Conservatory: lovely concept but far too hot in summer, too cold in winter. Terrible thermal performance is the number one reason to get rid of it, that’s what it’s trying to tell you! But take care not to replace it with an extension that is glazed to the extent that the same problems might persist.
Designing a new extension to replace a conservatory is a brief I’m commonly presented with. The main reason cited for replacing it is always poor thermal performance, don’t get me wrong – conservatories have their place but they aren’t very functional for year round family living and if yours is a dumping ground for toys and garden paraphernalia, fear not – there are others out there just like you.
That said, there are some huge advantages in terms of light that come from a fully glazed room. And in replacing a conservatory it’s often the case that you’ll want to go for as much glass as you can, which could in turn perpetuate the same conditions. Fortunately, the Building Regulations have some criteria to help you avoid this in terms of amount of glazing that is permitted before you reach a tipping point. After which you’re required to mitigate your excess glass by “over insulating” other components to compensate, although this is more in relation to heat loss than solar gains.
There are lots of options including triple glazing and solar control coatings to help improve the performance of your glazing and the orientation of your building will be a key factor too. The angle of the sun comes into play somewhat in the UK where it’s low and weak in the winter (desirable) but high and hot in the summer (problematic). If your main elevation is south or west facing, you’ll need to consider the design quite carefully to avoid overheating in the summer months. Solar shading in the form of a roof overhang or vertical fin might be an appropriate solution.
Rarely do people say “I want to replace my conservatory becayse I hate looking at my garden”. But it’s worth considering, do you want to look out on all of your garden or just the best bits?
Frame a view of something worthwhile, mask out the ugly bits. Yes, the apple blossom is nice but do you want to look out at your knickers on the washing line when you’re sat on the sofa… when your friends have popped round to admire your lovely new extension? Maybe not.
It’s also worth considering that floor to ceiling glass can play havoc with your furniture layout, see also Is Open Plan Always The Answer? where it turns out walls have their place.
“We know them really well, they’ll be fine with it”
That’s what I commonly hear when I ask how the neighbours will react to the plans for extending your home. It’s amazing how perception can sometimes be so far from reality and that’s why chumming up with your neighbours in advance of your building work is a strategic move.
Think about it, how would you feel if you saw your neighbours and their architect in the back garden waving their arms about, talking about building close to the boundary? You’d be twitching your metaphorical net curtains and perhaps rightly so. Generally people are resistant to change and predictably irrational if they don’t know what to expect.
Neighbours have the potential to make your journey from concept to completion a little bumpier that you might like, from Planning objections to Party Wall dissents they can throw more than a single spanner in the works. And whilst neighbourly Planning objections are sometimes discounted unless they’re made on policy grounds, it still doesn’t set you up for a very comfortable year ahead. Here are some tips on how to keep things on track:
5 Top Tips for Smooth Neighbourly Relations
- Inform them: well ahead of getting yourself an architect – let them know you’re thinking about extending, perhaps ask if they’ve also considered doing the same.
- Listen to them: are they concerned? If so, what in particular is an issue for them? When you come to appoint an architect, let them know about it so that they can consider how best to alleviate their concerns as well as meeting your brief.
- Share with them: once you’ve developed your ideas and have your plans ready – share with them, ahead of making a Planning application. There’s nothing neighbours like less than being ambushed. The local authority will let them know you’ve made an application, so get in before they hear it from somebody else.
- Involve them: dependent on the scale of proposals and whether it does impact them in anyway, you might consider tweaking your proposals a little in response to their concerns. I’ve had several meetings where getting client’s neighbours round for a cuppa has allowed us to mitigate any objections by simply taking their concerns on board in the first place.
- Manage their expectations: let them know when you anticipate the building work to be, let them know ahead of time that you’ll be sending a Party Wall Notice and what the process is.
It’s not about designing your extension by committee, and it’s not about foregoing your own aspirations to please the neighbours, but as with most things in life, communication is key to success.