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Beginners Guide Residential Advice

Guide to: The Architectural Process

We all want to live in a home we love, but sometimes we need to make improvements, adaptions and create a little extra space. Building projects begin with a want or need, maybe you’re outgrowing your family home or need some home office space, whatever it is we’ll work with you to turn your ideas into the perfect space. Building, extending or altering a property can be stressful, but using years of experience and heads brimming with creativity, we’ll guide you through every step of the architectural process to bring your vision to life.

So, what does the architectural design process involve?

  • Initial Consultation & Design Brief;

We’ll always begin with a design brief meeting, be that over the phone or in person, to discuss your project, what you’re wanting to achieve, any ideas you already have, and how we can help you. We’ll then issue you with a bespoke quote so you can understand the costs at every step of the architectural design journey.

  • Measured Survey;

Once we’ve had our initial design brief, we’ll come to the site to conduct a full measured survey. This is a comprehensive survey of the site which involves taking measurements ready for initial drawings. We’ll be on-site for a number of hours ensuring we fully understand your property, any issues which may arise, and to discuss our initial ideas in person. We won’t say no to a coffee whilst we’re there!

  • Drawings;

This is when the fun part really begins as we start creating the initial drawings for your project. Don’t worry, we can do lots of iterations until it’s perfect for you. We’’ll produce existing plans of the property and issue design options as per your initial brief, this may include alternative options of the internal layout or external appearance, where discussed as part of your brief.This isn’t just lines on a page, we’ll bring your project to life.

  • Planning submitted;

Once you are completely happy with the designs, we’ll submit them for planning permission, liaising with the council’s planning officer as we wait for approval. It can take 2 months plus for planning to be granted on a residential property, with larger and more complex plans sometimes taking longer, and if the planning office requests changes we’ll need to discuss these with them and potentially make some amendments. Where a proposal doesn’t require a planning application and falls within Permitted Development Rights, we typically advise our clients to submit a Lawful Development Certificate Application to the Planning Department. Permitted Development Rights are always changing  and this verifies the proposed works meet the requirements at the time, preventing any issues when you come to sell your property.

  • Technical drawings;

Once your planning application has been approved, feel free to pop some champagne whilst we create your technical drawings and specifications, working with a structural engineer to achieve approval from building control. These drawings include key elements of the construction, such as the foundations, supporting steels, and electrics, and can be used to gather quotes from tradespeople ready for construction to begin. They are also used to ensure that safety regulations are met and give clear guidance to your builders on how the project is being constructed.

  • Party Wall;

If your project is going to affect the boundary wall with a neighbouring property, you’ll need a party wall certificate. It’s important to start thinking about Party Wall requirements several months before you want to start work and ideally ensure your designer is working with a Party Wall Surveyor during the design process to ensure there are less issues during the party wall process. Making changes to the design can be difficult, particularly post planning stage, where alterations to the external appearance may require further consultation with the planning department.

  • Construction begins.

It is finally time to start the construction and turn your ideas into reality. We’ll always be here if you need to ask any questions. Here’s where we may step away for a less complex build. However, we can be on hand to ensure your work is competitively tendered to achieve the best price, contracts are administered to ensure you’re protected, and works are managed on site to ensure you get the best quality and finish.

So whether your renovating, creating more room or building from scratch, at Fourth Wall we will always put you at the heart of the design process and be with you from start to finish. Get in touch if you’ve got an idea, whether you know if it’s feasible or not, we’re always happy to schedule a call.

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Beginners Guide Residential Advice Tips

Common Issues: an essential guide for homebuyers

We all know buying a house can be stressful, and it’s the biggest purchase we’ll make in our lives, so you need to know your time and money is being put into a sound investment. Whilst some buyers may be tempted to forego a building survey in the hope of saving some money, gaining a full understanding of your property and being made aware of any issues from a Chartered Surveyor is so important, and likely to save you a lot more money in the long run with research finding that 20% of buyers who don’t have a building survey pay £6,000 in unexpected repairs.

Damp

This is a common one and something we see in a lot of properties, but it’s not to be feared. There are a number of different types and causes of damp, but there are also plenty of remedial options.

Rising damp is often found in walls at ground floor level whilst penetrating damp can be located anywhere on a property, usually in an exposed location on the elevation or in close proximity to a rainwater pipe or other water source.

We’ll conduct moisture tests as we investigate the cause of the damp and will always explain your options. If damp is severe and we can’t gain access to enclosed parts of the construction which we suspect are at risk of decay, we may advise a further intrusive survey is undertaken by a specialist damp and timber surveyor.

Rot

You may have heard of some rot horror stories, but we believe there’s always a solution. Dry rot is able to form anywhere where you have timber, high moisture levels and air, and if untreated can develop into a costly issue. It’s one of the most feared types of rot for home owners as it has the ability to spread and develop across materials such as brick and in its final stages spores become airborne to other areas of the house not previously affected. Wet rot is usually confined to the timber where high moisture levels are present, typically rafter feet, joist ends and poorly maintained external joinery such as fascia’s or soffits. Building Surveys are non-intrusive so if we believe the issue needs a further intrusive investigation, we’ll recommend this within your report.

Our reports will highlight any rot issues we find, guiding you through your options and providing budget costs so you understand how much the issue may set you back. However, with any big  hidden issues found, it may be time to negotiate with your vendor on the costs of repair.

Failed pointing & spalling brickwork

We’ve seen this one in a lot of properties. When external walls comprising a traditional brick or stone are repointed using a modern cement mortar rather than an original lime mortar, moisture trapped in the walls has to escape via the bricks themselves as cement does not provide the porosity and flexibility needed. This can result in deterioration of the mortar and damaged or spalling brickwork. It’s not one to worry about too much, provided its dealt with in a timely manner to prevent further damage to the masonry, but it’s really important to use the right materials and budget for this in future repair works.

Structural integrity

Small cracks are often nothing to worry about and usually just a sign of historic movement or deferential settlement, and many localised settlement issues can be related to other defects we’ll identify, however your surveyor will highlight and explain any potential signs of more significant structural movement or subsidence.

The vast majority of structural cracks can be identified and diagnosed by our surveyors within our initial report without further investigation. However, If we do identify anything potentially more serious, we’ll recommend an investigation be undertaken to assess the severity of any issues on the structural integrity of the property.

Roof condition

A roof is designed to last for a number of years, and when repairs are needed, some key elements can likely be retained. We’ll highlight any visible issues with the roof, from slipped or damaged tiles and vegetation build up, to leaking joints and repairs needed to the underlay, and outline how much repairs are likely to cost. Your roof might not be leaking now, but it might be nearing the end of its useful life and soon become a headache, our surveyors provide advice around the approximate age of the covering and a guide on its expected longevity, so you know what you might have to deal with in the long term.

Trees & invasive species

We don’t just look at the building, we also take a look at external areas such as the garden, boundary walls and fences, gates, patios and outbuildings. We’ll include any issues and remedial works needed to these areas within our reports, and will also make comment on potential for issues caused by large trees in close proximity to the building where the roots could cause damage, and if we spot invasive plant species such as Japanese Knotweed or Giant Hogweed. These can be difficult and costly to get rid of, and can cause damage to buildings and gardens if not dealt with, so are important to be aware of before purchasing the property.

Asbestos & deleterious materials

Some issues just can’t be seen to the untrained eye, and especially not on a 15 minute house viewing, but our surveys will highlight materials that can be dangerous to health if not dealt with correctly, such as asbestos, lead pipework and horsehair plaster reinforcement. Although these materials haven’t been used in homes for many years, they are still in place in many older properties and it’s important to understand how they should be dealt with. Managing or removing deleterious materials can be costly and detrimental to the enjoyment of your new home.

Vermin & insect damage

It’s not a nice one to think about but at some point a property may have had a few visitors, be that rats and mice, bees and wasps, or wood boring beetle. We’ll highlight any areas where vermin and insects may have made a home, and if there’s an active infestation we’ll provide the advice you need to get it sorted

Radon risk

The bubble bath we hear you ask. No, that’s Radox. Radon isn’t an issue a lot of homebuyers think of but areas of high radon can be harmful to health and increase the risk of lung cancer. We’ll include the radon risk for your property within your report, and highlight any testing needed and your next steps if there’s a high concentration noted.

What to do if these are highlighted in your survey?

Don’t worry, it’s good to have these issues uncovered now and we’ll be here every step of the way. If we find any issues during your survey, we’ll explain the cause of this in full and thoroughly guide you through the remedial options, providing costings and detailing your next steps.

The Fourth Wall standard

Fourth Wall Building Survey reports are bespoke, developed with you in mind and designed to ensure you fully understand your property and can move forward with your purchase with confidence. We’re passionate about cutting the jargon and making property accessible, so you’ll be met with an honest personal service throughout your property journey.

Our reports provide a unique insight into your property which other types of report don’t, including mobile and broadband speeds, noise and disturbance data, and budget costs as standard, and we provide it in a format which is easy to understand with photographs throughout.

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Commercial Advice Our thoughts // Residential Advice

Sustainability in Architecture

With the ever-impending climate crisis upon us and changes in living and working practices in a post covid world, the need for sustainable architecture which provides a tangible connection to the natural world has never been in sharper focus. Occupiers, customers and employees are taking greater care when deciding where they work, shop and eat out.  

Biophilic design is focused on connecting humans and the built environment to the natural world through the use of nature in architectural design, be that through new constructions or the redesign of existing buildings.  

For most of us, our natural habit is largely within the modern built environment, through where we both live and work. With more homes being built and the population of cities ever growing, this isn’t changing any time soon. The use of biophilic design seeks to enhance the spaces we spend our time in by incorporating the natural environment and the positive benefits an easy connection to nature brings us, be that through improved air quality or boosted mental health.  

If you’re a city dweller, you’ll likely have noticed one of the most popular concepts of Biophilic Design: green roofs. In 2018, it was found that 32% of all horizontal spaces are unused rooftops, and with benefits for both people and the environment, such as supporting biodiversity and wildlife, improving thermal performance of buildings, and allowing people to take a physical and mental break from the stress of work by connecting them to nature, green roof’s are becoming increasingly popular atop city centre office buildings, apartment blocks and retail spaces for this reason.  

From Stockport to San Francisco, biophilic design is being used to transform corporate spaces and add greenery to industrial areas. As part of a multi-million-pound regeneration scheme, a two-acre park atop Stockport interchange has been given the green light in an attempt to offset carbon emissions and give further green space for locals to enjoy. On the other side of the pond, ATXK have been inviting nature inside their offices to help employees feel a sense of freedom in a positive, healthy workspace. 

Biophilic design incorporates three key principles; Nature in the space, referring to the direct presence of nature, Nature of the space, focusing on taking inspiration from the spatial configurations in nature, and Natural Analogues, which uses indirect methods to reflect nature. The use of these principles drives towards a fundamental goal of Biophilic Design: to create a good habitat for people inhabiting modern structures, landscapes and communities.  

If you own or manage property and are keen to incorporate nature, but a green roof is a stretch too far, incorporating biophilic design through the use of living walls is an option for both interior and exterior areas. Both contributing to improved air quality and acoustics, along with better productivity and creativity, living walls have been noted to significantly increase workplace satisfaction. In our home town, Sheffield Hallam University have made use of this, redeveloping the atrium at their city campus to make use of biophilic design features such as living walls, whilst over in New York, Luxottica have been making use of living walls in their main office breakout space to encourage a relaxed and social space for employees. 

Even small changes to an office or retail fit out specification, such as the use of natural materials and colour pallets in favour of previously desirable and low-cost composite plastics and metals, can help evoke a connection to nature within the great steel and concrete boxes we call our urban built environment. As businesses begin to encourage employees back to the office, biophilic design is certainly something for property and business owners to explore.  

Looking to the future, we cannot deny the need for more sustainable choices in the way we live and work. Biophilic design presents opportunities for both residential and commercial property to improve the environment for those living and working in these spaces by incorporating nature and greenery simply and effectively into everyday life. With questions still arising over how to adapt cities post-Covid, we’re expecting to see the use of biophilic design increase in the years ahead. 

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Residential Advice

The Fourth Wall Standard

Of course when purchasing a property, you need a building survey, but we also always advise our potential clients to request an example report. We don’t work from a standard template at Fourth Wall, our reports are bespoke, developed with you in mind. We believe this is what sets us apart.

Our aim is to reimagine surveying, ensuring you gain the clarity needed to move forward with your property with confidence, and providing you with a personal service from start to finish. We’ll issue you a report you can understand and get the most from, because we get that not everyone finds buildings as interesting as we do. You need the facts, you need a clear explanation, and you need the costs. Our reports give you that.

So what makes a Fourth Wall Report really stand out?

Bespoke Reporting

Industry leading detail presented in a language and format we all understand. We’ve cut the jargon and created a bespoke report with our clients’ needs at the forefront.

Executive summary

You won’t find this in most other reports, but Fourth Wall’s bespoke Building Survey and Homebuyers reports begin with an executive summary so you can see our key recommendations and next steps at a glance – you can also send this straight to your solicitor.

Review of mobile and broadband connectivity

We know that staying connected is more important than ever and believe it is a key consideration when buying a property. That’s why we include this review within our bespoke reports as standard.

Noise and disturbance advice

No-one wants to be kept up at night. Uninterrupted sleep and work schedules is going to be essential for you to enjoy living in your new home. Unique to our bespoke report, we provide a review of traffic and noise data for the area and advice regarding noise transference potential based on the age and construction of the property.

Action points & traffic light ratings

Our recommendations come with a traffic light risk rating to easily understand the severity of the defect and when action should be taken, along with action points so you know who needs to take the next steps, be that you, your solicitor or the vendor.

Photographs throughout

Our reports provide a detailed description of the property with photographs provided within the report so you can easily understand what defect we are talking about, when we’re talking about it.

Budget costs

Our Full Building Survey reports provide budget costs as standard, so you can see how much issues will cost and even negotiate the purchase price. Our clients love this, they want to know what the issue is and how to fix it, but also how much it’s going to cost them. In the current climate getting contractors to quote for jobs isn’t easy, especially if you don’t even own the property yet, so budget costs from us really help.

5-day turnaround

Our reports are issued within 5 working days of inspection so you can continue with your property purchase with confidence. A call with the surveyor is also available within 48 hours of the survey taking place to talk through any immediate concerns.

One-to-one professional advice from Surveyors with local knowledge

Our surveyors are all members and associates of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, with all the necessary experience, training and expertise to provide an accurate assessment of your property. We don’t just issue your report and disappear, our surveyors are always here to answer questions and provide guidance.

We have reginal offices in Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle providing bases for our surveyors across the North of England so we’re always on hand to help you through the property buying process.

To get in touch for a free quote and sample report, drop us a message, give us a call or send us an email: 0161 706 1131 // reimagine@fourthwallbc.com