ARCHITECTS CONSULTATION

Architect and civil engineer at the construction site.

In order to form a robust brief we initially discuss with the client key factors such as what their aims are for the project, their budget and timescales. Our role as architects is to take these comments on board and be transparent with our views on what can be achieved and how. Regardless of the size of the project, be it as small as a porch extension or a full house redevelopment and extension we treat each consultation on it’s individual merits to focus on the clients aims and expectations.

PROPERTY AND SITE APPRAISAL

Couple in Real-Estate Agency Talking to Real Estate Agent

We undertake site visits to properties of all sizes and styles. We have extensive experience working locally around Sale, Hale, Altrincham and Timperley in particular. This knowledge of the area has assisted us in winning many exciting architectural projects. We have worked with Trafford, Manchester, Bolton, Stockport and Cheshire Councils on a regular basis on planning applications and we have knowledge of their residential design guides for house extensions. We advise clients early on in the process of how constraints such as party wall boundaries, the proximity of neighbouring houses and council policies on appearance and scale of development can influence the final outcome.

We also identify how the position of manholes, soil pipes, gas and electricity meters may restrict the proposal unless a client is open to the additional costs that may be incurred in re-routing these services.

MEASURED SURVEY

Surveyor In Hard Hat And High Visibility Jacket With Digital Tablet Carrying Out House Inspection

On visiting the property we can undertake full house surveys which include room by room measurements of window heights and positions, ceiling and floor levels, door locations, room sizes and wall thicknesses. We also take external measurements of the garden space and the relationship of the property to neighbouring buildings and boundaries.

3D DIGITAL MODELLING

We use the latest architectural 3D design software for all projects from start to finish and this comes as standard. This sets us apart from many architects who many use 2D drawings only and may charge extra for additional services to design in 3D. Using the measured survey information we input hundreds of parameters and build the existing property in the digital environment. We use a combination of 3D views and 2D plans and elevations to produce a set of existing information that clients use as a reference. This 3D digital model is then used for the proposed stages of work with the main benefit being that clients are able to visualise their proposal in 3D rather than full dependence on 2D drawings.

VISUALISATIONS

As we undertake 3D design for all projects, we are able to do in-house views of the interior and exterior of the property. This often assists clients in visualising their scheme before they take it any further. We have a network of expert architectural 3D designers who can take this a step further to produce photomontage and high-resolution CGI renders. This is typically for clients who wish to understand the palate of materials being used and the interior design further.

MASTERPLANNING

Newly built houses in modern street

For larger housing schemes we have undertaken urban design and masterplanning for the sites. With our extensive background in commercial developments for house builders, retirement homes and social care providers, we are able to tailor the layouts to suit the appropriate mix of house types, accounting for affordable housing provision. We work with local authority planning and highways department to produce schemes that also facilitate the flow of people and vehicles within the site. With all considered our aim is to develop sites that are individual to their location and in order to build communities.

CONCEPT DESIGN

Interior design room with table and chairs concept 3D illustration

We take the clients brief and explore further or alternatives ideas that may have not been previously considered. This is where the value of an architect comes into play, where we are able to arrange spaces efficiently and considering a wide range of factors such as –

  • Relationship between spaces
  • Circulation routes
  • Utilisation of storage
  • Arrangement of furniture
  • Kitchen and bathroom layouts
  • Sustainable design
  • Use of materials and finishes
  • Natural daylight and internal lighting
  • Views externally or to garden spaces
  • Local council planning guidance
  • Construction methods and phasing
  • Structural Engineering solutions

We provide initial layouts and 3D views, showing a variety of options to find a balance between all the items above before discussing how to move the project forward to further development of these ideas.

PLANNING APPLICATIONS

Architect working on plans at home office table

Once we are settled on a design we will advise whether planning permission is required. The planning system is quite complex and often requires our input as architects and planning application agents to navigate through the process.

Some projects fall under Permitted Development rights which do not require an application to the local council, however for most proposed schemes planning permission is required. We would begin by advising on the type of application to be submitted. For the majority of residential projects, a Householder Application is applicable to seek for permission of extensions and redevelopment. Our architectural services cover domestic projects for –

  • Single storey extensions
  • Two storey extensions
  • Full house redevelopments
  • Loft conversions and dormers
  • Detached outbuildings

The Local Authority can request additional reports for house extensions, for example if the property is situated in a Conservation Area then a Heritage Statement is required. Also for dwellings that are located within flood zones, a Flood Risk Assessment is needed. Trafford Council is one of few councils that need a Bat Survey if there are proposed works that will impact upon the roof space. This is where our knowledge of the planning validation requirements will help streamline the determination period. We have an impressive track record of planning approvals with over 90% of applications being approved first time round. We take the approach of submitting the ideal proposal for the client and are committed to fighting their corner even if it requires ongoing negotiation with the planning officers during the process.

Permitted Development can be generally established via checks against guidance documents, but we often advise that even if it is deemed to be valid that an application for a Lawful Development Certificate is submitted to the Council. This gives clients peace of mind that their works are lawful during the building works and it also gives security for future property purchasers that the extensions are permitted.

Full planning permission is typically required for commercial properties and new build houses. This process is more extensive in terms of the council making more in depth consultations and often requesting further reports from consultants. For plots of land being considered for new dwellings, this will usually require topographical and ground investigation surveys among other areas of expertise. We have worked on the renovation and conversion of Grade II Listed Buildings as well as achieving approval for new build extensions and outbuildings.

Change of Use is covered under full planning applications unless they are deemed to be permitted uses without the need for permission. We can advise of the appropriate approach and identify what benefits and risks may be applicable.

Following planning approval there are often pre-commencement conditions applied which require further input from ourselves and other consultants before they can be discharged and works on site can be progressed.

BUILDING REGULATIONS DRAWINGS

Engineers working on a building site

There is often a misconception that planning approval is the only stage of works required prior to builders being approached and works beginning on site. This isn’t the case as building control is a legal requirement  for almost all significant construction related works. Typically we would await for planning approval before undertaking this stage of work in case there are changes requested by the planning officers. However, in some instances we run the building regulations drawings package in parallel while we await a decision from the local council. This is in circumstances where it is important to fast track the overall timescales. Once appointed for this stage of work, we would clarify specifics of materials and finishes as well as consult the structural engineer.

Building control assessments can be undertaken via the local authority building control department or with private approved inspectors who are qualified and certified to sign off construction works. There may be slight differences in cost and timescales and this depends on the individual circumstances and preferences. We have a strong working relationship with an private building control office situated in Manchester city centre, however they cover across the region and have worked with us on our house extension designs in Manchester, Trafford, Lancashire and Cheshire Councils.

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER COORDINATION

Blueprint Architect Career Structure Construction Concept

Many of our clients are seeking to create open plan living spaces to the rear of their houses and this often requires steel beams for larger spans. From our experience of creating open plan extensions, we are aware that there is a balance between creating a open plan layout and a space that works for the end user. It is essential to check there are a sufficient amount of kitchen units and suitable arrangement of furniture. For example seating in relation to the TV and daylight coming into the space. A larger space doesn’t always equate to a better space, which is why we explore the layout and consider the structural design at concept / planning stage as furniture and kitchen layouts can influence the position of windows, doors and rooflights which are all a factor in the planning process. We have partnered with a structural engineering company who are located on the boarder of north Manchester and West Yorkshire. They have an extensive portfolio and track record of commercial and residential schemes. Having this relationship benefits the clients as there is reassurance that the design team have previously collaborated on complex architectural projects. They provide calculations for new build elements such as foundation design and timber sizing as well as steel designs where appropriate. Concrete lintels can be used in many smaller openings within load bearing walls where new doors are inserted for example.

INTEGRATING ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND SUSTAINABILE DESIGN

Concept of eco friendly home and energy efficient lightbulb

Passive sustainable design is undertaken at both concept and detailed design stages. Early on we identify how we can orientate the proposal to benefit from natural daylight and ventilation in order to minimise reliance on energy consuming services. At regulations stage we establish the construction build ups for floors, walls, glazing and roofs. We will calculate the U-values for these elements which determines the level of insulation required. As we advocate a fabric first approach, we would advise a specification that has a higher performance of insulating values than the minimum requirements outlined in Part L Approved Documents of building regulations. There are technologies that can also improve the green credentials and sustainability of certain projects and we also have links to consultants who can run calculations for a range of products in order to determine their annual financial returns vs the initial outlay.

VALUE ENGINEERING

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We are regularly asked ‘how much will the project cost?’ This is difficult to determine prior to detailed drawings and structural engineering designing being produced. However, we undertake a cost per square meter estimating the project value prior to planning so that there is confidence that the proposal being submitted is close to the budget and therefore affordable at the later stages. There are affordable estimating services that can schedule the costs in more detail, breaking down the project into materials, labour and having rates for each element of the build. This allows us to assess early on what elements of the build are contributing to the larger costs. We generally design with budget in mind from the start so that clients can prioritise what aspects of the design to focus their attention on. We understand if circumstances may change and we will strive to look for alternative solutions that may save on costs.

DETAILED DRAWINGS AND SPECIFICATION

Mature architect with a plan

In addition to the Building Regulations drawings we can produce a specification and drawings package for internal fixtures and finishes including flooring, tiling, lighting layouts and bespoke furniture. These can then be collated with the construction information to produce a complete tender pack for contractors to price. We have good relationships with a number of professional contractors who we regularly request building quotes from. After the tender stage we can advise on contract negotiations, provide a site monitoring role with site inspections and reports and carry out contract administration right up to completion of the project.

TENDERING AND CONTRACT PROCUREMENT

Builders

We have a network of local builders and contractors that we can approach to price the job. Most builders are based locally within Trafford, Cheshire and Manchester and have a strong track record of working with architects on high end, contemporary extensions and property renovations. We would usually approach 4 to 5 builders initially to gauge their availability, current timescales and interest in the works. Once introduced to the client and quotes received, we will review the itemised cost schedules to check for discrepancies. Of course cost is a major factor in deciding upon which builder to choose, however it is important to note that clients should be satisfied with their portfolio of works. We have completed many residential extension projects locally and have a rapport with the builders we put forward for the tendering process, although we are always happy to engage with other recommended contractors.

As qualified architects we are able to act as contract administrators for the build. Prior to works starting on site we would assist in the signing off contracts between the client and builder to ensure factors such as payment terms, timescales, potential delays and disputes are clarified early on. This avoids confusion during the building works and ensures transparency between all parties. For the majority of house extensions and renovations a JCT Minor Works Contract will suffice, however we will advise on a case by case basis.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND BUILDING WORKS

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We are experienced architects and project managers who have completed projects of all sizes and complexity. We ensure the detailed drawing package is robust prior to construction beginning and we can produce programmes and trackers to ensure the delivery of specific works on time.

Of course there can be complications that occur on any project, regardless of how prepared all parties are in advance. This is particularly the case when working with existing properties where stripping out and digging of foundations uncover unexpected problems. We can offer a full architectural service which includes our availability for site visits to discuss the issues with the contractors and clients in order to come to a resolution in a timely and cost effective manner.

Our attention to detail is recognised among our client base which has led to us being one of the highest rated architects in the south Manchester, Sale and Altrincham areas.

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