This guide is written to give you an idea of our understanding of how a construction project should proceed;
The fundamental principle of my service is that almost every aspect of a project can be specified before it starts - and that using 3D design, you can have the best chance of making those decisions. Uncertainty leads to changes, and once a project begins, you are tied to a single contractor - any variations you want to make to the job you asked them to do at the beginning can be charged for at their discretion.
I cannot make every decision for you, and I may have to direct you to find information from suppliers or subcontractors directly to help you with the specification of specialist items - I cannot contract to firms on your behalf. My approach is very much one of involving my clients in their projects - be prepared to do some thinking, some research and investigations, to give you the best chance of getting things right!
My design Process:
The design process begins with a meeting - relationships and trust are critical throughout the construction process. At the initial meeting we can get to know one another, talk about your ideas and aspirations. If we gel, I can go ahead and take some measurements for the 3D model.
When the 3D model is ready, I can come back to you for the all important design session. Everyone who has a stake in the project should be there, as decisions and discussions will happen that shape the future of the project: in the case of a home, the project will shape your own lives into the future, so it's really important to get the first steps right!
The design session usually last around 3 hours, and can be emotional, so quite like a movie! By the end of the session, we should all have a clear idea of where the project is headed, the model can be tidied up after the session, and tweaks will usually be made in the days and weeks after the session – we communicate using both plans, and 3D models that you can download to your PC / Mac / iPad / Tablet or Smartphone. If you're very far away from my office in Oxford, we can use the internet to hold a virtual design session, if you have a good connection.
For your peace of mind, Shared Vision Limited, protects you with public liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance.
While I am designing, I'll consider whether you'll need planning permission:
The government allows certain kinds of building work to be carried out without planning permission – these include:
For commercial developers:
The conversion of offices into residential accommodation
Certain types of:
Roof extensions on the back or side of a house Side extensions Rear extensions New or additional windows Garages, sheds and outbuildings.
Permitted development may give you scope to do work that you would not be allowed to do if you applied for planning permission – each project is different, so I can advise you how to make the most of your project, as we go through the design process.
The rules for permitted development are currently (2021) expanded. Single storey rear extensions to houses can be up to 8 metres long without the need for planning permission. Your local authority must only be informed of extensions to be built using the expanded allowance, the local authority does not charge for this type of application.
You do not need formal permission for domestic work covered by the permitted development rules, but local authorities are now recommending that residents and others using permitted development rights should apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. An LDC gives you a legal proof that the works you have undertaken are legal, and are therefore useful when selling your home. The Lawful development Certificate is a bit like a planning application, and there is a fee to apply for one. There is an application form and drawings and maps to submit, although these are not as extensive as those needed for a full application for planning permission. An LDC application can take up to 8 weeks. A local authority will usually also offer a service to check a proposal against the permitted development rules: a Permitted Development Check. This also has a fee, but the local authority response is informal, and has no legal status.
Certain changes of use and agricultural etc. Permitted Development schemes allowed by permitted development rules are required to undergo a process of 'Prior Approval', which is is rather like the process to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate, where the proposed development will be judged by the local authority against the Permitted Development rules.
Permitted Development is restricted in national parks, conservation areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
If you can't use permitted development rights, you'll need planning permission.
Planning permission takes around 9 weeks (householders) - 14 weeks (major schemes) to be decided from the date the application: 1 week to register the application, plus 8 / 13 weeks for the application process. This is only if the application goes straight through, which is not certain.
After registration, the plans will be publicised, and any local objections can be aired. If more than three local residents, or one Councillor, submit objections, the application must be heard by the planning committee. It is highly unusual for an application to go to committee. Most applications will be decided by a planning officer using their 'delegated authority'.
After the consultation period, the planning officer will look at the application, this is the first time an officer will have looked at the plans. Planning officers often have their own opinions about what constitutes appropriate design, and will often raise concerns about 'scale', 'massing', 'overbearing', and the effect of a development on 'the character of the streetscene'. The painful remedy for these objections is often to reduce the amount of useful space you or your tenants will be able to enjoy in your property.
If the officer raises objections, very small changes may be able to be made to the plans within the application period, but usually I will have to withdraw the application and make changes, in consultation with the planning officer. Once the officer is happy with the amended application, it is submitted again, and another complete planning process will have to be gone through. There is no extra charge made by the local authority for the re-submission of applications for the same type of development, on the same site, within a year.
If you need planning permission, I can prepare all the application documents, and submit the application. You are responsible to pay the council planning fee. I will make any changes to your scheme to get it through planning, but if the scheme is rejected completely out-of-hand, and new scheme is required, further design fees will be due.
Local authorities offer a service called pre-application advice. Indicative plans can be presented to the council planning officers, who will make reference to planning policy and the local built environment, and make recommendations about the nature of proposals that may be acceptable in a forthcoming application.
Outline planning permission
Outline permission only gives approval for the principal of a particular kind of development in a particular location. Outline permission is often sought by developers or landowners who wish to increase the value of their land, or introduce a very large scheme to a local authority.
While drawings showing considerable detail of layouts and individual buildings will often be attached to an outline permission, ALL matters are usually reserved pending a full planning application, including scale, massing and design.
Beware, therefore, of buying a plot with outline permission. Any expectation you have of building what is shown on the plans, even in terms of numbers of units, or numbers of bedrooms per unit, could prove fruitless, as the you will still need to apply for full planning permission - local opinions, policies, planning officers, local supply and legislation may all have moved on since the outline permission was given.
When you have decided on a design, I will make up your drawings:
When your scheme is decided / approved, I will produce drawings that show the dimensions of your scheme, describe all the elements of building work you have asked for, and highlight any elements that require a structural engineer's calculations (there may not be any). These drawings will usually be sufficient for a builder to work from, more drawings may be required if you want to submit a full plans building regulations application (see further down this page).
Structural proposals need to be checked by an engineer:
Your designs may include ideas for structural alterations - building from scratch, removing walls or making new openings, etc. These ideas need to be checked by an engineer who will specify the types of beams and foundations you will need. I can send the drawings to an engineer, if that is necessary, but I am not responsible for their fees, which would usually be between £400 and £1000 for domestic extensions, depending on the complexity of the scheme. It is generally sensible to ask your builder if they have an engineer they have a working relationship with, rather than finding someone independently, or asking me to recommend one.
Detailed design may need to be undertaken by other people:
I have a good knowledge of the planning process, and common construction techniques, but I am not an expert on everything!
If you want to have complex systems, such as home automation or a computer controlled lighting system, or elements that need to be specified by registered professionals, like wood burning stoves or gas boilers, these elements must be designed by others. If I am compiling a full plans building control submission (see below), I will need their information and specifications to include in the application.
Your new building will need to be certified against national quality standards:
All new buildings, and most building work must be certified against the building regulations. The regulations cover all aspects of construction:
Structure Fire Safety Resistance to moisture and contamination Toxic substances Resistance to the passage of sound Ventilation Sanitation Drainage Heat producing appliances Protection from falling Energy consumption Access Glazing safety Electrical safety Security (dwellings) Workmanship and materials
There are two ways of having your building work certified by your local authority building inspector: a Full Plans Submission and a Building Notice. The fees to the council are the same, the way decisions are made is different. Please ensure that either you or your builder has applied for a building notice if you are using one. I will not submit one unless you ask me to. Please also ensure that your builder or agent arranges for a final inspection and that a final completion certificate is issued. Building work cannot be considered complete until this is done.
Full Plans Submission
We decide all of the construction methods to be used – the insulation requirements, the type of concrete blocks, where the drains are, what ventilators are required etc. I make drawings showing all the details and submit them to the council. Once the plans are approved, the building work must be done in accordance with the drawings and specification, whether they are how the builder would usually have done things or not. In our experience, builders generally need flexibility to overcome unforeseen issues, and may have preferred ways of building. They may rather have the freedom given to them by a building notice.
A Building Notice is a short form that declares building work is to be undertaken. Under a Building Notice, a builder can use their own preferred method for construction, in agreement with the building inspector. This gives the builder flexibility to respond to unforeseen issues, and may result in a more efficient build, as the builder can work in their usual fashion. I do not have any role in projects constructed under a building notice, so therefore I don't charge any further fees.
Both types of approval must be applied for in advance of construction work starting. If I am preparing a full plans submission, I will make the application, if you are submitting a building notice, you would normally fill in the form. You will need to pay a fee to the council for both types of submission, it will be the same whichever method you choose.
I recommend a full plans submission where a project is complex, or has unusual features. If you would like to have fine control over the position and placement of lighting and electrical outlets, rather than agreeing them on site with an electrician, I also recommend a full plans application. I can advise on a project-by-project basis. Do check with your builder to see if they are happy to work under a Building Notice, if you would like to use one. Most householder extensions use building notices.
Building near to a neighbour's property? You may need a Party Wall Notice:
Party Wall etc Act 1997
Your neighbours must be informed using a formal notice under the Party Wall Act if your engineer wishes your builder to excavate below the level of your neighbour's foundations within 3 or 6 metres, if you wish to build on the line of your boundary, or if you are making structural alterations to a wall shared with your neighbours - converting your loft in a terrace or semi-detached house for example.
There is a guide to the Party Wall Act on the internet – search for 'Party Wall Booklet'.
Speak to your neighbours – ask them if they know how deep their foundations are - your engineer might be able to suggest ways of avoiding digging below the level of your neighbours foundations. If your footings are not proposed to be beneath the level of your neighbour's foundations, a Party Wall Notice need not be served. If you do not know how deep your neighbours footings are, a Party Wall notice letter to give them is included at the back of the government guide booklet.
If your neighbours agree to you undertaking work, they can agree to your notice and no further action is required. If they object, or do not respond, a Party Wall Surveyor/s must be appointed at your expense. I can advise on a project by project basis.
Health and Safety:
For domestic projects involving small building firms, it is the responsibility of the builder to manage the risks associated with the project.
A domestic client is someone who lives, or will live, in the premises where the work is carried out, and the premises cannot have a business related function. All other projects are commercial, including houses for rent or sale.
For commercial projects over a certain threshold of size and complexity, it is the client's responsibility to ensure that work is being managed in accordance with the Construction, Design, and Management Regulations.
Choosing a builder:
I work on many projects, with many builders. I will not offer recommendations for builders, as this is contrary to our impartial position as a professional company. The best way to find a builder, is by word of mouth from your colleagues, friends or family. This gives a bond of trust between you and your builder, and extends a bond of trust that already exist with their referee.
If you can't get a recommendation for a builder, try websites like Trusted Trader, or Check-a-Trade, to find builders who are bound by their public reputation.
When considering quotes, remember that the cheapest price isn't always the best value. Established firms have office and insurance overheads that one-man-bands don't have. That may give you a better chance of reasonably expecting better service, and longevity and accountability. Always ask for references and to see work that has been completed satisfactorily.
You may wish to use a building contract:
A building contract formally sets out the responsibilities in a project, and states the duration, cost, specification, and drawn details of the scheme to be constructed. It sets out a payment schedule, and circumstances under which a contractor can claim extra money or be allowed delays to the project. It also sets out penalties for late work or work of unacceptable quality. If it is necessary to enforce clauses contained in the contract, a dispute may arise which may have to be resolved using a legal process.
I am qualified to handle contracts and will do so if you require one for your project.
It is unusual for small builders to operate with written contracts on small projects.
Remember! Work needs inspecting and certifying:
The building control authority, usually the local council, will certify that work has been undertaken to the satisfaction of the building regulations for the satisfaction of mortgage providers. They will issue a final certificate. You should not settle your final bill before it has been issued.
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