Full design service Feasibility studies
Planning applications Building regulation compliance
Restoration / conservation projects Historic building consultation Historical landscape analysis and context reinstatement
Interior and lighting design
Inception to completion of projects, or individual stages
Sustainable and ecologically sensitive new homes Consultation, design and implementation of natural buildings
Projects of any size and budget
Getting Started, the Design Process and Planning
You may already have a strong idea of what you would like to do with your home, and you may have a feeling of how it could be achieved and what form it will take. But it may also be the case that you only have a vague idea and require some help in consolidating these into something more concrete. Whatever your situation we can help breathe life into these initial ideas and feelings, and may also suggest inventive solutions not before considered - We will listen very carefully to your requirements and help develop these into a design brief, and although it may develop further at later stages, it initially forms a sound starting point reflecting your needs. We will also take into account your project budget at this stage, and advise on whether what you would like to do is possible within the budget, and make suggestions if need be - We will also look at sustainability, bio-diversity and renewable energy potential with you, which might be something you are interested in, or indeed may be necessary to meet building regulation requirements on your particular project - Early on a survey is carried out of your property which then forms the basis for all subsequent drawings, and helps us to understand your building or site in more depth.
The next step is to take your design brief and the survey drawings and start the design process in earnest. This can be done in a variety of ways, but mostly through drawings and 3d visualizations, the latter of which we find useful as both a design tool and as a way of helping you to better understand the proposals being made - We start with concept designs and refine and develop them in conjunction with ideas for structures, services, materials and function until a plausible reality begins to emerge. This process can be quickly resolved or it may take some time, whichever your project demands; all to the end of arriving at the most elegant, mature and suitable design - Ultimately we work with you at every stage to create exactly the right solutions, in a series of design meetings with you and in studio development of ideas. Material, form, texture, light and shadow, space and view are all integrated on the most subtle levels to make your house something very special, vibrant and alive.
Each local authority's planning department will adhere to a set of standard procedures and requirements, but each will also have varied criteria governing what is and is not acceptable in relation to development of buildings in a specific area - Over the years we have worked with many local authority planning departments in the South Eastern counties and London, and know how each of their systems work and what to be aware of when submitting applications, ensuring that approval is obtained whilst realising optimum design solutions - When the design has reached the correct stage, we will submit an application for approval. It normally takes up to 8 weeks for a decision to be made, and during this time we will stay in touch with the appointed planning officer, making changes to the plans if necessary to ensure approval - We have a 100% record of obtaining planning permission for our clients, and this usually goes smoothly. Occasionally permission is granted through negotiation, changes and considered compromise, which we are particularily skilled in.
Technical Design, Building Regulations
and Choosing the Right Builder
With planning granted the important stage of technical design and the generation of the production information can begin. This involves producing all the information required to carry out the building works, including detail drawings and the schedule of works documentation which describes every element and aspect of the works. At this stage a structural engineer may need to be appointed, depending on the work being carried out, and we can recommend the right one for your project - During these stages we will be in touch with you if issues and solutions come up as we evolve and refine the designs. This is the stage where the true potential of the finished building can be realized and where detail starts to inform the overall picture, often in very subtle ways - This stage presents the opportunity to refine the design and specification to meet your needs more fully, and items such as kitchen, sanitary ware, floor and other finishes, glazing systems and joinery can be specified more accurately - During this whole process we will keep an eye on the cost of elements to ensure that decisions made work within your budget.
It is essential to comply with the relevant building regulations that apply to each project. From the very first meeting, to the concept designs and through to the final construction drawings, we will have an awareness of this and the impact it may have on the design. We will always work within the given parameters creatively to arrive at the best scenarios - When the full construction drawings are ready they will be submitted to either the local authority building control department or to an approved inspector, to enable the works to be monitored as the work progresses on site. This would either be under a building notice or full plans application, depending on the project and situation. Once on site the builder will carry the responsibility for contacting the inspector as and when work is ready for inspection, and although we may have to supply some additional information if required, largely our part will be done in this respect prior to start on site.
The builder you use for the work will be important on many levels. They should be someone who you can communicate well with on a regular basis, someone who you feel you can trust and most importantly someone who is suitable for the type and extent of work being proposed - We work with a number of builders suitable for all types and sizes of project, both locally and farther afield, so are well placed to find the right builder for your project - Builders are usually appointed through a tender process, where three or four builders price for the work based on tender drawings and documentation prepared by us. When the tenders are returned we analyze and prepare a comparison which helps make the decision on which builder to use, in conjunction with the other considerations mentioned above. Sometimes a negotiated tender can be used instead, working with one pre-chosen builder to arrive at an agreed cost.
Building Contracts, Construction and Completion
Each project, no matter the size and type of work, should be carried out under a building works contract, commonly a JCT. This protects both client and builder and forms the basis for the correct running of the project. We administer this contract and issue all relevant paperwork, including payment certificates, and ensure that the terms of the contract are adhered to during the works - There are various types of contract covering all types of building work, and we will be able to advise which is suitable for your project - During the course of the works the builder will raise valuations periodically. These will be checked by us and modified if necessary to reflect the work carried out to that date, and payment certificates then issued accordingly. Our schedule of works document usually forms the basis of this process, and we will update it independently of the builders valuation to ensure that we are in control of the figures all the way through the project to the final account.
This stage is what all the previous stages, work and effort has been about, and can be the most dramatic and exciting as your house rapidly transforms. It can also be the most lengthy stage, depending on the scope of work being undertaken, and often comes with issues on site that need careful thought and creative thinking - We will visit site on a regular basis, and also drop in to deal with any day to day issues that will inevitably arise. Needless to say we are always on the end of a phone to advise and make decisions as required - Any changes necessary on site or desired by you will be issued formally through architects instructions so that the cost of the work can be estimated and agreed prior to commitment in built form - This stage is a continuation of the design process in many respects, where decisions made on site, and during the regular site meetings, bring the level of detail and form to a very high standard and resolution. There are never any problems, only design opportunities - even unforeseen issues can allow for the emergence of incredibly beautiful things!
We design for each client individually, getting to know them and their families and designing in accordance with their character and sensibilities - we never impose anything unwanted and do not have an architectural 'house style'. To the very best of our ability and skill we always strive to provide our clients with the most beautiful finished homes that are the result of the sensitive development and refinement of their original brief - We have been fortunate enough to stay in contact with most of our clients over the years, which is a lovely thing to do on a personal level, and also to see how they live in the houses we have designed for them, allowing us to continually improve what we do - It is always a joy to see homes that have been realized with such depth of creative effort being lived in with such ease and happiness, and the slight changes and nuances that occur over time make the buildings truly the homes of their creator owners.