Monday 10 May 2021

Single storey rear extension

 Another local project now on site. 

Monday 15 March 2021

LABC Technical Update.


Acceptability of timber frame kits for use on our sites

Important update to LABC Warranty requirements

The use of off-site, prefabricated manufactured timber frame panels is becoming ever more popular. LABC Warranty needs to ensure that timber frame is manufactured to high standards of consistency and uniformity, to maintain high standards across the industry and give peace of mind to homeowners.

From September 1st 2021 LABC Warranty will only accept new projects for warranty application that have timber frame panels by an accredited manufacturer or have been assessed by the Warranty Innovations Team.

From now until September 1st 2021, transitional arrangements will apply and timber frame panels will be accepted subject to certain conditions, described below.

LABCW Timber Frame What We Need (pdf download) 

LABC Warranty’s position on timber frame panel accreditation

LABC technical requirements ask for such timber frame wall panels to be accredited to:

  • STA Silver or Gold standard, or
  • BM TRADA QMark, or
  • CATG – Frame Mark

(Note: a standard membership of one of the above is not identified as being accredited)

The accreditation should include ISO 9001 quality control systems for the materials supply, design and manufacture of the frame. Trained and competent installers are also expected to erect the frames.

We have noted that a number of manufacturers have chosen not to seek accreditation and do not have adequate ISO 9001 systems in place.

It is important from a warranty perspective that as no harmonised standard for timber frame kits exists, the need for a recognised industry standard accreditation for the manufacture of timber frame panels is vital to ensure they are constructed to consistent standards to meet the requirements of the LABC Warranty Technical Manual.

This benefits the industry and the end user, giving peace of mind to the homeowner.

Timber frame panel transitional arrangements

Therefore, where a project is to be submitted for LABC warranty, LABC Warranty is introducing a transition period from now up to September 1st 2021, to allow timber frame manufacturers to either:

  • Attain accreditation to one of the above acceptable levels, or
  • Be in the process of gaining accreditation and provide evidence of such. We will require such application to be completed within an agreed period on a case-by-case basis and no later than 31st December 2021

As part of that accreditation, an ISO 9001 quality management system for the materials supply, design and manufacture will need to be in place by 1st September by all manufacturers.

On September 1st 2021 and thereafter, LABC will only accept new projects for warranty application that have Timber frame panels by an accredited manufacturer or have been assessed by the Warranty Innovations Team as meeting our Technical Manual requirement, which will include having an ISO 9001 quality management system in place (as above).

Thursday 11 March 2021

Planning Granted in Whitnage

Planning has been granted to convert an existing outbuilding, formerly a large detached garage, to create a garden room/playroom and extend the outbuilding to create a home office and store. It was also within the scope of the proposal to erect an oak framed 4-bay garage.


Work has commenced on the demolition phase on a project that will reverse the 1970's conversion of two offices back into two residential dwellings in Bradninch, Devon.

Ground Floor Demolition

Ground Floor Proposed

Does an outbuilding need building regulations approval?

With the increase in people working from home during the pandemic, it seems a useful time to visit the topic of building regulations and small detached buildings, in domestic settings such as home offices, workshops and other uses.

As a rule, the construction of any new building is likely to be work that is controlled under the building regulations. However, there might be cases where some small, detached buildings can be treated as exempt from them. 

Under the building regulations the erection of a building is treated as controlled building work – to which the building regulations must be applied and for which a notice must be given to the local authority before the work begins.

However, there are some exceptions. 

  • Those with a floor area not exceeding 30m2; and
  • Those with a floor area not exceeding 15m2

To be exempt from the regulations they must have the features listed below and they must not contain any sleeping accommodation (no beds in sheds).

Small, detached buildings less than or equal to 30m2

These must be single storey – a roof mezzanine or loft floor would not be permitted, and:

  • The internal floor area must not be greater than 30m2 (for example 3m x 10m, or 5m x 6m), and
  • The building must be constructed substantially of non-combustible material unless it is 1m or more away from any boundary.

These types of buildings are typically used as garages, workshops, home offices, garden rooms, saunas.

The boundary measurement rule is important as features such as fascias, soffits, guttering, rainwater pipes - anything that is part of and protrudes from the building - can be counted as being a point from which the closeness to the boundary can be measured. If any part of the building is between 0m to 0.999mm then the materials that can be used for construction must be controlled.

In the case of a building closer than 1m to the boundary – to retain the exemption status – materials must be, in the main, non-combustible. That means they should be, for example, walls of brick, block, concrete panel, steel frame with metal cladding etc, and roofs of slate, clay or concrete tiles, or metal cladding.

If the building is 1m or more away from the boundary there are no restrictions on the type of materials that can be used.

Small, detached buildings less than or equal to 15m2

These are not limited to being single storey.

  • The internal floor area must not be more than 15m2 (for example 3m x 5m, or 2-storeys of 7.5m2 each).
  • There are no restrictions in relation to the closeness to the boundary, or the type of materials that must be used.
These smaller buildings can be constructed anywhere within the boundaries of the site (in the garden of a house, for example) and can be constructed from any material – for example it can be a wooden shed, gazebo, sauna, log-cabin, or fabric tent, or plastic playhouse etc.
It's important to know that the 'floor area' of the building means the aggregate area of every floor in the building, calculated by reference to the finished internal faces of the walls enclosing the area, or if at any point where there is no wall, by reference to the outermost edge of the floor. For example, in the case of a garage, if part of one wall is made up of a garage door, the measurement would be to the outside edge of the floor slab.

If the physical features or use do not fit with the rules for exempt status, this does not mean that the building can't be built, it just means that the work is controlled and must be notified to the council under the building regulations, and that a Full Plans or Building Notice application must be made, and the work must be inspected.

If the detached building can be treated as exempt then other features can be classed as being exempt too – such as the provision of any toilets, showers, boilers or wood-burning stoves etc. inside the building, so long as these features do not materially change the status of the exemption.

However, there are some exceptions to this - namely:
  • The installation of any electrics where the electricity is from a source shared with or located inside a dwelling, in which case the installation must comply with Approved Document P and might be notifiable work. 
  • The installation of cold or hot water supplies from a source shared with or located inside any building other than a building or extension, in which case the work must comply with Approved Document G and is notifiable work.
  • The extension of any existing drainage system to serve the exempt detached building, in which case the extended drainage must comply with Approved Document H and is notifiable work.
Whether a building can be treated as fully exempt from the building regulations or not, there are other matters that must also be considered and/or addressed before any work begins.
  • Will the building require planning permission?
  • Will a build over agreement be required from the local water authority – in the case of the building being constructed on or close to a public sewer?
  • Will permission be required from the gas, electricity, or water authorities for building over or close to any pipes or cables?
If in doubt about your project you can discuss it with your local authority building control team or construction professional before you make an application.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Pantone Colour of the Year 2017

The Pantone Colour of the Year for 2017 is "Greenery" - Pantone 15-0343 

"A refreshing and revitalizing shade, Greenery is symbolic of new beginnings
Greenery is a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature’s greens revive, restore and renew. Illustrative of flourishing foliage and the lushness of the great outdoors, the fortifying attributes of Greenery signals consumers to take a deep breath, oxygenate and reinvigorate.
Greenery is nature’s neutral. The more submerged people are in modern life, the greater their innate craving to immerse themselves in the physical beauty and inherent unity of the natural world. This shift is reflected by the proliferation of all things expressive of Greenery in daily lives through urban planning, architecture, lifestyle and design choices globally. A constant on the periphery, Greenery is now being pulled to the forefront - it is an omnipresent hue around the world.
A life-affirming shade, Greenery is also emblematic of the pursuit of personal passions and vitality."

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Pantone Colour of the Year 2015...

Every year since 1990, the Pantone Colour Institute has nominated a Colour of the Year, forecasting which specific hue designers and consumers will all supposedly be using, wearing, and buying for the following 12 months. Pantone has recently announced that the 2015 Colour of the Year is MarsalaPantone described the colour as “a naturally robust and earthy wine red.”

Section 106 charges gone...

The government has announced that councils will no longer be applying Section 106 charges on smaller residential building schemes. This means it will now be cheaper and easier to build new properties or bring disused buildings back into use.
S106 agreements or ‘developer contributions’ have been traditionally imposed by councils when dealing with schemes for new development. The charges can vary significantly and are usually used to make a development proposal that would otherwise have been rejected acceptable in planning terms. For example, you may be asked to pay some money to provide infrastructure or affordable housing.
This is good news for small developers and self-builders as, in the government’s own words, the changes will ‘ensure any builder helping to turn someone’s dream home into a reality … doesn’t get lumbered with Section 106 charges’.
Small sites - specifically those with ten homes or fewer - will not be expected to stump up the charges. The government also confirmed that in very rural areas, sites of five homes or fewer should not face the charge.
Speak to your local authority today for guidance on what they are doing with their Section 106 charges and obligations. 

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Did you know...

Did you know permitted development rules relating to extensions have been relaxed for a three-year period? The rule relaxation started on 30 May 2013 and ends on 30 May 2016. The change means you can carry out certain building works without having to make a planning application.
The permitted development rights allowing development to be retained permanently, as long as that change is completed by 30 May 2016, are:
  • the size limits for householder single-storey rear extensions are increased from 4m to 8m for detached houses and from 3m to 6m for all other types of houses. The new larger extensions are subject to a neighbour consultation scheme
  • the size limits for extensions to shops and professional/financial services establishments are increased to 100m2, or half of the original floor space, whichever is smaller. Extensions are allowed right up to the boundary of the property, unless it is a boundary with a residential property where a 2m gap will be retained
  • the size limits for extensions to offices are increased to 100m2, or half of the original floor space, whichever is smaller
  • the size limits for new industrial buildings within the curtilage of existing industrial premises are increased to 200m2
  • offices can be converted to residential without the need for a planning application.
Note that some types of minor changes to a house can already be made without needing to apply for planning permission, although there are some 'designated areas' where permitted development rights are more restricted. These include conservation areas, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Contract Work...

Contracted working with my colleague Tony Good, Building Surveyor from Holland-on-Sea, with projects such as a large 5-bed detached dwelling in Hadley Wood (behind the golf course), a 17-flat development in Walthamstow, E17 and two pairs of semi detached dwellings in Romford, RM3. The works require the preparation of drawings for a Building Regulations submission based on simplified planning drawings by others.

Care Home Addition...

Preparations are under way for the creation of two new rooms for residents at a local residential care home, Somerville House. Somerville House is a large detached, converted and extended property in a quiet residential area of Willand on the outskirts of Cullompton. The home provides residential care and support for older people. 

RTDA have taken an existing annexe to create the two new residents rooms both with en-suite facilities, storage area and linen cupboard. 

Tuesday 1 April 2014

New Houses in Exeter...

Planning has been successful for the development of four dwellings in Exeter designed by R Taylor Design Associates. All of the dwellings comprising two house types are fully compliant with Lifetime Homes Standards and meet Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes.

Monday 3 February 2014

Eastern Concrete HQ, Stowmarket...

A great job working with my friend and colleague Andrew Gardiner (Gardiner Design Associates)

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Loft Conversions...

Depending on the roof structure and planning constraints, a loft conversion is one of the most straightforward ways of getting extra space. Almost all houses can benefit from this extension with a bit of basic planning.


The features that will decide the suitability of the roof space for conversion are the available head height, the pitch and the type of structure, as well as any obstacles such as water tanks or chimney stacks. An inspection of the roof space will reveal its structure and physical dimensions.

Take a measurement from the bottom of the ridge timber to the top of the ceiling joist; the useable part of the roof should be greater than 2.2m.

The higher the pitch angle, the higher the central head height is likely to be, and if dormers are used or the roof is redesigned, then the floor area can be increased.

Two main structures are used for roof construction — namely traditional framed type and truss section type. The traditional framed type is typically found in pre-1960s houses where the rafters and ceiling joists, together with supporting timbers, are cut to size on site and assembled. This type of structure has more structural input, so is often the most suitable type for conversion. The space can be easily, and relatively inexpensively, opened up by strengthening the rafters and adding supports as specified by a structural engineer. Post 1960s, the most popular form of construction used factory-made truss roof sections. These utilise thinner – and therefore cheaper timbers – but have structural integrity by the addition of braced diagonal timbers. They allow a house roof to be erected and felted in a day, which is a big advantage to a builder. However, this type of truss suggests that there are no loadbearing structures beneath, and so opening up the space requires a greater added structural input. This will normally involve the insertion of steel beams between loadbearing walls for the new floor joists to hang on and the rafter section to be supported on — together with a steel beam at the ridge. It is advisable to seek advice from specialist firms in this instance.


If the initial roof space inspection reveals a head height of less than 2.2m, there are two available – but costly – solutions that will require professional input.

This would involve removing part or whole of the existing roof, and rebuilding it to give the required height and structure. This is structurally feasible, but the major problems are the high cost and getting planning approval. If the whole roof area needs removing, a covered scaffold structure, to protect the house from the weather during the works, would also be required.

The ceiling height in some rooms in older properties may be 3m or more, so if the roof space height is limited there is the option of lowering the ceilings below, providing it still allows at least 2.4m. This will require all the existing ceilings in question to be removed, causing much mess. With this method a plate will need to be bolted to the wall using shield anchors or rawlbolts, for the new floor joists to hang from. There is also a need for a suitable tie between the roof structure and the dwarf wall formed, to prevent the roof spreading.

It’s a good idea to use the low space under the eaves for storage — but you could create a more dramatic effect by having a gallery overlooking the floor below.

The existing ceiling joists are unlikely to be adequate to take a conversion floor, so additional new joists will be required to comply with the Building Regulations. The size and grade would be indicated in Trada Span Tables or specified by a structural engineer, who will have taken into account the span and the separation distance for a given loading. The new joists span between load-bearing walls, and are normally raised slightly above the existing ceiling plasterwork. This spacing must be sufficient to prevent any new floor joist deflection from touching the ceiling plaster below. The new joists run alongside the existing joists. Above window and door openings, thicker timbers are used to bridge the opening, so that pressure is not put on the existing opening lintel. RSJs may also specified to distribute the load, and in some installations are used to carry the ends of the new joists.

The roof structure can be insulated in one of two main ways. The most straightforward is to use a ‘cold roof’ method. This involves partial filling the space between the rafters with phenolic foam insulation such as Kingspan or Celotex, ensuring that there is 50mm spacing between the roofing felt and the insulation (for ventilation via the roof and soffit vents). In addition, a suitable thermal laminate plasterboard is attached to the inside of the rafters. The rafter thickness is often less than 120mm, so a batten may be required along each rafter to allow the 50mm spacing and the insulation. The roof section requires 350mm of mineral wool insulation e.g. Rockwool.

The other main method is ‘warm roof’. This method uses 100mm Kingspan or Celotex insulation or similar over the rafters, and a covering capping, followed by the tile battens and tiles. This is not really a practical option unless the roof coverings have been stripped off. It could be used with a dormer, especially if it has a flat roof. Continuity of insulation between walls and roof is required to avoid any cold bridging. The dormer walls can be insulated between the studwork.

The internal partition walls use a 100mm quilt or 25mm Isover APR 1200 that will provide sound insulation. Plaster - board is attached to one side of the wall then the insulation inserted, followed by plaster - board on the other side.

Insulation can also placed between floor joists, and this is typically 100mm-thick Rockwool fibre or similar — mainly for its sound-reduction properties.

The ideal location for a staircase to land is in line with the roof ridge: this will make best use of the available height above the staircase. The minimum height requirement above the pitch line is 2m, although this could be reduced to 1.9m in the centre, and 1.8m to the side of a stair. In practice, the actual position will depend upon the layout of the floor below, and where necessary the available height can be achieved using a dormer or adding a rooflight above the staircase or, if appropriate, converting a hip roof end to a gable.

Maximum Number of Steps: 
The Regulations specify that the maximum number of steps in a straight line is 16. This is not normally a problem, as a typical installation usually only requires 13 steps.

Step Size: 
The maximum step rise is 220mm, whereas the step depth or ‘going’ is a minimum of 220mm; these measurements are taken from the pitch point. The step normally has a nose that projects 16-20mm in front of the pitch line. However, the ratio of size must not exceed the maximum angle of pitch requirement of 42°. Any winders must have a minimum of 50mm at the narrowest point. The width of steps is unregulated, but in practice the winders are likely to limit the reduction in width.

The height minimum is 900mm above the pitch line, and any spindles must have a separation distance that a 100mm sphere cannot pass through.

The loft conversion will require a means of getting natural light and ventilation, and the most straightforward method is to use rooflights that follow the pitch line of the roof. This type is fitted by removing the tiles and battens in the position that the rooflight will be fitted. The rafters are cut to make way for the rooflight after suitably reinforcing the remaining rafters. The rooflight frame is then fitted within the new opening, and flashings added before making good the surrounding tiling. This type of window is the most economic, and more likely to be allowed without planning permission, under your Permitted Development rights. Conservation rooflights, which are slightly more flush to the roofline and are made of metal, can also be specified.

Dormers not only give natural light but can add space to a loft conversion; they can be at the ends or sides. They are particularly effective where the pitch angle is high, as the useful floor area can be increased. The mansard type will give maximum conversion roof space because it projects the maximum available head height, thus giving a greater usable floor area. A hip to gable conversion has a similar effect.

Dormers and other similar conversions are normally installed by opening up the roof, and cutting the required specified timbers to size on site. They normally involve compound angle cuts. Care also needs to be taken with the roof and side coverings, to get a good weatherproof structure.

Some companies will make the dormers off site in their workshop and lift into place. This process allows quick installation, and quick weatherproofing.

Dormers can have gabled or hip roofs, and with careful design can enhance a roof line. In practice, a mixture of the available types can result in the maximum light and space, and provide a fire exit.

The plasterboard ceiling in the upper rooms will delay the spread of fire to the roof space in an unconverted house. However, when an opening is introduced for the staircase the risk is shared with the conversion — therefore, safeguards must be in place to reduce the risk.

All habitable rooms in the upper storeys served by a single staircase should have an escape window with an obstructed openable area of at least 0.33m², a minimum 450mm high x 450mm wide, and not more than 1.1m above the floor level. For loft conversions to existing two storey houses, more stringent provisions apply, due to the greater risk associated with escape via high-level windows. These require a new 30- minute fire-resistant floor to the loft conversion, and a protected 30- minute fire-resistant stair enclosure discharging to its own final exit, with fire doors to all rooms (except bathrooms and WC). The fire doors do not need to be self-closing.

At least one mains-operated smoke alarm with battery backup must be installed in the circulation space of each storey. All alarms are to be interconnected.

(Homebuilding & Renovating)

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Looking Good....

Eastern Concrete headquarters in Stowmarket is finished. The balustrading to the balcony has been carried out leaving only a few landscaping matters to complete.

Monday 4 March 2013

Chalets and Log Cabins on your land...


In many instances (subject to size and design) planning permission is NOT required to build a garden office, chalet, log cabin etc. if the garden building is for a domestic or leisure purpose. This may include Crafts, Hobbies, Summer Houses, Swimming Pool Covers, Saunas - Spa Pools, Gymnasiums, Pets, Playrooms, Personal study, Storage, Garages.

It is likely that planning permission will be required to build any other type of garden building or if you intend to use it for commercial purposes.

If in doubt contact your local planning office for advice. They will probably ask the following questions:-
  • What is the chalet/log cabin/garden room going to be used for?
  • Where is the chalet/log cabin/garden office going to be located?
  • Is your site a registered AONB (Area of Outstanding natural Beauty)?
  • Is your property a listed building?
  • How big is the chalet/log cabin/garden office?
  • How is the building constructed and what does it look like?

There are many suppliers of log cabins and other timber buildings who claim that because the building is made of wood and is less that 30 sq. meters, planning permission is not required. THIS IS NOT TRUE!

You should ensure that you have obtained the correct information regarding planning permission before installing your log cabin/ chalet / sauna / garden office. Your local planning office will have leaflets and booklets to advise you and they are free of charge.
Do I need Planning Permission for Log Cabins and Garden Offices?


You are exempt from needing planning permission for your log cabin if you can satisfy the following criteria:-

  • It is to be sited in the garden of a detached or semi-detached property.
  • The property is not in an area of conservation or outstanding natural beauty or similar category.
  • The property is not a listed building.
  • The cabin will not be between the house and a highway (or if it is there shall be a 20m distance from the highway).
  • The cabin will not be above 4m in height.
  • Total area covered by buildings will not exceed half of the garden.
  • The cabin is not to be used commercially (home office is usually acceptable if it does not detract from the main use of the property).
  • The cabin is not to be used as a dwelling.
  • There are no other covenants that prevent you from exercising your permitted developments rights.

Garden structures may include swimming pools, animal shelters, tennis courts and so on. The size of the garden structure does not appear to be relevant to planning exemption but it does have an influence on whether or not building regulations approval is necessary and/or the cabins position relative to boundaries.

The permitted development rules shown apply to houses. Flats, maisonettes or other buildings are not included. You should also check with your Local Planning Authority if permitted development rights apply as they may have been removed.

Permitted development rights may also have been restricted if your house is listed or in a designated area. Again check with your Local Planning Authority in these circumstances.


Under current regulations outbuildings are considered to be permitted development, not needing planning permission, subject to the following limits and conditions. Rules governing outbuildings apply to sheds, greenhouses and garages as well as other ancillary garden buildings such as swimming pools, ponds, sauna cabins, kennels, enclosures (including tennis courts) and many other kinds of structure for a purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house.

  • No outbuilding forward of the principal elevation fronting a highway.
  • Outbuildings and garages to be single storey with maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof or three metres for any other roof.
  • Maximum height 2.5 metres within two metres of a boundary.
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
  • No more than half the area of land around the "original house"* would be covered by additions or other buildings.
  • In National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites the maximum area to be covered by buildings, enclosures, containers and pools more than 20 metres from house to be limited to 10 square metres.
  • On designated land buildings, enclosures, containers and pools at the side of properties will require planning permission.
  • Within the curtilage of listed buildings any outbuilding will require planning permission.

The term "original house" means the house as it was first built or as it stood on 1 July 1948 (if it was built before that date). Although you may not have built an extension to the house, a previous owner may have done so.

Designated land includes national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.