Works To Existing Buildings:


Stage 1 - Design & Planning (RIBA Stages A-D)
Stage 2 - Building Regulations, Specification & Detail (RIBA Stages E-G)
Stage 3 - Tendering & Contract Administration (RIBA Stages H-L)


Health & Safety

Frequently asked questions

The following notes are for preliminary guidance only and are far from being exhaustive. Each individual client and property will almost always involve the need for more specific advice, for example if the property is in a Conservation area, is Listed, or on poor ground, etc. Also to see some of our example drawings click here.

Stage 1 - Design & Planning

Obtaining Planning Permission is the key to any development, for without it you cannot legally build unless you are building within 'permitted development' rights:

Permitted development rights (assuming they haven't been removed in your deeds) on a detached dwelling can typically project 4m single storey and 3m two storey, from the original rear wall. An attached dwelling is allowed to have either a single or two storey rear extension projecting 3m from the original rear wall.  On both types of house no new extension eaves can be over 3m tall, within 2m of a boundary.  Any 2 storey rear extension can't be within 7m of any boundary opposite the rear wall.  Both types of dwelling can have a single story side extension, up to half the width of the original house, but under 4m tall. The Neighbour Consultation Scheme currently allows for a doubling of length of a single storey rear extension.  The Permitted Development Order 2008 was written with so many ambiguities that we would always recommend applying for a 'Certificate of Lawfulness' to be sure that what you are building is legal.  There may also be other restrictions that apply if your house is a 'listed building' or close to a 'listed building' or is within a conservation area. 

We can advise further about the more detailed criteria, including scope for outbuildings.

If your extension does not fall within the Permitted Development route then you will need to gain planning permission. The Planners are concerned with aspects such as parking, overlooking, use, materials, tree root protection, planning policy, etc. and the planning system, although rather subjective, is aimed at protecting everyone from un-neighbourly development.

Simple planning applications should take 2 months for the Council to process, but sometimes matters arise that cause delay. The system is now so bureaucratic that sometimes months or even years can be added. Council 'targets' have also recently been leading to unnecessary re-applications.

Prior to making a planning application it is worth discussing proposals with the Planners to check the relevant policies and views and also to discuss proposals with neighbours to try and resolve possible objections which can at least cause a delay. It is also important to check your deeds re. extent of legal ownership, potential restrictive covenants etc.

When any planning application is made the Planners will make their recommendation. If no contrary views are received the Planners will then normally issue a planning decision using their delegated powers if possible - some Local Authorities operate slightly differently however, so best to check with the Council.

If a contrary view is expressed (e.g. from a neighbour or Councillor) then the proposals will normally go before the Development Control committee made up of elected Councillor representatives for their decision, which can over-rule the Planners.   This all causes delay as the committees only convene once a month and often then defer an application whilst a site visit is arranged.    Sometimes there is merit in lobbying councillors so they are made aware of the benefits of an application...

We can also advise about matters including The Party Wall etc Act and Disability Discrimination Act, both of which now have a bearing on many projects.   Other planning matters include Highway aspects, the Environment Agency if the site is prone to flooding, landscaping etc.

Good design is now being given a higher priority and we have to submit a detailed design statement with most applications to explain the proposals.

If a planning refusal is the outcome there is then the opportunity to appeal (within 6 months) to the Secretary of State for the Environment but this can take about 6 months to be determined and may agree with the planning decision, so if at all possible it is best to submit a scheme in the first place that keeps Planners, neighbours and Councillors happy.

Service breakdown for the design and planning stage:

To make a planning application (the outcome of which can never be guaranteed), the Council will at least need site and floor plans and elevations to a metric scale, together with completed forms and application fee to show your proposals fully in relation to your existing property.

All planning applications require an Ordnance Survey location plan normally A4 size at 1:1250 scale with the site boundary outlined in red and any other land owned or controlled by you shaded blue.

Listed below are the elements normally included in the Abracad costing graph:

1 no.     Design briefing and dimensional survey of the property
1 no.     Site & Roof Plan (1:200 scale normally)
1-3 no. 1:100 min. scale Floor Plan(s)
3-4 no. 1:100 scale Elevations
1 no.     Significant design change if required
1 no.     Submitting a full Planning application

The Abracad costing graph includes: Ďas existing' colour drawings, design, and Ďas proposedí colour drawings. Amount payable when application submitted. It excludes: Council's planning application fee (£172.00, no VAT, for all household planning applications), streetscene, detailed landscaping, possible re-design, re-application/appeal, detailed interior design, detailed ground levels (a digital survey may be advisable if the site is very large or with significant level variation) and 3D views if required.

Please note that builders need Stage 2 information in addition to Stage 1 information before they can price accurately.


Stage 2 - Building Regulations, Specification & Detail

Once a Planning Permission has been granted it is then worth proceeding to Stage 2 (although you can gamble and do this at the same time as Stage 1 to save time, particularly if you think Planning Permission is likely).

The Building Regulations are a set of minimum government standards, regularly being updated, relating to aspects such as accessibility, structural stability, safety, insulation, drainage etc. There will be a Building Regulations fee, payable separately to the Council, in due course, assuming that stage is reached. The amount will depend on the size/cost of the proposals and will normally be payable in 2 stages, the first when plans are submitted and the second after the first of a series of site visits if and when building work starts.

At this stage we normally include extra information that the builder will need such as radiator & electric positions, dimensions, key construction details etc.

Please also allow for basic design input from a Structural Engineer that is often required as part of Stage 2 including structural calculations for any steelwork, advice about foundations, etc. In some cases some preliminary investigation of subsoil and existing structures may also be beneficial in removing uncertainty. Engineers tend to charge their services at a similar rate to Architects.

Many of our clients are currently seeking 'habitable' garden rooms containing a lot of glass, yet open to the main house. These can't be considered as 'conservatories' because conservatories are officially considered 'uninhabitable' and need to have at least 75% of the roof and 50% of the walls glazed, and therefore need to be segregated from the main house to prevent unacceptable heat loss. However, we are able to create acceptable habitable spaces that contain large areas of glass by calculating the energy efficiency of the overall building, rather than merely considering the garden room in isolation.

Service breakdown for the Building Regs., Specification & Detail stage:

Adding notes and construction detail including dimensions, radiator and electric positions to satisfy the Building Regulations and enable builders to quote competitively on the same basis.

Listed below are the elements normally included in the Abracad costing graph:

1-3 no.  1:50 Floor Plan(s) with detail added
2 no.     1:50 Construction Sections
1 no.     Building Regs. and Specification notes
3-4 no. Construction details
1 no.     Making Building Regs. application

The Abracad costing graph excludes the fees of other consultants (eg. Structural Engineer), the Councilís Building Regs. plan check charge (about £230 for small residential, ref. Councilís price list). Detailed kitchen/bathroom design and mechanical & electrical specification is normally carried out by a specialist.

Stage 3 - Tendering & Contract Administration

We normally recommend getting competitive tenders from at least 3 builders, usually based on fully detailed drawings and a specification (not just Stage 1 information) - vagueness at this stage will just lead to 'extras' and disputes later. Larger and more complex jobs may need the involvement of a Quantity Surveyor.

We normally then administer a standard JCT Contract to formalise things such as cost, stage payments, timescale, insurance, potential dispute resolution etc., acting as a kind of policeman between client and chosen builder. Without such a written Contract you are vulnerable to all sorts of potentially very costly problems, often resulting from the client and builder having different expectations based on different assumptions.

We can also advise about Health & Safety - clients now have a duty to appoint a Planning Supervisor (which can be the Architect) for most jobs of any significance.

Service breakdown for the Contract Administration stage:

Listed below are the elements normally included in the Abracad costing graph:

Tendering to 3 builders
Contract signing + an appropriate number of site visits (typically 4 for a small residential project)

Health & Safety overseeing

The Abracad costing graph excludes the Councilís Building Regs. Inspection charge (about £370 incl. VAT for residential 10-40 square metres in area or £415 for residential 40-60 square metres, ref. Councilís price list).

Every project of over 30 days should be notified to the Health & Safety executive, with a supervisor appointed to oversee and produce a Method Statement and Risk Assessment.

Architect's fee payable prior to final visit and certificate.

Additional A1 colour prints £4 each, but other expenses normally included.

Health & Safety

Every job of over 30 days duration should be formally notified to the Health & Safety executive, together with a statement of Method and Health & Safety, the aim being to reduce accidents in a notoriously accident prone industry. The following points should of course also apply to even the smallest of jobs and the list is far from complete:

Ladders should be secured with a suitable grab rail at the top and not left useable when builders aren't there.

Scaffolding should have a handrail and protective fencing to fully boarded walkways.

All working platforms should be appropriate and stable.

Appropriate protective clothing should be worn - hard hat to protect head from falling debris and walking into obstacles, solid or waterproof boots, gloves to protect hands from chemicals, goggles where eyes are at risk, masks to avoid dust and fumes inhalation etc.

Beware of timber left with nails sticking out.

Holes in the ground should be fenced against people and animals falling in and the sides suitably shored.

Materials should be stacked and fenced off if appropriate so as not to pose a danger.

Work in progress should be suitably stabilised.

A first aid kit should be kept on site.

Tripping hazards (e.g. trailing wires) should be avoided.

Rubbish should generally not be burnt on site.

Unfortunately the above and other hazards are often ignored (with many imaginative excuses available) and although I endeavour to point them out repeatedly when making a site inspection, it would also be helpful if clients would assist in an uphill struggle to promote prevention in place of cure (and a possible fine!).

Frequently Asked Questions:

What about making design changes and being sure about the budget? 

How long will it take?

Can anyone call themselves an Architect?

What about making design changes and being sure about the budget?

No building project happens without changes, but certain decisions need to be made at certain times. For example, when the electrician arrives is a good time to discuss exactly what electrical fittings go where, an extra socket can easily be added for a little extra cost, but change your mind once everything is complete and adding a socket then becomes expensive, due to the knock-on implications involving the other trades and general disruption to the process. Late changes of mind cause disproportionate problems so try to avoid making them.

As the project progresses the final cost becomes clearer, but it is impossible to know everything at the outset, so allow yourself some contingency money to cover for the unexpected (often hidden under the ground). There is a general tendency for people to underestimate cost, time and disruption at the outset.

We once had to step a floor up to avoid a large diameter and apparently major pipe which was unearthed in an unexpected place - later in the job we discovered that it was an empty pipe that had just been dumped! Unfortunately we don't have X-ray vision, but at least the split-level room was liked.

We understand that builders are producing a labour intensive and largely hand-built product in less than ideal conditions, because we have been builders ourselves, and we are also familiar with common concerns by clients, such as seeing the foundations going in and thinking that the building is going to be too small or worrying about shrinkage cracking. By understanding the building process as well as the product we are able to minimise potential problems which often result from misunderstanding.

How long will it take?

Typically 12-18 months from start to finish (only about 1 month being due to us). The Planners can cause months of delay which is sometimes unpredictable, more detailed construction information then needs to be produced before builders can tender sensibly, the builders will then generally need some lead-in time prior to building works happening, which generally take 3-6 months for relatively small projects. Rushing to start early tends to lead to problems later. 

Can anyone call themselves an Architect?

No, the title 'Architect' is protected by law and reserved for those who have successfully completed at least 7 years of training to become a Registered Architect, (a Chartered Architect is a Registered Architect who has joined the RIBA club). Beware of cheap imitations such as 'architectural designers' who are not qualified and do not have to comply with any standards. Architects are expected to attend Continued Professional Development courses regularly to keep their skills up-to-date, and must maintain Professional Indemnity insurance.

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Abracad Architects, The Atrium, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 9BX Tel. 01344481047