I got wood…

Following the theme set on the Third Design Instagram page, this year we are focussing on timber in construction.

Always an advocate for the use of wood in architecture, this year has given even more reason to use, specify and talk about wood as a building material. Having spoken to those growing and producing the wood we all use in the UK, the last few years have thrown up a number of issues for UK timber.

Alongside the usual Brexit, Coronavirus, governmental issues that prevent the adoption of truly sustainable building techniques and running systems, we now learnt that many UK trees are now being affected by disease and rot.

We all know about Ash dieback, but did you know that British grown Larch is now losing a battle against root fungal infections. This could lead to the elimination of one of Third Designs favourite building materials.

With this in mind, never has it been so important to support the British timber business. Search out your local mills and managed forests. The best way to tackle all the issues above is to keep specifying and using the trees that we grow here. Funding the growth of more trees, not only helps the environment by removing CO2 from the air but also reduces the reliance on other carbon intensive building techniques and also funds the safe and productive management of our forests and woodland.

So.. get wood, use wood and stay local!

Third Designs new website launch

Its here!

The latest incarnation of Third Designs website has now been launched. Designed and built by AD Styles of AD Digital, another one of Bristols amazing businesses.

Have a scroll though the pages and let me know what you think.

Over the coming weeks, months and years I will be updating the site with new images, blog posts and other exciting gubbins.

Any suggestions of further content or questions you’d find useful published online, just let me know.

Introduction to Permitted Development Rights

I get asked a lot about Permitted Development Rights.

They allow home owners to undertake certain development works without having to go through a full Householder Planning application. Super helpful when trying to get permission for works that might otherwise get refused at planning.

One thing i have always refused to do is list what PD rights allow one to build. The reason is that the legislation that sets out the rights are longer than most would expect and go way beyond the basic guides available online or on the Planning Portal. Where one 3m rear single storey extension may comply, another may not.

Anyone thinking of building under PD rights, i would strongly recommend consulting a professional first. Its our job to guide you in the right direction, if you intend on building under PD rights then we can show you how not to fall short of the rules.

Further to this a Lawful Development Certificate is strongly advised in place of the Householder Planning application. This certifies the plans are in keeping with the legislation and therefore protects you from any enforcement action.

Feel free to start at the Planning Portal for an idea as to what can be achieved, but do yourself a favour and speak to a professional  before you put a spade in the ground.

Is Biomass right for you?

As part of the Greener home Grant, alternative renewable heating methods have been included. This is great for those who are environment conscious, but which is right for you?

Biomass has had a surge in attention over the recent years, and rightly so.

As a principle, using biomass can be a Carbon neutral (even positive) resource. With more wood pellet manufacturers setting up in the uk as well makes it a great alternative to burning fossil fuels.

Personally owning a Biomass boiler, I’ve listed below a bunch of pros and cons;

Installation cost: A normal domestic sized biomass boiler would set you back approximately £13k. This can be offset using either the Greener home grant or the Renewable Heat Incentive, paying you back approximately £9K. The greener home grant probably being the best option if you don’t have the full amount up front.

Resourcing fuel: Wood pellets are readily available from various sellers. Some even source their pellets and wood from Uk sustainably managed forests.

Running cost: The cost of running a biomass boiler is pretty similar to that of a gas or oil boiler. The main difference is that you aren’t tied to just a few suppliers, you can change at any time. Also the fuel is more tangible than gas, you order the amount you want, use the amount you want and can physically see how fast you are burning through your money! I have found over the year you will use considerably less during the summer months and throughout the year you automatically adjust your heating requirements so you end up with a well considered routine.

Maintenance: Biomass boilers do require a gentle clean, probably on a weekly basis is wise. The ash produced (it burns very efficiently so very little ash remains) can then be used on your garden (if you’re green fingered) as its basically pure carbon.

Storage: There are two things to consider here before committing to a biomass. Firstly the siting of the boiler itself, a biomass boiler is considerably larger than a normal gas boiler, its also a a little noisier. So consider you may need its own small room. Secondly storage of the pellets, this depends on how you order them. You can buy bagged pellets (usually 10kg or 15kg bags) of which its worth getting a tonne at a time to last you a while. These take up a fair amount of space. Alternatively you could get them loose and have a small silo that automatically feeds the boiler. This is a better long term system but does include higher install costs.

In general, I love my biomass boiler. Its been a learning curve and it occasionally frustrates me when it needs a little maintenance. But thats life.

Much like a lot of greener alternatives, its not as straight forward as the fossil fuel tech that we are all used to. But sometimes we need to make these sacrifices.

If you dont like the idea of a little labour then id say the biomass isn’t for you.

Greener Homes Grant 2020

Earlier this year Rishi Sunak announced the provision of the Greener Homes Grant, available to homeowners.

The grants are available in two stages. The first is available for new or replacement insulation to an existing space or for a low carbon heat source (such as biomass, air source). The grant would cover up to £5000.00 towards the costs, or a maximum of £10000.00 for people on certain benefits.

If you install at least 1 primary measure, your voucher can be used to help cover the cost of a secondary measure. The amount you get towards the cost of secondary measures cannot exceed the amount you get for primary measures.

Secondary measures include, replacement windows and doors where you are replacing single glazing, or heating controls and insulation.

This all seems too good to be true doesn’t it. Well unless you plan to get your skates on, it is.

The works must be completed before the end of March 2021. Having contacted many Trustmark contractors, it is already evident that the number of contractors involved with the scheme is very limited. That in addition to the workloads currently being undertaken by these companies makes this scheme a hard task to get completed by the end of March.

Here’s hoping they extend the deal further into 2021. Who knows, they may even include further green technologies like solar PV…