Detailed Design….The Secret To Building The DreamMBC Case Study: Andrew Webster & Lynne Warren
MBC clients Andrew Webster and Lynne Warren talk about how a detailed design followed by a REALLY detailed design, was the secret to building their MBC dream home
Design that flows internally
For Andrew Webster and Lynne Warren, designing and building their own home was a project on which they had always wanted to embark, but they quickly realised that the time spent with their chosen designer was to prove some of the best money that they spent. Andrew and Lynne were successful at auction in acquiring their plot – a process that Andrew believes he won largely due to the advice of an ex-auctioneer! Although the plot had outline planning consent for a small four bedroom detached home, Andrew and Lynne knew that they would have to go back to the planners with their own ideas for the site. “We knew basically want we wanted and we also knew that the design job wasn’t for either of us. Getting a design that flows internally, yet also makes a statement externally, requires experience and skill, yet unfortunately this seems to be overlooked by many self-builders.” Both Andrew and Lynne are convinced that the decision to appoint Tony Holt Design to help them realise their design thinking was not only a great decision but also a great investment.
Architecural Technicians, a little more in tune
“We talked to several architects and architectural technicians and on the whole felt that the architectural technicians were more in tune with what we were looking for. Maybe this was because they generally tend to focus on domestic builds rather than a wider range of potentially larger building projects”, says Andrew. “But essentially, it’s key that whomever is chosen they work with you and not against you!”, he added. Tony Holt worked with Andrew and Lynne, initially working through a concept design phase before gradually fine-tuning the chosen design over the following months into a ‘ready for planning drawing’. Planning was submitted on the Christmas Eve and granted just 6 weeks later. Only a handful of ‘questions’ were raised by the planners and all were dealt with without issue by Tony. “At this point,” Andrew comments, “many self-builders opt to head straight into the build phase, but we recognised the value that would be brought by retaining Tony Holt to bottom out the detailed design, despite the additional cost”. Andrew went on to explain: “Having watched endless episodes of Grand Designs, one thing screamed out at us – problems seem to happen mainly for people who hadn’t committed enough resources to planning their project fully. Detailed design work tends to force you into looking more closely at the tiniest of details to ensure that when the build phase does begin – areas which might have caused issues and problems in a less well planned project, have been considered ahead of time.” It was also at this point that Andrew and Lynne started to consider which build method to use and like most self-builders, they looked at a wide variety of approaches, including Brick and Block, Insulated Concrete Forms, SIPs panels and Timber Frame. “I knew I would be managing the build myself”, explained Andrew, “yet I was acutely aware that I had a full-time job and my time on site would be limited. Building with Timber Frame gave me two key advantages. Firstly, I could devote whatever time was needed in the weeks and months preceding the build to ensure that everything had been considered and accounted for – I knew to the millimetre what I was going to get! Secondly, I wanted to limit the ‘wet trades’ on site.” Andrew and Lynne chose MBC Timber Frame in Gloucester, they say, mainly because their reputation was good both in terms of the quality of their frames and their professionalism on-site. “Working with MBC Timber Frame was a key decision for us,” says Andrew. In fact, we decided to use their Passive Standard slab with underfloor heating included, as well as their twin wall passive standard frame. “The finished house speaks for itself – we provided a high level of detail to MBC Timber frame and in return things went pretty smoothly when we came to the all-important erection of the timber frame phase of the project.”
Working with MBC Timber Frame and MVHR providersUp-front planning of the MVHR installation, plumbing and electricals is another area where time was very well spent. Andrew and Lynne’s house has very large open-plan rooms requiring the use of some quite substantial steel beams. Ensuring that these beams had sufficient voids to accommodate the hundreds of metres of flexible ducting, as well as pipework and cabling was something that could only have been done at the design stage with the help of both the MVHR supplier and the timber frame designer. Once MBC had completed the timber frame the time and additional cost committed on detailed drawings from the architect came into its own. Andrew takes up the story: “Our triple-glazed windows and doors (Internorm) fitted well but not just by accident. We had looked extremely carefully at what finishing detail we wanted with our large “feature windows”. We designed exactly the abutment between window and wall, as well as the external head of the windows and sliders in which we incorporated LED lighting. Post build designing these small but massively important design elements into the project would have been more costly both in terms of time and money. We put the time into thinking about these areas early in the project.” One of the few areas Andrew and Lynne did re-visit during the build process was their floor finishes. The original solid floor tile finish was replaced by a 16mm weathered finish engineered oak floor which, now, carries through the entire house. The entire ground floor is heated solely by ‘wet’ underfloor heating. On the first floor, they incorporated electric underfloor heating and heated towel rails in the floor tiled bathrooms, and the couple left it at that, allowing the heat from the ground floor to percolate throughout the house.
Measured air permeability of just 0.21 ACH
“Even on the coldest of mornings, the triple glazing does very well to retain heat. We did account for adding small radiators in the bedrooms if we ever felt the need, however, we’re now entering our third winter in the house and we still don’t have them!” says Andrew.
No doubt this is due in no small part to the excellent air test results – a measured air permeability of just 0.21 ACH.
The finished house is a magnificent example of a passive standard home which reflects exactly the time and dedication put into detailed planning and careful choice of final fittings.
Internally, the choice of doors, hinges, surrounds and furniture, from Deuren in Mirfield, reflects an eye for detail which compliments the centre piece of the house – a bespoke built steel and wooden tread staircase. This impressive eye catcher was designed by Lynne and manufactured once again to their exact wishes by an Ellesmere Port engineering company. The landing opens to a flying gantry giving spacious views of the entrance hall and the whole house internally, gives the visitor a feeling of extreme space and visual care on the part of Andrew and Lynne.
This spacious home is complimented by recessed ceiling and wall lights which again show an eye for detail which handsomely pays back the time and investment. Here, it was Andrew’s membership of Piston Heads, the well-known “car nuts” website, which connected him to a well-known member who also happens to be a designer for a high-end LED-lighting company. Here the advice was that “less is more” and the result is not the usual lines of recessed ceiling lights but carefully chosen and selected bespoke units which again place light where it was wanted not just where it happens to fall from an over populated grid system.
Externally, the story doesn’t stop there. Foremost amongst the “detail” is the aluminium rainwater goods painted in a grey colour to replicate galvanised steel and the bespoke aluminium pressings powder-coated in the exact same colour and finish as the windows.
A White render system from Alumasc is complimented by Western Red Cedar cladding and charcoal slate facing is used to great effect to give the exterior look some additional gravitas.
Foundations and Timber Frame: MBC Timber Frame
- Internal floor space: 321 m2
- Overall cost of build: £530,000 post VAT re-claim (Cost of Plot in addition).
- Approx cost pm2 £1651
- Mains: Gas, Water, Electricity
External rendering: Alumasc www.alumasc.co.uk
Slate facing: Norstone www.norstone.co.uk
Timber Cladding: Western Red Cedar SILVA www.silvatimber.co.uk
Windows and Sliders: Internorm Spectrum Architectural www.spectrumarchitectural.com
Aluminium Trims, Pressings: Spectrum Architectural www.spectrumarchitectural.com
MVHR: BPC Ventilation www.bpcventilation.com
Kitchen: Cheshire Kitchen Company www.thecheshirekitchencompany.com
Internal Doors: Deuren www.deuren.co.uk
Bathrooms and Sanitary: Reuter www.reuter.de
Lighting: PHOS www.phos.co.uk
Flooring: Reclaimed Flooring Company www.reclaimedflooringco.com