Your Questions

Some of the most frequently asked questions

We’ve tried to answer some of your most common questions. It’s not possible to provide answers to all questions as projects can be complex and there may be many factors which need to be considered. If you can’t find an answer below you can always ask us?

Disclaimer: The information below is given in good faith and is current at the time when posted. This information is for guidance only and should not be relied upon. Always seek good professional advice.

 

Our Services

We provide a vast array of services and can help you in many different ways – We don’t simply draw plans or put lines on paper.

  • Feasibility exercises for site development
  • Site master planning for development
  • School development plans – Understanding future development options for schools
  • 3D visualisations
  • Sun studies to understand solar shading on buildings and sites
  • Eco design advice for low energy and sustainable buildings
  • Project management from first meeting to completion of construction
  • Advice for setting up project teams
  • Building contract management and administration
  • “Principal Designer” role under CDM 2015 when workings as lead designer
  • Planning applications
  • Planning pre-application submissions and consultations with Local Planning Authorities
  • Listed Building applications
  • Scheduled monument applications
  • Design & Access Statements to support planning applications
  • Sourcing and commissioning detailed building surveys and reports required, for example Planning Applications
  • Coordinate planning appeals – Hopefully not needed!
  • Building Regulation applications
  • Preparing pre-construction information
  • Construction drawings and specifications
  • Issuing information for competitive tender
  • Oversee building works on site
  • Site inspections and quality management
  • Cost control
  • Valuations and certification of work in progress
  • Snagging – Quality inspections
  • Host meetings and provide excellent cake!
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM)
As a Chartered Architect’s practice we’re regulated by the Royal Insitute of British Architects (RIBA), so you can be sure we have the highest professional standards. We bring impartial and creative thinking to projects large and small, whether you are constructing, adapting or expanding a building.
Thinking Buildings have invested heavily in BIM. A process by which we can accurately model your building and from which we can produce virtually all the information we need for your project. We now use this process on the vast majority of our projects. As we produce all stages of the model in-house, we can ensure your scheme is developed accurately and we’re able to produce 3D views as required. We can work with other consultants who use similar software to develop coordinated design packages. Your building can be fully proto-typed and tested in our computers before being built on site. Here’s a video which explain it a little more.

 

Planning And Building Control

The most simple of question with possibly the most complicated answer. There isn’t a simple answer unfortunately. For houses (domestic) there is some simple(ish) guidance here. For commercial (Schools/offices or anything not domestic) you need advice. Why not ask us?
The national Planning Portal provide loads of information relating to planning applications. Click here

Your local Council should notify neighbours who are affected by the application. This is the judgment of planning officers and not everyone who thinks they ought to have been informed gets a letter. Whether you received a letter or not you can object to any planning application.

How can I object?

You can write, email or sometimes post an objection on the Council website.

There is no restriction on what you can say about a planning application, but your Council will not take into account any objection which they think is libellous, racist or offensive. There is no point in putting things in your letter which are not relevant to planning, because by law the Council can only take into account the planning issues and must not allow themselves to be influenced by other considerations.

What can I object to?

  • Adverse effect on the residential amenity of neighbours, by reason of (among other factors) noise*, disturbance*, overlooking, loss of privacy, overshadowing, etc. [*but note that this does not include noise or disturbance arising from the actual execution of the works, which will not be taken into account]
  • Unacceptably high density / overdevelopment of the site, especially if it involves loss of garden land or the open aspect of the neighbourhood (so-called ‘garden grabbing’).
  • Visual impact of the development.
  • Effect of the development on the character of the neighbourhood.
  • Design (including bulk and massing, detailing and materials, if these form part of the application).
  • The proposed development is over-bearing, out-of-scale or out of character in terms of its appearance compared with existing development in the vicinity.
  • The loss of existing views from neighbouring properties that would adversely affect the residential amenity of neighbouring owners.
  • If in a Conservation Area, an adverse effect of the development on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.
  • If near a Listed Building, an adverse effect of the development on the setting of the Listed Building.
  • The development would adversely affect highway safety or the convenience of road users (but only if there is technical evidence to back up such a claim).

What objections are not relevant and will not be taken into account?

  • The precise identity of the applicant.
  • The racial or ethnic origin of the applicant, their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political views or affiliations or any other personal attributes.
  • The reasons or motives of the applicant in applying for planning permission (for example if the development is thought to be purely speculative).
  • Any profit likely to be made by the applicant.
  • The behaviour of the applicant.
  • Nuisance or annoyance previously caused by the applicant (unless this relates to an existing development for which retrospective permission is being sought).
  • Concerns about possible future development of the site (as distinct from the actual development which is currently being proposed).
  • Any effect on the value of neighbouring properties.

This is a brief summary of what is very complex planning law. The law does change and you should always seek specialist advice.

Under PD you are able to undertake certain projects without needing planning permission. As with everything in planning the rules can be complex and up to some interpretation. There are lots of guides and advice out on the internet, but you should stick to the official information and take professional advice. Some useful links are:

The Code for Sustainable Homes was launched by the Government as part of a package of measures towards zero carbon development. It was withdrawn in 2015. If you’ve had a planning application approved after 26 March 2015 and before September 2015 you might be interested to know the Government’s policy is that where there is an existing local council plan policy which references the Code, authorities may continue to only apply a requirement for a water efficiency standard equivalent to the new national technical standard (aligned to Code Level 3), and/or, in the case of energy performance, set a standard equivalent to the (outgoing) Code Level 4 requirements. You might want to check your planning conditions as you may be able to have the condition amended to avoid unnecessary design and consultant fees.
To find out if your house is at risk of flooding click here

 

Energy Efficiency And Eco Design

Have a look at the Energy Saving Trust. A non-profit organisation funded mostly by the British Government in order to help fight climate change by promoting the sustainable use of energy, energy conservation and to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom. Click here
The Passivhaus Trust is an independent, non-profit organisation that provides leadership in the UK for the adoption of the Passivhaus standard and methodology. Click here
It is a system offering financial support for the generation of renewable heat and therefore aims to encourage the uptake of renewable technologies. It is designed to level the playing field between the cost of renewable and traditional fossil fuel systems. If you comply with the rules you will be able to receive quarterly payments for 7 years on the renewable energy you produce.

There are two schemes (domestic and not domestic). Each one has different tariffs, joining conditions, rules and application processes.

Domestic RHI – This applies when the renewable heating system only heats one property. You must also be able to provide an Energy Performance Certificate which gives information on the properties energy use and highlights recommendations on how to save money and reduce energy. These are required every time you buy, sell or rent a property.

Non-Domestic RHI – This scheme generally applies if the heating system is in a commercial, public or industrial premises. This can include small and large businesses, hospitals, schools and organisations where one system serves multiple homes

For more information on the Renewable Heat Incentive click here.

An air source heat pump (ASHP) looks similar to an air conditioning unit and is usually placed outdoors at the side or back of your property. The pump needs electricity to run, but will use less electrical energy than the heat energy it produces. The system works by absorbing heat from the outside air, and raising its temperature sufficiently so that it can be used for space heating and/or hot water.

How do they work? – The easiest way to understand the operation of a heat pump is to imagine a fridge in reverse. Heat pumps combine a small amount of electrical energy with heat energy from the outside air. This energy is then used to heat refrigerant in a process known as the ‘vapour compression cycle’ which provides the necessary heating for your house and water.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of an air heat pump?

The main advantages of an air source heat pump are:

  • They generate less C02, so they’re better for the environment.
  • They need little maintenance once they’re installed.
  • A good choice if you don’t have mains gas and rely on oil or LPG.
  • You can use them for cooling in summer.
  • Can be easily connected into existing systems.
  • They use electricity more efficiently than electric heating units.
  • You could be eligible for grants and even payments. (Renewable Heat Incentive)

Disadvantages:

  • You need a suitable property with sufficient space to fit the unit outside.
  • Ideally, your property should have underfloor heating installed to maximise the efficiency of the heat produced.
  • Underfloor heating can be cooler than traditional radiator units, so you may need to run the system continually. It also takes longer to respond when you want to raise or lower the temperature.
  • You won’t see much of a saving if you’re switching from mains natural gas.

‘Build tight, ventilate right’! – This has been the rallying cry of experts within the industry for over a decade now. It is until only recently that people have begun to take notice.

For many people in the UK, the concept of having an airtight home seems unpleasant. I don’t want to live in a plastic bag –  being a typical response as airtight homes are viewed as being unhealthy. However, perceptions are changing and people are beginning to realise just how important it is in order to achieve a true low energy home.

A low energy home is often thought of as a building with lots of insulation within the walls and roof resulting in less heat loss. Although this is true, there comes a point at which adding more insulation doesn’t make your building significantly more energy efficient.

At this point, heat lost through air movement through gaps in your building’s envelope becomes a much more important factor. Air leakage, as it is often referred to, can be caused by either the buoyancy effect of air or by the pressure difference created by the wind blowing on your home. This can significantly increase the heating demands on a house.

Buoyancy: As air warms up within your house, it expands and becomes less dense, causing it to rise upwards and leak out through gaps in your house at higher level. The air that is lost from your house is then replaced by colder external air which is drawn in through gaps at lower level. This air leakage is commonly experienced as cold draughts!

Wind: As wind blows against your house, colder outside air will be forced under pressure through any gaps in it. On the adjacent side of your house, the external air pressure will be lower and will therefore draw warmer air from inside your house out through any gaps.

So how is a building made airtight? – The key principle for achieving airtightness is to create a single, continuous and robust airtight layer. This layer surrounds the heated volume of the building and is generally located on the warm side of the insulation. It is crucial that the appropriate materials are specified to form the airtight barrier so that it is virtually impermeable!

So how do airtight homes maintain good air quality if they are so airtight!? – This is where the ‘ventilate’ bit of the equation comes in. Airtight homes rely on whole-house mechanical ventilation systems. These remove poor quality air which passes over a heat exchanger on its exit. The retained heat is then transferred to the fresh, cool air entering the building.

Ultimately, there are 3 elements to a low energy home. Lots of insulation, airtightness and a whole-house ventilation system. The first won’t work without the second and the second won’t work without the third. Combine all 3 and you’ll end up with a low energy, comfortable home with good air quality!

 

Constructing Your Building

Try the National Custom & Self Build Association for a wealth of information to get you started. Click here
Across three decades Natural Building Technologies has been dedicated to offering simple, robust and effective systems for better building. NBT provides high performance, sustainable building shell solutions for both new build and renovation, with systems tested, approved and certified by BBA, LABC and others. Click here
Zinc has been known about and used for thousands of years (originally as zinc ore). It has been used for medical purposes, but also for jewellery before being used in buildings. You can read more about the history here.

Around the turn of the 18th century a process had been developed to form zinc into sheets. Initially it was used for roofs, gutters and downpipes, but is now commonly used on walls and facades.

Zinc might be seen as a modern or contemporary material, but while it can be used in these situations, it is a very traditional material which means it can be successfully used on older buildings and sensitive situations such as conservation areas, with appropriate consideration. It can be used in a similar way in which lead and copper (and even stainless steel) can be used to form roof and wall cladding panels.

So why do we use it?

  • Robust material which is naturally resistant to corrosion and decay.
  • Formed in long sheets and can be joined together with seams.
  • Can be used on very low pitched roofs, but equally in vertical applications.
  • Can be curved or faceted.
  • Aesthetically very attractive.
  • Used in traditionaland modern designs.

If you’re interested in how you might use this material feel free to get in contact.

thermoplan

A clay block system is a form of engineered masonry construction that replaces the traditional combination of two masonry skins tied together and filled with insulation, with a single block.

Having been used across Europe for over 30 years, the clay is mixed with sawdust particles which burns off during the firing process and extruded with vertical perforations; the combination of voids and micro-pores give the block unique thermal properties, which can be super-insulated with additional external insulation if necessary.

Planed to a tolerance of 0.5mm, and typically laid using a 1mm thin bed mortar system applied using a roller, the system is incredibly simple and fast to build, while complying with the highest of standards.

Suitable for low-rise buildings up to four storeys, clay blocks can be used in any construction sector, and while they are typically rendered, it is not uncommon to see them clad in brick, stone, or timber.

So what are the main benefits?

  • Very simple and quick construction method (3-4 times faster than other masonry systems)
  • Excellent thermal insulation
  • Simple detailing minimises thermal bridging
  • Blocks thermal mass controls over-heating.
  • Simple route to good, long-lasting air-tightness.
  • Breathable construction that improving indoor air quality.
  • Full system including lintels, mortars, plasters, renders, fixings etc
  • Sustainable, achieving BREEAM Green Guide A rating