The Ideal Home Show has been a stalwart event for a home-owner’s calendar since 1908 and has grown and developed as an exhibition ever since. In 2018, the show – at Olympia, London – included the brand new Renovation Advice Hub feature where attendees could approach top experts for free, impartial advice in a range of fields from Planning & architecture, garden design, and interior design, through to finance, DIY, and home automation.
I was excited and humbled to have been asked to act as one of the experts in the Planning & architecture section to represent the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT), having obtained Chartered Member status in the previous year. I, of course, said yes to what later dawned on me to be quite a nerve-wracking prospect.
However, I found that spending my four days of the show talking to a huge number of people about their projects to be a challenging, but thoroughly enjoyable experience and test of my architectural knowledge.
Despite the huge variety of projects, schemes and ideas that people from all over the country were planning, there were a few topics and questions which came up more than once. I have picked out the five most common:
1) Can I take out a wall in my home?
With open-plan and broken-plan living still prominent in people’s lifestyles, a very common choice for home-owners is to simply remove a wall to open up spaces, share natural light sources around the home, and potentially enhance the flow of the property as a whole. It is a good idea to engage a Structural Engineer to inspect the wall you wish to remove to either ensure there are no structural implications or to advise on what structural elements may be needed to replace it. Building Control approval may well be needed, but a Building Notice form of application is perfectly suitable for this type of work.
2) What’s the difference between an Architect and an Architectural Technologist?
There is a remarkable similarity between the two and both types of professionals are equipped to help with the design of buildings. Broadly speaking, Architects tend to be more artistic and creative, whereas Architectural Technologists tend to have more of a focus on the science and technical aspects of building design. However, both branches of design need to be taken into consideration to successfully design a building and each discipline will usually have a strong understanding of the role and experiences of the other. Architects will be bound by the Code of Conduct of the Architects Registration Board (ARB) and Architectural Technologists will be bound by the Code of Conduct of CIAT.
3) Do I need Planning Permission?
There may be a number of changes you can make to your home without the need of Planning Consent under Permitted Development Rights. It is always advised to approach an architectural professional or Local Authority Planning Department in your area before carrying out any building works, as there are also quite a few specific situations which would affect one property but not others – such as (but not limited to) Listed Building status, inclusion within a Designated Area such as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or Conservation Area, or even an Article 4 Direction which removes the Permitted Development Rights of a particular site or building.
The Planning Portal is a good starting point for free advice online.
4) I’ve had some plans drawn up, what do I need to do next?
Once you have obtained, or are completely satisfied that you don’t need, Planning Consent and Building Control approval, it is perfectly acceptable to approach prospective builders to give you quotes for the build. If you have only appointed your architectural professional to obtain the statutory approvals for you, then there may be a little bit of extra work to fill in the blanks of the building design – which might include type of door handle, style of skirting board, paint colour etc. There is an amount of this which a lot of builders are happy to discuss with you as the client during the course of the build, but the more information you can tie down before you start the better. This will eliminate any variation of cost or timescale.
5) How do I choose the right builder?
Finding someone to help you change your own home can be daunting. However, there are a few tips which should help the decision process. Firstly, always approach multiple builders to ensure you’re getting a good comparison of costs, even if there is an old family friend or someone known to you. Secondly, check out credentials and examples of past work that is similar to the project that you’re carrying out.
Some building firms are great at what they do, but if they’re only showing you loft conversions as examples of work when you’re looking for a brick and block extension, then are they competent in the work you’re looking to have done? Thirdly, make sure you feel comfortable with the person or people that are going to be working on and in your home. There are all of the human factors that now come into play when deciding, such as personality. This will be invaluable if and when any issues or unforeseen events happen during the build which will require communication and problem-solving between yourself and your builder (and architectural professional). In a lot of situations, this can even make up for even a higher initial price.
By Russell McCourty MCIAT