Step 7 = high level design

Your design ethos will be the very highest level of your design.

Beneath that the next level of your design is to define the major systems, materials and design elements that you want to incorporate into your project. No need to be too specific initially … start vague and define…

Here’s a checklist to get you started:

Roof – construction material, requirements for attic space?
Walls – for a conversion your hands are usually tied but you’ll need to consider insulation, finishes and any remedial work.
Floor – floor levels are dictated by a heady blend of building reg’s, foundations, ceiling height and final finishes – you need to consider each of these – tricky!
Space usages and purposes. Rooms – what, where and why?
Internal partitions & walls – materials and finishes.
Heating – space and water. What are your input systems?
Lighting – natural (free) and artifical (paid for).
Water – rainwater harvesting?
Electricity – feed-in tariffs may help you fund your PV panels or wind turbine.
Insulation – cuts across many of these items, but worth considering in isolation as well.
External space and surroundings – gardens, patios and outside rooms, again what, where and why?
Fixtures and fittings – furniture (materials and finished), appliances (energy ratings) etc.

I’ll go into each of these over coming weeks and months…

Step 6 = define your design ethos

Decide upon your design ethos.

Much as I hate the pretentious word ethos I think it’s essential to define what you want to achieve. To continue on a pretentious theme whilst shifting into the world of business speak to define your terms of reference.

For example, do you want a eco-minimalist, ‘healthy house’ or country kitchen style (or perhaps try to blend all three for a unique yet barmy finish)?

There are many ways to approach your design and approach is not something to consider as your build comes to a close and you start thinking about final finishes or at some other predefined stage but right up front before you begin to make too many decisions and draw too many lines in the sand.

What do you like, what can you afford, what will your building, building regulations and the planners allow? – Answer these questions and you’ll be getting there.

By the way – our ethos on this project is, to carry out a:

‘Healthy House’ and (not ultra) modern NOT National Trust gravel and trees in pots barn conversion.

…pick the bones out of that one!

Step 5 = project management

Answer these:

Question: So once you’ve started, who will bring it all together?

Question: Can you handle the potential loss of control of the project of delegating some responsibilities?

Question: Do you have the experience to bring together such a complex project?

Question: Will the role be fulfilled by you or someone you pay (an architect or building project manager)?

Question: What professionals are available in your locality with the appropriate skills and experience?

I think by the time you’ve worked through those you’re going to have a pretty good idea of the way to go and the shape your project is going to take.

For us, as both of us have extensive project management experience we’ve taken the leap (along with support from a very competent designer) to manage the project ourselves.

Wish us luck!

Step 4 = design owner / design implementer

(or … will you employ an architect?)

We have some strong opinions about how we wanted the conversion to be.

We’re keen on a natural finish, wanting to avoid the dark stained timber, olde worlde kitchens & stairs and gravel often to be found in and around a stereo-typical barn conversion. Our aim is to blend traditional rustic design with modern design; the material and furnishings will reflect this blending.

So the question you need to answer is who fulfil the roles of design owner and design implementer? In other words who will derive the initial design (design owner), then carry it through to implementation in your completed building (design implementer)?

This is where an architect can come in – sharing these roles with the other stakeholders (the client, builders, planners etc.) as well as bringing experience and knowledge to your project. This will all come at a price (budget 15-20% of the total project cost). This is obviously a decision you need to make for yourselves, based upon, your aspirations skills, the clarity of your design vision and budget.

With strong ideas of our own and our inability to find a local full service architect, we chose to not employ a full service architect.