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Building Regulations

Category: Essential information July 17th, 2012 by mbc

I’ve been skirting around UK building regulations since the start of the conversion of the barn, with building control sign-off looming, I thought I should get a better handle on the regulations, their scope, breadth and depth…


In general terms, building regulations approval is required for most building work in the UK, the exemptions are listed at the end of this post.

In England & Wales, the Building Act 1984 is the legislation underlying building regulations, the equivalent in Scotland is the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 and in Northern Ireland the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 1979 (amended 1990 and 2009).

I’ll focus on the regulations that apply in England & Wales. As a starter for 10 for those outside of England & Wales, the Scottish equivalent of building regulations, known as building standards can be found on the Scottish Government website, Northern Irish building regulations can be found on the buildingcontrol-ni site.

The 1984 act, opens with these words that explain the purpose and scope of building regulations:

Power to make building regulations.
(1) The Secretary of State may, for any of the purposes of—
(a) securing the health, safety, welfare and convenience of persons in or about buildings and of others who may be affected by buildings or matters connected with buildings,
(b) furthering the conservation of fuel and power, and
(c) preventing waste, undue consumption, misuse or contamination of water,
make regulations with respect to the design and construction of buildings and the provision of services, fittings and equipment in or in connection with buildings.
(2) Regulations made under subsection (1) above are known as building regulations.
(3) Schedule 1 to this Act has effect with respect to the matters as to which building regulations may provide.

The purpose of the regulations is to promote standards for most aspects of a building’s construction. The full collection of building regulations runs to fourteen parts as set out in Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations 2010, each has an Approved Document that suggests methods by which the regulations could be satisfied. In full, the parts are:

> Part A (Structural safety)
> Part B (Fire safety)
> Part C (Resistance to contaminants and moisture)
> Part D (Toxic Substances)
> Part E (Resistance to sound)
> Part F (Ventilation)
> Part G (Sanitation, Hot Water Safety and Water Efficiency)
> Part H (Drainage and waste disposal)
> Part J (Heat producing appliances)
> Part K (Protection from falling)
> Part L (Conservation of fuel and power)
> Part M (Access to and Use of Buildings)
> Part N (Glazing safety)
> Part P (Electrical Safety)

The Approved Documents are not definitive, nor are they intended to be applied in a draconian manner. They contain guidance for typical building situations. There is no obligation to adopt any particular solution contained in an Approved Document, alternative ways of achieving compliance may be preferable.

The most recent versions of the Approved Documents for the each of the fourteen parts of the Building Regulations can be found on the Planning Portal site.

Building regulations approval
There are two routes to achieving building reg’s approval – either via the Local Authority or an Approved Inspector. I’ll deal with each separately:

Local Authority
There are three routes through Local Authority approval:

1. Full Plans.
This is the route we took with the barn. I had a full set of plans drawn up that noted all relevant features and that were accompanied by full SAP calculations.
After receiving approval of the plans work commenced and the site has been visited a number of times by our allocated building control officer (see Site Inspections below for more details).
We’re currently at the stage of finalising work on site to allow the issuing of a completion certificate that confirms that the Local Authority are content that the completed work complies with the Building Regulations.

2. Building Notice
Best suited to smaller building projects, the building notice route avoids the need for full, detailed plans. This is basically the same route as that for Full Plans, but without the plans. You engage the Local Authority, they visit during the build and ensure the work complies with building reg’s. As there’s been no preconstruction communication there may be aspects of the build you’ll need to change if they don’t conform to the regulations. The Local Authority doesn’t have to provide a building certificate if this route has been taken.

3. Regularisation
If you need to seek retrospective building reg’s approval (which shouldn’t happen as it’s been compulsory since the 11th November 1985) this is the route to take – enough said! You’re very naughty.

Approved Inspector
Third party inspectors are authorised by the Construction Industry Council (CIC).
Both you (as the builder) & your appointed inspector must jointly notify the Local Authority as to who is carrying out the building control function on the build. This is called an “Initial Notice”. The Approved Inspector will then work with you to ensure that your build conforms to the reg’s.

Site inspections
There are a standard set of site inspections that you’ll need to arrange with your planning control officer, they are:

> Commencement: at least two days before the work is commenced.
> Completion: not more than five days after the work is completed.

In respect of other stages, the notice required is (in practice) at least one whole day and relates to:
> excavation for a foundation (before covering up),
> the foundation itself (before covering up),
> any damp proof course (before covering up),
> any concrete or material laid over a site (before covering up)

When these stages are reached the work should pause to give the authority time to make an inspection. They will advise you if the work does not comply with the Building Regulations.

The responsibility for checking the Building Regulations have been met falls to Building Control Bodies (BCBs) – either from the Local Authority or the private sector as an Approved Inspector. The person carrying out the work has the choice of where to get approval for the building work.

Certain types of buildings are exempt from the application of building regulations, exempt buildings include:
> Class I Buildings controlled under other legislation for example, a building subject to the Explosives Act 1923.
> Class II Buildings not frequented by people (unless close to an existing building).
> Class III Greenhouses and agricultural buildings (unless used for retail purposes).
> Class IV Temporary buildings (less than 28 days).
> Class V Ancillary buildings.
> Class VI Small detached buildings (garages, garden sheds etc.) less than 30 square metres floor area with no sleeping accommodation.
> Class VII Extensions (porches, conservatories etc.) less than 30 square metres floor area.

I’ll follow this post up with some more detail of the fourteen parts set out in Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations.

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The myth(?) of rising damp…

Category: Essential information October 18th, 2011 by mbc

…and Rigsby is not in sight…

I was watching an episode of QI the other night when the ‘myth’ of rising damp – or rather, the lack of evidence for the existence of rising damp as a ‘real’ issue, was mentioned. This wasn’t something I’d ever heard of and some further web-based research makes for some interesting reading…

There’s plenty of information on the subject across the web which Google will find for you, I’ll provide a link to one article that demonstrates the venom of the argument between ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. The Architects Journal carries a post, which you can access by searching in Google with this text – ‘architects journal’ Rising damp is a myth - make sure you read through the readers comments. [architectsjournal.co.uk doesn’t allow deep links to articles, just to the home page – typical closed thinking of the kind I’ve seen a lot of from the architectural community recently..]

From my layman’s reading, it appears that there is little proof that water will rise through a ‘normally’ constructed wall by capillary action and therefore little basis for expecting damp to rise up a wall that hasn’t been protected in any of the normal ways (usually a damp-proof-course). It is often the case that what is diagnosed as rising damp is actually condensation caused by poor heating and ventilation or damp penetrating from exterior raised ground levels or leaking water pipes. As usual with a complex issue, this isn’t as cut-and-dried (sorry!) as some people would like. Personally, I tend toward the middle ground – that rising damp is rare, often misdiagnosed, but can occur given certain specific sets of circumstances.

Additionally, I’ve always been dubious of the usefulness of chemically injected damp proof courses, especially when applied to rubble filled masonry walls like those of the barn and the arguments around this issue confirm my doubts.

…So perhaps, under certain circumstances, rising damp does exist, despite what they say on QI…

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Biomass Boilers

Category: Essential information May 6th, 2011 by mbc

With a small patch of woodland containing mainly young ash trees, a patch of willow around the pond and plenty of hedges I’ve long been interested in the potential for burning ‘home-grown’ biomass, from chips, through twigs to logs. So I thought a review of the domestic biomass boiler options was in order…

There are two types of biomass boilers – those fed with pellets and those fed with timber. Pellet boilers can be manually or hopper fed, with hopper feeding allowing a certain amount of unattended operation. Couple hoppers with high degrees of efficiency and the workload for the owner in keeping the boiler running is minimised. For example, Treco claim that the Guntamatic Biostar W boilers will “hold enough fuel for up to a month ….[and are] self cleaning and have ash boxes that only need emptying every 6 – 8 weeks”.

Pellets are small lengths of compressed sawdust, there is no need for any additive to bond the sawdust together as lignin, an organic binding substance present in the wood does this when the pellet is formed under compression.

There are a wide array of boilers available, I’ll concentrate on two of the main ranges available in the UK at the moment…

Baxi offer a number of biomass boilers. They offer two pellet boilers – the Bioflo is manually fed (there’s no hopper so you need to feed it like a traditional boiler) and it can modulate output depending on demand between 3.8kW and 12kW. Then there’s the larger Multiheat boiler – available in 15kW, 25kW and 43kW versions with an integrated hopper. There’s also the Solo Innova, a log fuelled boiler that comes in 20kW, 32kW and 48kW thermal output versions.

Treco supply a wide range of boilers, including those from the Austrian manufacturer Guntamatic. For domestic purposes I’ll consider the Biostar that is available in four different fuel supply options; the Flex (the fuel store can be physically distant from the boiler with the two connected by a flexible vacuum tube), the Box (similar to the Flex, but with the fuel store included in the price), the W (with a large hopper that only needs filling Weekly), and the Biostar Duo (which also burns logs). There are 12kW, 15kW and 25kW versions.

So how much do they cost?
A web search for the Baxi boilers gives me a lowest price of just under £9,000 including VAT for a Bioflo (I’ve also seen them priced over £11,000), with Multiheat boilers at just over £6,000 for a 15kW model and £7,000 for a 25kW version (although I’ve also seen them priced at more £2,000+ more) and Solo Innova at £4,800 for a 20kW model and £5,300 for the 32kW model (again I’ve also seen these priced at around £1,500 more). Treco / Guntamatic Biostar boiler prices range from just over £11,000 to just over £14,000 (excluding VAT).

You’ll also need to pay for installation and a suitable flue if you haven’t got one already.

Pellets v Timber
Personally I’m not keen on the idea of pellets. Too proprietary and too vulnerable to volitile markets for my liking, but I can see their value as an alternative to oil or gas where a local source of timber is not available. Additionally, they take a lot of the manual labour away and reduce the time demands made by logs in their splitting, stacking and seasoning. Pellets also offer the convienience of hoppers and unattended heating. My ideal of a biomass boiler that will burn any type or condition of biomass seems to be some way off as the biomass boilers I’ve been reading about require, seasoned, sizeable, well prepared timber.

Costs and benefits
For comparison I looked up the statistics for my current multi-fuel stove. It’s a Charnwood Country 16B Multi-fuel central heating boiler with output statistics as follow:

  • Space Heating Output (BTU) – solid fuel = 5.5kW (18,779) wood logs = 7.7kW (26,291)
  • Water Heating Output (BTU) – solid fuel = 13.7kW (46,778) wood logs = 8.2kW (27,999)

This cost something over £3,000 fitted for 15kW or so of combined output.

At a guess I could get a 20kW Baxi Solo Innova installed for somewhere between £6-7,000 and if I wanted the full ‘hands-off’ luxury of a 15kW Biostar boiler I’d be looking somewhere around the £13-14,000 mark. So not cheap in comparison to more traditonal heating solutions such as my multi-fuel boiler/stove. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) tell me I can get a standalone pellet stove for £4,300 installed – I’m just not sure who from!

So how and why am I going to pay for this?
Treco claim that “Your fuel bill will drop by at least 30% when you make the switch from oil [to biomass]” so there’s an immediate saving when switching from oil of several hundred pounds a year based on current fuel oil prices (and it looks like that saving is only likely to grow). Even with prices as they are, as of writing the annual costs of a biomass system are likely to be more that those of a mains gas powered system.

The main advantage in comparison to more traditional heating and hot water solutions such as wood burning are the relatively low amounts of ash and the opportunity for unattended operation. You can get that from gas (if you’re on the mains) or oil, but if you want a greener (albeit currently more costly) solution then perhaps a biomass boiler is what you need…

You may be able to get some financial support under the Renewable Heat Incentive, although as of writing details for domestic schemes will not be available until next year (2012).

Further information is available from:

http://www.baxi.co.uk/products/biomass-boilers.htm

http://www.treco.co.uk/domestic/domestic/

http://www.treco.co.uk/guntamatic/

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Energy Performance Certificate – EPC

Category: Essential information February 14th, 2011 by mbc

The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is a piece of certification that has come along since I’ve started this project and is now a compulsory piece of paper required by building control as a part of the completion process. The requirement for an EPC came into effect from the 6th of April 2008, with the implementation of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2002.

Why do I need one?

From October 2008 EPCs will be required whenever a building is built, sold or rented out.

So what is an EPC?

The EPC is part of a series of measures being introduced across Europe to reflect legislation which will help cut buildings’ carbon emissions and tackle climate change.

The certificate provides ‘A’ to ‘G’ ratings for the building, with ‘A’ being the most energy efficient and ‘G’ being the least, with the average up to now being ‘D’.

Accredited energy assessors produce EPCs alongside an associated report which suggests improvements to make a building more energy efficient.

Note the final point from that quote – you’ll need a accredited energy assessor to produce your EPC for you. Depending on the type of EPC, they’ll carryout a survey of the building, need copies of your plans and then plug some statistics into some software and provide you with a certificate.

For a conversion or new build an On Construction SAP EPC is required and for existing dwellings a RdSAP (reduced data SAP) EPC is required when the dwelling is sold or rented out. Both utilise similar calculations with data for the RdSAP calculation being gathered during a short site visit, whilst the SAP EPC can be derived mainly from the plans.

Frustratingly, although the EPC is a kind of SAP-lite you may find, as I have, that whoever did the SAP calculations for your planning application won’t be able to provide your EPC as it’s not financially worth their while. To become an EPC accredited energy assessor and then remain one is an expensive exercise. Combining that with a relatively low charge for an EPC means that this is a high volume business – one that is not suited to many traditional planners, designers or technicians.

The resultant certificate will look something like this example from the communities.gov.uk website.

An EPC lasts for ten years before needing to be renewed.

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Feed-in Tariffs

Category: Essential information September 27th, 2010 by mbc

Whilst I have no immediate plans (or money) to install any electricity generation technology at the barn, I like to keep an eye on future opportunities and thought a review of Feed-in Tariffs may be in order.

The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme has been available through electricity suppliers since April the 1st 2010. The aim of the scheme is to encourage the uptake of small-scale (up to 5MW) low carbon generation technologies through tariff payments made on both generation and export of produced renewable energy. The scheme is designed with the goal of providing a monthly income from your installation that will be greater than your monthly loan repayment to install the equipment (bear in mind this factors in long term loans usually of 20-25 years). It is the large energy companies, (or rather their customers to whom they pass the costs on) rather than any government body that foot the bills for these systems.

The following technologies are eligible for entry to the scheme:

Photovoltaic (PV)
Wind
Hydroelectric
Anaerobic digestion
Micro CHP – this is a pilot programme with 2kW upper limit to generating capacity.

The financial benefits of the scheme come in a number of forms:

The Generation Tariff - you earn a fixed amount for each kilowatt hour of electricity (kWh) you generate and use.
The Export Tariff – you earn an additional fixed amount for every kWh of electricity you generate and sell back to the grid.
Savings made through the reduction in electricity bills.

The exact amount you get paid through the Generation Tariff will vary depending on your specific generation system. For example, a new Solar PV system generating four or less kWh is eligible for a payment of 36.1 pence per kWh, for a medium-large sized wind turbine (>15 – 100kW) the payment is 24.1 pence per kWh. The tariff levels are index-linked for inflation and will be paid for a set period of time – in the case of the examples, 25 years and 20 years respectively. The full table of tariff levels is available from the Energy Savings Trust website in PDF format.

There are plenty of example scenarios with tempting £’s value headlines around the web, I’ll leave it to you to search them out if you’re interested. There are also plenty of online calculators out there to tempt you in and hopefully further inform you – start with the one on energysavingtrust.org.uk, the link is below. But, to summarise what I’ve found, typically for a family home consuming 4-5,000kWh of electricity per year, 2-2.5kW of solar PV panels will generate an income for the householder of upto £1000 per year with around £150 in savings from reduced electricity costs.

Bear in mind that you’ll need to work with a Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified installer to be eligible for the scheme.

Futher references:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Sustainability/Environment/fits/Pages/fits.aspx

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generate-your-own-energy/Sell-your-own-energy/Feed-in-Tariff-scheme

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Progress

Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter… https://twitter.com/barnconversion/status/368427314868396032

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

I love the interior of this conversion and the great use of horizontal slats on this conversion. I retains the essential ‘barnyness’ of the building… flemish-barn-by-arend-groenewegen-architect

Coming soon, my barn conversion guide… Interesting earthship greenhouse project on Kickstarter

I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“. If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by… It’s already funded so I […]

Barns

Barns Gallery on Remodelista

There is a lovely gallery of barn related inspirational photographs available on Remodelista.

Barns – the Long House

Situated on the North Norfolk coast, this is a building to admire…

Barns – the Balancing Barn

A stunning piece of architecture, although not entirely to my taste…

New fast-track planning permission for the development of barns proposed

The Daily Mail reports on a new fast-track route through planning controls for the conversion of barns…

De-assembled, re-assembled, re-cycled barns

“A bit like a private sector, modernising, repurposing St Fagan’s…”

Design

What is a shadow gap?

A shadow gap – a mysterious dark place between two plains…

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

Architecture

Your barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

Thoughts on making YOUR barn conversion – "what you really wanted for yourself"

The Stirling prize 2012 winner – the Sainsbury Laboratory

The 2012 Stirling prize was won by a outsider, the Sainsbury Laboratory…

The Stirling prize 2012

I think that this years Stirling prize has some exciting projects on the shortlist…

Our engineers … our architects – Le Corbusier

The efficient, shiny world of construction in 1923…

Design in Storage

When designing a layout it’s easy to forget to plan for storage…

News

Green Deal slow beginnings?

Oh dear! The green deal hasn’t got off to a very auspicious start… As reported in the Telegraph today since it was launched nearly a year ago just 12 homes have taken advantage of the Green Deal with a few hundred more in the pipeline. 71,210 households had been assessed for Green Deal measures such […]

The property roller coaster – planning reform to be rethought

Eric Pickles vague compromise on planning reform keeps the house happy (for now).

Energy policy, smoke screens, fracking, confusion and big bucks

There seems to be only one thing that is certain in the world of energy policy and that is that costs will rise annually above and beyond anything that inflation can currently throw at us. Beyond that, smoke screens & confusion seem to reign. Take the recent news for example… It’s reported today that the […]

Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on the green belt…

Green Deal Launch

The Green deal launched in the UK on Monday of this week. Fanfares? fireworks? a deluge of marketing? … read more …

Plaid Cymru’s Green New Deal promise

The leader of Plaid Cymru has promised a “Green New Deal” to rejuvenate the Welsh economy and help maintain Wales’ position at the forefront of Green policies.

Permitted development extension limits to be doubled

The government is due to announce a temporary increase in the maximum depth of extensions that can be built under permitted development rules.

Lloyd Khan, making shelter simple.

I wanted to share an interview with Lloyd Khan that I recently found…

Just what is ‘sustainable development’?

Sustainable development – with the term now enshrined in planning law, what does it mean?

Sir Patrick Abercrombie – “It is a matter for serious thought…”

While reading up on the response of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) I came across this quote from Sir Patrick Abercrombie…