventions to Listed Buildings are often encouraged by Local Authority Conservation departments these days as long as there is proper and considered justification.

We have successfully designed and delivered a number of modern interventions and extensions to Listed Buildings over the years, made possible by our supporting Heritage Assessments and Justification Statements that we also prepare in-house.

For technical information and expertise, call us for a free consultation and advice. Fibre Architects would be delighted to help you with your listed building projects.

 

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Transform your house into your ideal home with Fibre Architects

Our clients had lived in their house in Birkby, Huddersfield for many years. They loved the area but not their existing tired property, which had too many poorly proportioned rooms, little open plan space and insufficient natural light. After many unsuccessful attempts to find a more appropriate house locally, they turned to us to see whether we could help.

Working closely with them, we took their ideas and thoughts, developed initial options and turned them in to working plans; once these were agreed we handled the planning approval and building regulations and even recommended a builder Erudex to deliver the build.

Our clients wanted to transform a traditional house in to a something really special and contemporary. We are delighted that we delivered a design that met all their requirements and more. We managed the whole process for them from design, planning preparation, submission and handling any issues that arose successfully. We worked closely with both the clients and build team to ensure every detail was approved and implemented to the highest quality and standards.

The design perfectly suited the client’s brief and the build went very smoothly, giving our clients a positive and enjoyable experience, a home that more than fitted the brief and a design that fitted perfectly with their lifestyle. The results speak for themselves; a warm, contemporary home that sits comfortably in it’s surroundings while giving the owners a completely fresh modern outlook.

We couldn’t be more pleased and grateful with their recommendation on Houzz – https://www.houzz.co.uk/photo/90263159-house-extension-in-conservation-area-transitional

“It was a fabulous relationship. The design suited perfectly, all planning issues were handled for us. The build went more smoothly that we could have hoped for. The end result speaks for itself. A totally worthwhile experience.”

We would welcome a chat with anyone wishing to significantly change their current home to incorporate their ideas and dream outcomes. Please do give us a call for a free consultation.

Here is a gallery of their newly renovated home >

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Transforming a former commercial property into affordable, modern homes

In the last few weeks, we have seen the demolition of a former commercial property, which marks the beginning of the build project in Williamson Street, Stockport.

We originally prepared plans for this site back in 2010 and finally secured full planning approval in 2016, working alongside our clients and the local planning authority to ensure our proposals were fully appropriate, compliant and deliverable.

Once approval was received, the process of demolition of the existing building and detailed design of the new development began; working very closely with the new site owners Elmsley Properties Ltd.

We have designed the new houses to enhance the surrounding environment and provide modern accommodation whilst partly reflecting the site’s industrial history.

The site will offer 6 new affordable homes, utilising the maximum space available, providing bright and modern living spaces. The design pays homage to the previous industrial use of the site, by the unique use of brick and zinc externally. We incorporated good access and a private landscaped area into the design, to ensure a fabulous living environment whilst maintaining security and privacy for the occupants.

Construction is due to start shortly with completion due late 2018. We are really looking forward to seeing this site develop, bringing a new style of living and helping to enhance the area by the use of simple, innovative design.

 

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Putting your own stamp on a period property // Bump Hall

Bump Hall is a delightful period cottage privately owned & situated within over 4 acres of well-screened south facing grounds with adjoining paddock and woodland glade and located on the edge of the market town of Penistone.

We were pleased to be originally commissioned in 2015 by the owners of this idyllic property to consider design options to create more living space and to make their mark on this much-loved building, adding a new layer of history and updating the accommodation to modern family needs.

Bump Hall is a mainly stone built partly rendered property with various pitched and hipped Yorkshire stone slate roofs. It will be transformed by our planning approved scheme with new modern living spaces while retaining its original character and charm. The new curved rear extension will incorporate further bedrooms along with additional storage space, an office, a gym and a games room whilst rooms in the existing house are also refurbished.

IMG_0283Construction is now well underway and we are looking forward to seeing a perfect blend between 19th Century and modern architecture creating a wonderful new living space when it is complete.

To develop your ideas and turn them into exciting, realistic and deliverable plans, talk to us for a free consultation and let Fibre Architects help turn your property dreams into reality. We’ll continue to keep you up-to-date on the progress of Bump Hall, so please do check back regularly. 

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Liverpool housing development nearing completion

One of our largest housing development projects to date is making significant progress.

 

Sandhills Village, a £3m development of 30 homes to the north of Liverpool City Centre is expected to be complete by Christmas 2017. Our team were first asked to look at the site back in 2007, and were not fully commissioned until 2014 due to the recession taking its toll, so it’s pivotal and really pleasing to finally see this project coming together.

 

The majority of these 3 and 4-bedroom homes are now sold having proved popular with families, professionals and investors alike.

 

The modern homes have been designed with striking Portland stone dressings contrasted with red brick, a style that is synonymous within residential many properties in the Liverpool area. Many of the homes have been designed over three floors to be contextual, which additionally, has allowed us to create more residential space per site area. Some of the final properties within the development have been built timber frame, which along with other benefits has significantly reduced the build time as the project nears completion.

 

The developers of the site are really pleased with what’s been achieved thanks to the work we have done, marketing feedback has been very positive in all respects and phase 2 of the project is expected to begin work next year, comprising a further development of 80 apartments on the site immediately to the rear.

View the images of the site so far >