Merryfield Close, Verwood.

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Above is a photo of a project in Merryfield Close, in Verwood.

 

Essentially the brief was to extend over the existing garage roof to create extra bedroom space upstairs. Fairly straightforward you’d think, right? Wrong. Kind of.

Architecturally, it was pretty straightforward, but the process of getting to where we are int he above photo has been long and arduous.

Several years ago, the client put in a planning application for a similar scheme that was refused by the planners. Why? Because on the adjoining piece of land there is an oak tree that partially overhangs onto the clients property. Not enough to need removing or even pruning to fit the extension in, but enough to worry the relevant people into turning down the planning application.

So, a couple of years on the council have cut said oak tree right back of their own volition, such that any concerns about the proposed extension must be void, so the client contacted yours truly about putting in another application, he also employed a tree specialist to report on the potential affect of the extension on said tree. “None” was the basic upshot.

Sadly, on the back of the council’s tree officer’s report the application was refused again.

This did trigger some strong language and gnashing of teeth. BUt once everyone had calmed down and realised the council were just doing their job, we took some advice from Gary Palmer from Avita Planning, who advised that we had a relatively strong case if we wanted to appeal the decision.

Which we did.

And we won.

After several very long months.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not having a go at the planners, they simply took the advice of a specialist in making their decision, and if we’re honest, if they’re going to err, it’s best they err on the side of caution, or things like the IMAX centre get built, but it’s good that we have a system in place where planning decisions can be appealed. Very good in fact.

On to the build itself, it’s being carried out by Dave Shiner of Dream Build Construction, and is coming along nicely.

Rather than using steel beams to carry the new walls above the garage, we opted to use timber frame. All methods of construction have their pros and cons, but the advantage of timber frame in this instance is that we didn’t need to do any work to strengthen the foundations, or start wielding heavy lumps of steel around in what is a fairly small space, plus it’s gone up very quickly, which is a bonus.

One thing that does normally concern me about extending properties, is that it can be devilishly hard to find an exact match for the brickwork, and this can lead to the extension standing out a mile when it’s finished, but all credit to Mr Shiner, he’s found a very close brick, and I believe that when it’s finished, unless you were looking for it, you’d be hard pressed to know that that wasn’t how the building was built in the first place, which is a really good thing. (In the photo above, where the scaffold stops is basically where the new brickwork meets the old, have a look, it’s pretty good!)

Anyway, more on this one to come…..

 

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Lessons I’ve Learned in Business. Part 1

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Having been self employed for a well over a year now, I thought it would useful (for me as much as anyone!) to put together a series of blog posts highlighting and expounding some of the things I’ve learned.

Clearly, my particular experience is within architecture, but I guess many of the principles will apply across a range of industries.

Ok, so, lesson 1…….

The client may not always be right but he is always the client.

Architecture wouldn’t exist if there were no clients to ultimately foot the bill. Fact.

It is possible to believe as an “expert” in any given field, that our advice is above reproach, or that our designs unquestionable. However, the ethos behind Lacey Architectural Services, is and always has been to provide my clients with spaces that work for THEM. Them, not me, and my resolve in this philosophy has only been strengthened over the last 15 months.

My job is to advise, not impose, and sometimes that means compromising the design solution that I believe to be correct in favour of what the client wants.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just a robot drawing what I’m told. Many of my clients come to me specifically for design advice, and I’m happy to speak up if I think they’re heading in the wrong direction. However as long as I am content that I’ve advised well, then I’m nearly always happy to go with the client if they happen to differ in opinion to me.

“Why though? Surely that means you’re compromising your professional integrity”

No it doesn’t. For at least two reasons:

1 – There could be any number of reasons why a client wants to go a different way. Of course, good design is important and we’d all like that commission where we’re told to just design whatever we want, but they are very few and far between. My clients are usually investing massive sums of money (relatively at least) and will often have to live with or even in the building I design for them, so who am I  to ride roughshod over their wishes?

2 – I’m not (and intend never to be) so arrogant as to believe I’m always right. I had a conversation once with an architect who was complaining that the client kept “interfering” with the design of his own house!

If you’re funding the project you get the final say. If your commissioned to help and advise, then you help and advise to the best of your ability.

Architecture is important, but without clients architecture doesn’t exist, so lesson No.1 is stay client focused

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Verwood Project. Update No.3

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Above, are a few photos from the project in Verwood I’ve been blogging about recently.

As you can see, the builders are really making good progress now, the existing roof is coming off, and the extension is pretty well up to first floor height. Exciting stuff, if you like sort of thing. which I do!

You’ll also note that there are some hefty lumps of steel going in, this is primarily to stop the house falling down, which we all hope it will do!

But in seriousness, using steel members to take the load as we have enables the property to be much more “open plan” and flexible design wise. Rather than having to have fixed structural walls on the ground floor, to hold up what’s above, the steel is used to transfer the weight onto the outside walls giving us much more scope for the layout downstairs. In this instance, the lady responsible for designing the steel is Claire Parrot, from CHP Engineering Projects.

Structural Engineers generally tend to get a bit overlooked in construction projects. Architects and other designers get the plaudits (or otherwise) for designing the building, but the process of designing and constructing any building is almost always a team effort.

I’ve worked with Claire on several projects now, and while I (along with the client of course) dictate the overall form of the building, it’s the Engineer who has to make sure it stands up, and so far, you’ll be happy to know they all have, so we must be doing something right!

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Work continues in Verwood

Yeah, I need to employ someone to work on my blog titles. I’m really not very good at it!

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So, I’ve been to site today, and work seems to be going well. The foundations are in, as is the beam and block ground floor. The bricklayer is making good progress with the walls and the groundworkers are getting the drainage sorted. They’ve also got a Makita site radio, which is the hallmark of any good construction site!

I once heard an old grizzled architect say “Architecture would be easy if it wasn’t for the clients”. I understand what he means, a good client can make my job a real joy, whereas, as in any industry, if you do happen to end up working for a difficult client, it can be hard work, however, old grizzly was wrong. He should have said “Architecture wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the clients”

Those of us who are professionals in the construction industry need to remember, that while we might invest a few hours/days/months or even years in a project, our client’s (particularly home owners) are always investing more, it’s a project to us, but it’s a home to them.

I had a discussion with a different architect recently, who works on similar scale projects to me, but he has a very distinct style and he said “The first thing I do when I meet a new client is tell them that I’ll only design things my way” I suppose in one respect, that’s a good thing, as it gives his potential employers the chance to tell him to get stuffed early on! For me though, my architectural “style” is less important than ensuring my client’s get what they want without being brow beaten into conforming to my way of thinking. Of course design in important, but it’s my job to help people realise their plans, and aid them along the way, not to dictate to them that they should live in a concrete box, because “minimalism” is the new black. Anyway, I’m on the verge of a rant about Architectural snobbery, and that wasn’t where I was supposed to be going at all!

The clients on this job, who I shall refer to as Mr & Mrs Mcstuffins (partly because it’s more interesting than Mr & Mrs Bloggs, and partly because I’ve just been watching Doc Mcstuffins with my four year old….), have been pretty much the model clients, they gave me a decent brief, but left enough room for a bit of imagination, they listen to advice, and they ask questions if they’re not sure about something, you can’t really ask for more than that…. But what really stands them out is their bravery on this project.

They’re a young couple with 3 small children, they’ve bought this property and taken on a fairly ambitious remodelling project (in addition to the extension, they’ve also gutted the rest of the house and are planning on bringing the whole building up to a decent level). But more than that they’ve chosen to live in a caravan for the duration of the build.

That’s a big call. Would I want to move my family into a caravan while I essentially built our new home? I’d need some persuading, (and so would my wife) but ultimately it’s a call that should pay dividends.

Building projects can be tricky, building projects that have to be done while people are trying to live in the property (especially those that involve the renovation of the entire house can be much trickier still).

By moving out it gives them, the builder and me much more room to get things right. If the builder had to programme his works such that some of the rooms could still be used then you end up dragging the process on forever. If they’d chosen to live on site, it would have almost certainly meant the project would have been scaled down, but they decided “if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right”, and fair play to them I say!

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Work Begins in Verwood……

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Work has recently begun on this project in Verwood.

Last year, the clients purchased the three bedroom property with the intention of turning into their dream home, and commissioned Lacey Architectural Services to gain planning permission. Working closely together, we came up with a scheme that seemed to fulfill the brief, but, sadly it was knocked back by the planners.

Following some strong language and grinding of teeth, we returned to the drawing board, (or more literally, the CAD workstation!) and reworked it until we had a design that the planners were happy with. In a (large) nutshell, the intention is to extend the ground floor, transforming what is currently a modest set of disjointed rooms into a free flowing open plan kitchen/dining/living area ideal for entertaining, and further seperate living space, as well as a utility room and a shower room.

On the first floor, there are currently 3 bedrooms all of which are hampered significantly by the roof slopes, so essentially, we’ve extended the roof out and up, which allows us to create a fourth bedroom and rearrange the other three, lessening the impact of the roof and ultimately giving four nice sized bedrooms.

In a few months it should look something like this….

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Which, admittedly isn’t a million miles away from where we started, but in this context that’s not a bad thing. The temptation often is to try to do something very different when extending a property, especially in our age of Grand Designs. But in this instance trying to do something different would have been odd. While the other houses in the road don’t by any means all look the same, there is a similarity in Architectural style, if we’d come along and tried to stick a modernist box on the back it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. Due the the fact the building is rendered, we won’t have the usual problem of trying and failing to match bricks that you often get when extending a property.

So, with any luck, when it’s done it should sit nicely in its surroundings as well as fulfilling the client’s needs, but more on them next time!

 

Cheers

Zak.

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Check (a professional) me out!

Lacey Architectural Services is now a member of Check A Professional!

 

Check us out here

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If Carlsberg made blackboards…

blackboard

This weekend I collected my new blackboard from Jo Plumridge at Fabstract.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, its pretty cool…..

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VFC FC

VFC FC

Lacey Architectural Services is sponsoring Verwood Family Church in this their inaugaural year in the South West Evangelical Alliance football league. This is a photo of me handing over the kit to captain Stew Plumridge

The team is still looking for players (16+), so if you know anyone who might be interested please contact Andy Pym on 01202 379691 or 07961 071458 or email apym289@gmail.com

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This is gonna upset some people

This is gonna upset some people

So the worlds largest offshore wind farm has been given the go ahead, it will be located off Lincolnshire and Norfolk, and there are plans to put an even larger one off the coast of Devon.

I should imagine there will be tears.

In fact I’ve already seen it described as “Environmental vandalism on a mass scale” Which as well as being hugely over reactionary (not sure that’s even a word, but you get my point!) is also amusing because of it’s irony. The whole point of wind farms (supposedly at least) is to halt the environmental damage caused by using fossil fuels….

Personally, I’m all for renewable energy, unless of course it inconveniences me in any way shape or form, (see my post about solar panels here)

But in all seriousness, I don’t know what you think about wind farms, but in a strange way I kind of like them, for me at least there’s something quite mesmerising about them, and it’s not even as if it’s new technology, we’ve been using windmills for centuries!

In any case I don’t live in Norfolk, Lincolnshire or Devon, so “go for it” I say, though I reserve the right to change that opinion if they suggest building one off the coast of Dorset!!! Or ON the coast of Dorset for that matter!

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What is Permitted Development

What is Permitted Development

I’m pretty good with the catchy titles huh?

As much as it might grate with us sometimes, it is a good thing that we have a planning system in this country.

Yes I understand the argument that if you own a piece of land then you should be able to do what you want with it, and I could give plenty of examples of when it goes wrong, BUT the alternative is almost unthinkable. If there was a free for all, sadly it wouldn’t take long for us to ruin the entire country!

However, an Englishman’s home is still his castle and the planning process does recognise that.

There is provision within the system for a homeowner (or owner of commercial property for that matter) to make some changes to their property without having to go through the rigmarol of a planning application.

This is called Permitted Development. If what you are proposing to do falls within a set of “rules” that are in place, then you are at liberty to go ahead without planning permission.

Definitive guidance on what falls under the heading of PD can be found at http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission/ but the sorts of thing you can do include:

– Loft conversions
– House extensions
– Conservatories
– Porches
– Garages
– Garage conversions

Now there are certain stipulations to all the above, it’s not a free for all, but in the right circumstances there is much that can be done without a planning application!

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