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Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part A Structural Safety

Category: Essential information September 5th, 2012 by mbc

Part A is about ensuring that all new buildings are structurally safe.

As of the date of writing, Part A was last revised in 2010.

The approved documents descibe the requirements in three parts:

  • A1 Loading
  • A2 Ground movement
  • A3 Disproportionate collapse

There’s lots of building and construction nerd material in Part A – plenty of information on the required thicknesses of walls, the maximum height of buildings, wind speeds and their impact on building design, masonry chimney proportions and maximum floor areas.

Specifically from a conversion perspective, the material on differences in ground levels on either side of a wall may make for interesting reading for those seeking clarity in trying to juggle with shallow foundations, lowering internal floors to gain head-room and exterior ground levels that have accumulated over time.

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Wabi-sabi and my mossy step

Category: Barn Conversion Journal August 21st, 2012 by mbc

I was just about to begin stripping the moss from the shaded face of the garden steps when I was reminded of the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi.

Wabi-sabi, is a Japanese aesthetic concept that beauty can be found in impermanence, transience, and imperfection.

So embracing the concept, I saved myself a job, spared the moss and left the steps alone…

From Barn Conversion 2012

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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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Art – design – form – function #FrankLloydWright

Category: Architecture July 10th, 2012 by mbc

I was rather taken with this Frank Lloyd Wright observation that succinctly encapsulates the relationship between art and functional objects.

Art is a discovery and development of elementary principles of nature into beautiful forms suitable for human use.

With reference to contemporary architecture, I think that the ‘beautiful forms’ part is too often overlooked in all but the most high-end projects.

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User Centred Design: Towards a New Sustainable Architecture

Category: Architecture June 5th, 2012 by mbc

I’ve previously mentioned the design ethos of Dieter Rams and this blog post on made for a delightful reintroduction User Centred Design: Towards a New Sustainable Architecture.

This quote from Dieter Rams contained in the post draws a really important line between designer and artist…

A designer who wants to achieve good design must not regard himself as an artist who, according to taste and aesthetics, is merely dressing up products with a last-minute garment. The designer must be the “gestaltingenieur” or creative engineer.

The phrase creative engineer sums up the hands-on grittyness coupled with blue-sky thinking that is required of a good designer.

Dieter’s 10 commandments of what constitutes good design are well worth listing…

Long lasting
Thorough to the last detail
Environmentally friendly
As little design as possible!

The blog post goes on to make some interesting points in regard to user centered architectural design, that is design that requires the designer to…

…create spaces specifically designed around the needs of their users, which reinforce the cultural and philosophical values that they hold. They are not interested initially in what the building will look like, but how it works and what benefits it will bring in terms of reinforcing their values and how it will deliver measurable improvements in the way they conduct their core activities.

The post continues with a call-to-arms for…

a radical new sustainable architecture, moulded and shaped to satisfy the needs of its intended users. It will be rational, logical and inherently beautiful and most importantly, capable of responding to the massive challenges that our society faces.

…that is User Centred Design through which we can establish a new Sustainable Architecture.

Worth a read.

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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…

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 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…”


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


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…


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…