If you alter the appearance of the outside of a building (or the inside if your house is listed) you may require Planning permission.
New Permitted Development rights came into effect in March 2012 allowing more freedom to build without the need for planning permission.  There are a number of rules to follow and I can advise on these.

Generally if the development is within a conservation area it will need Planning Permission and possibly Conservation area consent if it involves demolition, however there are some exceptions, so it is worth taking further advice. 

Any development or alteration to a Listed Building requires Listed Building Consent and possibly planning consent.  I can advise on this.

Planning Permission expires after 5 years if the works are not started.

DO I NEED PLANNING PERMISSION?

A building warrant is the legal permission to start building work and effectively deals with the nuts and bolts. 
Some works to a house are permitted without building warrant approval on condition that the works fully comply with the current regulations and meet certain criteria e.g. if the works do not increase the floor area or alter any structural element, effect the roof etc.  If a warrant is required then you need to complete an application form and prepare plans and details of the proposed works along with a fee. It can take about 8-10 weeks to receive the Warrant and this is valid for 3 years.  Once the work is completed the warrant officer inspects the work and issues a completion certificate.

WHAT IS A BUILDING WARRANT?

WHY WOULD I NEED AN ARCHITECT IF MY BUILDER CAN PROJECT MANAGE.

Typically when a builder for a domestic project talks about project managing he is referring to programming and organising various tradesmen or sub contractors, ordering materials etc. He should have included for this in his price anyway.  Generally an Architect will not offer this sort of service.  The architect will be the Contract Administrator and will make periodic site visits to inspect the builders general progress and issue any instructions to the contractor or to reject any obviously unsatisfactory work. During the course of the build process, particularly when altering or extending existing building, unforeseen challenges arise. If you have an architect involved at this stage they can make informed decisions and change details if necessary to maintain the aesthetics and technical requirements the building requires.  This is only possible with the depth of knowledge of the individual project and with years of technical experience and training an Architect can provide.

DO I NEED MORE THAN ONE PROFESSIONAL TO ALTER MY PROPERTY?

Structural Engineers are required where the project involves structural work for example taking down a load bearing wall.

Interior designers can bring a wide range of services to a project such as space planning, decorative schemes and creative lighting design. If you would like to employ this type of service I would recommend bringing them in at an early stage, before the warrant application, so as their aspect of the design can be incorporated easily in the overall scheme.  

Kitchen and Bathroom designers should also be included early in the design process.

Architects are needed for creative design advice and for their technical expertise in all aspects of the building process and can coordinate all the consultants to create a cohesive solution for the client.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT WAYS TO EMPLOY A CONTRACTOR?

There are many different ways depending on the size of the project and whether time or budget is more important to you.  Two common methods are explained briefly below

1. Appoint a Main Contractor or a single Building Company.  They will usually be chosen by providing the lowest tender. The contractor will agree on a fixed price which includes the cost of them managing other tradesmen in order to complete the work.  The architect will provide a service to administer the contract if required.

2. Appoint separate Contractors or tradesmen to carry out the different parts of the work.  This tends to be the cheapest option but should only be tackled by clients with knowledge and experience of the building industry or with very small projects.  It tends to be stressful and extremely time consuming.  It is the client's responsibility to order material and co-ordinate and program the various tradesmen to first fix, second fix etc.

I'M THINKING OF CONVERTING OUR ATTIC, WHAT'S INVOLVED?

As a general rule of thumb, the highest point in the roof space needs to be at least 2.3m. 
The ceiling joists will not be designed to take the weight of people and will need to be strengthened.

Careful consideration needs to be taken in positioning the new stair. If there is no space within the hall or option to extend an existing stair then you may need to give up a room but you should try to utilise the space below to create an en-suite or a new utility or bathroom.

Note that if you are converting an attic in a 2 or 3 storey house that the fire regulations come into force and a protected corridor needs to be created directly to the outside.  This is usually achieved by changing the doors off the hall to fire doors.

Also good to note that attic conversions don't have to be for bedrooms.  Some of the best views are revealed and with the addition of a large dormer you could create an appealing family room.

 

Attic conversions require the floors or ceilings to be upgraded for sound insulation and most likely insulation will need added to the coombe and ceiling line with possibly the addition of roof vents depending on the detailing.

THIS IS MY FIRST BUILDING PROJECT. HOW LONG WILL EACH STAGE TAKE?

Every project is different and will invariably include a number of consultants, planning officers and building control officers who also have their own time frames. This storyboard of a project includes documents issued at key dates within a year.

On average it takes at least 10 months from inception to starting on site. This includes 4-5 months when the drawings are waiting to be approved by Building Control. Sometimes this can be shorter, depending on the Warrant officer's workload.

 
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Linda Dawson Architect

34 Campbell Road, Longniddry,

EH32 0NP

Tel: 01875 582216