Why you can’t afford to not use an architect…
When it comes to a building project, we all want to make our budget stretch as far as possible. If you’ve already got a builder in mind to complete the work, it may seem tempting to skip the step of hiring an architect completely. But we’re going to explain why using an architect will actually save you money.
A good Architect (and we do recommend using a RIBA Chartered Practice) will start by working with you to fine tune your ideas. Up to date with building regulations and practices they will quickly be able to let you know if your proposal is feasible and will put you in the best position in regards to submitting planning applications.
The architect will manage the design and build process for you, which includes liaising with building regulation officers and the planning department. Taking control in this way not only ensures the build runs as smooth as possible but also helps to avoid costly (and timely) disputes.
An architect will also assist in the selection of a contractor. Making sure they are adequately insured and competent. Your architect will convey your vision to the building team and will make thorough checks that all work is safe and adheres to both building regulations and your original plans.
Architects also abide by a statutory plan of works and will also be insured themselves which goes further to minimise risk for your build.
And finally, with a vast knowledge of construction, an architect will take in to consideration building materials and the design brief itself in order for you to maximise your budget and help avoid expensive mistakes, thus generating lower running costs of the overall project.
If you’d like to find out more about our process and how we work as a practice we have a quick and easy to watch video explaining all our stages of work.
If you are designing your new home, an open floor plan with a seamless transition from the indoor space to an outdoor veranda is a great feature to include. Open layouts are becoming more and more popular in modern homes as they give the illusion of a bigger space, provide more natural sunlight and outdoor views, and create a more safe and social environment.
To create the feel of one large and connected space, abolish any distractions or eye sores and use floor to ceiling glass where possible. Finish off using similar flooring and wall papering/ paint to complete a flush, modern look that gives the illusion that the space is one. A veranda offers many benefits, these include adding value to a home and providing additional space.
Not only will your room have the illusion of being bigger, you will feel closer to nature. Using large floor to ceiling windows with minimal lines will bring in natural sunlight and allows you to enjoy the landscapes of your home.
Small spaces, Big ideas!!
With the benefits of living in the City Centre growing rapidly, more and more people are searching for their perfect home. The only downside is according to a report released by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, we are living in “rabbit hutch Britain”, with new homes ranking as the smallest in Europe.
So with this in mind, adaptability is key when it comes to fitting your lifestyle into a small home. Incorporating hidden storage and plenty of light can make any home feel bigger and brighter.
Did you know that buildings don’t have to be old to be listed? Listing was started in 1947 as part of the Town and County Planning Act to guard specific properties for post-war builders. To be listed, a building needs to be of particular architectural or historic interest.
Completed in 1987, the Inmos Microprocessor Factory in Newport is of particular architectural interest and was listed in 2007. The reason why this factory is listed is that it has a unique design structure. The architect, John Young, designed all of the exteriors of the building as the support systems, which meant that no columns are holding it up inside. This building was also designed as a sort of kit so that it could be constructed quickly in many different places. This design additionally ensures that there would be no disturbances to the running of the factory if any extensions were to be added.
1. Brings the outdoors to even the smallest of spaces – Even if it is being added onto a flat, having a balcony could allow an owner to have their slice of paradise. Smaller balconies are usually seen with mini gardens that their owners have created, or even a small set of table and chairs so that they can sit outside and drink tea or coffee on a summer’s morning. Larger balconies, however, could have the potential to bring families together. If big enough, they can house barbeques and be the ideal location for get-togethers with family or friends.
2. Lets in air and sunlight – Another benefit of a balcony is that it gives a lot more air and sunshine to the adjacent room. If one side of your property doesn’t get that much sunlight, then a balcony would be perfect. Having doors instead of a small window would guarantee a lot more sunshine going into that room. It’s also sometimes hard to bring air into a particular area of the property too, especially if the room only has a small window. A balcony could additionally solve that problem as a more significant draught would be coming in from the open doors. It would also be beneficial in the summer as a natural breeze would help to make a room less hot and stuffy.
3. Enjoy the view – The most obvious benefit of having a balcony is the view. Instead of just looking at it from a window, you can embrace the scenery by stepping outdoors and see a broader panoramic landscape.
Do I Need Planning Permission?
If you are looking to change the use of a property, there are many things that you need to know before going ahead. One of these things is whether planning permission will be necessary.
Planners categorise all buildings by their use class, i.e. offices, dwellings, etc. Certain use classes can be converted to other certain use classes without needing planning permission. This is called permitted development. Please note that permitted development policies vary between England and Wales.
For example, if you wanted to change a restaurant into a hairdresser’s, planning this change of use class does not require planning permission as it is permitted development. However, if the hairdressers were going to be converted into a restaurant, planning permission would be required as there is no permitted development right for this conversion in Wales.
We recently worked on a project that required planning permission for a change of use. We were approached by our client to assist with the conversion of a doctor’s surgery into six apartments. The doctors’ surgery and the apartments needed planning permission from the local authority due to being in different use classes.
What Is Needed When Applying for Planning Permission?
The following documents have to be included within the application to apply for planning permission;
• Relevant plans of the site and elevations if there are any alterations to the facades.
• Supporting documentation.
• The Application Form.
• The correct fee. Learn how to calculate this for both Wales and England.
Wales: https://ecab.planningportal.co.uk/uploads/welsh_application_fees.pdf and for
The Local Planning Authority then decides whether to grant the planning and will usually make a decision within eight weeks.
What Influences the Local Planning Authority’s Decision?
They base their decision on the following criteria:
• The number, size, layout, siting and external appearance of buildings.
• The infrastructure available, e.g. roads and water supply.
• Any landscaping needs.
• What you want to use the development to be.
• How your development would affect the surrounding area, e.g. if it would create lots more traffic.
Do I need Building Regulations for my Project?
If your change of use does not require planning permission, it may mean that your project still needs building regulations.
Still Not Sure If Your Project Needs Planning Permission?
If you’re still not sure that your project requires planning permission, the best option is to chat with people who will know. Our architects can advise if your project needs planning permission or even building regulations.
If you are undertaking a project and would like to receive some advice regarding planning permissions or building regulations, please get in touch. Call the office on 01633 744144 or email email@example.com to arrange a free one-hour consultation.
Architect: Richard Andrews Architects
Works Undertaken: Feasibility and planning, detailed design and tender plus contract and project overseeing.
Client: Private Domestic Client
Cost of Work: Undisclosed
Contractor: So Exclusive Developments
We were approached by our client and their family to help design a new build studio apartment within the grounds of their existing family home. As our client has a disability that affects mobility and is dependent upon using a wheelchair it was essential that we designed a fully level home, that allowed circulation paths for the wheelchair throughout all the rooms. We encorporated wide external and internal doorways and included a ramp leading from the rear decked terrace to a garden area below.
The large bedroom and ensuite was designed to give ample space for hoist access to the bed and bath with the addition of a wetroom style shower, lowered WC and stylish vanity units.
Another consideration we needed to address was that our client also required a team of carers present at all times. We wanted to design a home that not only allowed our client their privacy and living space but also gave sufficient space for visiting guests and carers. We proposed an upstairs wing, with private bedrooms, a small sitting/study area and a bathroom with shower enclosure.
Making someone's quality of life better truely is the passion behind our practice. If you have a project you'd like our help with call our team on 01633 744144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the skills we pride ourselves on at RA Architects is our ability to help clients overcome planning constraints to gain a successful application outcome.
Each project we work on has individual planning considerations, however we thought it may provide an interesting insight to blog about one of our more contentious applications and the process undertaken by our colleague Cai to help secure planning approval for our private client.
The Vale of Glamorgan (Vale of Glamorgan Council.)
The Project Brief:
A change of use scheme where our client was looking to convert two retail units (one of which had lain dormant for several years) into a single residential dwelling.
Why did the Council recommend refusal?
The Vale of Glamorgan have a well-meaning policy (LDP policy MG15 as detailed below) which protects commercial units in local retail centres being converted to flats; however conversion to a residential dwelling is still permissible if it can be proven that the retail unit is no longer commercially viable.
For our client to be allowed to convert the property they needed to provide clear evidence that the shop units weren’t commercially viable. Our client submitted proof that they had tried to market the property for sale as retail units for several years but were unsuccessful.
One of the planners felt that the evidence submitted by our clients was not sufficient and suggested that the property could be rented or that our client could consider changing the use to other retail, commercial or community type services. The council questioned why there was not a ‘For Sale’ sign outside the property.
Our client responded that whilst every effort was made to market the building they did not agree to a ‘For Sale’ sign outside the property due to the potential negative impact it may have for the business of the client’s wife who ran a cake company from the larger unit.
Once the case officer confirmed that the evidence submitted by our client was deemed insufficient and the planners were going to recommend a refusal our clients called the application to planning committee.
What happens at a Vale of Glamorgan planning committee meeting?
The planning authority present the application and their recommendations and the applicant or agent (in this case Cai,) speak in favour of the scheme. The councillors then vote whether they wish to uphold the planners recommendation.
In this example, Cai explained the submitted evidence and also emphasised that the retail units were situated on the periphery of the retail centre, and were not a prominent frontage in the retail centre. As neighbouring retail units included a newsagents, pharmacy and Tesco express, Cai suggested that the change of use scheme would not affect the day to day needs of the local community.
The Councillors of the planning committee however upheld the planner’s recommendation and refused the application.
What can be done after planning has been refused?
Cai discussed the project with his clients and together they decided to appeal the planning decision. The case was passed to an independent, senior appointed planning inspectorate who would make a final decision. Cai wrote an appeal statement comprehensively explaining why he believed the application met the policy criteria.
What did the planning inspectorate find?
The planning inspectorate concluded that there was no evidence to suggest the marketing of the property had been insufficient and accepted our clients’ reasoning for the lack of a physical ‘For Sale’ board. The inspector also dismissed the council’s idea that the property could be tenanted if not sold. Commenting that ‘prolonging the period of vacancy of [the] retail units with no certainty that a sale could be achieved, would have a negative impact on the vibrancy of the centre.’
Finally, in consideration of all points raised by The Vale of Glamorgan council, alongside the evidence submitted by ourselves and our client the inspector approved the application.
If you are undertaking a project and would like to receive some advice regarding planning permissions, please do get in touch. Call the office on 01633 744144 or email email@example.com to arrange a free consultation.
We’ve blogged before about the many hats worn by an architect and spoken about how the role is much more varied than just drawing a few plans, so with that in mind we decided to record a ‘day in the life’ of Richard Andrews Architect’s Associate, Lewis, to help give a real understanding of what a typical day for an architectural professional looks like.
6.30am – The day starts early, I set a 5am alarm so that I can get to a 6.30am business networking event in Cardiff. The group is high energy, though I get a chance to talk to all the attendees and explain a little about the services we offer and the projects we’re currently working on, I then set follow up meetings with potential clients and business contacts over the next couple of weeks.
8am – Back at the office, I like to check through my inbox and respond to emails from the night before, plus double check my calendar and to –do list for the day ahead. The first job of the day is to explore a technical issue on an existing scheme – where we are converting an old surgery building into flats. The build is currently at stage 3 (contract and project overseeing of our design process) and I need to find a way to waterproof the floor between two buildings at different levels.
8.45 - The next task on my list is working on the detail specifications for a £1million pound plus meeting facility scheme. I read through the construction design installation and chase roofing contractors for further information.
9.15 - I check in with the rest of the technical team and sit with my colleague Seb to look over feasibility designs for a two storey house extension, satisfied the project is going to plan I then follow up with another of our architectural assistants Antonella who is working on value engineering a separate house extension project.
10.30 – I have a telephone meeting booked with our quantity surveyor to work on the final account for Cwmbran Village Surgery’s building works which totalled around £450k. We also discuss tender proposals regarding a second GP surgery project in Pontprennau, Cardiff. I will later relay our discussions back to the client so that they can make the most informed choice regarding the construction tender bids for their project.
11.45 – Time to grab a quick lunch at a cafe in Caerleon with practice director Richard, smoked salmon baguette, a slice of lemon cake and a chance to catch up!
12.30 - I start the afternoon by responding to some of the emails and telephone messages that have come in throughout the day, then I turn my attention to some drawing work using our 3D modelling software Revit. A few of my newer colleagues are also learning the software so I use this as an opportunity to help them improve their skills.
1.45 – 3D drawing completed, I finish costing and writing up a client fee proposal for a potential residential extension I had visited the previous day. The client had some great ideas for their home and having seen the space I have many thoughts on how we can improve their initial concept to further maximise the use of light and space and improve their quality of life.
2.10 - Email to the client sent, fingers crossed we get the commission. I check my to-do list, and start work on a pen and paper sketch for a 16 unit new house layout in the valleys, this is an enjoyable way to get some ideas down early in a project.
3.00 – Time for a Site visit for a local householder project in Newport regarding planning enforcement. The quality of works carried out by the appointed construction team is good and to our original design specification, I update our client and the rest of the team.
4.00 – I quickly pop back into the office to respond to some more emails emails and telephone messages before heading back out to a ‘snagging’ appointment for a new build house in Newport.
5.30pm - The meeting goes well, all parties are happy with only some minor items to rectify, so for me; it’s time to head home to rugby training this evening!
We hope you enjoyed reading this post and gained a better insight into what our team does on a daily basis. Feel free to contact us regarding your scheme – we'd love to help!