Looking back at 2019

 

Happy New Year to all our clients and followers. We finished some really exciting projects in 2019, two of which were shared widely online due to coverage from some of the architecture and design world’s top websites. Douglas House, an extension of a terraced house in Kensal Rise in London, transformed the property into a contemporary and light living space. The second, the ‘Brexit Bunker’, nicknamed by its owner in Kensal Rise, added a garden office and ‘place of serenity’.

Douglas House renovation Kensal Rise London Brexit bunker garden studio Kensal Rise London

Douglas fir-lined extension

“180 metre square project features an oriel window which sits in dialogue with a third-floor reading pod”

Dressed in Danish timber, the family rooms have taken over the ground floor to extend into the garden. The ground floor also houses a carefully designed utility room and built-in larders that extend from the floor and hide in the walls of the living room. On the first floor, the children’s rooms are decorated with wooden details and other natural materials, and the family bathroom is full of natural light. The loft conversion is home to the master bedroom, which has a second half-floor that extends upwards to a reading space from which you can look out over the local area.

The house also features a range of environmental technologies, including high levels of insulation, airtightness, roof-mounted solar panels, a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system, rainwater harvesting, and smart thermostats.

Douglas House renovation Kensal Rise London 2 Douglas House renovation Kensal Rise London 3

We were delighted that this project was featured by:

Architect’s Journal: ‘RISE Design Studio completes Douglas fir-lined extension to London house
ArchDaily: ‘Douglas House/RISE Design Studio
Dezeen: ‘RISE Design Studio adds Douglas fir-lined reading nooks to London house
Architecture Today: ‘RISE Design Studio has maximised the spatial and environmental potential of a semi-detached house in London

An oasis of calm in a busy city

“A calming retreat from the hectic outside world”

The ‘Brexit bunker’ was added to a small garden – although novel, it does not interfere with the property’s existing architecture and the raw aesthetic ties the entire garden together. The walls are built with reclaimed bricks and the interior is clad with birch plywood, giving the space a warm glow when the light reflects from the skylight in the roof. Spanish steps lead towards the roof light and a relaxing space to contemplate life without seeing any visual cues that the structure is in the city rather than the countryside.

Brexit bunker garden studio Kensal Rise London 2 Brexit bunker garden studio Kensal Rise London 3

This project was featured by:

Architizer: ‘The Brexit Bunker, London
designboom: ‘The Brexit Bunker is an oasis of calm in north-west London
Archilovers: ‘Brexit Bunker

You can also read more on our Projects page.

Architects Declare: the climate emergency and why it is more important than ever to think about sustainable architecture

 

Why the climate emergency is a crisis, and not just a concern:

The words ‘climate’ and ’emergency’ have only recently started to spring up in the news in relation to each other. Until now, we would talk of climate change, global warming, sea-level rise… so, what has changed, and what does it mean to be in the midst of a climate emergency?

Architects and the climate emergency

We have all seen the numbers before, but it is important to understand that the numbers are not just statistics. They are not predictions. They are the breakdown of our reality; unwanted guests that have already installed themselves in our living rooms… we are the ones who let them in and only we can tell them to leave. If we try to think about the numbers beyond their abstract measure, we may just be able to grasp the precarity of the times we live in:

– Loss of biodiversity fact: Our Living Planet Report 2018 reveals how there has been a 60% reduction in population sizes of wildlife worldwide since 1970. This does not just mean that we will see four instead of ten elephants on our next safari. This means that: a) entire groups of species have disappeared, forever; b) those who are still around are seeing their numbers reduce dramatically and struggling to keep up with reproduction rates, and paired with the loss of habitat this will likely lead to scenario “a” for many them at a vertiginous speed. However, this is not just about the effect these species have in the natural world. The plants and biome that the human race depends on are being affected just as much. Medicine and food are examples of resources that come in their majority from the natural world, and two of the things that we will witness being dramatically affected during our own lifespans. The consequences of their shortage will change our lives as we know them.

– Global warming fact: since the industrial revolution, the average temperature of the planet has increased almost 1ºC, and it is getting worse. The planet has natural cycles of heating and cooling, but these natural cycles happen slowly, which means that ecosystems can adapt to the changes. However, the exorbitant amounts of carbon dioxide that we have released into the environment since the industrial revolution have accelerated the Greenhouse Effect at an unprecedented speed. Among other things, this means that the natural atmospheric and oceanic currents are being disrupted and altering the natural climate that we knew as little as half a century ago. And the planet is not just getting warmer: hurricanes and cyclones are getting more violent, desertification is advancing and rendering miles of previously fertile lands sterile, and the poles are melting leading to a measurable rise of the sea-level. To put it into perspective, we are facing a situation in which our growing population will be left with less area to live in and less land to feed from… each of us can draw a conclusion of what this scenario may look like.

How it will affect the future

The consequences of any single factor that accounts for the climate emergency we are living will be far and wide. To make matters worse, climate change, global warming, sea-level rise, and loss of biodiversity do not act alone nor do they act on a single other element of their environments. Like any foreign agent introduced in an ecosystem, they interact with the ecosystem and with each other in such intricate ways that their full aftermath is often nearly impossible to predict. What we do know, however, is that the consequences will be bad. There is no sugar coating it. From floods to desertification, from arable land to drinkable water, the effects of the damage we are inflicting on the environment today will come back to haunt us on a scale that is difficult to come to terms with.

Why it is so crucial to act now

One of the main issues stopping real action from happening is that it can be hard to wrap our minds around this doomsday scenario from many of our perspectives. We can live in London, recycle our waste regularly, cycle to work and follow Greta Thunberg on Twitter and be at ease with ourselves. We can genuinely care about the environment and yet not fully understand the scope of the danger we are in as a species and as a planet… and that is why it is so important to act now; because, when the consequences are here, when there is no denying that we have gone too far, it will be too late to do something about it.

How architecture plays a role

That is why architects in the UK and around the world have been called to action and to unite in order to change our industry standards and respond to this climate emergency. It is a sad day in an architect’s career when they learn that the construction industry is responsible for almost 40% of the total energy-related carbon dioxide emitted to our environment. However, this also means that there is a lot of room for improvement and that real results can be achieved if we change the way we build across the board.

What is Architects Declare?

Architects Declare is a pledge to take on this responsibility and to be an agent for change within our industry. Along with almost 800 UK based architects, RISE Design Studio has committed to be an ambassador for the environment in the construction world and to contribute to a positive change in the way we conceive, construct, and deliver the built world. Together, we have the opportunity to make a real and positive impact in our world and our future through sustainable architecture, responsible building techniques, and environmental education at every stage of construction.

To find out more about Architects Declare and our commitment, you can visit the website at www.architectsdeclare.com. We hope you support us in our decision to tackle the climate emergency together.

Terrace houses in London: a brief history of the most iconic British home

 

Terrace housing has become an icon of development in Great Britain and Ireland. But, did you know that despite its very British connotations, the aesthetic of the terrace house was, in its origins, an attempt to bring the architectural style of Palladio and the Italian Renaissance masters across the Channel? The Venetian palazzos, built around 1550 in Northern Italy are a great example of what the first terrace housing developers had in mind.

Venice canal houses RISE Design Studio

The trick, of course, was to be able to adapt the architecture of a palazzo to London, and to the much smaller building areas it offered. In order to do so, space was maximised by placing houses in a row, and building labour was standardised by making the homes in sets of almost identical mirrored pairs. Even with this efficient agenda, however, the original terrace houses did not look much like they do today.

 Georgian terrace RISE Design Studio

Terrace housing in London, and in other British cities such as Bath or Edinburgh, started to appear in the mid 17th century. In their origins, they were conceived as desirable houses for aristocrats, and sprang up mostly around well-off areas such as Regents Park and Grosvenor Square, for those members of the nobility who had to spend time in the city. Built in a classic Georgian style, the houses provided an all-in-one solution to accomplish the basic needs of a noble family within the city scale: family living, entertaining, and housing the servant quarters in the same building. During these Georgian times, terraces were typically placed around a communal square garden, giving the neighbours a sense of having a private piece of countryside within the city.

Terraced houses London RISE Design Studio

The grandeur associated with terraces did not last long, however. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, terraces gained enormous popularity as a way of rebuilding the city quickly and efficiently. The disaster worked much like a wildfire: initially causing immeasurable destruction, but sparking a renewed wave of growth and development afterwards. This time, however, the inhabitants that the developers had in mind were middle-class industrial workers rather than noble families.

In the course of the Victorian era, the terrace format changed from being a privileged form of city housing to becoming the go-to residential architecture solution to overpopulation. The new wave of terraces was very similar to the style we know today: they were built with efficiency in mind and arranged on two facing rows on a single street. Instead of the more noble stone of the Georgian houses, these terraces were made with cheaper materials supplied en-masse by the engines of the industrial revolution. A not-so-fun fact about these early terraces is that most were not provided with plumbing or sanitary installations… instead, they had outhouses that were sometimes shared between several households. The poor sanitary circumstances of the early Victorian terrace houses enhanced many of the hygiene problems faced by London as its population increased dramatically during the Industrial Revolution.

Even though these standards were raised, the early 20th century still associated terraced with overcrowding and poor sanitation, and terraces for the middle class lost popularity in favour of new tower constructions. However, as the modernist dream of the highly organised vertical city did not quite deliver its promises, terraces gained a kinder perspective again as people started to regard them as a good balance between city life, family homes, and private outdoor space.

Today, terraces represent the perfect marriage between living in the city and enjoying a family home with a sense of community. Terrace houses continue to increase in popularity and are constantly being updated and upgraded to suit their inhabitants’ needs. Divisions into several flats, regroupings to make single-family homes, extensions, renovations, and additions have passed and gone through many of these houses. Now, more than 350 years after they started to populate the streets, terraces keep proving to be immensely versatile homes that evolve with the nation, and homes that can constantly adapt to the needs of their time.

Harvist Road London RISE Design Studio

Five residential architecture tricks to introduce light in your home

 

We have heard it time and again: a house with good light is a good house. But what is just as true is that not all properties come with the amounts of natural light we would like to have. That is why architects, engineers and designers have come up with clever ways of allowing those precious rays of sunlight into the very depths of your home. We would like to present to you five different ways to make your home brighter with natural light: from extensions to small renovations, rearrangements, or additions, read below and find out how you can turn that dark living room into a room full of light.

Rooflights

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This is probably the most straight-forward way of bringing in light, and one of the most effective too! Allowing the light to come in from the top will get you more than sunlight: the ambient light from the sky will get inside the room even when the sun isn’t shining, and during all daylight hours. A skylight is your best bet on the rooms just under the roof – we are talking about that dark attic or loft space that has so much uncovered potential… And there’s more! An additional benefit from installing a skylight is that it will significantly increase the head height in the area since the thickness of the glazing is so much less than that of the roof – you could win up to 300mm in height. Not bad, right? All in all, skylights are a universal win-win.

Glazed extensions

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If you are familiar with our projects, you will know that this is one of our favourite strategies. Glazed extensions serve a double purpose: you get more internal floor area in the ground floor, making your living room or kitchen much, much ampler, and you let in an incredible amount of light both in the new extension and in the existing portion of the house that will be connected to it. The positive change that a glazed extension makes to a home never fails to amaze… if you’re thinking of making a single change to your home, this may be the one that gives you the most value.

Room reconfigurations

Rise-douglas┬®Edmund Sumner 0017

Room reconfigurations are a small way of making a potentially big difference. If your room is dimly lit, make sure that your furniture faces the light and that there is nothing blocking its path. If there is a room that receives no light at all, think about getting rid of the wall that separates it from the next, better lit, room. This will require some tweaking in terms of use and furniture, but sometimes replacing a wall with a shelf or a soft partition allows you to retain the differentiation between the rooms without having to give up all the natural light in one of them.

Internal windows

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It may be counterintuitive to have a room with a window into another room, but this strategy can be really helpful for getting some light into the heart of the house. It is particularly helpful for rooms like bathrooms, or utility rooms: a frosted window into a naturally-lit corridor or into an adjacent room will take care of letting some soft natural light in without compromising privacy. What’s more, it will make the room feel bigger too, and you can take advantage of the new opening and use it as a shelf. Simple but effective!

Sun tunnels

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This technology is slowly finding its way into the residential world, and it is a very clever solution for those rooms in which you thought it was just not possible to have sunlight. Here’s how: a flue-like tube pops up over the roof, all clad in highly reflected panels that are angled in such a way that the light that reflects on them from the top bounces downwards to hit the next panel, and so on. What you have, in the end, is a game of mirrors that can bring the same sunlight you have at roof level down to seven stories below. This can work for ground floor kitchens, isolated rooms at the centre of the house, and even basements.

Embracing imperfection: wabi-sabi and Japanese aesthetics

 

Here at RISE Design Studio, you could say that wabi-sabi is “part of our DNA”. A world view that stems from Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi is the acceptance of transience and imperfection. It can include asymmetry and simplicity, as well as an appreciation of the integrity of natural objects and processes. Or, put simply, it is all about celebrating the beauty of a naturally imperfect world.

Wabi sabi RISE Design Studio architect west london

Natural and light

A wabi-sabi house is filled with air and light. Soft, natural lines allow us to find beauty in asymmetry, and a strong connection with nature is achieved through natural materials such as wood, stone and clay. Wabi-sabi also seeks to reduce the number of objects in the home that we don’t need, without making the home feel cold or sterile (a house is, after all, a place to be lived in). The spaces are warm and welcoming, thanks to the use of natural colours and materials, particularly wood and stone. Colours also tend to be inspired by nature, bringing balance and serenity to the home.

Embracing imperfection and authenticity

Wabi-sabi has cultural and historic links with the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. If you haven’t experienced this, the atmosphere is generally calm and relaxing with simple routines that centre on the tea. Often, the crockery used in the ceremony is faded or damaged, as a result of being passed down the generations. A fantastic example of wabi-sabi is the art of ‘kintsugi’, which is where cracked pottery is filled with a form of gold-dusted lacquer to showcase the beauty of its age, rather than hiding it.

In the home, choosing authentic furnishings creates a lived, harmonious space. Sourcing furniture that has been passed down through the generations allows each scratch to add to the narrative of that object’s history. It also alllows us to turn away from the ‘throwaway’ culture that we are learning is so damaging to our environment, to appreciate the ‘true and humble’ that wabi-sabi emulates.

Existing in the now

Wabi-sabi can also be applied to your daily life. It is a state of mindfulness which involves ‘living in the now’ and finding satisfaction even when it’s easy to think the opposite. If you trace wabi-sabi all the way back to its roots, the Buddhist teachings of the ‘Three Marks of Existence’ would guide you to embrace impermanence, acknowledge that suffering is a part of life that can ultimately lead to growth, and accept that we are always in a state of flux.

In times when we might constantly compare ourselves to others, there is no harm in taking the time to appreciate what we have. It is this mindfulness and appreciation of the ‘now’, with all its imperfections, that we try to capture in our work.

Why employ an architect?

 

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has produced a guide for engaging an architect. It includes some important topics, such as: appointing an architect, developing a brief, project leadership, fee options and legislation. In the next few posts on our blog, we summarise the main points listed in the guide, to help prospective and current clients enhance their understanding of why and how to work with an architect.

Working with an architect london

Checking your architect’s credentials

In the UK, a ‘architect’ must be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Registered architects must adhere to the ARB Standards of Conduct and Practice, and the ARB can take action against those who fall short of the expected standards. RIBA also maintains a Code of Practice and expects its members to work with integrity and honesty. Architects practising in the UK who are registered with the ARB and are also Chartered Members of RIBA are entitled to describe themselves as ‘Chartered Architects’. RISE Design Studio is a RIBA Chartered Practice.

Added value

An architect can bring many benefits to your project and it’s not just about supplying you with drawings. An architect has experience to see your project safely through design, planning and building regulations, and construction. For a building project, the range of services an architect can provide includes:

– investigating the feasibility of the requirements;
– developing design proposals;
– applying for statutory approvals;
– preparing construction information;
– obtaining tenders for building work;
– administering a building contract; and
– interior design and landscaping services.

Appointing an architect

Architects who are members of RIBA are required by the Code of Professional Conduct to record the terms of any appointment before undertaking any work, and to have the necessary competence and resources.

It is in the architect’s and the client’s interests to understand their agreement, which should define and record the services to be provided and identify terms and conditions. RIBA provides a range of flexible Appointment Agreements, which an architect can use with all types of projects.

Agreeing the terms of the project

An agreement defines the obligations of each party and makes provisions for the assignment, fees, payments, copyright, liability, suspension, termination and dispute resolution. An agreement will also comprise the conditions, schedule of services and formal confirmation of the contract in a memorandum of agreement or letter of appointment.

Generally, the architect retains copyright of the information produced for your project (in accordance with the law). Architects are required to maintain professional indemnity insurance in respect of their liability to the client.

What an architect agrees to do

In general, an architect undertakes to:

– use reasonable skill and care;
– keep the client informed of progress and on issues affecting time, cost or quality;
– co-operate with other appointed designers/constructions team(s);
– only make alterations to the approved deisng with the client’s prior approval.

The role of the client

As a client, you would undertake to:

– advise on the relative priorities of your requirements;
– provide necessary and accurate information;
– appoint other consultants and specialists required under separate agreements;
– comply with CDM regulations if the project is not at your home (see next blog post);
– take decisions and respond promptly to approvals sought by your architect;
– pay the fees, expenses etc. due and VAT where applicable;
– employ a building contractor under a separate contract if proceeding with construction work.

In our next post, we’ll look at developing a brief and project leadership. If you would like to discuss a project, please contact us. You can browse our recent projects here.

Read a copy of the RIBA guide to working with an architect for your home.

Rammed earth walls: natural and sustainable living

 

‘Rammed earth’ is a technique for constructing foundations, floors and walls from natural raw materials such as earth, chalk, lime or gravel. With the lowest enviromental impact of all building techniques currently used in the commercial construction industry, rammed earth is receiving growing attention and becoming more and more popular with architects, builders and clients alike. In this short post, we tell you a little more about the technique.

Rammed earth walls RISE Design Studio architect west london

Mixing it up

Rammed earth walls are made by ‘ramming’ a mixture of materials into place between flat, temporary panels called ‘formwork’. The panels are normally made of wood or plywood and they are clamped around the earth to make sure it doesn’t bulge when compressed. The materials rammed into the formwork generally include gravel, sand, silt and a small amount of clay.  An additive like lime, cement of asphalt is often added to make it extra strong.

The mixture is compressed inside the formwork by a mechanical ram and compacted to approximately 50% of its original height. The compression takes place in stages, usually in depths of 10cm to 25cm, and this is repeated until the top of the formwork is reached. This is the part of the process that results in the beautiful layers sometimes seen in rammed earth walls.

After the wall has been completed, the formwork is removed and a surface texture can be applied, e.g. by wire brushing or carving. The wall is normally too hard to work on after about one hour. As the walls dry and harden (ideally in warm weather), the compression strength of the rammed earth increases to a maximum of 4.3MPa (620 psi). This is less than concrete but sufficiently strong for domestic buildings.

Environmentally-friendly

Cured rammed earth has a high thermal mass. This means that it absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night, which reduces heating and cooling costs. Environmental impacts are also kept low if the amount of processing of rammed earth materials is kept to a minimum (i.e. artificial additives) and material is sourced locally where possible. Most of the energy used in the construction of rammed earth is in quarrying the raw material and transporting it to the site.

Healthy home

The composition of rammed earth allows it to absorb and release humidity from the inside of a building. This improves air quality, particularly for people who suffer from asthma. Rammed earth is also inorganic, which means that it won’t decay and does not support the growth of mould.

Back to our roots

More than 30% of the world’s population uses earth as a building material, hence this technique is not new. Properly constructed rammed earth can also last for thousands of years, demonstrated by the many ancient structures built using this technique which are still standing around the world.

It has received growing attention in recent years as the construction industry and its customers have a growing sense of the need for environmentally friendly and sustainable building practices. Not only does the technique offer opportunities for carbon-neutral building projects, the technique can be employed in a wide range of climatic conditions and for developing housing that would otherwise be constrained due to expensive construction techniques.

It is a technique that we have been exploring at RISE Design Studio, particularly in our drive to use local, sustainably-sourced building materials.

What is Building Information Modelling (BIM)?

 

Building Information Modelling (or ‘BIM’) is a way to create and mange information about a construction project throughtout the project’s lifecycle. The main output is the ‘Building Information Model’, a digital depiction of all aspects of the project. Not only is BIM innovative in the way it allows the building process to be optimised, it also offers a platform for collaboration between everyone involved in the project. In this short post, we write a bit more about BIM and why it is a useful tool for the modern architect.

Buidling Information Modelling architect west london

More than just a 3D image

BIM can mean different things to different people – it really depends on what you are using it for. However, it is generally understood that it is more than ‘just a piece of software’ that creates a 3D geometry of the structure. It also provides a series of co-ordinated processes that provide all of the information about the structure seen in the image.

In practice, this means that a BIM provides more than just a digital representation of the building, as it is made up of objects that are related: the building itself; the spaces that make up the building (rooms, hallways, etc.); the systems in the spaces (heating, plumbing, etc.); the products that make up the spaces (furniture, appliances, etc.); and the relationships between the objects.

Enabling collaboration

Another key function of BIM is that it can help a design and construction team communicate and work together well with one another, their client(s) and the public, to deliver real benefits. By building the digital design first, the team can be confident that all the elements fit together properly, avoiding unexpected difficulties in the actual build process. The digital design requires input from the architect, structural engineer, services engineer, etc., before handing over the information to the construction team.

Confident construction

There are also benefits for the construction team. When purchasing materials, detailed specifications can be extracted quickly from the model, and information about how materials should be installed/maintained can also be included.Rather than this information being kept in hard copy brochures, the model acts as a central database for all queries.

The model can also be handed over to the owner of the building so that it can be used for reference in the future (e.g. for refurbishment).

Managing risk

By understanding the project really well, any risks are significantly reduced. Today’s building projects can be very complicated – the more that everyone understands each other’s needs (e.g. design team, subcontractors, owners, etc.), the less risk there is. This also has positive effects on profitability and the level of customer service delivered to clients.

History of plywood and its present day use

 

We have recently completed several projects that have used plywood as a feature material. Plywood is made by gluing together thin sheets of wood (‘veneers’), with the grain of each sheet running in a different direction. The result is a material that is stronger and more flexible than solid wood. The history of plywood has been described as “a history of the modern world” – plywood started to be used on an industrial scale in the 1850s. In this post, we take a quick journey through that history and reflect on the uses of plywood in architecture and design today.

Plywood kitchen design self build london

The art of moulded plywood

In the mid to late 1800s, plywood was most commonly used in moulded form and was used mainly in furniture design. The ‘Belter Chair’ was most famous at this time, as the technique of moulding plywood to make this high-backed chair increased manufacturing speeds and reduced production costs.

The Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, was also one of the pioneers in curved plywood furniture, enabling large-scale manufacture of chairs and other furniture designs that were exported across the world in the early 1900s.

American designers Charles and Ray Eames also experimented with moulded plywood during the Second World War, developing a lightweight, stackable plywood leg splint for the armed forces. The Eames Chair, also in moulded plywood, was one of the most influential chairs of the mid to late 20th century and continues to be adapted and imitated by designers around the world.

Ray Eames - stackable plywood leg splint for the armed forces

Plywood transportation

Cars, trains, boats and planes are perhaps not the first things to spring to mind when thinking about plywood. However, during the 1800s, designers and engineers explored ways to deal with increasingly crowded streets. An elevated railway, made entirely as a moulded plywood tube was suggested in 1867 in New York, and in the early 1900s, a German company extolled the virtues of using moulded and flat plywood for the body of their affordable family cars.

Perhaps more familiar would be the use of moulded plywood in canoes. From 1917, the US firm Haskell manufactured moulded plywood canoes and sold them in large numbers across the world. The boats were very light and very strong.

The firm went on to design aeroplanes using plywood and this was perhaps the most technologically significant phase of the material’s history. Between 1910 and 1945, its strength and lightness allows innovative new planes that ‘revolutionised the nature of flight’. Moulded plywood shells (the ‘monocoque’) were strong enough to be self-supporting (they didn’t need any internal structure) and became standard in future aeroplane design.

Plywood at home

In the 1930s, plywood was perfectly suited in the construction of prefabricated houses for people on low incomes during the Great Depression. With the invention of synthetic glues at the same time, it was possible for plywood manufacturers to produce waterproof plywood for external use.

Plywood in the digital age

Today, plywood is one of the most common materials of the digital age. It is possible for designers to share plywood projects via digital cutting files, or videos and other images posted online. It continues to be widely used in residential and commercial architecture projects, and its ‘clean’ finish is appreciated by a growing market interested in using sustainable materials that are sourced responsibly.

Build your own home

 

Tens of thousands of people in the UK have built their own home. It can cost a lot of money, take a lot of time to plan and manage, and require a lot more attention to detail than when buying an existing property, but many find that it is worth it to ensure they live in a home that suits their requirements and tastes. In this post, we tell you a bit about what is involved in building your own home so that you can decide whether or not it is for you.

New build architect london

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Self-build properties now account for nearly ten per cent of all private new-build homes in the UK each year. While ‘self-build’ may conjure images of statement ‘Grand Designs’ properties, most tend to have relatively modest designs. This helps the design to receive planning permission and receive funding from mortgage lenders. Mortgages tend to be ‘interest only’, with the borrower paying interest when money is drawn down at the completion of each stage of the build.

A larger deposit than that for buying an existing home is usually required, and additional early costs include buying the building plot, funding planning applications, as well as employing an architect, project manager and a builder. It is ideal to source the architect and construction team via word of mouth, preferably from others who have gone through the self-build process.

Institutional support and finding a plot

As a rule of thumb, building your own home costs £1,500-£2,000 per square metre, although any changes to the original design and spefication during the construction phase can increase these values. Although initial costs are higher than for buying an existing home, there are tax advantages to building a new home rather than extending your current (or an existing) property: new self-builds qualify for rebates on VAT, for example, with the self-builder able to claim back most of the VAT paid on materials. Although VAT cannot be reclaimed on professionals’ fees, nor on household appliances, the average VAT reclaim for one-off schemes is about £13,200.

The Housing Strategy for England (2011) set out the expectation that the number of self-built properties in England would double, with 100,000 to be completed by 2021. In 2016, several legal measures have facilitated more self and custom builds by placing a duty on councils to allocate land for this purpose. Despite this legislation (the Housing and Planning Act), access to land in London remains an issue, as does gaining planning permission and accessing the required funding.

Demolish and redevelop

While there may be few plots with planning permission available, estate agents tend to know about properties that are suitable for demolition and redevelopment. This is likely to be more expensive than buying land with planning permission (i.e. the value of the building is included and there are also demolition costs), but it tends to be easier to get planning permission via this route.

The most important aspect of a self-build project is staying on budget. This requires a project team that estimates the cost of the build accurately and keeps to this quote. A good project manager is crucial in this regard. If you would like to discuss a new self-build project with us, please get in touch.