Big things expected from Living Space Architects after completing ‘BIM’ training

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This week, two of our architects attended a three day ‘Building Information Modelling’ (BIM) training session in Bristol, equipping them with the insight and tools to more efficiently design, construct and manage buildings and infrastructure.

BIM is an intelligent 3D model-based process that uses innovative software to better quantify data and manage information and costs for elements of the build. It is often used by large firms, as it increases the ability to deal with larger scale builds. It also allows architects to make more informed design decisions, build more efficiently and cost-effectively, and maintain buildings with greater ease.

A rising number of government and commercial organisations are making the use of BIM mandatory, and with increased work with local authorities and larger scale projects, Living Space Architects were pleased to be able to participate in the training.

“BIM training allows a firm to develop from a micro-practice and take on larger-scale projects” said Stuart Bayley, Director of Living Space Architects. “With the training, we can continue to step up and achieve the scope of our ambition.”

BIM is managed by Autodesk, which claims that the software not only allows businesses to operate more productively, but also produce higher-quality work, attracting new talent and winning new business. The benefits of the software are evident throughout the project building lifecycle, from enabling better design decisions, to accommodating efficient building and  guaranteeing predictable managing costs.

“We had a great grounding in all of the software functions which will enable us to get modelling our schemes from an early stage” said Living Space architect Kate Sammons, who attended the training. “It allows us to gradually build up the levels of detail and building information until we have a really intelligent model.”

With this competitive edge, Living Space Architects is looking forward to realising its creative visions using these innovative technological solutions and fulfilling its promising potential

“The training was excellent” Stuart commented. “It was very detailed but also quite interactive. We’ve come away with the feeling that we can take it on and get stuck in!”

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Thinking about altering or extending a listed building? Read this first!

If you’re lucky enough to own a listed building, it’s likely that you’re already well aware that making adaptations to this object of national, historic or architectural value is no small feat.

Listed building control is a type of planning control, which acts in addition to any other regulations that would normally apply. Acquiring planning permission can be a more challenging task than usual, but this doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Fortunately for you, we’ve got the expertise and knowledge to help you through this process and turn your dream into a reality.  

So to start- what actually is a ‘listed building’?

The Listed Building and Conservation Areas Act of 1990 defines a listed building as: “a building, object or structure that has been judged to be of national importance in terms of architectural or historic interest and included on a special register.”

National importance…surely that means alterations aren’t possible?

Although getting the permission to adapt the listed building requires you to jump through a few more hoops than usual, it is not impossible. Making the right plans and seeking professional guidance is vital to avoid any disastrous results.

How do I go about the planning?

It seems obvious but you need to prepare well before you carry out refurbishment or alteration work, particularly to a historic or listed building.

This is key in order to obtain listed building consent first time. Historic buildings can be sensitive and delicate in places and a without a clear plan, your builder could make mistakes or even do irreversible damage to the building. The best way to do this is through a set of instructions, allowing you to lay out your vision and get the detail right. Remember, doing damage to a listed building is a criminal offence, and so it really is worth putting in the time to get it right the first time.

What should the instructions include?

  1. A schedule of the work to be done and how it should be carried out.  This might also become a pricing document for the builder.
  2. A specification setting out the materials to be used and the standards of workmanship to be used.
  3. Drawings showing the existing and proposed layout.
  4. Detailed drawings illustrating how elements are to be constructed. This is particularly important for new joinery items such as windows, balustrades and items that are historically important.
  5. Technical information about products to be used, for example the mix for lime render or the breathable insulation to be used on solid walls.
  6. Health and safety information is an extremely important part of any building project. Depending on the type of project you could be liable as the client for health and safety during construction. By law you also need a principle designer for the project. This will likely be your architect but could also be your builder, structural engineer or interior designer. The principle designer must reduce risks that could occur during the build process or when the building is used and preferably eliminate them where possible. Your architect can talk to you further about this important part of the building process and help.

Overwhelmed?

Don’t be. These initial stages are often the hardest part. Living Space Architects specialise in renovating and extending listed buildings in older properties so you can be assured that your project is in safe hands. We have a good relationship with conservation officers across the South West including Exeter, East Devon, Mid Devon, West Devon and Dartmoor National Park. Not only are we also members of the Listed Property Owners Club, but our very own Director Kirsty Curnow Bayley is a RIBA Conservation Registrant.

Next Steps…

If you would like to discuss the alteration or extension of a listed building we offer a consultation service to help you assess what changes you might be able to make and whether you will require Listed Building Consent. Remember- planning is key and if you have thought through the process and tackled potential barriers, there should be nothing stopping you from making your alteration dreams a reality.

 

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Feeling the chill? How we went about insulating a heritage home

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One thing about beautiful, historic houses is that they can often be really, really cold.

As Brits, we are no strangers to wacking on the fire and arming ourselves with a fluffy socks and a hot water bottle, but what happens when this simply isn’t enough?


When our client came to us with a brief to create a sustainable and well-insulated home in Broadhembury, we stepped up to the challenge.

They were concerned that it wouldn’t be possible to insulate the existing solid cob and stone walls, which were a large part of the property’s character and charm.

The property wasn’t listed so there was a bit of flexibility on altering the existing fabric, and with our experience of improving the energy performance of existing buildings and working with listed and historic properties, we were well placed to be able to advise.

This time however we wanted to take things a step further. How could we integrate technology usually used when designing new low energy homes on a historic solid wall building?


The emphasis was on creating a living breathing house with natural materials to improve the indoor air quality and create a natural, healthy home.

We suggested bringing on board Ann-Marie Fallon, a certified Passivhaus designer, to model the existing house using PHPP software. This is a time consuming business and involves the input of a lot of data to model the way the house performs now and how it would change following adaptations such as the addition of insulation.

This enabled us to investigate how we could insulate the property and best improve on its energy performance through the type of insulation, its position (internal or external) and thickness. This enabled us to also ensure that no condensation would occur, which is a common concern when insulating solid walls.

The existing walls were a real challenge being constructed of cob at low level and solid stone at first floor. The lower level walls of the house were constructed of cob, and this a lack of data in this area with regards to thermal capacity, we used the data to establish a model and predict how the house would behave.


Our client was also keen to use triple glazing, and we agreed that it did offer worthy benefits for this project, although came at a higher price. We decided to use triple glazing on the north facing link corridor and high performance double glazing throughout the rest of the house. Drafts in older houses are one of the biggest issues for improving energy efficiency, so replacing the windows made a significant difference to the performance of the house.

For the walls, breathable wood fibre insulation was used internally on the first floor where there was a mixture of cod and stone.  This had to be extended along the internal partition walls to prevent thermal bridging and condensation.  Part of the existing house was built in the 1970’s and had a cavity wall construction.  Here we used the wood fibre insulation externally.

The existing cement render was removed from all walls to enable them to breathe and cork insulating lime render used as the external finish to the older parts of the house, with a more standard lime render in other areas. Additionally, a new heating system was installed throughout powered by a wood pellet boiler and new underfloor heating laid in the new extension.

The design of the extension used an oak frame supplied by Carpenter Oak, which was wrapped in an airtight membrane and rendered externally.  This gave a stunning interior space for the kitchen dining room and beautiful spaces where the ‘old meets new’ in the north facing corridor.


So if anyone tells you that an old house can’t be made warm and cosy, while retaining its historical charm and sustainable vision then send them our way!

Designing Homes For An Ageing Generation

Sketches of our project in Dawlish creating homes for later living

Life expectancy among Britons is increasing exponentially and the proportion of the population over 65 years of age is expected to rise from five percent in 1950 to 16 percent in 2015.

Scientists are predicting an explosion of dementia cases, expected to almost triple by 2050 to over 115 million.

The majority of people with dementia live at home, and with no known medical cure, suitable housing is going to be vital in order to meet their needs and improve quality of life.

So how can buildings be designed to help those suffering with dementia?

Living Space Architects specialises in housing and developments for later living, and prides itself on attention to detail and meeting client needs. Through our work, we have been able to look into how different aspects of housing influence later living and shape our projects accordingly.

Sustainable design solutions that we think are most effective in creating dementia-friendly homes include:

  • Lower residential density
  • Reduction in external noise levels
  • Use of geometric floor plans
  • Landmarks and signage
  • Provision of non-institutional homelike features, in particular elements from the historical period matching the individual’s middle adulthood
  • Accommodation of wandering
  • Levels of illumination and natural daylight
  • Exposure to natural elements such as landscapes, trees and water

In addition to these, architectural features that support fascination, curiosity or involuntary attention can reduce the effects of mental fatigue, often suffered by dementia patients as they struggle to recall basic information and maintain their daily activities.

All of these elements improve a person’s sense of control, which affects how tense or relaxed they feel in their home. These design features contribute to the patient feeling more secure and safe and basic considerations to space, flow and lighting can help improve the quality of life for those suffering from dementia and make them feel at home.

Could Garden Cities be the solution to the UK Housing Crisis?

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Does the UK’s Housing Crisis ever seem to slow?

The UK’s shortage of affordable, decent homes continues to persist and with the pressing need to accommodate refugees escaping persecution from abroad, finding solutions to this problem couldn’t be more crucial.


Planners after World War Two faced a considerable feat. They were tasked with finding a solution to deal with accommodation shortage caused by bomb damage, returning service personnel and the resulting baby boom. Their solution? Garden Cities.

Seven Garden Cities were build, based on the concept proposed by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the early 20th century. They were seen to be an opportunity for maximising economies of scale in a sustainable development by creating social housing with zero carbon design, a sustainable transport network and local work and food sourcing. Milton Keynes, one of those cities built after WW2 now attracts over 16,000 net in-commuters and is a successful economic hub in the South East.


Now, there’s no doubt that this was years ago, but how feasible are Garden Cities in the 21st century?

Creating a healthier, safer community with all the amenities at your finger tips does seem appealing. Here are the some benefits of the garden suburb ideal:


Garden cities can replace ageing housing stock with energy-efficient buildings, green spaces and car-free zones.

This will result in cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

They can contribute to enhanced mental health

A 17-year study by the University of Exeter found that households living in greener urban environments are likely to have lower levels of mental stress and higher levels of well-being.

This would save the government money…

Sue Holden from the Woodland Trust predicts that the health benefits from access to green spaces could shave £2.1bn off the NHS healthcare bill every year.

They have investment potential

Government schemes- such as the Help-to-Buy and Right-to-Buy- recognise the difficulty young adults and families have getting onto the housing ladder. It is that generation that is most likely to move into an up and coming community, with work and leisure nearby. Garden cities are an opportunity to create new housing for the young and close to employment, it can be a very attractive investment for many.

There is garden space

The space available in the Garden City model allows new houses to benefit from more garden space for each and every unit. The appeal of your own garden and amenity space shouldn’t be underestimated. Not to mention that the shared landscape of the site would be an overall improvement.


Sherford in Plymouth and Cranbrook in Devon are two local examples of Garden Cities. Whilst they are currently small, both have the potential to attract and develop a vibrant community if the houses are sufficiently well laid out and create a new sense of place and in these fantastic locations.

Garden Cities take time to establish and it is not an overnight solution, but rather than allowing ad hoc urban sprawl, they could continue to provide a sustainable and successful answer and create a functional new village or town in a beautiful environment for future generations to come.

Great Expectations- Building healthy communities and homes for our ageing society

The Living Space Architects team recently attended the Housing Lin conference in Bristol entitled: Great Expectations: Building Healthy Communities and Homes for our Ageing Society.


Later living housing and building homes for the ageing is something that resonates strongly with our values and efforts, and we were interested to learn about other architects ideas in this area, and
the latest developments taking place.

We enjoyed an inspirational day exploring the themes of inclusive design and holistic communities, as well as the financial costs of later living care, both in the building itself and then making sure these spaces are sustained over time.


So what are the problems associated with later living housing and why is this something we should be concerned about? Why, as keynote speaker Paula Broadbent, Retirement Director at Keepmoat suggested, are 600,000 older people currently residing in poor-quality homes?


Homes that are inappropriate for later living can include those that:

  • Exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolations: Through inappropriate location and transport links and lack of diversity in the local community
  • Are too cold: Due to poor insulation or being in a bad state of repair
  • Are too hot: Where occupants have limited control over the temperature of their home
  • Have no space for hobbies or fun: Such as not allowing residents to own a pet, or not having a garden to grow veggies etc
  • Have limited bedroom options: Limited to single bed and not allowing for flexibility for family or personal circumstance
  • Lack social opportunities: By failing to provide a social mix or space for people to interact and flourish together
  • Are inflexible: Lacking standards of space and appropriate layout
  • Are ugly: Not being visually attractive is an issue! People want to feel proud of their home and others should aspire to live there

Despite the phrase ‘planning ahead’ being voiced time and time again throughout of our daily lives, the reality is that we rarely have the time or inclination to take the notion seriou

sly- and take immediate action. Keynote Speaker Tony Watt OBE, Chairman if the Southwest Forum on Ageing, explained how important it is to make a change before it is too late and we have reached a ‘point of crisis’. He highlighted that older people are often very conscious of how they will be perceived if they downsize from their current property for which they have worked hard for, and that this is one of the key barriers involved in this preparation for later life.

From our experience, we have also realised that there is too much focus on housing as a capital resource, and that this leads to people staying in their homes for longer. This can be problematic, as these houses can often be too large and are not always appropriate for later life.

Downsizing at an earlier stage can mean that people are more likely to better negotiate a more flexible property, ensuring they find a mutually supportive and evolving community.

 


So why isn’t this downsizing progression occurring more frequently? Here we face a major problem- throughout urban and rural areas, a lack of enticing and affordable property deter people from making this significant step and change to their lives. Furthermore, the lack of variety of tenure required to suit the spectrum

of ambitions makes this move a risky feet and for many, not worth the costs involved. If the issues are addressed- and sooner rather than later- a platform for a safe and fulfilling later life for all could become a reality.


 

However, there are some schemes which offer hope that things are moving in the right direction. Living Space Architects take later living very seriously, and understand that quality, innovation and creativity is not something that comes at the expense of making a house functional for later years. We are always keen to consult with local people, developers and care providers and use our contextual knowledge and innovative thinking to help shape the later living accommodation of the future for the better. We are taking action now.

 

Inspiration from abroad: examples of the Spanish approach to homes for the elderly

When thinking of creative new ideas and designs, we often draw on inspiration from abroad.


This year, we have been fortunate enough to be joined by architect Rocio Oteros from Spain. His interest in housing for later living has offered us unique insight into how this issue is approached in Spain and how it compares to ideas in the UK.

As a firm that is constantly changing and developing, all creative ideas are of value and can spark further ideas and be used as inspiration.

Rocio shared with us three examples from Spain, that show creative use of space and innovative design to enhance the lives of the elderly in their living spaces.


Housing for the Elderly. Seville.

The building was located in a central district of Seville and its architecture was carefully and profoundly detailed. The project worked like a small city where functionality and domesticity merged into a fresh environment. The building was designed to encourage social interaction and integration of a diverse range of people. It had a three-storey building, with plenty of common areas and flexible spaces where residents could dine or socialise together. Common units- like the canteen, medical practices and offices- were located on the ground floor and connected to the outside space that hugged the shape of the building and worked well as a meeting place. The dwellings were located on the first and second floors and articulated along corridors which opened out into communal rooms and outside spaces. This allowed the residents to have spontaneous meetings and areas to socialise.


Later living hounsing in Intxaurrondo. Donosti – San Sebastian.

This project in San Sebastian was located on a site with a sloping topography which made it a challenging project in terms of accessibility. However, this meant that the creativity and innovation involved was even more complex, unique and interesting, making this design particularly special. The proposal consisted of three volumes attached to the boundary of the site. This provided a solution for the slope and created a fantastic open courtyard that worked like a shared plaza. The architects intended to maximise the interaction between the users in this space. The location of the buildings allowed daylight to penetrate the central space and move into the dwellings. Light entered by the windows and terraces creating natural feel and a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere. The tree towers had the same shape although vary in orientation and number of storeys. The apartments were articulated by the circulation core, which was positioned towards the interior of the plaza by the entrances to the buildings. The housing typology was quite basic and simple, adapted to the needs of the elderly. The interior of the dwellings were organised around a central block formed by the kitchen and the bathroom. The living spaces had great views- either facing the open spaces in the heart of the complex or the green area that surrounded the buildings.

 

Santa Caterina Market Housing. Barcelona.

This extremely original intervention in an historic area in Barcelona was based on the restoration of the Santa Caterina’s Market, and housing units for the elderly were inserted as part of the project. The build was no small feat- 59 houses were created make up of two main developments and a sculptural ensemble. This design created an open interior space which connected with the market and was at the heart of the city centre. The idea was to provide homes for older people who love living in the city centre but relied on safe and adaptable spaces. The standard floor layout had a main corridor that arranged the dwellings to maximise sunlight hours. Despite the standard floor layout, the number of apartments on each floor was different to create terraces and common spaces, where residents could spend time together.

The houses were apartments of one or two bedrooms, very simply organised. Every single house consisted of a personal entrance, a bathroom, a living-dining-kitchen, a bedroom and a terrace so activity in the city centre could be overlooked and enjoyed. The main spaces were also always oriented towards outside.

How to find a new development opportunity

Decided to take on a property development opportunity? We don’t blame you! There’s something incredibly rewarding about seeing a property come together through your own planning, dedication and hard work.

However, at the beginning, such a project can seem a little intimidating and daunting and it’s difficult to figure out where to start. So how do you go about developing an existing property- or building on from scratch?

Here are some ideas on how to find that perfect project so that you can get to work!


1. Make contact with the local commercial agents

A quick Google search will point you in the right direction.

rendells.co.uk

wardchowen.co.uk

salisburyhenderson.com


2. Research old and redundant buildings

Look at examples of others who have undertaken this type of work to draw inspiration. Then do some research into old and redundant buildings- do any have potential?

 


3. Auctions for land

Land auctions are a good way to find suitable plots but transactions are conducted on a ‘sold as seen’ basis and therefore require a quick sale, leaving little time for research:

uklandandfarms.co.uk/land

cooperandtanner.co.uk/Proeprty-and-land-Auctions

cliveemson.co.uk

countrywidepropertyauctions.co.uk


4. Local authorities

Cash-strapped councils often have parcels of land they are willing to sell.

tavistock.gov.uk


5. Utility companies 

Some utility organisations such as water, gas and electricity companies have surplus land available to buy:

southwestwater.co.uk

britishgas.co.uk

dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12290/BT-raise-2bn-property-sell-off.html


6. Previously approved schemes which have not been built

savills.co.uk


7. Change of use on office to residential

The objective is to allow changes of use of a building or land from B1(a): offices to C3: residential to happen more easily. The intended effect of the proposal is to support an increase in housing supply, encourage regeneration of offices and bring empty properties into productive use.

jll.co.uk


8. Barn conversion under permitted development

Agricultural buildings can be converted to a flexible, educational or residential use under permitted development rights:

millertc.co.uk

gibbskirby.co.uk

fulfords.co.uk