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Code for Sustainable Homes

Category: Essential information May 16th, 2008 by mbc

The Code for Sustainable Homes is an essential read for anyone considering a sustainable home building project. In its own words:

The Code for Sustainable Homes has been introduced to drive a step-change
in sustainable home building practice. It is a standard for key elements of
design and construction which affect the sustainability of a new home.

It is under-pined by heavy-weight research having being built upon the Building Research Establishment’s (BRE) EcoHomes System.

How does the code work?

The code seeks to achieve improvements to levels of sustainability in home building through the establishment of minimum standards for energy and water efficiency, the provision of a simple points based rating system for enumerating levels of sustainability and extending the scope of the code into areas such as composting and ‘lifetime’ issues of the home such as accessibility and adaptability.

The rating system allows for the allocation of an overall one to six stars to communicate the sustainability level of a home. The overall score is built up from sub-scores in nine broad design categories, these are:

  • Energy/CO2
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Surface water run-off
  • Waste
  • Pollution
  • Health and well-being
  • Management
  • Ecology

Energy/CO2 & Water have minimum levels that must be achieved at each of the six levels of the code. Materials, Surface water run-off & Waste have a minimum level that must be attained to allow entry into the code at all.

Briefly, assessment of a number of issues defined by the code within each category allows the allocation of a number of points and from these points the overall star rating is derived. For example, in the Energy/CO2 category points are scored through taking measures such as utilising renewable or low carbon energy sources and also through the provision of bicycle storage or a home office.

The code has high hopes for itself, aiming to provide environmental benefits with a positive impact on climate change and a reduction in the environmental impact of building. Additionally, benefit to builders by providing a flexible mark of quality and greater direction in terms of future regulations and to home-owners through lower running costs, improved comfort & satisfaction and generally more pleasant and healthier places to live.

Why should I use them?

Whilst providing a potential future gold standard for sustainable building (only time, implementation and experience will confirm or reject that statement), the code is useful at the design stage for both professionals and non-professionals in providing a design template and useful design patterns. The categories and issues of The Code for Sustainable Homes can be used in the same way as I’ve used design patterns , to help focus on detail and polish the overall design.

You should also note that all new homes, except those where ‘the initial notice, full plans or Building Notice have been received by the relevant Local Authority Building Control body prior to 1st May 2008’ will have to be rated against the code.

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BREEAM ~ Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method

Category: Essential information May 11th, 2008 by mbc

The term BREEAM is one that I’ve come across in various contexts over the course of this project and thought I’d better find out what it means…

BREEAM is a widely used environmental assessment method for buildings. The assessments are carried out by qualified practitioners. For many types of development, assessments are a prerequisite.

Through application of the method buildings are assessed against a set of criteria and given an overall score which will fall within a banding, this then provides a rating of: PASS, GOOD, VERY GOOD or EXCELLENT. Certain minimum standards are set – for example, the Welsh Development Agency requires that all buildings constructed on land sold by them must achieve a minimum VERY GOOD rating.

The method is applicable to most types of building, with bespoke versions of the method available for large non-standard buildings like prisons and schools & for non U.K. buildings etc.

Pre-assessment estimators are available for you to see the depths to which the assessment goes. Probably of most relevance for us is the Ecohomes pre-assessment estimator. From this you can see that a wide range of criteria are used to assess the building – from CO2 emissions to sound insulation and the amounts of daylight.

Note that …

In April 2007 the Code for Sustainable Homes replaced Ecohomes for the assessment of new housing in England.

More on the Code for Sustainable Homes here.

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Microgeneration installations now ‘permitted developments’

Category: Essential information May 6th, 2008 by mbc

A piece of good news that is of great interest personally and I’m sure of interest to many people planning conversions and other projects, is that the installation of solar thermal & PV panels, combined-heat & power systems, biomass systems and water & ground source heat pumps will no longer require planning permission, so long as there is no negative impact on neighbours or the area. In future these developments will be included as permitted developments under the General Permitted Development Order.

Negative impact is assessed in part by the profile of any panels installed, roof mounted panels must not extend more than 200 millimetres from the roof and ground mounted panels must not be more than four metres above ground level or more than five metres from the boundary of the property. Additionally, equipment should be sited to ‘minimise its effect on the amenity of the area’ and ‘removed as soon as reasonably practicable‘ if no longer used. (Italicised quotes are from the Statutory Instrument, see below for more details).

Wind turbines and air source heat pumps are not included within the current legislation, but will follow.

This came into effect from April 6th 2008.

Good news for me as I’m currently waiting for a response from the local planners asking if I need permission for ‘in-roof’ panels. Having read through the Statutory Instrument I don’t.

Read more >>

Solar power homes get the go-ahead for April

The actual legislation: Statutory Instrument

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VAT for barn convertors – Update December 2007

Category: Essential information December 8th, 2007 by mbc

I thought it was about time to review the VAT situation regarding the barn to ensure that my understanding is correct, so an overview of the current legislation follows with appropriate extracts.

My apologies if any of this reads a strangely, I wanted to keep as much of the wording from the official sources intact to avoid incorrect paraphrasing or misquoting. My focus in reading these documents has been very much on barn conversions so again my apologies if your interests lie elsewhere.

Notice 719: VAT refunds for ‘do it yourself’ builders and converters

Who can claim?
You can claim if you buy eligible goods and services that are used to convert a non-residential building into a qualifying dwelling or communal residential building.

Do I need to do the work myself?
You can claim for eligible goods you buy and give to your builder to incorporate into the building (or its site) provided that the work is done before the date of completion

Conversions of non-residential buildings
What is a ‘non-residential conversion’
A ‘non-residential conversion’ takes place when the building (or part) being converted has never been used as a dwelling – and it is converted into a building designed as a dwelling.

Examples of a ‘non-residential conversion’ include the conversion of:
…an agricultural building (such as a barn) Hooray!

Will I be charged VAT on goods?
Retailers and builder’s merchants charge VAT at the standard-rate on most items they sell.

Builders, however, charge VAT on building materials that they supply and incorporate in a building (or its site) at the same rate as for their work. So, if their work is zero-rated or reduced-rated, then so are the building materials. This does not apply to ‘non-building materials’ (the VAT on which you cannot claim), which remain standard-rated.

Take care to ensure that you are charged the correct amount of VAT, as you can only reclaim VAT that has been correctly charged.

On what goods can I claim VAT?
You cannot claim for:

  • fitted furniture, other than fitted kitchen furniture…
  • most electrical and gas appliances…
  • carpets, underlay and carpet tiles…
  • garden ornaments, sheds and greenhouses;
  • plant, tools and equipment;
  • consumables that are not actually incorporated in the building (e.g. sand paper, white spirit, etc.);
  • building land…

[Building materials are] the articles [that] are ‘incorporated’ in the building (or its site).
[There is a list of acceptable building materials in section 8.11 Examples of items ‘ordinarily’ incorporated in a building]

9.1 Will I be charged VAT on services?
For conversions, a builder can sometimes charge VAT at the reduced rate of 5% or, if you are a housing association, at the zero rate.

If…you are carrying out the conversion of a non-residential building…you can claim the VAT charged by your builder for converting the building.

Further information on the liability of builder’s services and how they tax goods is explained in Notice 708 Buildings and construction [see below]

Can I make claims as the work progresses?
No. You can only make a single claim when the construction or conversion of the building is completed.
…Claims must be made no more than three months after the construction or conversion is completed…
…a building can be regarded as still under construction up until the date when a certificate of completion is issued by the local planning authority.

Notice 708: Buildings and construction [download only]

Who should read this notice?
You may find this notice useful if you:
> are a contractor or sub-contractor;
> are a developer;
> need to issue a certificate in order to obtain zero-rated or reduced-rated building work

VAT liability – Construction services
The construction of a new building and work to an existing building is normally standard-rated. There are, however, various exceptions to this.

Other [(than the conversion for a housing association of a non-residential building into a qualifying dwelling or communal residential building)] conversions of premises to a different residential use. [i.e a barn conversion] … Rate of VAT 5%

Builders, however, charge VAT on ‘building materials’ that they supply and incorporate in a building (or its site) at the same rate as for their work.

So in summary:

  • Builders should charge a VAT rate of 5% on materials that they source and their labour costs.
  • Following completion of the building a claim may me made to HMRC for any VAT that has been paid (at either the full or reduced rate). This must be within three months of completion and is a one-off event (i.e. no second chance) so keep all those invoices.

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The Healthy House

Category: Essential information May 16th, 2007 by mbc

It is only over the last few months that I’ve become aware of the concept of the healthy house. This is a design approach that focuses on the effects upon human health of the design, materials, building alignment & layout of our built environment.

In the best tradition of ‘Top-10 lists’, here’s my ten key considerations of healthy house design. Each is accompanied by some basic notes; with more detail given in the posts that each heading links to.

Air Quality
Whilst modern insulation pushes us toward living in an air-tight cocoon, our needs for clean & fresh air push us in the other direction.

Allergy Free
With allergies becoming a modern epidemic we need to ensure the materials we employ do not exasperate an already harmful situation.

Colour
We are only beginning to understand the effect that the colours that surround us have on our moods and motivations.

Cooling
Too-hot / too-cold ~ cooled in the Summer / heated in the Winter.

ElectroPollution
Another aspect of our environment we are only now starting to understand is the impact on us of the electro-magnetic fields that we weave around ourselves with electrical goods and metals.

Heating
If we use radiant heat, that warms us like the sun, do we gain the added vitality of a warm sunny day? Do traditional hot water, radiator systems drain and tire us?

Light
Natural or artificial & the impact it has on us from dawn until dusk.

Mould
Humidity levels contribute to mould growth; modern bathing habits contribute to humidity…mould spoors cause asthma, therefore, control mould.

Size, space and proportions
From basic considerations such as the practicalities of room sizes to sacred geometry.

Sound
Not only is silence golden, but sound can tie us to our surroundings, sooth us or excite us. But no-one likes the constant drone of traffic as the theme tune of their life.

These are what I feel are the 10 key design drivers we need to consider when designing our home in a healthy and to some degree sustainable, ecological & environmentally sensitive manner. If you don’t agree or have something to add them please add your comments.

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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…