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Transforming a building which transforms lives…

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Since our last post on the Salvation Army, the project has made great progress and exciting things have been happening. We are eager to share the next stage of our work, as the team here at LSA have been working hard with their design caps on. From exterior to interior, the design process is now well underway for the redesign of Friars’ Walk.

In our previous post, we highlighted the importance of the building’s history and how the Salvation Army has had a great impact on our society here in Exeter. Friars’ Walk is home to a thriving community, and we believe that the people at Salvation Army are taking the right steps towards the future of this building.

We knew from the outset that the interior spaces required a high-quality design strategy, and we intended each space to bring something new and different to the renovation of this building. This raised a range of considerations, from the function of each space down to the quality of finishes used. The style of design had to be sympathetic to the building’s past, but also needed to enhance and be conducive to modern life. The renovation is partly intended to act as a means of attracting people to use the building, and better appreciate all it has to offer. Opening up the interior spaces allows the building to be versatile, in keeping with its use as a site of varied activities. Below are some of our initial 3D views of the new interior spaces:

Chapel Space looking back on to Entrance Cafe
Chapel Space
Entrance Cafe
New Entrance Area
Basement Area
First Floor Area

First Floor area from double height space

The future is looking bright for Friars’ Walk. We feel privileged to be working with the Salvation Army, and hope that we can offer them something special which will keep their community thriving. This is only the start – so stay on the lookout for updates on what unfolds next!

Extending a small family home with simple techniques and impressive results

This project is the perfect example of a house that really has become a home.

Jill and James McDowell came to us wanting to give their property in Earl Richards a contemporary revamp. Having been in the family for years, they were not prepared to part ways with their wonderful house, but realised it was time for it to be modernised and opened up to make best use of space and the garden- especially with grandchildren now scurrying around.

They wanted to extend the kitchen and link the dining area to the garden, opening up the inside and creating more space and light. As the property was relatively small, we were able to use fairly simple and low-cost techniques to meet these needs in an innovative and attractive way.

“It was great, as we could apply ideas usually used on larger projects and adapt them to this smaller design” said Kirsty Curnow-Bayley, a Living Space Architect who worked on the project.  “We used simple techniques to create really interesting spaces”.


Below you can see the finished work: seamless access to the garden, great views and a pleasant, bright kitchen space within. Jill and James were delighted with the results.


Basic principles for extending listed buildings

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Clients often come to us asking how they might achieve an extension or alteration to a listed building.


This can be tricky project to take on because any works of alteration, extension of demolition to a listed building requires listed building consent. This often also applies to repairs, so it is always wise to get advice from the local authority before carrying out any work.

Most historic buildings reflect the cumulative changes of different owners and uses, however in the past these changes and additions may have been made without the constraints of planning authorities.

Alterations to a listed building can be made as long as they do not damage the significance of the building and its setting.  Given the variety of historic building types and their individual characteristics, what might work on one site won’t necessarily work on another.

Some listed buildings are much more sensitive to change than others, so each case for change needs to be assessed individually to ensure success.


Basic principles for extending listed buildings

  1. The design and construction of the extension should show an understanding of the heritage significance of the listed building and it’s setting.
  2. The design should seek to minimise any harm to the listed building’s heritage value or special interest.
  3. The extension should normally play a subordinate role and not dominate the listed building as a result of its scale, mass, siting or materials.
  4. The new addition should sustain and add value to the listed building’s significance by being of high quality design, craftsmanship and materials.

All in a name – Employing an architectural designer to work on your project may not be what you expect

Undertaking a building project, whatever its scale, can be a daunting experience. As the chair of the Exeter branch of the Royal Institute of British Architects I am often involved in dinner party discussions where I hear the story of someone’s bad experience with an architect. “But were they really an architect?” I ask; “I’m not sure they reply – I think so but I’m not totally sure”.

I met someone who had employed a designer they assumed was an architect to design their loft extension. When it was almost finished they went up to take a look and realised there wasn’t enough space for the double bed because the ceiling was sloping too much. Their designer hadn’t drawn plans showing furniture in the rooms, so they weren’t aware of the problem until it was too late. Another friend used a designer who again they thought was an architect to design and run their renovation project on site with his recommended builder. There was no contract and the project seemed to go on forever, the bills started increasing and without an agreed contract sum they felt that they didn’t have much choice but to continue paying until the project was finished.

The fact of the matter is that to call yourself an ‘architectural designer’ you don’t need any qualifications or experience, whereas the title ‘architect’ is protected by law and can only be used by people registered with the Architects Registration board (ARB) having gone through the relevant training. Unfortunately there is nothing to stop anyone setting themselves up as an ‘architectural designer’ with little or no experience. No wonder there is often confusion when it comes to choosing someone to work with you on your building project.

That said you don’t always need an architect to draw up a set of simple planning drawings and there are also a lot of good architectural technicians that will give you value for money (although perhaps not the design flair), but again make sure they are registered with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technicians (CIAT) to ensure you are getting the professional service you should expect.

Chartered architects are also members of the RIBA in addition to the ARB, which gives you additional piece of mind that they are adhering to a strict code of conduct and keeping up to date with the latest legislation and technical innovations.

To help you make the right decision about which professional to choose to design your building project and make sure you get value for money, we’ve set out the top questions to ask when you need to employ a design professional to help you with your project:

Things to ask your Architect or Designer:

Are you registered with the ARB, RIBA or CIAT?

Do you have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PI)?
All RIBA and CIAT registered professionals must have this in place and it means that if something does go wrong you have piece of mind. Some architectural designers may not hold this insurance, which means you will have to foot the bill for any mistakes they make even if it isn’t your builders fault.

Can I speak to some of your previous clients?
A good architect will have a long list of happy clients and they will be only too pleased to pass you their details so that you can have a chat about their experience.

What do you specialise in?
If a firm mostly designs schools or office buildings they may not be the right practice for your new house or extension (or it may get passed to the office junior). The best practices for residential projects are those that have a good track record of this type of project, and these are often the smaller practices.

Lastly don’t forget that you need to get on with your architect; everyone is different and you could be working with them for some time, so you need to make sure you click. Your architect should be able to explain things to you in a way that you understand and feel comfortable with. We don’t all wear black polar necks and wear silly glasses (well only some of us) and often a more sensitive approach can be helpful at the early stages of a project when you are trying to work out your brief.

To give you added reassurance make sure you use an RIBA chartered architect and you will be employing someone who has undertaken 7 years of training – no other building professional is trained to such a level of expertise.

If you need help choosing an architect you can contact the RIBA client services team who will match you with 3-4 local architects who specialise in the type of work you want to do, no matter how small your project.

For further information call the RIBA on 020 7307 3700
Or visit them at www.architecture.com/useanarchitect

Kirsty Curnow Bayley is the chair of the Exeter Branch of the RIBA and is a Director of Living Space Architects in Southernhay.

Living Space Architects were set up 8 years ago specialising in residential and domestic projects and can be contacted on 01392 267 213 or at www.livingspacearchitects.com

New Year – New Home?

With the news full of uncertainty in the financial markets many of us are choosing to stay put rather than sell our houses and move, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of what we have and there are plenty of projects within all budgets that could make a real difference to your home without having to up sticks and move.  By making changes and improvements to your home not only can it make your property feel like new but it will also add value once the market improves again.

Adding and Extension

Adding extra floor area is a guaranteed way of making your home feel like new.

Not only is finance more difficult to find but moving home costs a fair bit of money too with stamp duty on a £500,000 home amounting to £20,000.  It’s these factors that have made staying where you are and extending a really good option.

“It’s true that it can be more difficult to make a big profit now on any work that you do to your home, but you will more than likely get back what you spend” says Kirsty Curnow Bayley at Living Space Architects. “In some cases, especially with homes at the top end of the market you can create a good extension for the same price as moving”.

Rear and Side Extensions

 

This is the most popular type of extension, often opening up to the garden at the rear of the property with the kitchen diner leading onto the garden.  Families are looking for space where they can all be together that connects better with the garden and this will definitely add value to your home.  Expect to pay in the region of £1500- £2000 per square metre including fit out.  Consider employing an architect for the project, although it will add around 10-15% to your project the extra spend is definitely worth while; architects are space planning experts and will make sure you get value for your money.  They will also help you negotiate the planning maze and can manage building contractors to help ensure a project is on time and within budget.

Loft Conversions

A loft conversion will cost in the region of £40,000 and is a great way to get another bedroom and can be a good option if your family is expanding but you don’t want to move.  You may not need planning permission for a loft conversion although it is important to check that your house still has it’s permitted development rights before you start work.  Always contact your local planning authority to check or speak to an architect who will be able  confirm how big your extension can be to comply.

Basement

Adding a basement is one of the best options if your priority is to gain extra space as you can effectivly gain a whole extra floor.  You can draw in extra light by adding a lightwell and extending into your back garden.  Compared to an extension at ground level a basement is a more expensive option with costs of up to £3000 per square metre and can be disruptive.  Make sure you employ a good architect before you start to make sure your basement is as light and airy as possible.

Sun room

 

The traditional upvc conservatory extension is a bit of a quick fix solution and many people regret not having considered other options.

Again a small conservatory may not need planning permission and it is worth checking before you start.

When planning your sun room think about its orientation – south facing sun rooms are great but you do need to consider how to avoid overheating.  You can create a sun room with a solid roof and rooflights to help control temperatures whilst still letting in light.  Large roof overhangs can provide solar shading and some protection from summer showers.

Sliding folding doors are now extremely popular but large slim framed aluminium sliding doors are becoming more popluar as they give the best visual connection with the garden and look a lot more stylish.

Living Space Architects Launch New Website

We’ve been working hard over the last few weeks creating our new website.  Let us know what you think, we’ve created it in wordpress using a theme by web designer Kriesi and we’re really pleased with it.  Over the coming months we will be adding to our blog to keep you up to date with Living Space News.