Is now a bad time?

Chances are you are spending more time at home than ever before and what with the ever changing situation you could be there for sometime. Perhaps now is actually a good time to start a project, at least in sowing the seeds. In fact with all that time at home you’ll be best placed to consider the needs of your family and if your house is meeting them. Whilst visiting your home to meet or measure up is a definite no go at the moment, technology gives us the chance to meet virtually and all the pre-design work can easily carry on – so, what does that entail?

For you, that’s thinking about how your home works (or rather doesn’t work) for you. It’s thinking about whether you are ready to extend? I’ve set out 5 questions you need to answer with “yes” before extending your house and you can find them here. You might be years off actually going for it, but it’s never too early to plan.

For me, there’s a lot of background research that goes into considering new projects. With tools such as Rightmove, Google maps and the local planning public access system, there’s a fair amount you can find out about a property without even setting foot in it. So whilst there are hurdles to overcome, this situation won’t last forever. Being adaptable and doing things a little differently still brings opportunity to progress.

Is now a bad time? That depends on your perspective.

To move or improve? The great dilemma

I’m often approached by families who feel they have out grown their home. They love where they live, the schools are great, the “next house” is a bit of stretch – so they face the great dilemma, to move or improve? Sound familiar?

If you’re stuck in a limbo of indecision then getting clear on your options is a good first step. Is it even possible to achieve what you’re looking for at your existing home? Maybe you could build up, out the back or sideways to give you all some extra space. It might be that simply re-thinking the layout and making some alterations could get your house to work for your family.

Both options come with pros and cons – various costs, timescales and levels of upheaval. In coming to your decision you’ll have to do some research in order to weigh up these factors. Other than having moved house a few times ourselves, my experience on the “move” option definitely doesn’t count as expertise, but the “improve” part I can help you with. In fact I’ve created a free Project Planner to help you get a better understanding of the things you’ll need to consider if you decide to stick with your existing home and make some changes.

Taking you right back to basics, the Project Planner aims to get you thinking about your reasons for moving or improving, as well as setting out clear information on what to expect if you do decide to embark on an extension or alteration project at your home. If you find it useful, let me know!

Request my Project Planner here

There’s more to Party Wall matters than Party Walls…

There’s a reason it’s called the “Party Wall etc Act” and the etc part covers a plethora of other things that ordinarily you may not consider to be related. Party Wall matters will need careful consideration where you are carrying out building work which involves any of the following;

–              Works to a party wall

–              Building along or astride the line of junction

–              Excavating within 3m and to a lower level that of the adjoining owner’s foundations (or 6m in some cases)

FAQ’s – PARTY WALL MATTERS

What do I need to do?

In the event that you are doing building work that falls under one of the above categories you should serve notice on your neighbours under the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

What does the process involve?

The process begins by serving Notice on the relevant adjoining owners and gives them the opportunity to consent, or to dissent the work. The timescales for serving notice and obtaining a response vary dependent on the type of work that is proposed to be carried out. The legislation is an enabling Act and as such, if the adjoining owners dissent, Party Wall Surveyors will be required to be appointed to resolve the dispute, such that you can proceed with your building works. The Party Wall Surveyors will prepare a Party Wall Award which sets out any methods of working that might be required to minimise disruption and this is a legal document so that compensation can be enforced for any damage caused.

What if my neighbours are happy with the work to go ahead?

If you’re on good terms with your neighbours and you’re not digging a triple basement, you might think it’s all a bit overkill, but you will still need to serve Notice. Even if the neighbours are happy to consent, it is a good idea to prepare a Schedule of Condition. This involves a visual inspection and photographic record of how things are prior to the start of the building work so that any damage can be easily identified. It can also help to protect you from claims for any cracks etc that were actually present prior to you carrying out your building work. Where you obtain your neighbours written consent you do not need to involve Party Wall Surveyors.

Need to know more? Check out www.partywalls.org or give me a call.

DIY not?

I recently underwent a bit of a brand renovation with Lexi at Special Kind Design I could’ve taken a DIY approach but I decided it would make more sense for me to focus on my own clients, so I asked Lexi to guide me. Initially I approached Lexi thinking – “I need a new look”, but it turns out brand design is so much more. She took me through a her brand clarity process, digging into what I do and most importantly, who my clients are and what they want. We made a vision board, met several times to review her proposals and I’ve come away with a set of Brand Guidelines so that I can implement it all with ease. It’s turns out visual branding is only a small part of your brand identity.

There were, perhaps unsurprisingly, huge parallels with my own work – establishing the desirable outcomes and how she could deliver those for me. There is great value in being challenged on your own ideas to bring clarity on what you’re trying to do. I take the same approach with my clients – I’ll challenge you on your requirements, not to disuade you or to prove you wrong, just to be sure you are clear on your needs. Equally, you may raise objections to my suggestions and we’ll develop proposals together, it’s an iterative process.

There’s no doubt you could undertake a house renovation project without an architect, just as I could’ve re-branded on my own, but the outcome will inevitably be a better one if you choose someone with the relevant experience to guide you through it.

It’s going to cost how much?

What’s stopping you from just cracking on with that project? I’ll bet at least part of it is the uncertainty of how much it’s all going to cost. You’ve approached builders for their input, only to be told you’ll need some drawings from an architect before they can give you a quote – it’s all a bit chicken and egg.

You could just take the plunge with someone to draw up your ideas, get your consents and look for quotes, but what if it all comes back at double your budget? Aren’t you going to be slightly annoyed about that? It makes far more sense to work with someone who has an understanding of your budget from the outset, and to review it as the project progresses. I help clients get a handle on costs before we get too far down the line so that we can adjust the design if need be to suit your budget, especially on smaller projects where budgets are often tight.

Cost certainty is really important to everyday families. That’s why I work with local builders to ballpark costs an early stage in the project – so that you’re empowered to decide whether to change the scope or grow the budget. Before submitting your planning application, I think it’s fair enough that you should have a broad understanding of the cost of what you’re looking to do, I know I’d want to.

Do you need your architect involved during the build? That’s a whole different blog, but if you’re already battling with a hectic family life there is definite value in handing the reigns to someone else to administer your building contract. The benefits will almost certainly outweigh the costs. In any case, a comprehensive tender package can mitigate many site queries, keeping the on-site involvement and fees to a reasonable level.

From being clear with my own fees upfront, seeking ballpark costs for your build and spending time to review your quotes to ensure they are like for like, there’s a lot to be said for talking about money.

What can an architect do for me?

Getting you through all that regulatory stuff with some drawings is one thing but have you ever considered the real value of an architect?

Architects are trained problem solvers, and key to solving any problem is properly defining it in the first place. It’s your house and you live there so you’ll have spent a fair amount of time considering the potential solutions, how you might change it or extend it but have you really stopped and thought why? What’s driving this desire to make it different, make it bigger? That’s the starting point, define the problem.

I work with clients to establish their brief in as much detail as possible at the outset, do you actually need more space or just different space? Families want to be together, or sometimes apart. Maybe you simply want to keep an eye on the kids whilst you’re making the dinner? Sit and enjoy the garden if you can ever find five minutes peace? How will things differ in 5 or 10 years when the kids have grown up?

Your project proposals will evolve and develop from this, so getting your brief nailed is really important. Projects are most successful and enjoyable when it becomes a collaborative process not simply a set of options and choices. Bringing creative solutions to everyday problems is what architects are trained to do.

Understanding your life, your needs and aspirations is incredibly important – it’s personal. It means working with the right architect is key to project success. I’m an architect for everyday families who want to re-think their homes for a better way of living. Get in touch to see if I’d be a good fit for your project.

2019 – The Year in Retrospect

2019 was a rewarding year with several projects completing on-site giving me the opportunity to re-visit those clients to find them happy in their “new” homes. Building upon relationships with local contractors it has been good to see them continue to perform well, as well as to work together at an early stage to help bring more certainty on costs for clients.

Running a business alongside a hectic family life is no mean feat, so I set a goal for 2019 to streamline my business admin in order to claw back a few hours. I was delighted to work with Bethany Rosindell of DayEight https://www.dayeight.co.uk/ towards the end of the year who has been expertly assisting with the creation of my CRM/Project management tool in order to allow me more time for the important stuff – design and project delivery. Bethany’s background in architecture was instrumental in getting me all set up for a successful, and slightly more organised 2020!

The year culminated with a focus on really considering what I love to do and who for – a journey that has brought me to an understanding that small or everyday projects don’t have to be mundane. In fact, the joy of turning around a regular home into a place that brings families together with a better way of living is hugely rewarding. As such, I’m approaching 2020 with a clear message that I’m an architect for everyday families who want to re-think the way they live. I’m bringing creativity to the everyday. It’s not big, it’s not flashy, just well-designed and making a difference.

A blog?

Do architects write blogs? Well, as it turns out, not so much – but maybe we should because few people can tell you the nitty gritty of what architects do, and it’s not just drawings. A blog seemed like the perfect way to dispel some myths and a good place to put together some tips if you’re planning a project of your own. I’m an architect for everyday families who want to re-think the way they live so I’ll be focusing on residential extensions and alterations.

Planning, Building Regulations, Party Wall and all that fun stuff – you’ll find out what you need to consider and how an architect can help. Maybe I’ll even throw in a few case studies of completed local projects for happy clients. Meanwhile, if you’ve got a burning question or a topic you’d like to see covered, get in touch and I’ll be happy to help.