Making your home the best version of itself during COVID-19

Making your home the best version of itself during COVID-19

So, life in general is on hold, schools are shut, lunch with friends is off-limits and a quick pint down the pub has to be postponed.

That’s right, the Government has asked us to stay inside to protect the NHS and the health of the nation.

Some say this is a time to sleep and binge on box sets or even learn a new skill. Whilst it is true that we should all use this down-time to recharge and re-boot our own systems, it is also a golden opportunity to make the most of this recess and stop procrastinating over house plans that have been just an intention and not a reality due to your normal everyday time constraints.

You may love your home, but being hunkered down in it right now with your nearest and dearest could have you thinking that there simply isn’t enough space for you all. 

Recent Government advice is that all house moves should be put on hold wherever possible until the COVID-19 situation is less demanding, that coupled with the inevitable temporary slump in the economy, a new home is probably off of the menu.  

So, how about you use this period of self-isolation as the perfect time to consider how you can add value or improve your home to make it the best it can be.

Have you been considering some renovations in the form of a top floor extension, conversion of a garage, an extra bedroom, and bathroom, a garden room, home office or if you’re lucky enough an in-house haven just to get away from it all?

MP Architects LLP is a local experienced company that can help you improve your home to make it the best version of itself.  

Our dedicated team are working remotely but just as effectively throughout the COVID_19 crisis to support and advise homeowners with ideas, drawings, layouts and plans.  

Our extensive knowledge means that we can advise you on planning permission requirements, specialising in the recently relaxed rights of permitted development, so you may not even need to go through the traditional planning permission channels to create your perfect space.

Please contact us at any time via email, telephone and our easy to use virtual meeting resources to discuss how we can help you design your perfect project.

We would love to hear from you.

Stay healthy.

The perfect home office during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Working from home is a dream for some people and a nightmare for others.  We all love spending time with our family and our loves ones, but when it comes to spending 24hrs endlessly, we soon need a designated home office to “keep calm and carry on”.

Many say that after this pandemic, the world will rethink about the traditional office environments and for many businesses working from home may become the future.

What is a good home office?

A good home office should provide you with minimal distractions and ensure peak efficiency.  The following elements are important to achieve:

  • Natural light. The most important element to have in an office, natural lights keep us feeling positive, healthy, and focused.  
  • Safety. A place to keep your documents and equipment safe from the weather or potential break-in. 
  • Privacy. Minimal distraction from noise and any public activities around you to work efficiently. Best to separate work from home life. 
  • Equipment.  Computer, software and fast internet connection with the right size screen that doesn’t strain your eye.

How to convert or build a home office under Permitted Development?

Loft Conversion

If you have an unused existing loft space that is tall enough to be converted into a room, then you may be eligible to add dormers and convert it under permitted development. Subject to the conditions of your original house.

Loft conversions are great investments to your property and can bring endless flexible uses to your homes, such as home office, music room, and kids bedroom, etc.  It is a perfect space for privacy in the house, nothing better than having a whole floor to yourself.

M P Architects carry out many loft conversions every year from planning through to construction.  Contact us for examples of our portfolio. 

Garage Conversion

If you have an attached or detached garage you can most likely convert it to a habitable room under permitted development.  It is a great location for a home office, as it’s close to the front door and most likely a good view out to the street.  

A Garden Home Office

You can build an outbuilding in the garden up to a certain size under Permitted Development. There are strict guidelines to follow when design under Permitted Developments.  However, it is a perfect place to have a home office. It physically and mentally detaches you from your home life and will guarantee maximum privacy. 

Juliette Balcony for the bedroom

If your home doesn’t have spaces to convert or build new rooms, and you just wish to have more privacy and a better environment to work.  Why not consider changing one or two of your windows to a Juliette balcony? It will give you more natural light, better views and most importantly access to the outside world without leaving your bedroom.

Soundproofing your existing house or just to a single room is also an option to improve productivity at home.    Our experienced team of architects have a wealth knowledge of lastest soundproofing materials for your home in a cost-effectively way.  

Please note, sometimes permitted development rights are removed from some properties, particularly if you live on a new housing development, listed building or in a conservation area.  Contact us to discuss whether your development falls under permitted development and whether we can help you achieve planning if it does not.

We look forward to helping you

Our office is open and our team of experienced architects are working from home 9-5 picking up emails and phone calls.  We are equipped with digital conference call facilities such as Zoom, Facetime and WhatsApp, etc to meet you during this period if required. 

Why not give us a call to discuss your dream development and see how we can help you to future-proof your home.

Moving your architectural project forward and safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

M P Architects are here to support your project through challenging times.

Today one of our senior architects Kate Murray who is working from home had a successful video conference call with the client and planning consultant. 

Kate’s feedback after the meeting was “it went better than expected!”. She felt everyone was more focused to listen to each other than a normal face to face meeting.

We would like to ensure our clients that our office and Architects are equipped with digital conference call facilities.  We have software such as Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger, etc.  Therefore we can still help to move your project forward if there is restrictions or preferences of not to have a face to face meeting.

Our office will not be closed during the coronavirus outbreak.

We are following the UK government’s official health and travel advice closely, and we have an office policy in place to ensure any risk and disruption is minimised.

Why not give us a call to discuss your dream development and see how we can help you to truly maximise your next opportunity.

Some Valid Reasons For Turning Your Loft Into Additional Living Space & How An Architect Can Help

Do you have a growing family that needs extra living space? Are you following the trend of working from home on a semi or full-time basis?

If the answer to either (or both!) of these questions is ‘Yes’ then a loft conversion makes perfect sense.

There are many reasons why this is the case. Below we highlight:

  • Some of the major benefits of converting your loft.
  • Consider potential planning permission requirements.
  • Explain why including a respected architectural firm in your project really does make sense.

Multiple use – What’s your choice:

The value of creating additional space in your home cannot be underestimated. Your unused loft or attic is the perfect place to achieve this.

Multiple use choice is yours. Think in terms of:

  • An additional bedroom: Go all the way and include an en-suite bathroom.
  • Home office: Perfect for working from home, studying or research.
  • Hobby room: If a family member(s) has a particular hobby they are keen on, then having a separate room for this activity is an excellent solution.
  • Den for the children: By creating a ‘cool’ space for the kids to relax in and entertain friends you are doing yourself and the children a big favour.
  • Home gym: A healthy lifestyle and fitness routines are something the whole family should be encouraged to embrace. By converting your loft into a home gym and workout room you are providing a highly useful room for all. (A shower room in this instance would also be a good addition).

Is planning permission required:

The general rule here is that if you do not plan to alter the exterior of your home, then planning permission is not required.

This is because under current UK regulations a ‘standard’ loft conversion is classed as permitted development.

However, there are exceptions to this general rule – Some examples being:

  • Converted houses.
  • Flats.
  • Maisonettes.
  • Listed buildings.
  • Property in “Designated Areas” – This includes conservation areas, areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and national parks.

The above is certainly not an exhaustive list. Checks with local authority planning departments MUST be carried out before any loft conversion work begins. Failure to do so could mean you fall foul of regulations and need to undo all conversion work that has been completed.

Do you need the assistance of an architect?

The strict answer here is “No”. However, there are many benefits to be gained from using the services of a respected, fully qualified architectural firm such as M P Architects LLP.

Here’s just 5 of the many reasons as to why using an architect for your loft conversion project will reap rewards:

  • Time saved on understanding exactly what is allowed and what is not relating to any planning permission and permitted development rights in your local area.
  • Expert advice: Not only will you receive expert advice on ‘best use’ of space dependent on your wishes, but a good architect has their finger on the pulse when it comes to the most appropriate materials to be used and modern trends of design.
  • Provision of architectural drawings. Please do not dismiss this highly important point. Skilled architects have a trained eye. They can help transform your needs and requirements into reality.

This is first seen in architectural drawings your chosen architect will provide. These will be based on the type of loft conversion you are looking for. Their highly detailed drawings and design will maximise available space and allow you to clearly visualise the finished conversion.

  • Tried & trusted trade professionals: If you do not have a trusted source in terms of loft conversion work, an architect does! They will have a list of trusted professionals that will see the project completed in a high-quality manner.
  • Overall project management: Having an architect on board and appointing them to project manage your loft conversion will mean less stress for you, timelines on each stage of work are clear, agreed work is adhered to and completed professionally, and those all-important, agreed budgets are met.

The value you add to your home will more than pay for the project

Loft conversions are not only a very sensible use of space, they will also add to the value of your home.

How much obviously depends on type of use, work carried out and quality of the conversion. By enlisting the assistance of M P Architects LLP, you will be maximizing potential in many more ways than one.

Essex Wildlife Trust Bronze Member 2020

M P Architects LLP is delighted to have received our Bronze Certificate from Essex Wildlife Trust for the year 2020.  This marks the 25th year we have been a bronze member of the Essex Wildlife Trust!

The location of our office and the majority of our projects are based in Essex. It is important for our architects to ensure our design helps and Protect Wildlife for the Future and for the people of Essex.

What is Essex Wildlife Trust?

Essex Wildlife Trust was established in 1959 and is the county’s leading conservation charity. It has more than 39,000 members, manages and protects over 8,400 acres of land across 87 nature reserves. It is one of the largest of the 47 county wildlife trusts that work together throughout the British Isles and is supported financially by members, local businesses and grant-making organisations. We’re extremely proud to be a corporate member of the trust, whose aim is to Protect Wildlife for the Future and for the people of Essex.

How to design a new development with Wildlife in mind?

If you are thinking about building or converting a house, the Council may require to see a Phase 1 Habitat Survey Report with the planning application.  M P Architects works with a number of local Environmental and Ecologist Consultants, who can carry this work out for you.

The report consists of data research within 2KM of the site designated for nature conservation or scientific interest, and survey analysis for existing habitats, species such as bats, dormice, reptiles, badgers, birds, plants, etc.  Which will outline any constraints from findings and provides recommendations on the type of construction/digging, materials and landscaping to protect the animals on site.

If you have a project in mind that is located in a conservation area, why not give us a call to discuss how we can help?  M P Architects LLP are a RIBA and ARB registered friendly team of 8 architectural staff who provide professional advice and services.

Essex Wildlife Membership Certificate 2020
Essex Wildlife Membership Certificate 2020

M P Architects LLP won the Best Contemporary Barn Conversion 2019

We are pleased to have won the BUILD – Best Contemporary Barn Conversions 2019!

Below is a description of the listing that got us the award. To see the finished photos of this project, please click here to go to our portfolio page.

Carrying out a barn conversion in London or Essex is much more challenging than finding a suitable new house for sale on an established development, but a contemporary barn conversion offers a gamut of possibilities that you would struggle to find anywhere else, even with new builds.

A barn conversion offers a practical bridge between the attraction of old and the functionality of new.  You will benefit from owning a property that is full of character and local history; situated in scenic countryside and, upon renovation, will provide the comfort and practicalities of contemporary living found in a new build property.  You can find examples of this type of property development in the surrounding areas of the popular villages in Essex, near Epping, Ongar, Brentwood Braintree and Chelmsford where M P Architects have successfully converted many.

There was one barn in particular, as it was a listed building, in 2010 we were commissioned to convert it into a dwelling. The barn dates from around 1800 and in the grounds of a listed building Blewgates Farm, so as well as planning, it required listed building consent.

In order to apply for planning and listed building consent, we had to apply for a structural report from a structural engineer; a historical report from an archaeological building recording specialist; contaminated land reports and soil testing; a bat and owl survey, as well as a land drainage consent. 

We are pleased to say that after 9 years the works are finally being completed and they have been carried out to high standard. The resulting barn provides for a large living room with a wood-burning stove one end; a separate sitting room and study at the other end and a large open plan kitchen opening on the double height hall with stairs up to the first floor three bedrooms with three bathrooms.

The feature of this house is the tiled wall beside the oak staircase with glazed balustrading set within the central double-height space. The principle members of the original oak frame are also exposed internally making the modern living spaces sing with historical memory.

Externally the original timber frame has been cladded with horizontal feather edged weatherboarding set above a newly build brick plinth.

M P Architects LLP carry out many barn conversions in Essex and North London. We are very pleased to have won the 2019 year ‘Best for Contemporary Barn Conversions – Essex’ award from BUILD.  We look forward to work on more exciting projects next year.

5 Small developments that show why investing in good design pays dividends for developers

Homebuyers are attracted to new build properties because they are ready to move into, require very little work to maintain in the short term, appear to be highly specified and, can be cheaper than older, local housing.

However, new build homes have acquired a poor reputation for quality – cracking mortar, shoddy brickwork, faulty drainage, second-rate fittings, sub-standard finishing as well as poor street layouts and lighting among the many complaints regularly made.

Many purchasers realise that their property was not built to last and, rather than accruing value, will lose value and be difficult to sell in the long term. This has tarnished the reputation of many developers.

Developers are also charged with cramming smaller homes onto a site in what they perceive as a way of extracting the maximum profit from a project. In their defence, they state that the price of land, rising production expenses and increasing material costs preclude investment in build quality, architectural design and planning.

 

We would argue that quality design sells!

Only by investing in better design can developers really maximise the value of development in a way that enhances and builds their reputation. This is supported by data from London estate agency ‘The Modern House’ which shows well-designed homes average a 12% premium in value over other properties in an area.

Poorly designed homes and housing schemes can be considerably more costly to a developer in the long run, both in terms of the cost of ‘making good’ post-construction and in potential legal claims.

 

Architectural design and quality space in a home really matters

What happens if we think outside the box a little and design homes that fit the local environment and provide higher quality living spaces?

At M P Architects we understand that property developers want to maximise the profit on their projects. However, filling a plot with small homes is not the only way to capitalise on its potential.

We understand value creation and believe ‘real value’ to a developer can be created in many ways. While how a property looks, its ‘kerb appeal’, is one key value driver, equally important is how a property ’feels’. Interior specification, for example, is about more than just selecting expensive materials – considered layouts to meet patterns of habitation, highly functional fittings and modern, easy to maintain finishes all need to come together to create spaces that people really want to live in.

 

Our ‘holistic’ approach

At M P Architects we have built our reputation on the integrity of our designs, delivery of projects and our attention to detail.

We utilise our extensive design, planning and negotiation expertise to:

  • Create environments that facilitate and support contemporary life
  • Contribute to efficient and effective planning
  • Reduce the running and life cycle costs of new homes
  • Specify efficient materials and construction processes
  •  Ensure that the maximum value is generated from every project

We pride ourselves on our ability to intelligently configure housing within a given site to create exemplary living spaces while also satisfying the financial restrictions and expected returns of developers.

And importantly, our local knowledge of the area and of its specific planning processes allows us to achieve a high level of submission success.

Take a look at 5 of our small development case studies that showcase how our design, technical and planning expertise has added value:

 

M P Architects LLP are a RIBA and ARB registered friendly team of 8 architectural staff who provide added value through affordable high-quality design thinking, technical knowledge, and planning expertise. Why not give us a call to discuss your next development and see how we can help you to truly maximise your next opportunity.

 

 

Architects Offer Huge Advantages When It Comes To Planning Permission For New Houses & Extensions

How Architects Can Save You Major Headaches When It Comes to Planning Permission on New Houses and extensions

Anyone planning a new house build or adding to their existing house will benefit from taking M P Architects from the very beginning of their project.

We are a RIBA and ARB registered practice meaning our staff are fully qualified and have spent years training to be experts in our field.

We offer services from initial consultation, through design and achieving planning consent to project managing your project for you. Therefore, taking the stress away and making sure it is built in accordance with the plans and compliant to the current regulations.

We will concentrate on the benefits you can receive by appointing M P Architects in terms of planning permission for new houses and extensions.

Do you need planning permission?

This largely depends upon the project you are undertaking. If you do need planning permission, then you need to make sure this is in place prior to any building works being carried out.

Some extensions fall under ‘Permitted Development’ which we will cover in another article.

If you are looking at building a new house(s) or extension that does not fall into Permitted Development, then obtaining planning permission is essential.

This is where M P Architects can be of immediate benefit to you. With our free initial consultation, we are able to come and meet you, discuss your requirements, advise you whether planning permission is required and how we think we can help you make your dreams come true.

If your project does require planning permission and work commences without obtaining it, then it is possible that an enforcement notice will be served. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to continue building, but you should stop and get M P Architects involved to advise you on the best way forward and achieve planning consent for you.

Different rules for designated areas/listed buildings:

Extending or building in the conservation area and altering a listed building can sometimes prove challenging, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.  M P Architects have a very good working relationship with the local authorities, especially with the conservation officers to achieve permission for altering or extending your listed building.

Submitting a pre-application enquiry to the council prior to a planning application can save a lot of time and money. M P Architects often attend the pre-application meeting with our client at the Council’s office or on site, to discuss different design options with the planning officer and establish the principle of the development.

M P Architects can offer an invaluable service

When it comes to planning permission, experienced local architects such as M P Architects is key to gaining permission.

Here are some key reasons why:

  • Rules on planning permission vary depending on your location and the type of project you are undertaking. M P Architects can offer invaluable insight and service in this respect.
  • Experienced local architects are intimate with what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to your locality. M P Architects have extensive experience of how planning permission is viewed by the local authorities.
  • Professionally qualified local architects can advise on what (if any) changes to plans should be made before (or during) application. This advice will help greatly in terms of obtaining planning permission for new homes as well as extensions and outbuildings.
  • Timing of applying/amending (where necessary)/receiving of any planning permission is crucial to the success of start dates of any project. M P Architects can advise this at the beginning of your project.

Taking the weight off your shoulders – Carrying out a project related to the building of a new home involves many strands. If M P Architects have been appointed to carry out the full service of project managing on-site.  We will ensure your house will be built to a high standard, we will check all the construction details have been built to the correct design and specifications.  We will liaise with the builder for any queries so you don’t have to. Most importantly, we will ensure the project is completed on time and on budget.

Using a respected local architect like M P Architects makes eminent sense:

As we touched on at the beginning of the piece, availing of the services of a respected local architect will most certainly benefit your project.

In most cases, the more involved an architect is in a project, the more rewarding the outcome.  Visit our testimonial page to see what other people said about using our services.

 

 

A beautiful two-storey attached annexe completed

We have recently completed this beautiful two-storey attached annexe in Harlow, which M P Architects were involved from initial design to construction completion covering all the RIBA Stages 0-7.

We are very pleased with the final outcome.  One of our recommended builders Thornwood Construction Ltd won the project through the formal tender process, and they have worked closely with our client and Architect to build this annexe.

The attached annexe, which is the left-hand-side extension in the photo (taken on the 4th December 2019) has received a number of compliments from neighbours.  The extension feels like it has been part of the original house since the beginning; its size, style and materials matched the site perfectly.

Throughout the project, our goal is to achieve the best design and value for our client and keep the designs within their budget, while still delivering a high standard of finish to match the existing house.

The planning for this project was challenging at the beginning, as the Council refused our initial application due to the large size of the extension.  However, after our experienced Architect liaised with the Planning Officer and discussed the design with him, we then resubmitted the drawings without changing the size but with a 600mm set back from the main house and achieved consent for our client.

M P Architects is honoured to have carried out a full architectural service for this project, and we are delighted with the result.   We are also very pleased to have received the following compliment email/feedback from our client on our last day of site inspection:

 

“Dear Martyn,

I have mentioned on my emails in the past to you how grateful we were to have Dandi remain on our project. I do not think i am able to being to thank her enough for what she has done for us.
I emailed you about Thornwood, and the quality of the build, but please can you note how Dandi has gone above and beyond what I ever imagined an architect would be able to do; and ask that this email is to be held considerably higher in regard.

Being at the end of a phone, on WhatsApp, FaceTime, not only in office hours, but when a query or worry arose that we knew she could help with.

I have searched endlessly with RIBA and ARB and then spoke to them to how to officially compliment her as an architect but sadly, I have been informed there is only a complaints procedure and there is no formal route to comment on her excellence.

I am emailing you today ahead of our meeting as I wanted to personally say thank you.
I am very happy to recommend you as an architectural firm but also Dandi for her individuality.
Her kindness, support, personality and sense of humour has added a valuable layer to her architectural experience and skill.

Once again, thank you.

Kind regards”

 

I wish our clients all the best in the future and we hope they are enjoying living in the new spaces.

If you have a residential project in mind and don’t know where to start, at M P Architects LLP we offer a free initial site visit to discuss your goals and aspirations and we will provide a free quotation for our work.  Please feel free to drop us an email or a phone call.  Click the text to see our Testimonial page and our Portfolio of some complected projects.

 

Why Do I Need An Architect?

Whatever type of newbuild or home improvement project you are planning there is a serious, early decision to be made.

This relates to whether or not you should use the services of an architect.

With this in mind, here are some important reasons as to why an architect can be of huge value. This is regardless of how small or large your project is.

Fully trained to see the bigger picture:

Architects are highly trained professionals.  To become a registered Architect in the UK, a minimum of 7 years of full time higher education and 2 years of work experience or equivalent is required.  

It is only natural that due to their training and experience they will see things that many of us will miss.  One of the many assets they possess is the ability to see the “bigger picture” of any project.

An architect’s expert eye will help in such things as:

  • Making the best use of the space you have available
  • Ensure the best value for your investment
  • Coming up with unique, individual and interesting designs that suit your individual needs – They can offer a different ‘take’ on your original thoughts and proposed designs. These ideas will often be far more appealing once they are understood
  • Lighting is a crucial aspect of any project, but is one that is very often overlooked! Architects can advise on natural and artificial lighting options that will best suit the type of project and space available. Well-lit areas can make the world of difference in terms of appeal and the finished project.
  • Balance – An architect’s ability to look at the project as a whole from start to finish means the completed project will exude balance and style.
  • Help your project to finish within budget and on time.

Spotting those small issues that can become major bugbears!

Don’t underestimate this benefit. Many do to their cost! Even the smallest building projects involve a lot of planning and design.

To the inexperienced eye, it is very easy to overlook what initially appear to be small issues. Unfortunately, these can turn into major bugbears that will cost to put right.

Just 3 examples of the many that an untrained eye can miss are:

  • What are the planning constraints on your site? 
  • Where is the best, least conspicuous place for any outlet pipes?
  • How to build an extension that looks and works like it has always been part of the existing house?

Planning permission and overseeing the whole project:

Unless you have a great deal of time to spare when it comes to establishing and then running a project to satisfactory completion then an architect will add real value.

If planning permission is required (or you even think it may be!) then an architect can be an invaluable asset.

They are fully experienced in successfully navigating local planning authority laws and will ensure your application is processed in the correct manner.

By appointing an architect as the Contract Admin and Project Manager you are taking a real weight off your shoulders. Benefits of their assistance will be seen in such things as:

  • Recommending the most appropriate builders and qualified tradesmen
  • Managing the work schedule
  • Ensuring the quality of work meets required standards
  • Work carried out meets building control requirements
  • Liaising with local authorities
  • Keep the total project cost within agreed budgets


What to look for when appointing an architect

The architect you appoint should be fully qualified. In this sense, your architect should be members of, and governed by:

  • The ARB – Architects Registration Board – This is a body which has been established by Parliament and acts as the independent UK regulator of architects. If checks need to be made you can access a publicly available database.
  • RIBA – Royal Institute of British Architects – This is an association of architects and comprises of individuals who are licensed to practice architecture in the UK.

For additional peace of mind, it should be noted that all architects are subject to a statutory code of practice. They also have Professional Indemnity Insurance which is in place to protect clients.

Vastly increase your chances of a successful project outcome

The straight fact is that by engaging an architect to assist in your overall project you are taking an important step.

This decision will help to ensure a far more satisfactory project outcome than would otherwise be the case. A final factor that should not be overlooked; your stress factor will also be greatly reduced!