Some helpful answers for Homeowners
Frequently Asked Questions
Why use an Architect?
Any project represents a significant undertaking on what is usually a client's main asset. Getting the right professional team to advise on the full process from start to end is key to success. Typically ADB are appointed to help clients from start to end as the Lead Consultant. This means we are present every step of the way to ensure that critical path items are undertaken to achieve clients expectations. An Architect should ensure that design opportunities are fully explored and informed at each stage of the project. This should include Concept as well as technical issues.
What is 'Design + Build'?
'Design + Build' is a route offered by Building Companies as a turn key solution. Some clients prefer this route as its perceived to be a simpler less stressful route. It should be noted however that this route sees all eggs being put in one basket. If choosing this route we would advise checks to be made to fully understand Contractual routes and responsibilities. It can be the case that designers are used to provide 'the usual' solutions without really exploring the true potential of a house, with engineering solutions that favour the build process rather than maximising design potential. A good majority of large Design + Build companies subcontract to other building companies which can causes issues with communication quality and timing. Contract documents will be in the favour of the Design + Build company - so check T&C's very carefully if this route is selected. Under this route the Design + Build company is judge and jury - with no-one acting directly for the client to ensure all well constructed and to spec prior to the final coat of paint.
What fees do you charge?
Some Architects provide fees using a % of an agreed Construction Cost. ADB typically provide fees using a percentage of the clients build cost budget, but convert this to a lump sum for all RIBA workstages. When working on Listed Buildings or houses within Conservation areas our fees will be higher as these projects represent more work, requiring more information be submitted to the Planning Department.
Planning or Permitted Development - which is the best route?
How and when Permitted Development rights are implemented can greatly affect the options of your property. ADB can advise on the best route to ensure the value of the property is maximised. In some instances this can be a combination of both Planning and Permitted Development to make best use of space and maximise the design potential of a property.
What is Permitted Development?
Permitted Development potentially allows homeowners to proceed more quickly on site, so long as the criteria as stipulated within the gov.uk technical guidance is complied with in full. Despite being established as a means to speed up home improvements PD can actually be implemented in such a way as to achieve more than may be possible using the Planning Application route. ADB are highly experienced in the application of Permitted Development to make best use of space and achieve the best Architectural arrangement.
What is a Party Wall?
There is a lot of free and helpful information about Party Walls available on www.gov.uk. Without doubt the PW process helps to protect the interests of both parties, mitigating disputes and setting in place a means for dispute resolution. Good neighbourliness is something we always encourage. Prior to submitting a Planning Application we advocate engagement with any adjoining owners to a property - in the hope that they can act reasonably and proactively safe in the knowledge that our client has a professional competent team on board who act impartially and in the best interest of both with regards the Party Wall design. Once Planning is submitted, adjoining owners will receive significant maildrops from a number of excited Builders, Party Wall Surveyors all keen to impress. Sadly some correspondence can wrongly concern those not familiar with the process and result in additional costs that otherwise could have been avoided with face to face discussion to truly understand the best approach.
How long will a Planning or Permitted Development application take?
ADB work with a number of Local Authorty Planning Departments across London. Householder applications should take 8 weeks, but sadly experience delays all too frequently due to workloads within the Council and also by administrative errors. ADB liaise with the appointed Case Officer on each application to best ensure decisions are provided by the statutory 8 week deadline.
How do I insulate my period property?
Adding insulation to an historic asset needs careful consideration. It is possible to add insulation internally or externally to period houses but this impacts internal spatial efficiency and will need Planning Permission if external. There are a number of products and arrangements that can improve the thermal performance of a house. Woodfibre, PIR, aerogels or external insulations will improve loss of heat from the house, but other critical factors need to be considered in parallel, being air tightness and vapour control. ADB actively advise on principles, impacts and benefits of various solutions during the RIBA workstages 0-4.
Do Architects work with the same Builders?
ADB actively look to work with new Builders but also have good working relationships with some in the London area. With homeowner projects a lot of clients have referrals from friends in the same area who have enjoyed a successful build. Critically we work with Builders who are diligent, capable, professional and safe. It is equally important to know that the project is of interest to the Builder.
How much will the Build cost?
At present we are seeing Build Costs in London ranging from £2,000-3,000 + VAT per square metre. These costs would potentially allow for basic specification construction items but typically would not include items such as Kitchen, Bathroom goods, Floor and Wall tiles/finishes. When undertaking refurbishment and replanning in existing ‘shells’, we would allow a further £1,000 + VAT per square metre allowing for new electrics/plumbing/walls/doors etc. Realistically, until the Design is developed and the clients aspirations are fully informed, it is unrealistic to provide an accurate cost – many factors affect cost.
Does Planning Permission expire?
Planning is valid for 3 years on approval. Commencing building work within these 3 years allows the permission to run onwards. Submitting for Building Control approval and beginning works on site would serve to record that the Planning Permission is being implemented. Should permission expire then it is a reasonable assumption that a new application should be supportable, unless local Planning policy has undergone some radical changes.
What are Planning Conditions?
When Planning Permission is granted, typically there will be 3 Planning Conditions which simply serve to reference the approved drawings, that materials must be in keeping, and that the permission is valid for 3 years. With more complex projects, or those on Listed Buildings or in Conservation areas, the approval could have significantly more Conditions that must be discharged either before works start on site, or before occupation occurs. ADB help clients discharge this information which can range from CO2 emissions to window details to sound testing for AC or ASHP units and more.
Does every property have Permitted Development rights?
Only properties which are deemed as a 'House' by the Planning Authority have Permitted Development rights, however further restrictions apply. Flats and maisonettes do not have the same rights and would have to submit via a Full Planning Application for any required changes. Homes within Conservation Areas and if they are Listed Buildings also do not enjoy Permitted Development rights. Some commercial properties have Permitted Development rights, allowing change of use in some circumstances amongst other allowances. Permitted Development needs to be thoroughly checked prior to undertaking any works and we would recommend securing confirmation from the Planning Department with a formal submission.
What is a Pre-Planning Service from a Local Authority?
Planning authorities offer a Pre-Planning service which can be pursued with more non-standard sites or when the Planning Policy is unclear and a non-standard design opportunity exists. It is best to submit developed design ideas for evaluation which ADB can provide. Importantly, any formal pre-planning advice will come with a caviat informing all needs to be tested with a formal planning application. Sometimes it can be quicker and achieve the same results to submit a planning application directly. During the application it is usually the case that some changes are possible, however each Planning Department differs.