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Building an Eco Home: 9 Things to Consider When Building an Eco Home

Wouldn’t it be great if you would design and build an eco home that visually appealing and has a low energy demand?

As you probably already know that the construction industry and homeowners recognise the necessity for a sustainable home in the face of a changing climate. Designing new builds, retrofitting homes and improving existing housing stock are all essential steps.

Addressing energy conservation in buildings realises the maximum potential in terms of energy conservation. With the technology available today, it is possible to increase the energy efficiency in new buildings and renovations without compromising on the aesthetics, safety, health or thermal comfort of a building’s occupants. To achieve an energy efficient building requires that the energy conservation be a fundamental part of the eco house design.

Do you want to learn how to build an eco friendly home?

If you follow the best practices listed in this blog post, you’ll be well on your way to building your eco home that is visually appealing and has a low energy demand in the first place. Let’s take a closer look to how to design and build low energy, eco friend house with the latest passivhaus design and sustainable design ideas.

Contemporary Eco House Design by Urbanist Architecture

1.Best Passivhaus Design and Construction Strategies

First of all, Passivhaus design is a standard for design and construction, that aims to create a home that stays at a comfortable temperature with minimal energy use. Sunlight, human and appliance generated heat are used to dramatically decrease the need for additional space-heating.

In Passivhaus design, the size, shape and orientation of a home, good heat retention, airtightness, natural ventilation and heat recovery systems are all employed with the aim of dramatically reducing the annual carbon emissions of a building.

Here’s the point: To achieve the Passivhaus standard, the energy required for space heating must not exceed 15 kWh/m2 .This is determined by calculating the maximum amount of heat that can be delivered using the fresh supply of air at the minimum required ventilation rate. So what’s it all mean?

Achieving this standard depends largely on the climatic condition of the region on which it is built. In the UK, this typically involves:

  • ensuring very high levels of insulation;
  • the installation of extremely high performance windows with insulated frames;
  • an airtight building fabric;
  • ‘thermal bridge free’ construction;
  • a mechanical ventilation system with highly efficient heat recovery;
  • and accurate design using the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP).
2. Passive Solar Design requirements for Sustainable Homes

The good news is you don’t have to commit to the Passivhaus Standard to understand and utilise passive sources of energy. Most people are familiar with active solar energy generation – solar panels are a common sight up and down the UK and help to reduce our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

Fewer people understand the necessity of passive solar design, which allows us to more directly harness the heat and light of the sun to reduce the energy demands of our homes.

The truth is one of the most important elements of passive solar design is building orientation.

Let me explain…

New buildings, wherever possible, should be orientated so that they face south (in the Northern Hemisphere). Windows should be placed predominantly on the south side of a building to maximise solar gain.  While, of course, the orientation of existing housing stock can rarely be changed, retrofitting measures may still include an increase of good quality, thermally-efficient triple glazing to the south side of the structure.

Beyond that seasonal shading should also be considered, however, to prevent overheating in summer. This can often be easily achieved by use of such features as extended eaves and well-positioned blinds, which will reduce high-angle sun penetration without significantly disrupting levels of natural light. Think I’m exaggerating?

3. Thermal Efficiency, Insulation and U Values for Eco Friendly House Design 

Have you wondered what U Value means?

Let me say this straight: The design of any building involves careful consideration not only of the external factors of a site but also, of course, of the materials of which it is made. Sustainable home design should first consider the carbon cost of materials, before going on to develop designs whereby those materials can be used to create homes that keep the heat in and require little energy to heat.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

For example, eco-friendly materials such as wood from sustainable forestry, cob, and straw can all be used as alternatives to other, more carbon-costly materials in green buildings, including in those which aim for Passivhaus standards.

The U value of walls, roof and floors determines the rate at which heat escapes from a building. The lower the U value, the more slowly heat will dissipate. Passivhaus standards require U values to be no higher than 0.15 W/m2 for the walls, roof and floors and 0.80 W/m2 for an individual window, 0.85W/m2 for windows fully installed. In many cases, the U values should be far lower and these are considered to be the maximum acceptable U values. (In some cases, higher than will be acceptable for building standards).

If you are retrofitting energy-efficient measures, external insulation may be best since external insulation does not prevent wall structures from providing thermal mass (which helps to store the sun’s heat and release it gently at night). This can also help minimise thermal bridges which result in heat loss. Astonishing, isn’t it?

4. Clever Airtight Design for Eco Homes

Another important element in the design of energy efficient houses is that they must have very good airtightness levels. An airtight building will further reduce heating demand and can be achieved by means of barriers and membranes placed in all the elements of the building.

In fact, In Passivhaus certification, the airtightness achieved by a structure is determined by an n50 test measurement. Air pressurisation tests are performed and the air escaping at 50 Pascals pressure should be fewer than 0.6 air changes per hour. Good design and implementation of barriers is essential to meet the rigorous standards.

5. Smart Natural Ventilation and Heat Recovery systems for Eco Houses

When implementing airtightness, it is also important to consider the ventilation needs of a structure. Natural ventilation allows for a cooling of excess temperature and a healthy and comfortable air flow by means of cross ventilation, which can be achieved by understanding of the way that air moves through a building.

The simple truth is, it is a requirement of Passivhaus certification that a building does not experience temperatures higher than 25 degrees Celsius for more than 10% of the year. In summer, natural ventilation can play a part in the maintenance of a low energy building, though in the winter, natural ventilation can result in undesirable heat loss.

Most importantly, in order to reduce heat losses further and yet maintain indoor air quality, airtight designs often incorporate mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) into the designs. These systems work by extracting air from warm, wet rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens and passing it through a heat exchanger which passes this warmth to fresh air coming from outside. Fresh, pre-warmed air can then be released back into living areas of the home.

For Passivhaus certification, the heat recovery efficiency of a ventilation system must be equal to or greater than 75%. A fan power of less than or equal to 0.45 Wh/m3 is required and thought should also be carefully given to potential noise pollution and sound transfer between rooms.

6. Energy Use and Energy Efficiency of Eco Homes

Good insulation and solar orientation will help create a home that has a low heat-energy demand to start with, but homeowners must also take other measures to reduce energy usage. Choose appliances with A+++ rating and opt for highly efficient lighting (such as LED).

Here’s the big idea: It may also be worth looking to photovoltaics and other means of local energy generation to meet the low electricity requirements of the home. Active solar measures can be taken to reduce the energy load of heating water by pre-heating. Hot water heating systems and heat losses incurred through their implementation can be the Achilles heel of eco and Passivhaus design if not carefully considered at an early stage in the process.

7. Best Water, Drainage and Waste Management practices for Eco Houses

Surprisingly enough, one of the major considerations for a green home design should be the use and management of water. Many eco designs will incorporate water saving measures such as low-flush plumbing and water recycling. Re-use of greywater and even the treatment of waste water in reed beds or other natural filtration systems is recommended where possible.

Alternatively, sustainable homes may also incorporate composting toilets and other alternative waste management options. If you are opting for Passivhaus standard, regulations mean that immense care must be taken over ingress and egress points for any pipes and the heat that can be lost as a result of the installation of certain water systems. Do you see where we’re going with this?

Waste management considerations also extend to the general household waste that will be generated within a home. A zero waste home should aim for as much of a reduction in generated waste as possible and allow for as much on-site recycling, composting and reclamation of waste materials as possible.

Waste should also be considered through the construction or renovation phase. In sustainable building and renovation, as much waste as possible should be kept from landfill. Of course reclaimed materials should also be used where it is a good idea to do so. There may also be consideration of the eventual disposal of materials used at the end of the life of the building.

8. Suitability, Liveability and Adaptability for Eco Homes

A truly sustainable dwelling house is one which is ideally suited to its situation and to those living in it. I’ll walk you through the whole process…

First of all, in order to ensure that a home’s design is optimised to reduce energy consumption and ensure year round comfort, a bioclimatic chart can be used to make sure that the designs are perfect for the climate conditions of the area. Such a chart can also be used to determine the measures that are best employed with a given house to add value and reduce its current energy use.

Designers may also employ vector diagrams to determine the sunlight strength and direction at a given time of day and time of year and to consider other elements such as wind direction and strength, the effects of which can be mitigated with good design.

Quite simply, liveability is also key to good sustainable home design. Passivhaus regulations take into account the comfort levels required for healthy living when it comes to heat and air flow. Light levels are also good in a home with passive solar design features, as much thought is given to how rooms within the home are to be used and how they will relate to one another.

Let me give you some examples:

Main living spaces such as living rooms and dining rooms will take advantage of the glazing to the south, while the less-glazed north side of a passive home will often be given over to rooms where light is less important, such as bathrooms, utility rooms and storage space.

Beyond that, adaptability is another factor in sustainable home design. Sustainable homes must be built to be adaptable to many different eventualities. This adaptability is especially crucial in the face of our warming planet and changing weather patterns that make forecasting much more difficult. By being largely self-contained and requiring little external power to operate successfully, a home with other sustainable and environmentally friendly features, can weather the storms, literally and metaphorically.

9. Relationship of an Eco House to Its Environment

Those who design ethical and environmentally friendly housing must consider far more than just the energy use of each building. In sustainable home design, it is important to remember that no building exists in a vacuum and it is important to consider any home in the context of its environment. It sounds simple. But it isn’t…

A truly zero carbon home would facilitate the goal of a zero carbon lifestyle. This could include such features as growing space for food; bicycle storage space and perhaps features such as workshops or home offices that make it easier to work flexibly from home. Even in a city or high density area, provision can be made for food production through green roofs, vertical gardens and space for container growing. Such features can also be incorporated into insulation plans.

A successful sustainable design for a home with a garden will allow for easy transition between the two and a blurring of the boundaries between inside and out by incorporating features such as verandas and conservatories – both features which can be helpful in different ways for passive solar design.

What’s the bottom line?

The design of a zero carbon house begins with the materials, but it ends with a thorough understanding of those who will one day call it home and how it will feel for them to live there.

With a multidisciplinary team comprised of architects, planning consultants, engineers and interior designers, Urbanist Architecture is more than equipped to help you build your eco home. Take action today by giving us a call or sending an e-mail.

The post Building an Eco Home: 9 Things to Consider When Building an Eco Home appeared first on Urbanist Architecture Best London Architects.

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What is Building Regulations Approval?

Building Regulations (also known as building control) are standards that apply to all buildings to make sure they are safe for the people who are in or around them. The Regulations are a series of Approved Documents covering the technical aspects of construction work. As such, Building Regulations ensure quality in terms of the comfort, safety, and watertightness of the works carried out.

Most building work – whether new, alterations or extensions or change of use – requires Building Regulations Approval. Examples of when Building Regulations approval is required include, but are not limited to:

  • building extensions and loft conversions
  • converting garages into habitable rooms
  • certain structural alterations
  • changing electrics in bathrooms
  • replacing windows and doors
  • installing cavity insulation
  • changing the use of a property
  • underpinning structures
  • installing, expanding or replacing a heating system
  • carrying out drainage works

If you are in any doubt, come to us and we can certainly use our expertise to check this for you.

Once the Building Control Body – generally the council or an approved inspector – has checked the standard of the works, they issue a building regulations completion certificate.

Why do I need Building Regulations Approval certificates?

As a landlord, it is your duty to ensure that the work you are carrying out meets the quality standards set out to ensure comfortable, dry housing. If the person doing the work does not comply with building regulations, they could be prosecuted and fined. In addition, your local authority may oblige you to pay for the faulty work to be fixed. In addition, it is worth mentioning that a lack of Building Control approval appears on a land search, and so you will not have one of the compliance certificates you may need when you want to sell your home.

How do I make a Building Regulations application?

Each local council in England and Wales has a Building Control section, which has a general duty to ensure that the building work done complies with building regulations.

There are two ways you can make a Building Regulations application, either by making a Full Plans application or by submitting a Building Notice notification.

A Full Plans application will consist of detailed plans and full specifications of the construction details, together with the appropriate fee.

A Building Notice is more appropriate for doing simple work to a domestic building. A Building Notice application doesn’t generally require detailed plans or full specifications of the construction details, and an inspection takes place to ensure the quality of the work. Although this is more convenient, you won’t receive the protection and reassurance that an Approved Plan would give you. In addition, the whole process of making sure your work complies with Building Regulations is carried out at the site inspection stage.

It’s worth mentioning that the Government has introduced legislation to allow private Approved Inspectors to check work requiring Building Regulation approval as an alternative to gaining Local Authority approval  You are free to choose which type of Building Control Body you use on your project.

Whether you are renovating your home from scratch, converting your property, or simply adding an extension, you will need a structural engineer proficient in preparing the structural drawings, calculations and specifications you’ll need to get your Building Regulations Approval.

What about for minor works? Do I still need a completion certificate?

Where minor works are done to a property, the tradesperson carrying them out may issue a completion certificate under the ‘competent persons scheme’, provided they are registered installers. Some of the tradespeople that might fall under this scheme might be:

  • air-tightness testers
  • plumbing installers
  • heating installers
  • electrical installers
  • cavity wall insulation installers

In this case, these tradespeople issue Certificates of Compliance, rather than Certificates of Completion.

So what’s the difference between Planning Permission and Building Regulations Approval?

Put simply, Planning Permission deals with the appearance of the proposal and the effect it will have on neighbouring properties and the general environment. On the other hand, Building Control deals with the technical and constructional details of building works to ensure the health and safety of people in and around the building.

One thing’s for sure: in most cases, a proposed development may require both planning permission and building regulation approval. This means that you should make two separate applications, including preparing two separate documents and paying two separate fees to have your applications considered.

As a general rule, we seek Planning Permission before making a Building Control application on behalf of our clients. This is because the Building Regulations requirements often have a significant bearing on the final design of a building as well as the external layout of the site.

Here at Urbanist Architecture, we are well qualified to handle both applications for you – from the beginning, we can incorporate the kind of measures the council will want to see at a later stage. As such, we like to look forward and develop the Planning application with Building Control in mind further down the line – this makes the process smoother, more convenient and more likely to get approved – not for nothing do we have such high approval rates!

Urbanist Architecture London RIBA Chartered Practice ARB Registered Architects

The Bottom Line

We strongly advise you to discuss your proposals with experienced residential architects prior to making either planning or building regulations applications. We know from experience that working with the same architecture practice to prepare, coordinate and submit both of your applications can help you move your project forward quicker and easier – to get the results you are looking for.

What’s our secret to rolling out over 30+ success stories a month? Our architects work with our structural engineers to allow us to deliver projects on time and on budget – with all the right paperwork in place! If you would like to join hundreds of successful landlords, start your project by getting your quote today, or call us on 0203 793 78 78. We’d be more than happy to help!

The post How to get Building Regulations Approval appeared first on Urbanist Architecture Best London Architects.

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Planning Permission Refusal: Top 10 Reasons

Want to know the most common reasons for planning permission refusal?

Many of our readers are aware that planning permission can be refused for any number of reasons, and they certainly know that a rejected application is a major setback to their development’s financial plan. That’s why we’ve analysed over 1,000 planning applications to determine the most common reasons for planning permission refusal.

Below, you’ll find the top 10 reasons given by planning officers for refusing these kinds of applications.

After that, we’ll touch on some of the actions you can take if your application is refused.

Armed with these key insights, you can be even more prepared for your next development project.

Let’s get started…

The Top 10 Results from Our Findings 1) Impossibility in Principle

Very often, planning permission refusal happens because the proposal is not possible in principle. To determine whether this is the case, you must follow two stages:

  1. Consideration of matters of principle for the proposed development.
  2. The technical detail of the development.

A majority of permitted development applications would fall within this category.

Take the following example: For many flat conversion projects, there is a minimum requirement for the gross internal area (GIA) of the original property. If the property doesn’t meet this basic size requirement, the project will not be possible in principle. This means the proposal cannot pass onto the technical detail stage, where more nuanced decisions are made.

2) Lack of need for development

If you want to open the 10th cafe bar on a 100-metre-long street, you will have to prove that this is exactly what the community needs, as planning permission refusal is often given when you are unable to demonstrate the need of your development.

From our experience, we’ve seen that very often change of use applications are determined to be unsuitable for this reason.

3) Badly-planned location

You also need to consider whether your development is located so that it doesn’t cause any harm or overshadowing to the host building or the neighbouring properties.

This is one of the most key considerations a planning committee will consider, so the impact of your proposal’s location has on its surroundings has a crucial role when it comes to your planning application being assessed.

No bad design here – one of our projects in Bromley

4) Detrimental impact on amenity

One of the more frequent reasons leading to planning permission refusal is a negative impact on the neighbouring amenity.

Fact: Local authorities are obligated to protect the living standards of local residents, so make sure you follow the local design guides, as they will give you an idea of exactly what kind of designs are likely to be accepted. All types of planning applications fall into this category, whether a single-storey rear extension of a dwelling house or a new build.

5) Not meeting quality standards

Quality of accommodation is another major factor that LPAs take into account, and non-compliance with minimum space standards and amenity requirements are frequent reasons for refusal for flat conversion applications.

6) Loss of a family home

Projects that seek to convert a dwelling house into flats, HMO or other non-residential institutions can result in ‘loss of a family home’, which is the most common reason given for refusing this type of planning application.

This kind of refusal is very often connected to the fact that these projects often have a negative the impact on the neighbouring amenity and the need of preserving housing stock of a particular size.

A development of ours in north-west London

7) Negative effect on character and appearance

A proposal’s effect on an area’s character and appearance is another frequent issue that comes up on planning applications. Although a fairly subjective measure, proposals that alter the pattern of development in a particular area are generally not well-received.

It’s worth mentioning that this reason for refusal is most likely to be found for projects in conservation areas but may be found elsewhere as well.

8) Traffic and parking pressures

Traffic generation and increased pressure on existing car parking can usually be found as a reason for planning permission refusal, especially on projects involving a change of use. This generally means a project looking to convert a single dwelling house to an HMO, a flat conversions or other new-build developments.

If the project you have in mind involves one of the above schemes, it is crucial to ensure that sufficient parking provision is provided – otherwise, you’re looking at almost certain refusal.

9) Potential safety hazards

Given their key importance to the development, it’s very important that building materials do not constitute a potential safety hazard. Using building materials that may harm the environment during or after construction must be avoided if you don’t want your application to be refused.

Even though there is plenty of research ongoing and knowledge about such potentially dangerous materials, it is perfectly possible that you may come across them, due to constant innovation in the technology and production of such materials.

As such, it really pays to do your homework beforehand and know that you’re dealing with.

10) Protection of Green Belt land

Although a lot of green belt land has great potential for development, Local Planning Authorities strongly oppose any schemes involving any potential harm to nature reserves and Areas of Natural Beauty.

To avoid a green belt application bring refused, the proposal must fantastically well-designed, strongly justified and also provide a complementary and sustainable addition to the housing supply.

So, your Planning Permission was refused – what next?

If your planning permission application gets refused for any reason, there are a few options at your disposal:

Withdrawing and re-submitting a Planning Application

For starters, it’s important to remember that the planning authority will often inform you of their decision prior to actually issuing the decision notice. And since the decision isn’t final until the notice is printed and distributed, you may withdraw the application at the very last moment.

By withdrawing the application, you can avoid a refusal and go back to the drawing board, taking the council’s concerns into consideration. This is often viewed positively by the council, as it shows that you’re doing your homework and co-operating with them, rather than treating them as the enemy. Once you’ve addressed the planning authority’s concerns, you can then re-submit your application. This can be helpful, as being branded with a refusal may sway future decisions regarding the property.

Appealing the Planning Application Refusal

If you’re dead set on the proposal you’ve submitted, and you think the local planning authority was wrong, you may also choose to appeal the refused application.

Once you appeal, the application will be sent to a Planning Inspectorate, who will then consider your proposal for an average of six months. During that time, the interested parties will have their chance to submit evidence and present their case, and there may also be a public inquiry. As you might expect, there is no guarantee of a successful outcome when it comes to appeals.

The Feasibility of Your Project

These are just a few of the more common approaches to handling a refused application, but of course, it’s always better to avoid refusal in the first place. By keeping in mind the top 10 reasons for planning permission refusal, you may have a better chance of getting the planning permission for whatever project you’re pursuing.

To create a bespoke strategy, tailored to your particular situation, it’s worth seeking out the assistance of a skilled architect who is familiar with the planning application process. As you’ve read, at Urbanist Architecture, we always consider any proposal, regardless of the potential obstacles. We ask ourselves: why would planning permission be refused for this particular project? To this end, we’ve created a FREE Feasibility Assessment to give our clients a clear idea of how their project can succeed.

We strongly believe that the best way to determine whether project is possible is to establish whether your site has the right ingredients for securing planning permission – before we start! So far, all our 500+ successful clients have followed this basic principle.

To get started, give us a call on 020 3793 7878 or drop us an email, so we can help you put the best foot forward on your development project.

The post Planning Permission Refusal: Top 10 Reasons appeared first on Urbanist Architecture Best London Architects.

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Outline Planning Permission or Full Planning Permission – which do I need?

Ever wondered about the difference difference between Outline Planning Permission and Full Planning Permission?

Very often landlords are confused about which application type works best for them. Does this sound like you?

In this article, you will learn the difference between Outline Planning Permission and Full Planning Permission. You will also learn the advantages and disadvantages of those application types to make an informed decision about your project.

Let’s get started…

What is Outline Planning Permission?

If you’re an ambitious developer and have a decent amount of land you want to develop into housing, then you can get an idea of whether your proposal is acceptable to your council’s Local Planning Authority by applying for Outline Planning Permission.

These are used by developers and investors on larger projects to see if the powers that be are likely to approve the overall principle of the project, and are often carried out as a cost- and effort-saving measure. As such, the development proposals are indicative, rather than detailed.

But that’s not all: The plans still need to provide enough information about the building’s overall proportions, access, effect on the surroundings – amongst others – for the council to be able to make an informed decision on the development in principle.

How I can apply for Outline Planning Permission?

To complement the fairly basic detail of the outline planning permission, there is a further ‘reserved matters’ application. This application fills in the details that not submitted at the previous outline stage and covers a large spectrum of points, including:

  • external appearance
  • accessibility and parking
  • landscaping
  • layout
  • size and scale

Essentially,  outline planning permission = indicative estimates, but by contrast, reserved matters application = actual details.

It’s worthwhile noting that the larger scale of these kinds of outline planning applications come with a caveat: the reserved matters application must be made within three years of the initial outline application. That being said, on applications for bigger, more complicated sites, the reserved matters applications can be done in phases.

What’s the difference between an Outline Planning Permission and a Full Planning Application?

Essentially, it’s in the separation of the details.

The truth is The same amount of work and detail will have to go into an ‘outline + reserved matters’ application as into a ‘full application’.

In essence, the difference is that developers prefer to know whether their project is likely to go ahead before they commit resources to it, and councils like to know about potential development in their area. Outline planning permission gives both sides ‘wriggle room’ so that the council can apply conditions – either restrictions or obligations – as necessary.

What might the Conditions be for Outline Planning Permission?

The council might agree with the development in principle, but might restrict the use of the site – say, to purely residential – or need extra approval for certain aspects – in this case, improved wheelchair access.

Similarly, there may be Section 106 Agreements applicable – these are obligations from the council that are used to make a development more ‘palatable’. These can include:

  • including affordable housing
  • making contributions to local travel, education, or leisure services
  • building or improving local roads and highways
  • improving essential site drainage
  • replacing affected wildlife habitat
  • providing open space, amenities or public art.

It’s worth remembering that these are arranged on a case-by-case basis by the council, so be prepared to negotiate and be flexible – goodwill goes a long way!

Outline Planning Permission example

Is there any way to ensure my Outline Application gets approved?

Nothing is ever 100% certain, but the more groundwork done when you make your application, the better. If you have a tricky site, then addressing any potential issues in your outline application makes the council much more likely to approve it. Examples of problems that might have to be dealt with include:

  • local ecology
  • trees
  • floor risk or drainage issues
  • other landscape impacts

Let’s not forget: Putting these considerations into your application shows that you are serious about moving forward with the project (and also does some of the council’s work for them!)

What are the advantages of a Full Planning Application?

Full planning applications are diligently put-together documents that provide information on every aspect of a development.

Whether it’s the access, parking, use, layout, siting, dimensions, elevations, drainage, or the orientation (amongst others!) of the building, it must appear in these exhaustive documents.

Here’s the deal: Given the amount of work, resources and expense that goes into a full application, these are best used when the principle of development is unlikely to be a problem – for example, if a development is similar to existing buildings in scale, materials and size.

The advantage of full planning applications is that – despite the initial spend – doing the legwork at the beginning generally makes your project more cost-effective. As a guideline for the full planning application process, pre-application advice is available from the council – but it is certainly no guarantee of approval.

Outline Planning Permission drawings

In a nutshell…

If you’re confident your development will be passed by the council, then you can get pre-application advice from the council and then proceed to a full planning application, getting the bulk of the work out of the way at the beginning. This will take around 6 to 9 months, depending on the case and the council.

If you’re less certain (or want to sell the plot with partial planning permission), then your best bet is to go for outline planning permission (around 3 months in total) and then a reserved matters application (around 4 to 6 months in total).

Outline Planning Permission Timescales
Outline and reserved matters applicationsPre-application advice and full planning application
Application preparation - up to 1 monthPre-application preparation - up to 1 month
Outline Application - 8 to 13 weeksPre-application - 1 to 2 months
Reserved Matters application preparation - 2 to 3 monthsFull application preparation - 2 to 3 months
Reserved Matters application - 8 to 13 weeks.Full application - 8 to 13 weeks

The Bottom Line

Whether you have a plot of land you want to develop but first want to put feelers out, or if you’re 99% sure it’ll be approved, then we can help you.

With us, you can get the advice you need and make the process simpler, easier and quicker with our team of experts to help you, regardless of whether you need Outline Planning Permission or a Full Planning Application. Whichever you need, get started by getting in touch here or call us on 0203 793 78 78 – we’d be more than happy to help!

The post Outline Planning Permission or Full Planning Permission – which do I need? appeared first on Urbanist Architecture Best London Architects.

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Loft Conversion: Design and Building Mistakes to avoid!

With a worsening housing crisis, many people are interested in a loft conversion, rather than move house.

If you’re one of these people, you may be interested in converting your unused attic space to extend your home and provide much-needed space for you and your family. To do this, you may need to obtain Planning Permission or Lawful Development Certificate.

Obtaining statutory consents and building a loft conversion can be a long and frustrating process. It can be even more frustrating when your application has been refused. That is why it is a good idea to consider all the possible reasons your proposal might have been rejected.

If you are wondering what factors could lead to a loft conversion refusal by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) – the authority in charge of processing your application – then this article is for you.

In what follows, we will discuss 5 common reasons for loft conversion refusal given by planning authorities.

We will then go over the role of an architect, focusing on how they can help you avoid an unnecessary rejection for your loft conversion project.

But first, it’s important to clarify something very important…



Do you need Planning Permission to build a Loft Conversion?

Where you live can influence the type of application you need to submit. For instance, you will have to follow a particular set of rules and obtain Planning Permission if:

  • you live in a conservation area
  • your property is a listed building
  • your dwelling has been converted into flats, or
  • permitted development rights have been removed in your area.

But generally speaking, outside of those situations, loft conversions can be carried out under permitted development. However, even with permitted development, there are certain restrictions to consider and you need to obtain Lawful Development Certificate to regularise your loft conversion.

Thus, it’s important to understand the difference between projects with permitted development rights and projects without these rights.  We’ll elaborate on this below.

Thus, without further ado, here are the 5 most common reasons for a loft conversion getting refused!

1) The proposed Loft Conversion doesn’t comply with Permitted Development policies and guidelines

In this section, we will discuss the significance of permitted development rights (sometimes referred to as PD rights) and the guidelines set forth by the government for permitted loft conversions.

By the end of this section, it will be made clear that the number one reason for loft conversion refusal is the failure to comply with the policies and guidelines pertaining to permitted development.

The Significance of Permitted Development

As mentioned, loft conversions are generally covered by permitted development rights. With PD rights, you don’t have to apply for planning permission. This is because the government considers the development to have very little impact on the neighbouring properties and the surrounding environment.

Lawful Development Certificate

Nonetheless, with permitted development, it’s advisable to submit an application for a lawful development certificate (LDC). Because, even though this type of project does not technically require planning permission, you may discover, down the line, that your loft conversion does not actually satisfy the limits and conditions pertaining to permitted development.

Here’s the scary part: If you were to fail to meet these requirements, the council would be able to serve you an enforcement notice, effectively forcing you to undo the conversion. But with the LDC in hand, your loft conversion is protected against such an enforcement notice.

Lawful Development Certificate secured by Urbanist Architecture

Strict Guidelines for Loft Conversions

When applying for the LDC, you must pay attention to the extension’s design. If you don’t follow the regulations and guidelines that the government has set up, the application could be rejected.

To that end, the government allows for loft conversions under permitted development subject to the following limits and conditions:

  • A volume allowance of 40m3 for terraced houses;
  • A volume allowance of 50m3 for detached and semi-detached houses;
  • No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof;
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms;
  • Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed;
  • Any opening to be 1.7m above the floor;
  • Roof extensions, apart from hip to gable ones, to be set back, as far as practicable, at least 200mm from the eaves;
  • Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house;
  • No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway;
  • Roof extensions not to be permitted development in designated areas, e.g, conservation areas, world heritage sites or areas of outstanding natural beauty, a National Park or in the Broads.

Again, when pursuing an LDC for a loft conversion under permitted development rights, you must follow the criteria set out above. Failure to do so could lead to a rejected LDC application. But if you stick to this criteria, the application process can be relatively straightforward.

L-Shaped Loft Conversion Designed by Urbanist Architecture

2) The proposed Loft Conversion doesn’t comply with local and national policies (for developments without PD rights)

As mentioned above, not all loft conversions are covered by permitted development.

If you’re living in a conservation area, if you live in a listed building, if you’ve converted your dwelling into flats or if your council has removed permitted development rights via an Article 4 direction; you may have to submit a different type of application.

Different Applications for Different Situations

For instance, if you live in a listed building, you will have to apply for listed building consent, or if you live in an area without permitted development rights for loft conversions, you may have to submit a planning permission application.

To determine the best path forward, it is advisable to seek out the advice of a skilled architect – one who understands the ins and outs of obtaining planning permission and who may be considered a loft conversion specialist.

Following the Policies

When it comes to these other types of applications, the LPA will base its decision on the ‘‘material planning considerations” set out by the national planning policies and the SPG_Supplementary Planning Documents. Each council will have its own SPG that elaborates on the government guides and local plan.

Any loft conversion that fails to comply with the guides and regulations set out by national policies and the SPG Supplementary Planning Documents may be refused at the discretion of the LPA. The reasons for a loft conversion refusal might include (but are not limited to):

  • Design, appearance and materials
  • Loss of light or overshadowing
  • Objections from the neighbours
  • Government policy
  • Previous planning decisions
  • Impact on listed building and Conservation Area

In short, the council may refuse your application if you fail to follow the relevant policies, so it’s essential to thoroughly research the policies pertaining to loft conversions. Or, if you want to avoid a refusal, you can reach out to an architect who understands the policies in your area.

In the next three sections, we’ll expand on a few of the reasons mentioned in the list above.

3) Potential issues with loss of light or overshadowing

When it comes to projects that fall outside the purview of permitted development, the Local Planning Authority gives great weight to the design’s potential impact on the neighbouring properties.

When considering a planning application for a loft conversion, the planning officer will likely want to determine whether the proposed development has an adverse impact on the amenity of the neighbouring properties. Briefly defined, private (or residential) amenity space refers to the physical external space used by residents for leisurely activities, such as gardening, drying clothes, hobbies or playing with children. If your proposed development were to overshadow the neighbouring amenity space, the planning officer could refuse your application.

4) Poor design problems

Again, the planning authority will be keen to crack down on properties that have a negative impact on the surrounding area, whether it’s because of the size, siting, design or bulk. In this regard, if the proposed development represents an overly dominant and disproportionate addition to the roof, it may be refused by the planning officer.

The LPA might cite the following as their reason:

The proposed extension, due to its size and location, would have a negative impact on the scale and character of the dwelling and an unacceptable negative impact on the properties immediately adjacent to the site and the surrounding area by reason of overlooking, loss of privacy and visually overbearing impact.

The planning officer might add the following:

It must be considered that an incorrect design and development that doesn’t match the local environment would not be in line with the design and character of the existing home and would have a negative effect on the visual amenity of the area.

In short, when deciding whether to approve or refuse a planning application, the planning officer will likely consider whether the design melds with the surrounding environment. If it jars against the existing context of the neighbourhood, the LPA may refuse your application.

Fortunately, we’ve got a guide to help you with the design of your loft conversion – and we can show you some examples of our work to help you see how we’ve done it in the past!

5) Objections from the neighbours

During the application process, the neighbours will be consulted and invited to comment. Only those objections which are based on material considerations will be taken into account.

The Local Planning Authority puts a lot of emphasis on the comments of the neighbours because, as mentioned in the previous sections, the effect of the development on the neighbouring properties is a key consideration and could lead to a loft conversion refusal.

Therefore, the neighbour’s input can be valuable for determining any impact a loft conversion might have on the surrounding area. If enough significant objections are put forth by the neighbours, the planning officer could cite these as reasons for refusal.



What an Architect Can Do for You

Now that we are caught up on some of the common reasons for refusal, let’s consider the role of the architect during the planning permission stages.

Hiring the right architect is one of the most important things to consider with any development project. But what exactly is an architect?

According to the common conception, an architect is someone who is trained to design buildings. But the fact is: they can be so much more than this.

A skilled architect can help turn the client’s needs and ambitions into reality. Most importantly, when it comes to securing planning permission, an architect can be an invaluable resource.

Developing a Plan

To help ensure a successful planning application for your proposed loft conversion, a savvy architect might employ what is known as a feasibility study.

With such a study, the architect can show you all the potential risks and opportunities involved in your project. Moreover, the study will include valuable tips and advice for obtaining planning permission for your proposed loft conversion.

Compiling the Application

Once an architect devises a plan for moving forward, they can then begin the process of producing drawings that are specifically designed to satisfy your needs and the needs of the council. They will also begin writing the Design and Access Statement, which contains all the policy arguments in favour of your development.

Once the planning drawings are finished and in line with the Local Planning Authority’s rules, and once the Design and Access Statement is written and all other application materials are gathered; the application is ready to be submitted. During the decision period, the council may propose amendments and alterations to the drawings. They may also ask that further documents be attached to the application.

Monitoring the Application

After the application has been submitted, it will generally take eight weeks for the council to issue its decision. During this time, the architect will monitor the application through the council website up to the final decision.

At the end of the process, the decision notice will be issued, advising whether planning permission has been granted or refused. If the application has been refused and no clear reasons are given, and if the architect considers the decision to be unreasonable, they may advise the client to submit an appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission.

Finding the Right Architect

Do you need planning permission for a loft conversion? If so, you’re probably in need of some architectural assistance.

As you may have noticed, architects play a key role in the planning permission process. They can be an excellent resource that saves you time, money and hassle.

With a multidisciplinary team comprised of architects, planning consultants, engineers and interior designers, Urbanist Architecture is more than equipped to help you get planning..

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Before we can maximise your returns on your investment, it’s crucial to know what an architect actually is. Architects are the trained and licensed experts in the planning and building of all buildings. Plenty of people correlate architects with just the blueprints, and as much as it’s true they’re involved in the design phase, not many are aware that architects are truly committed throughout the entire process — from the concept, to the understanding of their drawings and plans, to building, and finally, to maximise your returns. Not all architects work on the entire scope of your project, however, if you hire our architects to build your house, you can expect them to bring years of expertise to the table.

Anyone can draw a plan or apply for a planning application, right?

Well, sort of, but, will everyone know the ins and outs of design and technical aspects, and find opportunities to make the most of your home? With their seven years of study, architects have invested time and effort to be able to advise you in areas you might not realise need consideration. If it’s this important to study for so long to get their degree, there’s a great reason – they’re there to help you to understand what your home needs.

Designed by Urbanist Architecture, the interior of an L-shaped dormer with en-suite facilities, and a great example of smart design.

So, how can you help me maximise my returns?

Decent architects should always apply that impartial and creatively different thinking to a project, small or large. The added value they bring isn’t limited to just magazine-quality design, but they’ll help you out with maximising light and space, adding the functionality you need, or advising you how to get the best return on your investment. We’ve identified six ways we can get you precisely the returns you want from your asset.

Clarifying your needs

Now, as we all know, the cost of building your dream home should be consistent with the real estate values of your property’s surrounding neighbourhood.

Here are a few questions an Architect may press you on:

  • Is your main objective to make the house more liveable for yourself, or to make it more saleable to the next owner?
  • Do your needs warrant building a new home?
  • Would an addition be the most effective way to get that extra space you require?
  • Should you add a floor or expand your house’s footprint?

Options, right? Here’s where an architect can help you decide.

Exploring potential and determining risks

Planning laws and regulations may considerably affect what you are allowed to build and develop on your property. Your building’s height, how much of your property is covered by the building, and how far it must be set back from the property line are all dictated by Planning Regulations. An architect will help you determine how these and other restrictions apply to your design project and can assist you in filing applications and obtaining the necessary permits if necessary.

Your property may even have the potential for unique design opportunities – possibly a great view, or good sun exposure. It may also hold unusual hidden hazards which you may not be aware of – weak soil, poor drainage, or too steep of a slope – nevertheless, your architect can assess these factors and take them into account, avoid obstacles, and really make the most of your assets.

A beautiful renovation we did in south-east London, using clever design and quality materials to get the best of the space available.

Maximise your returns with the kings of practicality

With their experience, your architect can help you make quick and smart choices on your home’s design that can assist and save you in remarkable ways. It’s crucial to have a genuine understanding of the potential – and limitations – of your project’s budget to be able to maximise your returns. By balancing your budget, square footage, and level of finishes, an architect helps you to prioritise your requirements.

Thinking for the long-term, not short-term

Your architect can provide flexible design opportunities to adapt to your changing family size, reduced mobility, or changing priorities. Not forgetting, by suggesting design approaches for lowering energy usage or maintenance, or by recommending specific amenities, your architect can help you see the bigger picture and maximise your returns – whether in terms of design solutions, or long-term rental value or resale.

One of our quality inspectors on-site in a fantastic refurb in central London

Doing more than what you think they’ll do

Remember, an architect works alongside YOU. They are constantly watching out for your best interest throughout the entire process. And once you and your architect establish exactly what is to be built, the architect can help you visualise the design opportunities via a number of means, including rough sketches, computer renderings, or even physically staking out significant dimensions directly on the site.

No handshake or letter of agreement is firm enough to cover all the roles, responsibilities and commitments that must be carried out in your building project. Your architect can both prepare and complete construction documents, detailed drawings, and specifications that the contractor will use to establish construction costs and later build the project.

But, an architect’s engagement doesn’t end with preparing the drawings for construction work. As both your adviser and agent, an architect will visit the site to protect you against work that is not according to the plans. With them accompanying and observing construction, you get informed reports of the project’s progress, a trained eye for quality control, and a check on the contractor’s monthly invoices.

Save money well into the future

Who wouldn’t want to save more money? To maximise your returns you need to save every penny on your hard-earned investment. This said, putting money towards an energy-efficient property can mean saving you money on fuel bills down the road. Investment in designing a building to make the most of heating from the sun, cooling from wind circulation or ventilation and letting in natural light will reduce your heating, cooling, and electricity bills over time well into the future.

Now we’ve shown you what we do to maximise your returns, we’ll break down how the project really works.

Let’s briefly take a look at the most important points at the different stages in a project… Design stage
  • An architect should listen to the concept / dream home you have in mind, then put it all on paper and advise you in defining your requirements.
  • They will also help you to define the agenda (i.e. amenities to be provided in your house) and the overall area of the property.
  • A decent architect will give you options on how to get the maximum amount of light and create more spacious living spaces according to your preferences.
  • An architect will design the best functional internal layout and at the same time ensure it has good air, light and ventilation all year round.
  • They will also select materials and technologies with respect to the environment and weather, and also create a home that is attractive and also economical in terms of running costs and a long life span. For example, they will be able to keep your energy usage levels to a minimum by installing insulation.
Pre-construction
  • At this crucial stage, it’s good to give an architect time to complete the processes and phases involved with your project, from working with the council to dealing with builders and contractors.
  • Linked to the above, they’ll be able to think of upcoming future policies and regulations to advise you on your future plans or decisions.
  • If you so wish, architects can also act as project managers and lead the team of other consultants, contractors and subcontractors.
  • An architect will also help you in identifying appropriate agencies, either a material contractor or a labour contractor, for the construction phase of your property.
  • Likewise, they should help you to distinguish the correct sub-consultants like a structural engineer, MEP engineer etc.
Construction
  • Any architect worth their salt will visit the site regularly to monitor whether the construction work is being carried out as per the plans and specifications they prepared and provided.
  • During these periodical supervisions, an architect should additionally examine whether the quality of materials and workmanship are of adequate standards or not – this step can really save money further down the line.
  • In addition, they will also review the contractor’s bills of the contractor periodically and confirm payment to the contractor.
After completion
  • As well as choosing the right material for construction, an architect can also help you to select your furniture. With economic and environmental sustainability in mind, they will guide you in choosing a material that not only looks good, but is an investment in the longer term.
  • The architect will also help you to get the completion certificate, proving that the work has been carried out according to the approved plans.
  • To conclude, it is worth remembering that a quality architect will always try to invest efforts now and make your home last in the long run.

An architect’s services are a wise investment. A well-conceived project can be built more efficiently and economically to maximise your returns. Architects don’t like to plan your project with you not on their own (unless you prefer it that way) – as ideas evolve, changes can be made on paper much less expensively than later when construction is underway! Thorough drawings also make it easier for a contractor to get the lowest, most accurate cost. An architect strives to make sure you get the utmost from your project budget by reviewing all the possibilities, deciding suitable suppliers and providing the greatest quality design.

Urbanist Architecture London RIBA Chartered Practice ARB Registered Architects

Maximise your returns with the right professionals

Hopefully we’ve given you some insight into how an architect can help you in unexpected ways to get the most from your property, whether it’s to rent, renovate your own. Now you’ve seen how we can help you, so take a look at some of our work to see exactly how we’ve done it!

The post Unexpected Ways London Architects Can Maximise Your Returns appeared first on Urbanist Architecture Best London Architects.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Appointing a Principal Designer

This Principal Designer guide will take you step-by-step through the process of finding and appointing a Principal Designer who will help you on your property development project.

It not only shows you how to find and appoint a Principal Designer, it explains how a good Principal Designer can add value to your project and why. You’ll get examples of great examples of Principal Designer roles and an explanation of why the are so crucial for any construction project.

Let’s jump right in…

Who is a Principal Designer?

A principal designer is an individual or a firm (usually an architecture practice) that you appoint to take the lead in various tasks during the Pre-Construction stage of a project.

These decisions taken during this Pre-Construction phase are key to ensuring a project is delivered in a way that safeguards the health and safety (H&S) of everyone affected by the work. As such, Principal Designers are an essential legal requirement on projects involving more than one contractor.

Some of their tasks involve:

  • Planning, managing and monitoring how the pre-construction phase is co-ordinated
  • Helping their clients to identify, obtain and collate the Pre-Construction information
  • Providing designers, the Principal Contractor and other contractors with this information
  • Co-ordinating with the design team on significant H&S issues
  • Communicating work progress and raising awareness of potential health and safety risks
  • Ensuring designers’ co-operation and compliance with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
  • Attending design review meetings to monitor progress
  • Liaising with and supporting the Principal Contractor for the duration of the appointment
  • Compiling the statutory health and safety file to be formally handed over at project completion

It’s worth mentioning that ‘Principal designer’ is perhaps a slightly misleading title – it describes either a person or organisation in control over the Pre-Construction phase. Indeed, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 – CDM – define them as:

“designer” means any person (including a client, contractor or other person referred to in these Regulations) who in the course or furtherance of a business—
(a) prepares or modifies a design; or
(b) arranges for, or instructs, any person under their control to do so.

Most importantly, they must have the relevant skills, knowledge and experience in health and safety matters. Make no mistake about it!

Needless to say, if the Principal Designer is an organisation, they must demonstrate that they have the organisational capability and background to meet all the requirements of the role. However, it’s important to note that a Principal Designer rarely does architectural design work on a project, but rather designs the health and safety aspects.

Do all Construction Projects need a Principal Designer?

Any project involving more than one contractor requires a Principal Designer, who should be appointed by the client in writing.

This way, the Principal Designer can coordinate, control and monitor the Pre-Construction work processes, and should ideally be appointed as early as possible to have the greatest degree of control over and knowledge about a particular project.

In general, although the majority of a Principal Designer’s work is done prior to construction, it is a wise idea for them to stay on during the construction and liaise with the Principal Contractor whose role is very closely linked to the Principal Designer’s in terms of ensuring risks are managed throughout the design process.

The point of this, again, is to ensure that the work adheres to the national standards expected in this area.

Why are Principal Designers so key on a construction project?

Under the CDM Regulations, which came into force on 6 April 2015, the Principal Designer is required to establish a basic ‘bedrock’ of Health and Safety practices throughout a project. This is then integrated into the broader concept of project management, from concept to completion. As you might expect, decisions taken during this design and construction phase can have a real effect on how H&S-compliant a project is when it is finished.

Here’s the most important part: If you haven’t engaged a Principal Designer in writing, you as the client may be legally responsible for Health and Safety in relation to your project. It will be your responsibility to ensure that the duties and procedures set out in the CDM regulations are carried out. You may also be required to give an account of your actions, should there ever be an investigation relating to an accident during either construction or future maintenance of the building.

Doesn’t the Architect deal with this Principal Designer work?

Not automatically.

This is important to understand in terms of managing client expectations and team workloads. A Principal Designer is someone with the right skills, knowledge and experience in H&S management, and therefore doesn’t have to be an architect.

Indeed, on larger projects with greater complexities, Principal Designer services and architectural services are often carried out by separate firms, with the Principal Designer supporting your chosen architect.

For smaller projects, however, it is often more cost-effective to have a combined service from a single practice, provided they have the appropriate level of skills, knowledge and experience.

Therefore, if you want your architect to do this Principal Designer work on your project, then you must specifically appoint them to do so – it does not fall under an architect’s ‘general responsibilities’.

Urbanist Architecture Team, RIBA Chartered Residential Architects

How to Find a Competent Principal Designer?

The level of a Principal Designer’s skills, knowledge and expertise (SKE) should be proportionate to the complexity of the project, and the range and nature of the risks involved. To this end, they must be able to prove that they have appropriate expertise in this area. This will involve having:

  • the technical knowledge of the construction industry relevant to the project
  • the experience to mitigate foreseeable project risks and then ‘design them out’
  • the ability to understand, manage and coordinate both the pre-construction phase and any design work carried out after construction begins

Examples of demonstrating skills, knowledge and experience might involve:

  • records of relevant continued professional development (CPD)
  • being a member of professional institutions or bodies (such as RIBA, or ARB)

How long should a Principal Designer be appointed for?

The Principal Designer’s appointment should include any design work that continues into the construction phase, and any design issues needing modification that arise during.

Our opinion is that a Principal Designer should be in place for as long as there is a need for them, but where their appointment finishes before the end of the project, they must brief the Principal Contractor fully on matters relevant to any subsequent construction work, and should also pass the health and safety file on to them. This ensures that standards are maintained throughout the handover to the end of the project.

How does a Principal Designer implement their Health & Safety Measures?

There is a lot of preparatory work involved in designing good Health and Safety measures into the Pre-Construction, Construction and Post-Construction phases.

During the earliest phase, the Principal Designer is in charge of coordinating the other designers’ H&S measures. They will provide new H&S-relevant information to designers as it becomes available, and will also consider how the risks in the various sections of the project interact, and will ensure that they are mitigated appropriately.

A key part of this process is team design meetings, as they:

  • Discuss the risks that should be addressed during the pre-construction phase
  • Decide on the control measures to mitigate these risks
  • Prepare the information that will go into the construction phase plan
  • Coordinate individual CDM duties and ensure they are carried out.
  • Focus attention on areas with high or unusual risks to Health and Safety.

Once the information is prepared in conjunction with the team, regular design meetings with clients throughout the Pre-Construction phase are useful to do the following:

  • Update the client on how the Pre-Construction information is progressing
  • Allow both sides to raise any potential issues
  • Manage expectations in terms of timelines

It all comes down to this: Good, fluid, effective communication between the designers, client and contractors is the most important part of a Principal Designer’s job.

Urbanist Architecture London RIBA Chartered Practice ARB Registered Architects

Example: How it works in practice – an Urbanist Architecture project

So you can see how being a Principal Designer works in practice, we’ve provided an example of work that we have done in south London, to illustrate how we have applied the above.

The Challenge

On this occasion, our clients purchased the property at auction, which was both exciting and financially beneficial! Buying at auction allowed them to skip the lengthy purchasing procedures that are normally unavoidable when acquiring a property.

The property comprised a mid-terrace three-storey building, and was arranged internally to provide a shop unit on the ground floor and a self-contained maisonette on the first and second floors.

The clients wanted to redevelop the building into a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) with the addition of a mansard roof extension. Their aim was to achieve 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a shared living, dining and kitchen.

While this development did not require planning permission, our clients needed to seek an HMO license as the accommodation was set over 3 floors and therefore compliance with the HMO standards was of utmost importance.

Our Solution
As the client had already come to us with architectural plans, we were able to focus more on the planning aspects of getting an HMO licence.
We listened to their short-, medium- and long-term financial goals and, knowing what the Council expect for this kind of application, we produced full sets of licensing, building regulations, tender and construction drawings in accordance with HMO requirements, such as:
  • Full Set of Construction Drawings at relevant scales including Demolition Plans, Proposed Floor Plans, Zone Information Plan, Elevations, Sections;
  • Highly detailed M&E Drawings at relevant scales including mechanical, electrical layout plans, drainage layout plans, drainage details and fire safety plan.
We also provided our client with full HMO specifications and followed through with detailing materials, all finishes, fixtures & fittings and — as part of our Principal Designer responsibilities — ensured that the workmanship met required standards for HMO conversion.

With our services, we helped our clients maximise their investment and improve their reputation as a landlord, all the while their minimising stress and aggravation by taking charge of the..

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Avoid The Top 5 Mistakes Made By Designing and Building a Loft Conversion

With a worsening housing crisis, many people are choosing to renovate their homes rather than move house.

If you’re one of these people, you may be interested in converting your unused attic space to extend your home and provide much-needed space for you and your family. To do this, you may need to obtain Planning Permission or Lawful Development Certificate.

Obtaining statutory consents and building a loft conversion can be a long and frustrating process. It can be even more frustrating when your loft conversion application has been refused. That is why it is a good idea to consider all the possible reasons your proposal might be refused.

If you are wondering what factors could lead to a loft conversion refusal by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) – the authority in charge of processing your application – then this article is for you.

In what follows, we will discuss 5 common reasons for loft conversion refusal given by planning authorities.

We will then go over the role of an architect, focusing on how they can help you avoid an unnecessary rejection for your loft conversion project.

But first, it’s important to clarify something very important…



Do you need Planning Permission to build a Loft Conversion?

Where you live can influence the type of application you need to submit.

For instance, if you live in a conservation area, if your property is a listed building, if your dwelling has been converted into flats, or if permitted development rights have been removed in your area; you will have to follow a particular set of rules and obtain Planning Permission.

But generally speaking, outside of those situations, loft conversions can be carried out under permitted development. However, even with permitted development, there are certain restrictions to consider and you need to obtain Lawful Development Certificate to regularise your loft conversion.

Thus, it’s important to understand the difference between projects with permitted development rights and projects without these rights.  We will elaborate on this distinction below.

Thus, without further ado, here are the 5 most common reasons for a loft conversion refusal.

1) The proposed Loft Conversion doesn’t comply with Permitted Development policies and guidelines

In this section, we will discuss the significance of permitted development rights (sometimes referred to as PD rights) and the guidelines set forth by the government for permitted loft conversions.

By the end of this section, it will be made clear that the number one reason for loft conversion refusal is the failure to comply with the policies and guidelines pertaining to permitted development.

The Significance of Permitted Development

As mentioned, loft conversions are generally covered by permitted development rights. With PD rights, you don’t have to apply for planning permission. This is because the government considers the development to have very little impact on the neighbouring properties and the surrounding environment.

Lawful Development Certificate

Nonetheless, with permitted development, it’s advisable to submit an application for a lawful development certificate (LDC). Because, even though this type of project does not technically require planning permission, you may discover, down the line, that your loft conversion does not actually satisfy the limits and conditions pertaining to permitted development.

Here’s the scary part: If you were to fail to meet these requirements, the council would be able to serve you an enforcement notice, effectively forcing you to undo the conversion. But with the LDC in hand, your loft conversion is protected against such an enforcement notice.

Lawful Development Certificate secured by Urbanist Architecture

Strict Guidelines for Loft Conversions

When applying for the LDC, you must pay attention to the extension’s design. If you don’t follow the regulations and guidelines that the government has set up, the application could be rejected.

To that end, the government allows for loft conversions under permitted development subject to the following limits and conditions:

  • A volume allowance of 40m3 for terraced houses;
  • A volume allowance of 50m3 for detached and semi-detached houses;
  • No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof;
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms;
  • Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed;
  • Any opening to be 1.7m above the floor;
  • Roof extensions, apart from hip to gable ones, to be set back, as far as practicable, at least 200mm from the eaves;
  • Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house;
  • No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway;
  • Roof extensions not to be permitted development in designated areas, e.g, conservation areas, world heritage sites or areas of outstanding natural beauty, a National Park or in the Broads.

Again, when pursuing an LDC for a loft conversion under permitted development rights, you must follow the criteria set out above. Failure to do so could lead to a rejected LDC application. But if you stick to this criteria, the application process can be relatively straightforward.

L-Shaped Loft Conversion Designed by Urbanist Architecture

2) The proposed Loft Extension doesn’t comply with local and national policies (for developments without PD rights)

As mentioned above, not all loft conversions are covered by permitted development.

If you’re living in a conservation area, if you live in a listed building, if you’ve converted your dwelling into flats or if your council has removed permitted development rights via an Article 4 direction; you may have to submit a different type of application.

Different Applications for Different Situations

For instance, if you live in a listed building, you will have to apply for listed building consent, or if you live in an area without permitted development rights for loft conversions, you may have to submit a planning permission application.

To determine the best path forward, it is advisable to seek out the advice of a skilled architect – one who understands the ins and outs of obtaining planning permission and who may be considered a loft conversion specialist.

Following the Policies

When it comes to these other types of applications, the LPA will base its decision on the ‘‘material planning considerations” set out by the national planning policies and the SPG_Supplementary Planning Documents. Each council will have its own SPG that elaborates on the government guides and local plan.

Any loft conversion that fails to comply with the guides and regulations set out by national policies and the SPG Supplementary Planning Documents may be refused at the discretion of the LPA. The reasons for a loft conversion refusal might include (but are not limited to):

  • Design, appearance and materials
  • Loss of light or overshadowing
  • Objections from the neighbours
  • Government policy
  • Previous planning decisions
  • Impact on listed building and Conservation Area

In short, the council may refuse your application if you fail to follow the relevant policies, so it’s essential to thoroughly research the policies pertaining to loft conversions. Or, if you want to avoid a refusal, you can reach out to an architect who understands the policies in your area.

In the next three sections, we’ll expand on a few of the reasons mentioned in the list above.

3) Potential issues with loss of light or overshadowing

When it comes to projects that fall outside the purview of permitted development, the Local Planning Authority gives great weight to the design’s potential impact on the neighbouring properties.

When considering a planning application for a loft conversion, the planning officer will likely want to determine whether the proposed development has an adverse impact on the amenity of the neighbouring properties. Briefly defined, private (or residential) amenity space refers to the physical external space used by residents for leisurely activities, such as gardening, drying clothes, hobbies or playing with children. If your proposed development were to overshadow the neighbouring amenity space, the planning officer could refuse your application.

4) Poor design problems

Again, the planning authority will be keen to crack down on properties that have a negative impact on the surrounding area, whether it’s because of the size, siting, design or bulk. In this regard, if the proposed development represents an overly dominant and disproportionate addition to the roof, it may be refused by the planning officer.

The LPA might cite the following as their reason:

The proposed extension, due to its size and location, would have a negative impact on the scale and character of the dwelling and an unacceptable negative impact on the properties immediately adjacent to the site and the surrounding area by reason of overlooking, loss of privacy and visually overbearing impact.

The planning officer might add the following:

It must be considered that an incorrect design and development that doesn’t match the local environment would not be in line with the design and character of the existing home and would have a negative effect on the visual amenity of the area.

In short, when deciding whether to approve or refuse a planning application, the planning officer will likely consider whether the design melds with the surrounding environment. If it jars against the existing context of the neighbourhood, the LPA may refuse your application.

5) Objections from the neighbours

During the application process, the neighbours will be consulted and invited to comment. Only those objections which are based on material considerations will be taken into account.

The Local Planning Authority puts a lot of emphasis on the comments of the neighbours because, as mentioned in the previous sections, the effect of the development on the neighbouring properties is a key consideration and could lead to a loft conversion refusal.

Therefore, the neighbour’s input can be valuable for determining any impact a loft conversion might have on the surrounding area. If enough significant objections are put forth by the neighbours, the planning officer could cite these as reasons for refusal.



What an Architect Can Do for You

Now that we are caught up on some of the common reasons for refusal, let’s consider the role of the architect during the planning permission stages.

Hiring the right architect is one of the most important things to consider with any development project. But what exactly is an architect?

According to the common conception, an architect is someone who is trained to design buildings. But the fact is: they can be so much more than this.

A skilled architect can help turn the client’s needs and ambitions into a reality. Most importantly, when it comes to securing planning permission, an architect can be an invaluable resource.

Developing a Plan

To help ensure a successful planning application for your proposed loft conversion, a savvy architect might employ what is known as a feasibility study.

With such a study, the architect can show you all the potential risks and opportunities involved in your project. Moreover, the study will include valuable tips and advice for obtaining planning permission for your proposed loft conversion.

Compiling the Application

Once an architect devises a plan for moving forward, they can then begin the process of producing drawings that are specifically designed to satisfy your needs and the needs of the council. They will also begin writing the Design and Access Statement, which contains all the policy arguments in favour of your development.

Once the planning drawings are finished and in line with the Local Planning Authority’s rules, and once the Design and Access Statement is written and all other application materials are gathered; the application is ready to be submitted. During the decision period, the council may propose amendments and alterations to the drawings. They may also ask that further documents be attached to the application.

Monitoring the Application

After the application has been submitted, it will generally take eight weeks for the council to issue its decision. During..

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Permitted Development Rights: Good news for homeowners and property developers!

As of the 25th May 2019, in a last-minute decision the General Permitted Development Order has been changed so that certain houses – dwellinghouses falling under Use Class C3 – may benefit from extended Permitted Development Rights.

This means that homeowners can now build extensions without needing to notify their Local Planning Authority that the development has been completed.

Initially, there was a deadline of 30th May 2019 for these extensions to be built for the Permitted Development Rights to be applicable, but now these rights have been made permanent, and the previous deadline has been abolished.

What do the updated Permitted Development Rights cover?

As mentioned, certain homeowners now have the right to build larger single-storey rear extensions up to 6m (for attached houses) and up to 8m (for detached houses) – specifically for dwellinghouses falling under the C3 Use Class – and they no longer need to notify their Local Planning Authority that the extension has been completed.

However, as you might expect, there are two important conditions to these Permitted Development Rights:

– Your single-story extension will be subject to neighbour consultation as part of the Prior Approval process.

– The usual exceptions to development still apply (an Article 4 direction prohibiting development, or in conservation areas).

What are Article 4 Directions?

Article 4 Directions apply at a local level and reserve the council’s right to remove Permitted Developments Rights and reject Prior Approval applications.

This happens commonly in places where a specific purpose is wanted or to avoid overdevelopment – in our case, in conservation areas.

This means that if there is an Article 4 Direction removed Permitted Development Rights in your area, you would need to make a full planning permission application for your extension. Don’t worry – we have plenty of experience in this area and we’re sure we can help you out with it!

The Bottom Line

Now that you know that it’s easier to get the extension you want under Permitted Development Rights, take a look at our extension designs to see how we can help you!

We strongly advise you to discuss your proposals with experienced residential architects before making your Prior Approval applications. We know from experience that working with a quality architecture practice to prepare, coordinate and submit your application will help you move your project forward quicker and easier – to get the results you are looking for.

What’s our secret to rolling out over 30+ success stories a month? Our architects work with our planners to allow us to deliver projects on time and on budget – with all the right paperwork in place!

If you would like to join hundreds of successful homeowners, start your project by getting your quote today, or call us on 0203 793 78 78. We’d be more than happy to help!

The post Permitted Development Rights Change<br>[May 2019 Update] appeared first on Urbanist Architecture Best London Architects.

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Do I need Planning Permission for converting light industrial to residential?

Well, the simple answer is: not always.

As of 2017, there has been the option to convert certain types of light industrial properties to residential use; full planning permission is not necessarily needed.

This is all possible under the auspices of Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) which are granted, not by local authorities, but by Parliament. There are of course certain conditions; the “use of class” of the light industrial property will determine whether you can take advantage of PDR or not.

In this article, you will learn amazing strategies to how to use our formula to make a Prior Approval application to regularise your Change of Use from Light Industrial (B1(c)) to residential (C3) use. You will learn how to retrofit existing light industrial units, renovate the workshops and warehouses or design and build new homes on industrial sites. You will also learn the key steps to converting light industrial into residential through good design and how to do it with certainty.

What are Permitted Development Rights for Light Industrial (Class B1(c)) to Residential (Class C3)?

Here’s the deal:

Permitted Development Rights is a scheme put in place by the government to allow certain types of change of uses to be carried out without the need to apply for planning permission, and one of them being change of use from light industrial to residential. This makes the whole planning process much more simple and straightforward; however, there are certain aspects that still have to be taken into considerations. Not every industrial space can be converted into housing, and this is a particularly hot topic at the moment – more at the end of the article!

As of the 1st October 2017 a new development right came into use allowing the conversion of light industrial units to residential use without planning permission – note that the change of class falls under this and not, for example, an extension. This right (known technically as Class PA) allows for the change of use of a building and/or any associated land under Class B1(c) (Light Industrial) – to Class C3 (dwellinghouses). There are, of course, important conditions:

  • Your application must have been submitted after 30th September 2017
  • The building must have been used solely for light industrial use on 19 March 2014 (or when it was last actually in use, if the use has ended). Evidence of this must be submitted with the prior approval application.

And there are, naturally, exceptions to the Permitted Development Rule if:

  • The site is a safety hazard area or a military explosives storage area
  • The building is listed or the site contains an ancient monument
  • The site has agricultural tenancy where the tenant and landlord have not given their consent
  • The gross floor space is in excess of 500 square metres
What are the restrictions and limitations of Permitted Development Rights for light industrial to residential conversion to be aware of?

Well, the first thing to say is that there are more than a few of these, and each of these requires careful consideration. Most importantly, your application for prior approval needs to be made before the 1st of October 2020 as this right is actually a temporary one; you’ll need prior approval for issues around the following:

  • Contamination and flooding risks
  • Highways and other transport risks
  • Whether the change in use (i.e. an increase in residential) would adversely affect any industrial services if the area is key to delivering such services
Can I make external alterations while converting light industrial to residential?

The PDR only covers the change of use – external alterations are a different kettle of fish altogether requiring different permissions.

Remember: Whether it is cladding, doors or new windows, anything that changes the external façade will have to go through the planning process as normal.

What is Prior Approval application and how to prepare one for light industrial to residential conversion?

You’ll have to make your Prior Approval application to your Local Planning Authority (LPA) and it can be refused on the grounds listed previously in this article, so make sure your application takes in these considerations.

You will also have to consider the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL, 2010) which will be relevant when looking to develop one or more dwellings. The good news, however, is that if the existing floor space has been in continuous use (and lawful use) for six months out of the previous three years prior to the development being permitted, the Community Infrastructure Levy can be discounted.



What type of documents do I need to submit for Prior Approval application to change the use from light industrial to residential?

There are a number of different pieces of information and evidence that you need to submit as part of the Prior Approval application process. The more information you can include the better and, as always, it’s important to be upfront and transparent about your application. That said, here is a list of the absolute musts that you must submit:

  • You need evidence that the authorised current use is Light Industrial – Class B1(c). It’s worth understanding that General Industrial (Class B2) does not benefit from these rights, so getting your original use classification right is important from the get-go.
  • You must also include a full and inclusive site plan as well as a good representation of the current and proposed floor plans.
  • A clear statement which sets out the net increase in the number of residential units.
  • A study that clearly outlines that there will be no detriment to highways and transport, that the site is not at risk of flooding and that the land is not contaminated.   
  • An additional statement outlining that there will be no detriment to the surrounding industrial services, transport or roads by moving ahead with the development.
  • Completed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) form.
  • Completed Prior Approval Notice application form.
  • And finally, the correct application fee!
What is the determination process for Prior Approval applications for light industrial to residential conversion?

There is a set process that the relevant Local Planning Authority will carry out based on the various submissions that we have detailed earlier in this article. It includes:

  • Confirmation that the current floor space is used or was last used for light industrial – i.e. Use Class B1(c).
  • The highway authority will be contacted by the LPA to determine whether the character of traffic will be changed in the vicinity by the change in use.
  • The LPA will also consult with the Environment Agency with regard to flooding; they will look at whether the area is in Flood Zones 1, 2 or 3 (Zone 1 being where there are critical drainage problems in the area).
  • The LPA will also look at the risk of contamination, but will carefully consider any mitigation/remedial solutions that suggested in the submission.
  • The impact on any existing industrial use properties will also be assessed.

It’s also worth knowing that the LPA has an eight-week window to assess your application; if this time period elapses without the LPA providing you with a full and considered response (or without a mutually agreed extension) then it is possible for you to move ahead with your development.

Article 4 direction – what does it mean for light industrial to residential conversion?

An Article 4 direction essentially removes the ‘automatic’ planning permission mentioned earlier in this article – so you have to apply for planning permission for your development in these areas. This direction can be issued to individual developments or LPAs can issue it for their entire administrative area.

Which councils have restricted the conversion of light industrial units to homes by issuing Article 4 directions?

A number of Councils have issued Article 4 directions across their whole administrative areas, and many more have done so – at least partially.

In London, Waltham Forest and Hackney have their entire boroughs covered by Article 4 and Brent, Hounslow, Camden, Merton, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Islington, Southwark and Hillingdon all have, or are in the process of securing, directions for specifying areas in their respective boroughs. These areas are all considered significant areas of industrial use and importance.

Away from the capital, the towns of St Albans, Crawley and Stevenage are expected to follow suit, and within planning circles we expect more local authorities along the length and breadth of the country to adopt similar measures in specific areas or even borough-wide.

Clearly, this article makes applying this new right to convert less straightforward than developers had hoped. However, it also ensures that important industrial stock is not lost or given up too easily, and that existing light industrial businesses are not eroded by encroaching residential development.

Why creating homes through converting light industrial units is a great way to provide more homes and protect jobs

Given the decline of heavy industry in the UK and the growth of smaller-scale industrial businesses, It’s clear that integrating homes and places of work better in our cities is of great benefit in terms of local and national growth. Locating light industrial properties and residential dwellings together can be a great way to create employment whilst preserving our industrial tradition and encouraging innovation.

There is certainly demand for more homes, but there also is for workspaces, and both of these situations come up against a backdrop of depleted brownfield land stocks. Encouraging economic sustainability requires new ways of thinking and, arguably, one of them is integrating residential properties and workspaces into the urban fabric – as is often the case in mainland Europe.

In our opinion, local authorities are too quick to protect industrial land as it often provides employment for skilled manual workers, but we wonder what would happen if this land gave these workers the opportunity to live closer to their work? More disposable income and better quality of life then become a distinct possibility.

We really need to be breaking away from stereotypes around industry being dirty, noisy and something which needs to be kept out of sight. Recent innovations in noise-cancelling technology and clean emissions regulations mean that there is far more potential for coexistence than there has ever been.

The truth of the matter is that light industry supports jobs both directly and indirectly across a broad spectrum of roles and professions. There are the jobs directly involved in the businesses themselves, and then those created further down the supply chain and in things like professional services. Within cities, having industries and residential spaces located close to one another increases opportunities for these businesses to recruit and optimise their workforces and provide better living standards for the workers themselves.

Urbanist Architecture London RIBA Chartered Practice ARB Registered Architects

Now we can tell you why Urbanist Architecture is the best practice to assist you with your light industrial to residential conversion!

Well, as outlined above, we know the regulations and processes inside out; it’s our bread and butter and we can do all of the regulatory heavy lifting, so you can focus on what’s important to you in your development.

We work collaboratively with local planners to get the best outcome for you. Wherever we’ve worked we’ve forged constructive relationships, and we can use this mutual respect and trust to get the best possible outcome for you.

In addition, when it comes to developing smart layouts and designs that really deliver bang for your buck, we’re second to none, and our track record in this respect is something that we are extremely proud of.

Your return on investment is clearly something that matters a great deal; nobody is in the development game for purely altruistic gain. We always keep this in mind at every stage of the development process and ensure that you obtain the maximum ROI possible.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we make lasting relationships with our clients and we pride ourselves on the level of repeat business that we get. We’ve dealt with numerous clients multiple times because, firstly, we deliver, and secondly, we go about it in the right way. We measure our success based on the lasting relationships that we have with our clients, not short-term gain from one-off projects.

The Bottom Line

If you have a light industrial property that you want to convert into homes, you can get the advice you need and make the process simpler, easier and quicker if you have a team of experts to assist you through the Prior Approval process. We want to make sure you are getting the most out of your property while providing the sustainable mix of uses a thriving city needs!

If you have any questions about Change of Use from Light Industrial to Residential in London, call us on 0203 793 78 78. We’d be happy to help.

The post Do I need Planning Permission for converting light industrial to residential? appeared first on Urbanist Architecture Best London Architects.

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