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

Category: News December 14th, 2012 by mbc

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 governments current favoured gas powered path to the future will actually cost us more than greener alternatives. According to the Guardian reporting today on findings of the Committee on Climate Change (one of the governments own advisory bodies) “Household energy bills will be about £600 higher per year in the coming decades if the UK relies increasingly on gas“. This in comparison to “bills would only be £100 higher than today’s average dual fuel bill of about £1,300, if the country concentrated on renewable power generation, such as wind power.“. Hhmmmm, something doesn’t add up.

What makes us think that gas can sustain us into the future? Well that brings us to fracking. Fracking is currently an emotive subject, with a recent governmental green light to allow further exploration following a couple of earth-quakes caused by its exploratory application in the north of England, what exactly does it mean? Well it relates to the technique of liberating flammable gases from inshore rock using water pumped under high pressure. The Department for the Environment and Climate Change website has some interesting further reading for the interested. In short, we’re not sure how much gas fracking may yield, so to base an energy policy on it is somewhat hopeful.

Seems to me energy self-sufficiency is the only path we have to any kind of individual certainty.

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Building Progress November 2012

Category: Barn Conversion Journal December 10th, 2012 by mbc

The weather, time & family illness have pretty well shutdown progress this month.

One thing I’ve managed has been sealing the wooden kitchen furniture. After some research Danish oil seemed to be the best option. I didn’t want a hard varnish or anything too unnatural on the worktops so I was happy with an oil based finish and of those on offer Danish oil seemed the best. I sanded out ‘most’ of the stains – one particularly stubborn red wine stain wouldn’t give in to my sanding & cleaning efforts and so remains embedded in the wood as my kind of signature. I’d only intended sealing the worktops, but as usual with these sort of jobs, once you start, you end up increasing the scope and doing the lot. I’m pleased with the finish as it gives the birch a lovely rich finish.

I’m also on the verge of getting the completion certificate for building reg’s…. more on this to come…

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Flanking manoeuvres and good design…

Category: News November 16th, 2012 by mbc

It seems that the government are undertaking flanking manoeuvres on green belt protection through the new Economic Development Bill. My scepticism spews forth driven from several sources including, Nick Boles MP recent comments that the green belt is only safe “for now“, the forth-coming aforementioned Bill that reportedly will look to sacrifice the green belt at the altar of the construction industry and Eric Pickles commitment to protect the green belt “the green belt plays a vital role in stopping urban sprawl and we will protect it“. I can’t help but read that like the board of a football club backing the current manager, there’s usually a stab in the back behind the fine words of reassurance.

This caused me to think again about one of the documentary foundations of all this change and threat, the National Planning Policy Framework.

Burrowing through it again, I found this intriguing section that I wanted to share (apologies for the hacked about editing):

7. Requiring good design
56. The Government attaches great importance to the design of the built environment. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning, and should contribute positively to making places better for people.

Planning policies and decisions should aim to ensure that developments:
> will function well and add to the overall quality of the area, not just for the short term but over the lifetime of the development;

> respond to local character and history, and reflect the identity of local surroundings and materials, while not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation;

59. Local planning authorities should consider using design codes where they could help deliver high quality outcomes. However, design policies should avoid unnecessary prescription or detail and should concentrate on guiding the overall scale, density, massing, height, landscape, layout, materials and access of new development in relation to neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally.

60. Planning policies and decisions should not attempt to impose architectural styles or particular tastes and they should not stifle innovation, originality or initiative through unsubstantiated requirements to conform to certain development forms or styles. It is, however, proper to seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness.

61. Although visual appearance and the architecture of individual buildings are very important factors, securing high quality and inclusive design goes beyond aesthetic considerations. Therefore, planning policies and decisions should address the connections between people and places and the integration of new development into the natural, built and historic environment.

63. In determining applications, great weight should be given to outstanding or innovative designs which help raise the standard of design more generally in the area.

64. Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions.

65. Local planning authorities should not refuse planning permission for buildings or infrastructure which promote high levels of sustainability because of concerns about incompatibility with an existing townscape, if those concerns have been mitigated by good design (unless the concern relates to a designated heritage asset and the impact would cause material harm to the asset or its setting which is not outweighed by the proposal’s economic, social and environmental benefits).

66. Applicants will be expected to work closely with those directly affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community. Proposals that can demonstrate this in developing the design of the new development should be looked on more favourably.

National Planning Policy Framework page 14

Quite simply, who decides what is good design? That statement seems to try and cover all the bases and fails to cover any of them: have design policies but don’t enforce them, let ‘good’ design over-rule all else, let everyone decide…

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What is a shadow gap?

Category: Architecture November 12th, 2012 by mbc

A recorded episode of Grand Designs introduced me to shadow gaps. Apparently the gaps had cost £10,000 in the house in question. One of the patrons questioned the wisdom of this architect led spend and that left me wondering, just what are shadow gaps?

Well, it turns out they are a grandiose term for a space between two surfaces. For example between the frame of a set of shutters and the window frame / wall against which they are installed (as in the photograph below) or between a plastered wall and a door lining. By leaving a narrow gap, the two surfaces ‘float’ apart rather than being butted up tightly together. The gap will usually be in shadow and when properly executed is both attractive to the eye and practical in that it leaves a gap to allow breathing, contraction or expansion. Also, where installing a new surface alongside a pre-existing one the shadow gap introduces a margin for error and removes the need for exact millimetre perfect measuring. This can be seen in the photograph of the shutters I installed retrospectively in the barn below – a relatively quick and easy job, made much easier by the gap between the wall and the shutters frame.

From Shutters

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Flue guard completed

Category: Barn Conversion Journal November 8th, 2012 by mbc

As I’ve previously mentioned, with the flue from the multi-fuel stove running through the second bedroom without being boxed in or otherwise closed off there was a need to provide a guard in order to conform with building regulations Document J section 1.45. The flue requires a long, tall, open-topped guard and with no suitable shop bought options and my internet searches yielding no made to measure options, do-it-yourself was the only option.


From Barn Conversion 2012

The guard is constructed from perforated steel sheets and aluminium bars, that have been cut to size with a combination of a hack saw and a disk cutter then stuck together with a resin ‘welding’ paste. It all sits on a wooden plinth.


From Barn Conversion 2012

One important addition was the sloping top that stops you from using the angles at the top of the guard as shelving or to hang discarded clothing from thereby introducing a fire risk (as was the tendency before the sloping top was added).

After hours of cutting, sticking, clamping and waiting – Done!

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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…