Development land – how do you assess its suitability?

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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.

Benefits of timber framed buildings

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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.

Things to consider when renovating a listed building

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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.