Monthly Archives: April 2012

Conservation and listed building renovation specialists

Renovating and converting period buildings require a unique set of skills and experience, your conservation building specialist will not only need the practical skills to complete the renovations but also experience on how to finish the details. It is one thing being able to complete lime plastering and rendering but as with all renovations to period property the devil is in the detail. Swept and corner details on items like window reveals may have been lost through previous unsympathetic building work so the original detail on your building may not be able to be copied. Experienced conservation contractors will look at the period of the property and the architectural style and will be able to advise on these details. Joiners, roofers and other members of the restoration specialist contractor’s team will finish lead works and external joinery detail to make sure it is appropriate to the original style and keep the building true to its heritage. Good heritage and conservation building specialist contractors will share your passion for period buildings and like all purists will each have a particular period or building style that ignites their love of old buildings. Conservation building specialists will be able to offer advice on how to layout your conservation building project to stop modern items like gas and electric meters from spoiling the look and feel of your conservation building renovation. There is always some conflict between modern essentials that would not have been used when the building was constructed and keeping the building true to its origins. Although conservation officers will not allow you to make certain alterations to the building exterior these guidelines are often updated and fine tuned. Conservation building repair and renovation specialist will keep up to date on these guidelines and regulations. Any major building renovation will trigger a building notice or full plans submission to the local building control department or a private building inspector. This is important because it keeps your building up to safety and thermal efficiency regulations. However there is always a certain degree of compromise to be made between the wishes of the conservation officer and the building inspector. Your building contractor can make these compromises much easier drawing on their experience and knowledge of the building regulations and period building expertise. This knowledge and experience could potentially save you thousands of pounds of unnecessary work, so choosing the lowest building tender is not always the best way to control your budget. It is often said that the bitter taste of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of a cheap price is forgotten, and with specialist renovations and restorations this is most certainly the case.

Structural steel building specialists

Structural steel is used in many buildings from new builds through to renovations and building conversions. It is also used in remedial structural building repairs and alterations, so you may need to use structural steel in a home extension or renovation project. The most commonly used steels are RSJ’s this stands for rolled steel joists. These steels are sometimes called “I section beams”, you will need to employ a competent building contractor who can check that the steels are the correct specification or obtain calculations from a structural engineer. A good building contractor or structural engineer can potentially save you thousands of pounds through clever design and their experience on other building contracts or building projects. There are other steel products used in building projects and building repairs. These products range from items like Heli tie crack stitching bars used to tie in various cracks and loose sections of masonry and walls. Through to bespoke special order lintels, these are often used to allow more elaborate designs such as removing the corners of building to allow for door openings in contemporary home extensions. With home owner increasingly choosing more interesting and exciting design options for their building projects. The use of structural steel work is become more and more common in even small and simple home extensions. With television programmes like Kevin McCloud’s Grand Design and Sarah Benny’s Property ladder home owners and property developers have an appetite for more interesting and unusual building design options. Steels like ridge beams allow for open roof and vaulted ceilings to be built with large open plan spaces. The strength of steel beams means that they can span larger rooms than the more traditional standard joist design. RSJ’s are also used to “break spans”, this means that much shallower joists can be used. This building technique is often useful in loft conversions and renovations to older buildings like barn conversions. When architects are designing conversions to unusual buildings like churches into residential use or apartment’s structural steel work is a critical part of the building design. Architects will produce planning drawings that give the basic layout and look of the building or conversion. Then once planning permission has been granted architects and designers need to produce working drawings or building regulation drawings. It is at this point that they start to look at how a building will work structurally. They need to prove to the local authority building control department that the design they have created will work in practice under part “A” of the UK building regulations. They will use a structural engineer to prove the steel work and beams will do their intended job. These calculations are mathematical sums that prove the loadings and stresses that the steel components will be placed under. The building project design team will pass these documents to the local authority building control department or a private firm of building inspectors. Then these calculations are checked to make sure the design team have considered all the loadings, stresses and any other structural considerations that will affect these components. Some structural building products like standard lintels come with calculations and loadings that allow them to be used without calculations. However the building inspector will check how these are used on site and make sure they are not put under extra loadings by point loading or other stresses that could affect their structural integrity.

Property continues to become cheaper to buy as UK mortgage rates drop

The past year has seen mortgage rates drop in the UK making it increasingly easier for potential property buyers. Recent studies have shown that the average five year fixed rate has reduced in the last year from 5.59 down to a new rate now at 4.89. The five year fixed rate remains a favourite deal amongst first time buyers and people choosing to remortgage for home improvements or a home extension. The mortgage interest rate is only one half of most home buyers or home owner’s wish list. The loan to value rate or the amount of deposit required is often the biggest driver for those wishing to secure a new home loan. With many home owners choosing to stay put and opt for home improvements or a home extension remortgaging is a good option. With home extensions starting from as little as fifteen thousand pounds adding extra space or an extra bedroom can prove far more economically viable than moving house.

Period property extension specialists building contractors

When selecting a contractor for a home extension it can be a challenge to feel absolute confidence in the contractor you have selected for your home extension. With a period property extension this can be even more of a challenge, when planning a home extension there is a great deal to think about. With a period property the attention to detail is even greater. You do not have to just think about brick match you have to consider the brick pattern it could be English bond, English garden wall? The mortar colour, joint widths and pointing finishing also need to match the main residence. There are other considerations like the roof design matching tiles and lead finishing details is only part of the picture. You also have to consider joinery detail, fake purlins or weather boarding under the eaves and roof pitches. Your extension plans may suit a lower pitched roof but does this match the traditional roof pitches and design of the architectural period style? This is before you have even give a thought to the window section profiles, design of rain water goods or other external finishing’s. Then there is the interior to consider? Do you need to match period details like plaster cornice, ceiling roses or window and door frame architraves? What about plinth blocks and matching internal doors. In early Victorian or late Gregorian period properties simple and cheap materials like soft woods were carefully crafted and machined in elaborate details to create a sense of grandeur and style. So when choosing a building contractor for a period property or conservation area extension make sure you see pervious examples of their work. Do they have the knowledge and expertise to create a home extension that will add and not detract from your period property?

Construction industry slips back into recession

Figures from the office of National Statistics have shown the construction industry has returned to recession with a 3% fall in construction turn over. The reduction in the figures for the construction industry has been attributed to both reductions in public and private sector spending. With the public sector cuts in spending it is bound to have a knock on effect in public sector spending on construction projects. With the order books of the construction sector showing painful falls of 14% in 2011 from an already low point the medium term looks like a difficult time for the construction industry. It is a well published figure that for every pound spent in the construction industry it generates a further £2.84 for the economy as a whole. The current predictions are that the construction industry will suffer further falls this year and will remain flat next year.

Chairman invests heavily in house builders

The chairman and founder of Redrow the well know house building firm has invested heavily in the firm in fact to a level that requires shareholders approval. The additional funds will be utilised to expand its London division and for the purchase of strategic land opportunities throughout the country. Redrow like many other house builders can see many opportunities to acquire good value sites to add to their forward land bank. House builders and property developers are increasingly looking for traditional, bridge and mezzanine funding. This will allow them to take advantage of the opportunities that are available, as banks and receivers are increasingly agitated at having cash tied up in sites. These land and site owners by default are increasingly motivated to off load sites in exchange for cash. Their urge for liquidity has converted into some good value sites and opportunities. The other option for site owners is to undertake a joint venture property development. This is when the land owner carries out a joint venture property development with a main building contractor. The land is put into the deal at cost and the construction is usually carried out at cost with the profits usually split fifty fifty on the sales.

New build development schemes allow buyers to buy with only 5% deposit

The government backed newbuy scheme allows home buyers to take advantage of this unique scheme that offers 95% mortgages. There is of course set criteria but if you want a new build property with a capital value of less than £500,000 and you want a capital and repayment mortgage the scheme could suite you. The newbuy scheme also only accepts home buyers that will use their new build properties as their main residence. It excludes second home buyers, landlords and buy to let property investors. The buyers must also be UK citizens and qualify for a mortgage in the usual manner. The sales that the scheme generates will be good news for house builders and developers as well as the construction industry. The number of new build properties has been languishing at record low levels since the beginning of the economic down turn. This year it appears that the world of property development and house building has started the first steps of a revival. Although many of these developments are still under the radar many professionals in the construction industry are reporting increased activity. Just as the property sector gradually shut down production, with many architects, quantity surveyors and structural engineers being the first to suffer reduced workloads. The reverse is becoming true with activity in the design and consultancy sectors of the property industry showing increased orders.

Tips for property development

The basic concept of property development is simple you buy a site or property for one price. Then spend your construction budget on the construction phase of the project. Then achieve the sales price or GDV as it is referred to in the industry, that’s Gross Development Value. The difference between the cost of the purchase price with the construction costs added and the uplift to the gross development value leaves the gross development profit minus finance costs and professional fees. What’s left is the net development profit, so there are three main figures which much be absolutely correct to achieve the gross development profit. These are the site purchase price, the construction costs and the gross development value, if the first two are too large or the last too small, the development will fail commercially. Before you commit to undertake any property development you should carry out a property development appraisal. This will vary in size and complexity in line with the size and complexity of the development. Working backward check the gross development values by looking at suitable comparables, other properties of similar size, location and specification, and what sales prices they have achieved. For the build costs on simple developments ask good local contractors to give you some provisional build costs. For larger or more complex property development it is worth considering employing the services of a Quantity Surveyor or QS as they are often called or an experienced development manager. They will be able to advise not just on build costs but also on the soft costs, professional fees, structural engineers, architects, connection charges for statutory supplies, gas, electric, water, etc and 106’s or other planning related costs. The last variable cost is the land, site or property purchase price. This is often where property developers make the most profit by buying a site cheaply and then obtaining a change of use by sub division or other planning gains. The value of the site usually increases sometime dramatically when planning permission is gained. This uplift in capital value is called a planning gain, this cash locked into the site or property give any development a good financial start. It is possible to reduce costs through the project by tight controls on the build costs and property development finance charges but these savings are no substitute for buying wisely and obtaining a profitable planning gain.

Tips for modern home extensions

Home extensions have moved on dramatically over the last ten years, previously they where just built to match the existing house. Now home owners often chose to add a contemporary home extension. One of the biggest items on home owner’s wish list is usually a light and airy space. This can be achieved in a number of ways using double aspect windows, this is windows in the same room on different elevations. This allows sunlight to entry a room as the sun moves during the day. This has the most noticeable effect in spring and autumn. The other is the use of roof lights or Velux windows, a roof window will let in far more light than a conventional window. So many home owners chose to opt for an open or warm roof design adding extra ceiling height and a feeling of space and grandeur. The use of glass and glass technology has become more prevalent in recent years. This can be added in the form of by-folding doors, glass partitions, stair cases and even complete glass roofs, supported with structural glass beams and glass purlins. Do not forget to make your home extension equally spectacular in the evenings with the use of cleaver lighting design. Think just as much about the items that you do not want to see, plan storage carefully and socket positions. Beautiful home extensions are soon spoilt by clutter and trailing electrical appliance cables. Think too about the position of external items, gas and electric meter boxes, drainage man holes and rodding eyes. Guttering can be used to hide joints where old and new brickwork meet so take the time to consider these items. Get input from a good architect someone with experience of the type of home extension you want. Ask contractors for their advice, they have often spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of other client’s money and are in a unique position to have seen what has worked well and ideas that were less successful. It is another good idea to visit exhibitions like the building and renovation show, the ideal home exhibition or grand designs live. These shows often feature exhibitors who are selling the latest materials and product technology. Look at their sales literature are there any pictures of similar projects for inspiration?

Do I need a planning consultant?

If you have property or land that you want to change the use on you may well go to an architect but often the best person for this job is a planning consultant. If it is a larger residential scheme or a commercial scheme it is probably best left to the expert, a planning consultant. They work more like a lawyer than an architect looking at case law and precedence rather than drawing plans and asking for approval. The first stage for a larger scheme is to start with a feasibility study these can be as little as a thousand pounds which considered against the capital value of the planning gain is relevantly small. The planning gain is the value of the site once planning permission is granted minus the value of the site preplanning. Some planning consultants will “work at risk”, this when they carry out various studies transport, need for the new proposed development and finding a suitable case to put forward for the development. They do not charge for the work they carry out instead they take a percentage of the planning gain. This is speculative on their part because if the development does not go ahead they do not get paid. It also acts as motivation to make sure they make the maximum effort to obtain the planning application.