Product Focus

This weeks product focus is Steico Flex wood fibre insulation. A sustainable alternative to rigid insulation.

Might not sound that sexy but, compared to its competition, its got a lot going for it.

Here at Meadow View cottage we used this natural material to insulate our roof. Firstly because its totally breathable (Meadow view was built some 500 years ago, so the poor old girl needs some help to breathe these days) and secondly because its made from our favourite material, wood. Breathability helps with older properties, not just for the health of the building itself but its occupants as it helps to regulate the indoor climate and helps avoid a build up of moisture and all the nasties that come with that.

I found it easy to handle, lightweight (reasonably), was non-irritant to my skin and didn’t cost a fortune.

Its also semi flexible, which means its easy to cut and compresses to fit in all those funny shapes that come with buildings.

What a difference its made to the comfort of our home. A home that had central heating for the first time in its life last winter!

Downsides are that its marginally more expensive, mainly due to the thickness required to achieve the same levels of efficiency compared to rigid foam insulation. But speak to me about how this can work for you, its not as daunting as it may seem. Also as with most insulation boards, the dust gets everywhere!

Ecological, environmentally-friendly and fully recycleable, whats not to love. Lets move forward, this sustainable insulation alternative is not just for older properties.

Busy week at Third Design

Its been a busy week at Third Design. The start to the year has gone off with a bang.

Renovations at Meadow View are cracking on, with planning for the next stage of works almost approved (check out the updates on the instagram page). The Biomass experiment here had a hiccup, charring the pellets rather than incinerating (all fixed now, touch wood). The construction drawings are well underway for the new dwelling in Bexley. More and more enquiries flooding in each day and I’m always looking for the next exciting green project… a few potentials are in the pipeline.

Concept visual of new build dwelling houseThe new dwelling currently being detailed.

Its really been a very encouraging start to 2021, following the uncertainty of 2020. More and more clients are picking up on the importance of sustainable builds, especially to use of British wood in construction. I have been posting a lot about this subject on our instagram page and i plan to do more so in the coming weeks. In particular here at Third Design, we have been looking at heat treated British timber stock and why its important.

Now with the weather gradually picking up, work outside in the Meadow View garden and field have begun. An aspect of Architecture that often gets overlooked is how the garden gets incorporated. Here we are lucky to have space (we live in the sticks) where we can farm flowers, grow veg and hopefully create a fun safe place for our boy to play in. Thats the year ahead for Fitzgerald HQ, while the planning is going through and we save for the next instalment of building works, we will work away at the garden over the spring and summer months.

What have you got planned? Those with itchy feet, its good to have a plan to keep yourself busy, before your able to build your dream home. Talking of dream homes, why not check out the concept page to get your ideas running.

Planning focus this week

Planning focus this week has been on the property at Meadow View, East Harptree.

With the original designs form being a little too modern for the planners comfort zone, we have now resubmitted as an amendment the below design.

It is usual for there to be a few tweaks during a planning application. Whilst we aim to get a good balance between a clients wants and planning policy, we often try to push the boundaries on the first submission. This way we can reign in the design if needed to ensure we still end up with a design that sticks as close to the original design rationale as possible.

With Meadow View, we have kept the standing seam to just the roof and have changed the roof form from a mono pitch to a more traditional apex. This seems to have done the trick in satisfying the planners demands…. touch wood.

This tactic doesn’t always work, however, so if you’re planning on a submission then best to get some advice on how best to achieve it!

 

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…