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Turning historical character into modern living

Written by Cassidy Perkin


Agricultural buildings hold an important place in the history of the UK and hold a special place in my heart. Being able to protect, and future-proof these buildings is something that that I am passionate about. An incredible example of this can be found in a barn beautifully converted in Chagford. This barn shows modern, contemporary renovations and updates while still skilfully incorporating the historical features that give the barn character and historical qualities. I love how a balance and blend of modern living and functionality can be achieved be breathing new life into older barns that no longer have an agricultural use.

The barn is constructed of a gorgeous pale stone used locally on many other properties, and this stonework has been retained and restored as a clear attractive design feature, with exposure inside, and outside the building. This natural stone finish paired with the natural slate roofing pays homage to the heritage of the previously agricultural barn. Mixed sympathetically into the roofing are conservation rooflights that allow natural light into the first floor with modern fittings that still consider the setting and relationship with the local history. I love how the existing fabric of the barn is used as a strong feature rather than a constraint. These features combined set the barn as a harmonious aspect of the surrounding landscape and local area.

There are many reasons why people choose to convert barns and this project demonstrates many of these reasons through its location, character, attractive open plan living, and sustainability through avoiding making a completely new home. Seen in the below pictures, historical features can be skilfully weaved into the fabric of the building the conversion can become and provide eye-catching design features that leave clues into the buildings past, while clearly showing its future as a stylish family home.

If you own an agricultural building that you want to convert, the Class Q legislation may enable this without needing full planning permission. However, it is important to note that there are a few requirements that your build must meet. Nevertheless, as proven by this beautiful home, a barn conversion will allow you to create a space that is unique to your surroundings. For more information on Class Q legislation or enquiries about a barn conversion, feel free to email us at studio@livingspacearchitects.com.

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Amendments To the Class Q Permitted Development Right (May 2024)

The UK Government has introduced significant changes to the Class Q permitted development right, which facilitates the conversion of agricultural buildings into dwellings. These amendments will take effect from 21st May 2024. While the increase in the maximum allowable dwellings from five to ten has grabbed headlines, there are several other key points to consider. Let’s explore them:

1. Increased Allowance and Floorspace

  • The maximum number of dwellings that can be created within an agricultural unit has doubled, now allowing up to ten dwellings.
  • The maximum floorspace for new dwellings has been set at 1,000 sq.m.
  • However, individual dwellings cannot exceed 150 sq.m in size.

2. New Build Single-Storey Rear Extensions

  • You can now add a single-storey rear extension (up to 4m) to your converted barn, provided it is on an existing hardstanding.
  • This extension can enhance the functionality and living space of your dwelling.

3. Qualification Criteria for Barns

  • To take advantage of the permitted development right, your barn must meet specific criteria:
    • Land Use History: The site must have been part of an established agricultural unit on or before 24th July 2023. Even if the barn is no longer in agricultural use, it may still qualify if it remains part of an established agricultural unit.
    • Access and Space Standards: Barns must have suitable access to a public highway and comply with nationally prescribed minimum space standards.
    • Protected Areas: Certain barns, such as those in listed buildings, Conservation Areas, or National Landscapes (formerly AONBs), cannot benefit from Class Q.
    • Seek professional advice to determine if your barn qualifies under the new criteria.

4. Transitional Arrangements

  • If you’re considering a larger dwelling (exceeding 150 sq.m), there’s good news! The amended legislation provides a ‘window of opportunity’ until 21st May 2025 for those wishing to apply under the previous Class Q criteria.
  • This allows flexibility for specific circumstances.

In Summary

While the headlines focus on increased dwelling allowances, it’s essential to understand the nuances of the new legislation. If you’re planning a barn conversion, seek professional advice to navigate the process effectively.

For bespoke advice related to the Class Q changes and their implications for your development projects, feel free to get in touch with us at Living Space Architects. We’re here to assist you! 🌟

Remember, each barn has its unique story waiting to be transformed into a beautiful home! 🏡✨

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Riverside Revival: A Family Dream Comes True in Starcross

Nestled along the picturesque banks of the River Exe lies Exeleigh Lodge, a hidden gem waiting to be rediscovered. What was once a charming but tired bungalow is about to undergo a remarkable transformation into a contemporary riverside haven for a young family. Join us on this captivating journey as we unveil the story behind this exciting first floor extension project that promises to breathe new life into Starcross.


Discovering Potential

Exeleigh Lodge captured the hearts of our clients with its idyllic location and breathtaking river views. Situated on the tranquil south coast of Devon, this sprawling property boasts a canopied garden and easy access to Exeter and the Torbay area. Despite its enchanting surroundings, the lodge required some TLC to fulfil its potential as a modern family home.


A Collaborative Vision

Enter Living Space Architects, entrusted with the task of retaining the lodge’s character while infusing it with contemporary flair. From the outset, collaboration was key as our clients shared their vision through Pinterest boards, paving the way for a truly bespoke design journey. Led by Ellen, our PassivHaus Designer and architect, and Kirsty, our conservation accredited architect, our team embarked on a creative exploration to marry tradition with innovation.


Navigating Challenges

The journey wasn’t without its hurdles, with the lodge’s proximity to listed building presenting a unique set of challenges. However, with expert guidance from a planning consultant, and input from ecologists and arboricultural surveyors, along with enthusiastic input from our clients, our proposals struck the perfect balance between preservation and progress.


Designing for Tomorrow

The culmination of our efforts is a sleek, pitched roof extension that seamlessly integrates with the existing structure. Featuring a spacious family room with panoramic estuary views, a cosy wood-burning stove, and eco-conscious elements such as solar shading, a PV array, and triple glazing, the design reflects our clients’ commitment to sustainability and comfort.


A Triumph in Planning

With bated breath, we awaited the outcome of our planning submission. To our delight, approval came swiftly and seamlessly. Thanks to our collaborative approach and meticulous attention to detail, Exeleigh Lodge’s transformation received the green light, paving the way for a bright future by the river.


Looking Ahead

As we eagerly prepare for the next chapter, our focus turns to bringing the design to life. Technical drawings are underway, signalling the start of construction this summer. Keep an eye out for our signboard as you wander along the riverside, and join us in celebrating the rebirth of Exeleigh Lodge – a testament to the power of vision, collaboration, and the unwavering dedication to creating home that capture the imagination and inspire generations to come.

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Starting your PassivHaus project

Wow! The end of 2023 and beginning of 2024 has been busy for us here at Living Space Architects, and despite our best intentions, we could not keep up with the Blog Posts recording Ellen’s progress through the training for the PassivHaus Designer course.

2024 has bought excellent news for Ellen and the team at Living Space Architects, passing the exam with flying colours and confirming Ellen’s status as a fully qualified PassivHaus Designer!

What is PassivHaus?

What does this mean for our clients?

Ellen is now qualified to provide the expertise required to realise your PassivHaus aspirations. Whether you are looking to uplift your project’s eco status, or take it to the next level of comfort with a PassivHaus, we are here to help you.

So are you dreaming of a low energy, high performance, comfortable home with low heating bills? Get in contact to start your PassivHaus journey!

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PassivHaus with Living Space Architects – Week 2

Week Two has focused on solar gains and internal gains.

Solar gains (using the sun to warm up) look at window placement, design, size, and shading. Getting these aspects right will help balance your solar gains (warming up the building) against your heat loss through the windows – windows do not insulate as well as walls.

There are lots of things to consider here – do we want solar shading, where should the shading be, do we want openable windows, do we want blinds, where do we want our windows? Openable windows are desirable, but security, external noise or even just stopping the pets from escaping could stop you! Blinds are helpful in reducing glare and increasing privacy, but internal blinds will not stop the glass itself from heating up, and maybe we want to maximise our views out.

Internal gains refer to everything else inside the building (apart from the heating system) that can warm the building up. This will include how many people are in the building, what type, and the number of appliances in use. The internal gains will change dramatically based on how the building is being used – is it a home, a school, or an office building?

We make assumptions about occupancy and build these into our calculations with a generous buffer to ensure that the comfort of the occupants is maximised while reducing reliance on space heating.

Lessons Learnt

The lesson from this week has been the need to talk to our clients really early to understand how they want to live and work in their homes and PassivHaus projects. Everybody lives in slightly different ways; some people sleep with the window open, some people need complete silence; some have vegetable plots and want extra freezers to store their produce; some families work from home with extensive office setups; some people bought their home for the view, and don’t want to spoil these with blinds and curtains.

So tell us how you want to live, because every detail is important to us and will help ensure your PassivHaus will reflect you.

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Site visit to our Stoke Poges build

It’s always exciting to see a project that you have created coming together.

That’s exactly how we felt on our latest trip to Stoke Poges, to visit the site of our innovative new build with a contemporary design and similar feel to a German Huf Haus.

The greyness of the day didn’t attract from the immensity of the building as it has begun to take shape, complementing the plot with its innovative structure and creative design.

With the main structure built, and character of the interior being established, we are well on our way to completing the project in time for our May target.


So, what makes this project so unique? 

Even at first glance it is clear that this property doesn’t fall in line with convention. Its dramatic pitched roof, high ceilings, glass exterior and timber structure give it a different feel to the brick houses that Britain has grown so accustomed to. Its open-plan design and use of windows and glass allow it to capture sunlight and create a bright and modern place to live.


What inspired the design?

Our client came to us with a brief of creating a house with a similar feel to the award-winning German Huf Haus design. Big open spaces and natural light appealed to them, however they wanted the house to have a little more privacy and a more ‘homely’ feel than the original German design. We therefore designed a house with some Huf Haus characteristics, such as the pitched roof, high ceiling, terraces and large glass windows to capture natural light, while maintaining some more British features of a home and tailoring the property to suit our clients preferences, such as supplementing a brick wall on the outside ground floor.


What other features does the house have?

We decided to use innovative construction for the new building, settling on Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) from Kingspan TEK. These are made of wood, but their invisible structure gave us freedom with the interior design. Furthermore, their prefabrication meant that construction time was less and there was limited on-site waste. The panels also have high energy efficiency, allowing for a thinner construction than usual insulation.


What comes next?

Although our Stoke Poges build has begun to take shape and acquire character, there are still things to be done before our May deadline. Currently, underfloor heating and electrics are being fitted and then decorating and finishes for the property will commence. We can’t wait to follow the progress of this contemporary and modern design, and are looking forward to seeing the finished product!

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

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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Published in Real Homes Magazine

Our beautiful house extension and refurbishment project in Grey Wings, Cornwall has been featured in the ‘Design Guide’ for Real Homes Magazine under ‘Sustainable Style’.

This was a wonderful project to be part of, and we worked with obsessive detail to make the property the best it could possibly be.

The result was a highly sustainable and innovative design, embraced the stunning views and location of the property in a contemporary, stylistic manner.

To read more about the design, and see more pictures of this impressive extension, click here.

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