Why would I need a bat survey?

Did you know that the UK has 18 known species of bat and that they are a protected throughout Great Britain and Europe?   The UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and EU Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 lists protected bats among other fauna and flora.   It is, therefore, a criminal offense to harm or disturb bats or their habitat.   Natural England and The Bat Conservation Trust provide support, guidance and licensing towards their protection.

National and local planning policy include guidance towards the protection and enhancement of all biodiversity.   Town planners are required to consider any legally protected species as a material consideration when assessing development proposal that may harm a protected species or its habitat.

Professional ecologists can be employed to help develop design proposals for the built environment and are able to provide the necessary support for planning applications through survey and mitigation.

Proper assessment of existing buildings and other potential habitats for bats is crucial in design development prior to submitting a planning application.   For bats, initial assessment can take place at any time of the year.   A trained ecologist will look for key signs of bat habitation in a building, such as tile hanging, loose leadwork and flashings (particularly around chimneys), small cracks & openings and not to mention bat droppings.   However, if bats are found to use existing buildings, further survey work is required to detect their emergence and activity in and around a building.   These emergence surveys can only take place when bats are out of hibernation and flying around; between May – September only.

Certain species of bats also live in trees and the cutting down of a tree could be causing harm to a bats habitat or the bat itself.   Whilst arboricultural work is not directly policed in regard to bat protection, seeking ecological advice before removing a tree may be prudent and considerate.

The presence of bats within an existing building is by no means a show stopper to development.   With the right professional support of an ecologist the design can be taken forward coupled with appropriate mitigation, through the introduction of suitable bat habitation devices and details.   This information will be produced by the ecologist and submitted as a mitigation report with any planning application.   This mitigation report is also utilised to obtain a licence from Natural England enabling controlled works towards the completion of the proposed development with the protection of the bats in mind.

Early assessment will have significant benefits to a development project as it will enable the right ecology work to be carried out at the right time and it will allow the design to be taken in the right direction.   As architects we have a duty of care to advise our clients appropriately and to be aware of the basic principles in bat habitation potential.   With careful design and collaboration with a professional ecologist bat mitigation can be incorporated into beautiful design without being obvious.   The cladding on our Curvey Oak project has bat boxes and roosts designed into the elevation seamlessly … can you spot them?

LW

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What is a building contract and why do I need one?

For a traditional build, a building contract is the agreement your builders will work from to deliver your project within the cost and time frame you agreed, to the specification you expect.

The agreement is based on three main factors:

  1. TIME it will take to complete the works; The Date for Completion is agreed in writing with your chosen Building Contractors and entered into the Contract.
  2. COST of the Works; The Contract Sum as provided by the Contractor in writing and agreed by the Employer is entered into the Contract.
  3. QUALITY of the Works; Clauses within the building contract state that Works are to be completed in accordance with the Contract Documents. These are the technical drawings and specifications of the Works compiled by your Architect.

What role does your architect perform?

Your Architect will act as an independent administrator of the contract, known as the ‘Contract Administrator’, checking work onsite and ensuring the build is being completed in accordance with the three main factors (as defined within the Contract Documents) –

  1. TIME: If the Contractor thinks the build may take longer than stated within the Contract, your Architect will assess their claim for any Extensions of Time and whether their reasons are in accordance with the terms of the Contract. If they are not, you may be entitled to damages (as pre-agreed and written into the Contract).
  2. COST: Before payment to your contractor, your architect will inspect the works on site and certify they are being completed in accordance with the contract documents. This ensures you are never overpaying for Works completed at each stage of the build.
  3. QUALITY: This ensures that what has been designed is what is being built on site.

Forms of contract will be directly applicable to the size and type of your project. Your Architect will recommend the most suitable Contract for your build.

Meet The BBD Team – Molly Hogan

Molly Hogan: Part 1 Architectural Assistant/Office Nutritionist

Fresh from the Undergraduate degree at Portsmouth University Molly is undertaking her placement with us. It turns out she loves it here so much she’s chosen to take a second year of experience before she returns to University to complete her Diploma in Architecture! (yes, our education is never ending)

Molly bounces into the office everyday straight from the gym and we are sure she could bench press the entire BBD team.  She avidly collects ‘Yoyo’ cards and if anyone has any swaps get in touch!

Architecture loves: Frank Lloyd Wright

Favourite music: Anything Disney or Taylor Swift

Most likely to say: ‘it’s not a Pigeon and it’s not a Chicken’

Hates: Spiders

http://bbd-architects.co.uk/practice/practice.html

 

Meet The BBD Team – Verity Lovelock

Verity Lovelock: Architect/Chief Spider Officer

Verity joined the BBD Team in 2010 and has seen through her final Part 3 qualifying exams with us. With a love of interior design, Verity approaches architecture from the inside out and is passionate about creating the perfect ‘home’ for each of our clients.

Verity holds the record for most time spent on the office soap box *insert passionate speech about relevant cause here* if you can tear her off it long enough and get her to go home and enjoy some free time you’ll find her immersed in either a Body Combat class, DIY or Den building (with her children… obviously…)

Architecture loves: Hassan Fathy and Samuel Mockbee

Favourite Music: according to Molly ‘that loud shouty stuff that’s rubbish’

Most likely to say: ‘Are you making a cup of tea?’

Hates: Anything Christmas before December… the 24th…

http://bbd-architects.co.uk/practice/practice.html

Meet The BBD Team – Laurence Wright

Laurence Wright: Architect, Director and founder of BBD Architects/Expert Tea Maker

 

With over 25 years experience in the industry including residential and listed buildings, his local knowledge is second to none, as is his uncanny ability to zoom into any street from google earth.

 

When not glued to his desk at BBD HQ Laurence can be found mountain biking through the forest to get those creative juices flowing.

 

Architecture loves: Peter Zumthor and Alison Brookes

 

Favourite music: House….very loud House

 

Most likely to say: ‘Right *claps hands and rubs them together* what’s next?’

 

Hates: Being a day late for his 5 week and 1 day haircut…closely followed by pens with no lids

http://bbd-architects.co.uk/practice/practice.html

 

Are solid walls making a comeback?

House construction techniques have developed from historic solid wall methods.   Go back over 200 years and solid walls were made from local stone inner and outer faces with rubble, stone and earth between forming a dense and thick mass that held itself together.   Due to its thickness rain rarely penetrated the width of the wall.   Air tightness did not exist, in fact the walls were naturally breathable.   Thermal properties worked differently from today’s high insulation techniques aided by the thickness of the wall and the fact that the inner stone would have been warmed internally by open fires.

As bricks were developed in the 19th century the ability to build thinner walls, affording more internal floor area, became apparent.   Taller buildings used the method of thickening the masonry at lower levels and thinning out as floors rose.   Typically, a three storey brick built solid wall construction might see ground floor thicknesses at three bricks thick, first floor at two bricks and single skin for the top floor.   This method helped reduce weight as the building went up.

Thinner walls began to see rain penetrate to the inner face presenting all sorts of problems.   Thus, the cavity wall was born; using two separate skins of brickwork, the outer skin kept the rain out and being separated from the inner skin prevented transition of moisture to the inner skin.   Later, insulation was added to the cavity, an ideal place to locate and protect a soft product, to improve thermal performance.   So today, with relatively high performing insulation products, the understanding of how air tightness improves thermal performance* and other efficiencies in material fabrication, today’s cavity wall is a high performer.

So, why go back to solid wall, even with modern insulation products?   Where is the benefit over cavity wall techniques?

Wall thickness can be one benefit.   With insulation demand increasing, cavity walls are getting thicker, often over 300mm to meet today’s requirements.   A solid wall method, using single skin masonry (100mm), can be less than 300mm including rain screen cladding.   Placing the insulation on the outside enables the inner skin of masonry to act as a thermal mass, much like historic methods achieved, reducing the output of heating systems.   Thicker inner skins, perhaps using block laid flat (215mm), will improve thermal mass.

Remember, in a cavity wall, the outer skin of brickwork is not load bearing.   It is merely a rainscreen intended to keep the weather out.   Therefore, by replacing what is a relatively expensive product to buy and high labour intensity to build with something cheaper, sustainable and thinner whilst maintaining the inner masonry load bearing wall and, then outer insulation layer results in a modern solid wall construction.

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Advice to graduating architecture students

graduation 2

Everyone is free (to practice architecture)

“Architecture students of 2015: Continue sketching

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sketching would be it.

The long terms benefits of sketching have been proven by architects, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own architectural experience …

I will present this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your architecture; oh never mind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your architecture until you’ve been in practice.   But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at your dissertation and recall in a way you can’t juxtapose now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous your theories really were …

You’re not as dull as you imagine.

Don’t worry about planning permission; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as submitting a planning application without drawing elevations.   The real troubles with your planning application are being considered by a planning officer who has no understanding of what good design is or whether it looks any different at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Design one thing everyday that scares you.

Sculpt.

Don’t be reckless with other architect’s designs.   Don’t put up with architects that are reckless with yours.

Model.

Don’t waste your time forever designing;   sometimes your design is great, sometimes it is not.   Practising as an architect is long and in the end, who knows if you’ll be a ‘STarchitect’.

Remember the awards you receive, forget the criticism.   If you succeed in doing this tell me how.

Keep your old drawings.   Throw away your student loan statements.

Self crit.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what sector you want to work in.   The most interesting architects I know didn’t know at 22 what sector they wanted to work in.   Some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of CPD.

Be kind to your pens, you’ll miss them when they are gone.

Maybe you’ll practice, maybe you won’t.   Maybe you’ll have LLP, maybe you won’t.   Maybe you’ll be sued at 40, maybe you’ll dance at the architect’s ball after graduation day.   Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either.

Your awards are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your designs.   Use them every way you can.   Don’t be afraid of them or what other people think of them.   They are the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Paint, even if you keep the canvases for yourself.

Read the building contracts, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not look up the young architect of the year nominations, they will only make you feel unable to design.

Get to know your clients.   You never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your contemporaries; they’re your best link to your past and most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that clients come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to design the spaces between buildings because the more you practice the more important it will seem than before you were qualified.

Visit New York City once, but leave before it makes you modern.   Visit Florence once, but leave before it makes you classical.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: fees will rise, planners will miss good design, you too will get old.   And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you qualified; wages were reasonable, planners were helpful and staff respected their mentors.

Respect your mentors.

Don’t expect anyone else to like your designs.   Maybe you’ll win an award, maybe you’ll have a successful partnership.   But you never know when one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your designs or by the time you submit it will look in keeping.

Be careful whose architecture you support, but be patient with those who design it.   Architecture is a form of history.   Designing is a way of flicking through a Banister Fletcher, picking out a few pages, tearing out the bad design and re-modelling the good like it was your own.

But trust me on the sketching.”

Loza

An adaptation of Baz Lurhmann’s sunscreen song: Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)

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A quick guide to The Party Wall Act 1996

party wall 2

“A party wall surveyor represents the [party] wall and are impartial to either owner” – Martyn Furse: Malcolm Hollis, Building Surveyors

A party wall is a structure that separates property belonging to different owners. That structure could be a wall or floor between buildings or a wall between two spaces or gardens.   A party wall, fence or structure is defined as such providing the boundary line between the properties severs or bisects the wall.   If the boundary line is one side or other of the wall, only the enclosing part of the wall applies and work outside of that area is not covered by the act.

The Party Wall Act was created in 1996. It is intended to provide a mechanism for resolving disputes between neighbouring owners when one or other commits to develop their property that presents certain risks to the others property by virtue of associated construction works, which are defined in the act.

In short, the act is required if structural works or alteration to a party wall is expected or ground works within prescribed zones.   You do not need to utilise the act simply for works being carried out adjacent to a neighbouring property.

Below are some interesting key facts about party walls and the act:

  • If a notice is served and consented by the neighbour there is no need for an award. Awards are only issued after a dispute is lodged
  • Technically, you can build a wall up against the boundary line between your property and your neighbour without need for a notice or party wall award, which may include a foundation bridging the boundary line
  • When you are digging a trench* (*foundation, drainage, basement or other) within 3.0m of a neighbouring structure AND expecting that trench to be deeper than the neighbour foundation then a notice must be served
  • Where you are digging a trench* within 6.0m AND your foundation (including piled foundations) is expected to be deeper than a 45 degree line drawn from the bottom of the neighbouring structure’s foundation then a notice must be served
  • If damage is caused to a neighbouring property when development work is taking place it must be assessed to be directly attributable as a result of the notified work, not just the fact that building work is taking place next door.

There are horror stories about party wall awards but in proportion to the party wall notices served these are very few. The bottom line and simplicity of the act is that if a conversation between both owners takes place it need only use but an hour or two for each owner. Even then, should a dispute be lodged, the act is designed to minimise the work and time required to resolve it.

The act is a legal requirement to be followed when construction work for a development falls within the guidelines it sets out.   It is not a means to halt work or a development and delaying tactics can be frowned upon.   However, a legal injunction can be sort to pause proceedings if construction work commences without a notice and/or award being submitted.   Above all the act is there to protect both adjoining owners and should not be considered as a one sided affair.

The bottom line advice would nearly always be: ‘if in doubt, submit a notice’ as it is better to be safe and agree the works than not and result in an issue.   If assumptions are necessary it is better to make worse case scenarios, again, to avoid doubt.

The act details the circumstances when a notice is needed to be served and any action required should a dispute occur. You can find an easy to read guide, written by the government, with supporting example documents that enable lay persons to complete the necessary stages themselves, if appropriate, at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/393927/Party_Wall_etc__Act_1996_-_Explanatory_Booklet.pdf

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The Wrapping and Unwrapping of Presence

presentChristmas is a time of great expectations in the giving and receiving of presents.   Anticipation, excitement, surprizes and more.   There are similar expectations between architects and their client’s as a new project begins.   Let me explain:

 

When it comes to buying a gift for your family or friends at Christmas there is a lot of pressure to buy the right thing.   Giving the right gift somehow demonstrates how well you know them.   When you wrap the gift you send some hope with it, hope that they will like or appreciate it.   In turn, not only does the recipient presume to receive a gift from you but they also expect you to get something they will like.

 

Isn’t it uplifting, for you both, when you buy the right gift for Christmas?   The smile on the recipients face, the relief in yours.   I am not saying that those reindeer socks from your auntie are a failure, you might like reindeer socks.   Neither am I suggesting that they have failed in the essence of Christmas, far from it; it’s the thought that counts and the thought that we should be grateful of, not the gift that we are disappointed with.

 

Is it so bad to let your family and friends know what you would like for Christmas?   Think about it; if you write to Santa (or send out a ‘wish list’) you stand a good chance of receiving those things and not the reindeer socks.

 

So how is architecture like Christmas?   First of all, just like the Christmas analogy, when an architect is employed they are expected to deliver the right design solutions.   The client expects great things and can help the architect by providing a design brief, a wish list if you will.   Architects are trained to gather the information in the design brief and interpret the client’s likes and dislikes to put together a design with presence using the colouring pens they received for Christmas.

 

A good architect will understand what their client is looking for and deliver a design that matches or works with the idea in their minds.   The smile on the client’s face when they see the design they wanted delivers that same feeling as getting the Christmas present they asked for.   So consider a Chartered Architect for your next project … they are not just for Christmas.

5 easy ‘green’ improvements you can add to your house.

green jumper

Everyone knows about turning lights off when you’re not in the room and not leaving your TV on standby when it comes to ways of reducing energy usage in the home. I’m not going to tell you about these things or that energy efficient bulbs really do reduce your electricity usage.

Here I have 5 simple things that you can physically do to your home, yourself or through a trained professional, without needing Planning Permission. I cannot exclude any requirement for Building Regulations as technically approval is required to upgrade thermal elements on your house, bizarrely.

For now, here are 5 great investments you can make to your home that will reduce heating demand and make your home more efficient and ‘green’:

1. Cavity Insulation: if you have a masonry cavity wall constructed house that was built in the 20th century (that’s around 15 years ago or more) chances are there is no insulation in that cavity. Having some blown insulation injected into your wall will help keep the heat you produce in your home. Other forms of construction will need a different solution and wrapping your home with insulation on the outside would be a great way to go, however this may require planning approval if you use a different finish material than the original house (i.e. Render in lieu of brick) and that’s a whole other blog.

2. Loft Insulation: this is fairly easy and cheap to do yourself. Assuming you have an empty loft, the ideal method would be to place one layer of mineral wool quilt insulation down between the ceiling ties followed by another layer over the top. A little added benefit would be to lay the top layer perpendicularly as this will cover the gaps in the layer below where the ceiling ties are. Remember not to squash this type of insulation as it works best when inflated. Keep this insulation away from the roofing felt too (the black stuff between the rafters and tiles) otherwise you may block ventilation paths for fresh air that come through the eaves. This ventilation stops your rafters rotting when condensation forms as it will evaporate that moisture.

3. Window and/or Door Upgrade: even if you already have double glazing, replacing them with new is likely to make a noticeable improvement. The older your current windows the bigger the improvement. Some glazing companies will even recycle your old uPVC frames and glass too giving you a greater sense of well being towards the environment. Your windows and doors are the weakest thermal element of your house so investing in them will be worth the money. If you really want to improve them, go for triple glazing as this can make them as effective as your walls or roof, or pretty close at least.

4. Solar Thermal: this is a method of providing hot water in your home thanks to that big bright yellow thing we see in the sky from time to time. What’s great about solar thermals in the UK is that they will work even when it’s cloudy. Here’s the science; it’s something about the ultraviolet light passing through clouds, which is the bit that heats the system. Just a couple of panels on your roof and a hot water tank inside and you’re done – your boiler no longer needs to heat water.

5. Wear a Jumper: turning your thermostat down just one degree will reduce your heating demand and what’s more, you’re not likely to notice one degree all that much. If you have zone controls for your heating (or even a simple TRV on your radiators) you might think about turning areas or rooms off when not in use too. If you do feel a chill, wear a jumper – it’s insulation around you to keep your heat in!

Nearly all of the above ideas can be supported by local authority grants and it is worth a quick internet search to find out what is available, though I am not sure many people give jumpers away for free. Another good place to ask will be your energy provider who may have a grant or offer available.

If you have a listed building it is worth checking with your local authority conservation officer before committing to any of these, other than wearing a jumper, as they may be detrimental or even damage the protected fabric of the building.

Holding on to the heat you produce in your home will not only reduce your energy usage and therefore save you money, it will be better for the environment too.

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