Why Use an Architect?
Going straight to a builder means you miss out on the important design stage of your project. It sounds obvious but builders specialise in building things and architects specialise in designing spaces. By using an architect you will end up with a home that is right for you and that you’ll love living in. You will also ensure that your investment is maximised and the finished project adds value to your property – badly designed extensions can reduce the value of your property.
If you are embarking on a building project, whatever its size, you should consult a professional. Architects are the only building professionals specifically qualified to design buildings. An architect's training, which extends over a 7 year period, features not only design but include all other aspects affecting the creation or alteration of a building. An architect is able to manage the building project from concept to reality, or work as part of a team - in each case contributing creative qualities which lift any project out of the ordinary.
To any building project no matter how small your architect will bring three essential qualities:
Whether traditional or innovative, bold or understated, good design is not a fashion statement - it is the difference between mundane or enjoyable, dull or delightful, satisfactory or extraordinary. Anyone can create or alter a building; it takes a professional to do it with flair, imagination and style.
Value for money
Good design adds value; an architect can maximise space and light, suggest cost effective and alternative solutions, new uses for old, energy conscious designs, sustainable materials - and make sure you find the right builder at the right price - all skills which add value to the original concept through designed solutions.
What is Permitted Development?
For some extensions and alterations, your proposals may fall within Permitted Development Rights which means that planning permission will not be necessary. There are a number of requirements that your proposals will need to comply with for permitted development to apply.
If your project is eligible for permitted development we would recommend that you apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development to confirm this. The application needs to be supported by suitable drawings and calculations.
What is a Party Wall Agreement?
The Party Wall Act 1996 came into force in 1997, so it is now law and gives you rights and responsibilities whichever the side of the 'wall' you are on i.e. whether you are planning/doing work on a relevant structure or if your neighbour is.
The Party Wall Act does not affect any requirement for Planning Permission or Building Regulation Approval for any work undertaken. Likewise, having Planning Permission and/or Building Regulation Approval does not negate the requirements under the Party Wall Act.
The Party Wall Act comes into effect if someone is planning to do work on a relevant structure, for the purposes of the Act 'party wall' does not just mean the wall between two semi-detached properties, it covers:
• A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties.
• A wall which is common to two (or more) properties, this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbour subsequent built something butting up to it.
• A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.
• Floors and ceilings of flats etc.
• Excavation near to a neighbouring property.
As with all work affecting neighbours, it is always better to reach a friendly agreement rather than resort to any law. Even where the work requires a notice to be served, it is better to informally discuss the intended work, consider the neighbours comments, and amend your plans (if appropriate) before serving the notice.
Work that can be done without notice or permission.
• Putting up shelves and wall units.
• Electrical rewiring.
Work that needs a notice and permission.
The general principle of the Party Wall Act is that all work which might have an effect upon the structural strength or support function of the party wall or might cause damage to the neighbouring side of the wall must be notified. If in doubt, advice should be sought from a local Building Control Office or professional surveyor/architect.
Work covered by the Party Wall Act includes:
• To demolish and/or rebuild a party wall.
• To increase the height or thickness of a party wall.
• Insertion of a damp proof course (either chemical or a physical dpc).
• Cutting into the party wall to take load bearing beams.
• Underpinning a party wall.
• Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
• Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.
If the planned work is an excavation within the distance/depth covered by the Party Wall Act, the notice needs to be served at least one month before the planned start day of the work. Neighbouring parties must give written agreement within 14 days or a dispute is deemed to have occurred.
Once you have agreement
Once you have agreement, all work must comply with the notice. All the agreements should be retained to ensure that a record of the granted permission is kept; a subsequent purchaser of the property may wish to establish that the work was carried out in accordance with the Party Wall Act requirements.
It is a good idea to check your property insurance policy and notify your insurers that you are having work done to your property before starting renovation or alteration works. Make sure you are adequately covered by an ‘All Risks’ renovation insurance to cover the property being worked upon.
Do I need planning permission?
Anyone who wishes to carry out work on buildings or land may be required to, firstly, obtain planning permission.
Planning permission is necessary for a wide range of development, for example, the construction of new premises or the extension of existing ones, for most changes of use of premises even where no building work is involved and even relatively minor alterations that may affect the appearance or use of buildings.
Proposals concerning listed buildings or within Conservation Areas may also require consent, see the Conservation Area section below.
Obtaining planning permission approval is a separate matter from Building Regulations approval, see Building Regulations section below.
It is essential that Planning Permission is considered at the very start of the process as without it you will not be able to progress the project further.
What is a Conservation Area?
A conservation area is an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. Conservation areas are part of the familiar and cherished local scene. It is the area as a whole, rather than specific buildings, which is of special interest.
Living in a conservation area usually means that changes to the external appearance of your building will be a particularly sensitive issue. You will probably need to complete an application for Conservation Area Consent.
How do I make a planning application?
Planning applications are made on standard forms supplied by the Local Authority. There are two main types of planning application:
FULL - This is where detailed information including scaled metric plans and drawings, written reports about the design, local impact, appearance, enviromental issues, and existing council planning policy matters which are affected by the development. The majority of applications are made in this way.
OUTLINE - This may be appropriate for larger-scale new developments, to decide whether your proposal is suitable in principle before drawing up detailed plans. The details, known as ‘reserved matters’, will then need to be approved later.
For most domestic projects you will need an architect to help you with the design, drawing and submission of your planning application. It generally takes 8 weeks from submission of a planning application to a decision. You will require a location plan, a block plan and a statutory application fee to accompany your application.
What are Building Regulations?
Not to be confused with planning, the Building Regulations are there to ensure that buildings are made to a minimum quality standard for such things as structure, fire escape, drainage, ventilation, insulation and so on.
The regulations can often seem unreasonable, but they are all there for good reasons.
Building regulation matters are usually handled by Building Control Officers in the Building Control Department of your local authority. Increasingly, however, private licensed inspectors are know a valid alternative source for acquiring Building Control Approval.
How do I apply for Building Regulations Approval?
There are two main ways in which you can make an application for Building Regulation approval. These are Full Plans and Building Notice. The overall cost of the application will be the same whichever route you choose to use.
Full Plans – Typically this type of application is used for larger domestic building works, e.g. extensions and loft conversions. The 'full plans' method of application is the safest way to make an application, however, it is more involved as it requires the submission of detailed drawings that show a great deal of technical information, such as construction materials, drainage specification, structural calculations, heat loss calculations, means of escape in case of fire and ventilation.
The principal advantage of using this method is that once your plans have been approved your builder can work to those drawings without fear of contravening the regulations during the building process.
Your Building Regulation Approval certificate is valid for three years from initial submission date.
A Full Plans submission requires you to provide a detailed set of plans together with a specification of the materials to be used.
Information that generally be shown on the plan includes:
• Existing and Proposed Elevations
• Existing and Proposed Floor Layouts
• Detailed sectional views of the proposed construction
• Site location plan
• Adequate building specification details
• Drainage details
You may also need to submit calculations for:
• Structural members i.e. Steel beams/lintels
• Thermal insulation values
• Fire Safety items
The information will then be checked to ensure that the details given comply with Building Regulation requirements.
When checked your proposals will either be approved or you will be notified of any alterations that may be required to the plans. When these have been received and found to be satisfactory the plans will then be approved.
You may submit the application yourself or employ an agent/architect to act for you. If an agent is employed all correspondence will be directed to him/her.
Building Notice - The 'Building Notice' procedure is suitable when small works are planned and therefore it is not necessary to prepare detailed plans. As no formal approval is given, a good working relationship between the Builder and the Building Control Officer is essential to ensure the work achieves compliance with the Building Regulations.
Together with your application a location plan should be provided where the building is shown relative to neighbouring roads.
The Building Control Officer can if he/she deems it necessary request structural details and calculations for the work.
Types of work suitable for a 'Building Notice' include:
• Garage conversions.
• Alterations to domestic drainage.
• Removal of load-bearing wall.
• Insertion / alteration of door or window opening.
• Replacement windows.