Tuesday 30 August 2011

Residential Refurbishment & Extension, Crazelowman: Update...

Re-roofing works are almost complete on the grade II 16th Century former farmhouse, replacing the corrugated asbestos sheet roofing with natural slate.

The refurbishment will address the usual aspects associated with modernisation of older properties and the extensions are to comprise single storey mono-pitched additions, creating a new hallway; w.c.; utility room and family room. A new opening is to be created in the flank cob wall to provide ease of access to the family room and aid circulation to the ground floor layout.

Manor Update...

Phase one continues with the third of four dormers now being framed out as well as first fix electrical and mechanical. Phase two is really picking up pace with the removal of the existing roof to the outbuildings.

Costs fall to build green homes...

Building Design Online are today reporting that:

A government report into building green homes has revealed that the cost of meeting sustainability codes has fallen in the past three years.
Produced by the communities and local government department, the research shows that average extra costs for homes built to code level 3 have fallen by three-quarters from £4,458 in 2008 to £1,128 last year.
Sustainable homes code were introduced back in 2007 and made it mandatory that all new housing meet code level 3 from the following May. All new homes are expected to be zero carbon from 2016.
The boss of the UK Green Building Council, Paul King, hailed the performance of the building industry in slashing the costs of going green.
“The industry has responded in a remarkable way,” he added. “Both house builders in terms of the design of new homes and the construction products industry in terms of the technology required.”
by David Rogers 

Sunday 28 August 2011

100% Design...

Another show in town....
Looking for the latest design-led products for residential, commercial or retail applications? In search of inspiration? Dreaming of a one-stop-shop for industry professionals and design lovers? Put 22-25 September 2011 in your calendar now...100% Design is aimed at design and architectural industry professionals. Students can also attend on the Saturday and Sunday with the general public able to visit on the Sunday only.Your entry badge will give you unlimited access to all three shows (100% Design, 100% Futures and 100% Materials). Entry is free to trade and press visitors who register online no later than 16th September. 

Saturday 27 August 2011

World Architecture Festival 2011...

The World Architecture Festival is taking place at Barcelona’s flagship convention centre, the Centro de Convenciones Internacionales de Barcelona, (CCIB). Held between the 2nd and 4th November 2011m the World Architecture Festival is the world’s largest, live, truely inclusive and interactive global architectural awards programme. It is a unique meeting point for Architects, suppliers and clients, attracting hundreds of entries and visitors from all over the world.

Be warned though, a single 3-day pass costs € 495...once you have journeyed to Spain and found accommodation.....I won't be attending.

Thursday 25 August 2011

The London Design Festival 2011...

17-25th September, Nine amazing days of design events showcasing the UK's world-class creative community. If you're in town, well worth a visit.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Plans for new Apple HQ, by Norman Foster, officially released...


Now that we're in to the second half of 2011 thought I'd just remind folk about this year's colour of the year.

50 Years of London Architecture...

RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist 2011...

The sun rises in the East...

The offices of Eastern Concrete are officially open. Guests at the informal launch included colleagues from Reimer in Canada, Scania (Great Britain) Limited as well as the design team. There are some external matters still to address, such as the rainscreen cladding, guarding to the balcony and signage, all of which is due  to be completed in the next few months.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

The use of downlighters in dwellings – A Designers Guide...

The use of downlighters is becoming increasingly common in dwellings and domestic extensions. This fact combined with recent amendments to the Building Regulations has prompted debate on their compliance between Building Control Surveyors and other construction professionals.

Fire Safety
Approved Document B of the Building Regulations includes requirements that floors in dwellings achieve a fire rating. This is normally 30 minutes for low rise buildings where the floor is not a compartment floor. When installing downlighters in such a floor, the question arises as to whether or not they will adversely affect its fire resistant properties to the extent that it will not comply.

Whilst there is not a great deal of research information available on this subject, tests sponsored by the DETR (now ODPM) and carried out by The Timber Research and Development Association (Trada Technology Report 1/2001) provide useful guidance. The view of many Building Control professionals is that additional protection in the form of intumescent covers, boxing or fire resisting fittings is a  necessary provision in all cases. It may be that these opinions that have been influenced by commercially driven advice from companies dealing in such products. It is important that our decisions are based on sound and independent scientific research, it being all too easy to ask for a higher standard knowing that we are unlikely to be challenged.

The above tests were carried out on typical timber joisted floors (measuring 3.2m x 4.2m) fitted with up to 24 plastic and metal clipped fittings of various diameters. All indicated that the unprotected downlighters did not cause premature failures in terms of load bearing capacity, insulation or integrity. It could be argued that such ‘laboratory’ standards do not represent a floor after the retrospective removal of areas of floor decking. Such concerns are weakened by the fact that patched areas are inevitably supported on noggins or joists and the tests included decking that was not tongued and grooved.

Similar tests on 60 minute fire resisting floors also did not show premature failure. This small scale evidence is sufficient to negate the need for downlighter protection in 60minute floors. Full scale evidence may be more onerous so in the absence of such information, covers should be provided.

It is also important that these tests are not seen as being representative of other floor types such as those incorporating engineered ‘I beam’ joists. Such members have little ‘sacrificial’ timber so rely almost entirely on the integrity of the ceiling lining to prevent failure in fire. Protective measures are also essential in this type of floor.

Sound Insulation
Internal floors within dwellings
When amended Part E hit our desks in July 2003, it bought into effect new controls on floor construction within dwellings in addition to the existing requirements concerning separating floors. This has caused surveyors to consider the impact of downlighter installation in such floors and whether the 40 R w dB sound insulation value would still be achievable. Acoustically rated fittings are available but are they necessary?

The advice from experienced acoustic consultants is that their effect on sound insulation properties is relatively negligible. Previous tests would suggest a reduction of only 1 – 2 dB. In view of the popularity of such fittings it would seem a reasonable approach to allow them in internal floors without any additional measures.

Separating floors between dwellings
The use of downlighters in various separating floor constructions is covered in the Robust Details Guide. This states that there should be a minimum ceiling void of 75mm and that; -
a) They should be fitted in accordance with manufacturers recommendations,
b) At centres not less than 75mm, and
c) Openings in the lining should not exceed 100mm diameter or 100 x 100mm square.

Developers who opt to register accordance with a robust detail should not deviate from this associated guidance. For separating floors not covered by robust details it would seem sensible to advise against their use. There is little relevant commentary in the Approved Document and such penetrations may well be the cause of failure in the necessary pre completion testing.

Thermal Insulation
Cold bridging
A common sight for surveyors carrying out final inspections of extensions and new dwellings is a roof space insulated with 250mm thick mineral wool quilt and with countless uninsulated patches around the downlighter fittings in the ceilings. The cumulative effect of this in terms of heat loss can be substantial.

It is true to say that most turn a blind eye to such cold bridges despite their contravention of Regulation L.1. This is because of the need to vent heat away from the units as per manufacturer’s advice. A more favourable arrangement can be achieved using downlighter bulbs that mainly direct heat downwards with far less heat production above the unit. This allows a small pocket in insulation to safely accommodate the fitting i.e. the omission of a small area of lower layer quilt in 2 layer systems. Consequently heat loss can be greatly reduced and Surveyors can confidently ensure compliance with the Regulations.

Efficient Lighting
Approved Document L 2006 edition amends the requirements for the provision of energy efficient lights. New dwellings for example now require 25% of all light fittings to be energy efficient ones. Compact fluorescent & LED downlighters are now available which meet this standard.

Access statements in demonstrating compliance with Part M of the Building Regulations: Access to and Use of Buildings – A Designers Guide...

The new Part M of the Building regulations came into effect on 1 May 2004 introducing a revised set of rules relating to buildings other than dwellings. An amended Approved Document covering these changes suggests various ways of achieving compliance with the core requirements and in the majority of cases the designer will choose to accord with these recommendations or the similar guidance contained in the British Standard Code of Practice B.S.8300: 2001. This is not mandatory however as these documents only show one way in which to comply and there may be other equally satisfactory ways in which the requirements can be met. The new Part M also introduces the concept of an Access Statement.

Purpose of an Access Statement
Alternative solutions to access problems will vary depending on the intended use of a building and its size and location. The gradient of the plot will also have an influence. Changes of use and extensions to existing buildings can pose problems particularly if they are of architectural or historic importance. The purpose of an Access Statement is to allow a designer to outline their philosophy and approach to achieving a reasonable level of accessibility. In its simplest form this may be a confirmation that they intend to accord fully with the guidance contained in either Approved Document M or B.S.8300. In this case the specifications and drawings submitted with the Building Regulations application should demonstrate this.

Access Statements and Planning Applications
Ideally the designer should prepare a statement for submission with the Planning application and indeed the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister considers this good practice. It can then be  developed further for the Building Regulations application and during the construction process. This will provide the building owner with a useful document when considering compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act. The early consideration of such matters is advantageous in that any potential problems can be considered and resolved before any detailed design work takes place. It also avoids the need to seek amendments to planning consents where such problems only come to light at the Building Regulations stage.

Non-conformity with Usual Design Guidance
For designs that deviate from the usual design guidance, the Access Statement provides an opportunity to bring the Building Control Surveyor’s attention to this fact and to explain and justify that reasonable provision for accessibility has been made in other ways. The designer may wish to adopt more innovative methods or it may be that the normal provisions are not feasible for reasons of security, safety or conservation. With existing buildings undergoing extension or change of use, there may be complications caused by the existing structure or a need to conserve important architectural features. In all the above cases the designer needs to demonstrate achievement a reasonable provision or an equivalent or better level.

Further guidance on Access Statements and related matters can be found in Approved Document M (Para 0.20) and on the Disability Rights Commission website at drc-gb.org. 

Saturday 20 August 2011

Planning Obligations (Section 106 Agreements)...


Where a planning obligation is required in connection with a proposed development in order to mitigate the impact it will have on the local authorities infrastructure, planning permission will not be issued until the obligation has been satisfactorily completed.

If a planning obligation is not completed within the target time for making a decision on the planning application, planning permission may be refused on the grounds that the impact of the proposal will not be mitigated and it is therefore contrary to development plan policies.

The target date for making a decision on a planning application will be set out in the acknowledgement letter sent to the applicant/agent following registration of the application.

There are two main types of planning obligation that can be used, depending on the complexity of the issues the obligation is required to cover:


A unilateral undertaking is a simple form of planning obligation which is relatively quick to complete. It involves the applicant completing a legal undertaking to pay the required financial contribution to the District Council at a specified time.

Unilateral undertakings can be used where
1.    the number and type of dwellings, and number of bedrooms proposed are clearly set out in the planning application description (for example, 3 x two-bedroom dwellings and 6 x one-bedroom flats) or shown on the accompanying plans, and
2.    where the planning obligation only needs to cover financial contributions towards public open space, community facilities or education facilities.

Such undertakings are usually submitted at the same time as the planning application and are already signed and dated.


Where a planning obligation needs to cover a more complex range of issues, or in the case of an outline application where the type of dwelling and number of bedrooms proposed is not stated, applicants will be required to complete a type of planning obligation commonly known as a S106 Agreement. This type of legal agreement will need to be entered into by the applicant, anyone else who has an interest in the land forming the application site, the District Council, and in some cases the County Council. It is therefore a more complex type of planning obligation than a unilateral undertaking, and normally takes longer and is more expensive to complete.


A planning obligation is a legally binding agreement secured under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended. These agreements are regularly referred to as Planning Agreements or Section 106 Agreements.

They require a developer or landowner to undertake certain works, or to contribute financially towards the provision of measures to mitigate the negative impacts of their development.

Where planning obligations are required, a planning agreement, drafted by the Council’s legal services team and entered into by the Council and the developer or landowner will usually be appropriate. However there will be occasions where the use of Unilateral Undertakings can assist in ensuring that planning permissions are granted speedily, which benefits both the applicant and the Council.

A Unilateral Undertaking is a simplified version of a Planning Agreement and is only entered into by the landowner. It will only be appropriate in certain circumstances.

The Council may consider that it will normally be appropriate for a Unilateral Undertaking to be used only if all the following conditions are met:

·         The person entering into the Undertaking is the owner of the land (not merely a purchaser with a conditional contract) and there are no leases or tenancies. If the land is subject to a mortgage/legal charge, mortgage and mortgagee details should be included.
·         The Planning Obligation will consist solely of the payment of financial contributions, of one or more of the types described in the template, to be paid on commencement of development or the date hereof (i.e. the date the agreement is signed).
·         The Undertaking includes an obligation to pay the Council's costs in assessing the adequacy of the Undertaking (which will include checking the title to the land) and registering the Undertaking as a local land charge. This charge is subject to review and actual costs will be assessed by reference to the rates operating on the date of completion of the agreement. If planning permission is not granted, then the local land charge will be removed.

If any of the above conditions are not met, the Council will normally consider the matter unsuitable for a Unilateral Undertaking and will expect the Applicant to enter into a conventional negotiated Section 106 Agreement, which will be drafted by the Council’s Legal Services under their normal terms of business.

If the Applicant considers that the above conditions are met and the Development Control Officer dealing with the application has confirmed that a Unilateral Undertaking would be appropriate, then the Applicant should complete a draft Unilateral Undertaking and submit this to the Development Control Section with the related planning application, together with a plan of the application land and proof of title to the land.

Upon receipt of the draft undertaking, the Council will assess it and confirm whether it is acceptable or whether amendments are required. They will also check the proof of title submitted. If any amendments are required, the draft will be returned to the applicant.

A Unilateral Undertaking must be completed and signed before the application can be registered and considered. Applicants are therefore strongly advised to allow sufficient time for their draft undertaking to be assessed and (if need be) amended.

A Unilateral Undertaking is a legally binding document with significant financial consequences. If you are in any doubt about the meaning and effect of the undertaking you should seek independent legal advice.

Councils are committed to offering pre-application advice. Where it is intended to submit a Unilateral Undertaking, you are advised to include this element in any pre-application discussions, so that the details and level of contribution can be agreed prior to the submission of a planning application.

How much you pay for play, recreation or open spaces depends on whether you're:
·         contributing towards enhancements to existing facilities; or
·         providing new facilities on site.

Indicative costs are set out in the table below, but you should check with your local authority for a more definite figure.

Size of dwelling                                                               Lay-out contribution per dwelling
One single bed flat or sheltered unit                                    £2,558.78
One flat or house with between two or four bedrooms          £3,698.81
One house with five or more bedrooms                                £4,236.73

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Triple Glazing...

I have come across "The Triple Glazing Buyer's Guide" that is worth a read if you want to know a little more.

Monday 15 August 2011

Eastern Update...

Work to the interior of the headquarters for Eastern Concrete in Stowmarket is coming to fruition. Elements that have been recently completed include the Altro Mondopave flooring to the stairs in ‘Tomato’ and the stainless steel cable guarding to the stairs and landing.

And there it was...gone...

Another week has seen a good deal of progress at the Manor House, the builders, Procon Building Contractors, are doing a brilliant job and this week the ceiling to the Kitchen, previously 2352mm to the underside of exposed joists has now been removed to reveal the new re-structured roof that now provides a semi-vaulted ceiling line.

Herts and Minds...

RTDA have been appointed by a returning client to refurbish a detached dwelling in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and the survey of the existing was carried out 11/08. The client is mindful of period quality where necessary and our last project together saw the refurbishment of an Edwardian Semi-detached property in St Albans. This is as an opportunity to expand on a passion that the client has for Modernist Architecture albeit a contemporary interpretation. Given the form of the building, this will not be a walk in the park to achieve, but am confident that RTDA can provide a solution that will meet the clients’ expectations.