Archive for 'News'

Right To Buy

I recently stumbled across this blog called “Single Aspect”  and had a number of interesting conversations with the Author about the Right To Buy (RTB).  I was intrigued as I had always believe the principal of giving someone the RTB was great.

I thought it was a way of lending a helping hand to someone who was unable to support themselves, and then eventually letting them stand on their own two feet (by letting them buy their flat at a discounted price and then they will no longer be a burden on the state because they will no longer be claiming housing benefit).

I also believed that there was no “loss” by giving them the flat or house at a discounted price because they would still be buying it at its “material” cost, e.g. the housing association would not be making a loss on it, they simply wouldn’t be making a big profit, like the housing developers do (well, “apparently” they do, but in my experience they make 18-25% profit which seems normal, and the fact that many house builders went bust after the housing boom in 2009 / 2010 would sort of prove my point – surely they aren’t making HUGE profits?)….

I USED to think that the RTB was the only good thing that Margaret Thatcher had ever done….

Now, all of the above were my uneducated opinions about a scheme I knew little about.  After reading Pauls blog at “Single Aspect” I have formed a more well educated opinion, based on more facts, not just a bit of hearsay and personal opinion….


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My Renovation – Part XX – Electrician Review – Mark Butcher, of Butcher & Son.

DRAFT: Full review to come soon…

For my bespoke project I needed to find someone genuinely passionate about their work and willing to go the extra mile – this is exactly the service that Mark Butcher provided to me.

As you will already know from reading “My Renovation – Part 2“, last year I was seriously let down by a Gas Safe plumber so before the contract for the electrical job was signed I discussed this with Mark.  He assured me that he was not interested in doing a quick job and disappearing with the money and he guaranteed that the quality of the job and finishing on time were the highest priorities.  I would not be disappointed.

Prior to commencement of work it was important to clarify many details for the project.  I discussed them all with Mark, sending lots of pictures and drawings via email (light switch cover plates, the exact specification of lighting flex, how the conduit would look, the design of the system, runs for the conduit, position of every socket and switch, finishes and colours, etc, etc) and after the final parts were agreed Mark put in place a signed contract with a confirmed completion date.  This gave me confidence that Mark was 100% committed to the job and was on the same wavelength as me.  He was very patient with my numerous questions about the specifications and details, he researched everything and sourced “bespoke” products especially for me.  We worked together to plan everything and it really paid off, the completed job is perfect.


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Cambridge University – Summer Exhibition 2013 Review

ARCSOC
Through ArcSoc and other non-degree related projects, Cambridge architecture students gain hands-on experience transforming spaces on a minimal budget, building up experience in scale from small club nights to cabarets and finally to the end of year shows. Whereas most schools are given a budget by their university, we are forced to put our creativity into practice and earn our own money. It is perhaps then no surprise that in the current economic climate a large number of the young architects making noise in the press, namely the  ‘austerity architects’, are ex-Cambridge graduates who have taken this experience and applied it to practice – such as Assemble, who designed and built ‘the Cineroleum’ on a budget of merely £5000, or Practice Architecture, who refurbished Frank’s Cafe in Peckham in similar circumstances.

The aim this year is to create not just a show, but a collaborative Cambridge project in itself. By treating the exhibition as a holistic piece of work, just as many young and old architecture practices have, we may produce a real piece of work that could itself be portfolio worthy and express or question the type of work it showcases, along with the very specific pedagogy from which it has emerged.

This spirit is something that we wish to apply to every aspect of the exhibition this year, from the construction of displays to the formatting of catalogues; even our collaboration with ArcSoc talks, who will be running a lecture series entitled ‘In Public’ alongside the show (See summation attached), will compliment the exhibition’s own attempts to transform public space.

All of these considerations will be grounded in a strong understanding of context; our venue is located near two of the sites with which our school has been preoccupied this year in Vauxhall and Battersea.
Summer Show poster_3


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My Renovation – Part 5 – Stone Flooring

I made the decision to have stone floors throughout my entire flat (50m2) before I had even bought it.  It was kind of the obvious thing to do really as I manage the design team of a interior specialist stone sub contractor.

I took a few seconds to consider “did I want stone floor in the bedroom?”, and the thought process in my mind went like this –

“I hate carpet…”

“I don’t want radiators in the bedroom, I want Under Floor Heating throughout the flat”,

“I don’t know anything about ‘proper’ timber flooring so I would need to sub-contract the work, probably at a very high cost, and with extra hassle of coordinating another trades-person to help with my build”.

So with that decision taken I got myself into a situation I hadn’t really considered – carrying 1 ton (1000kg) of stone up the four flights of stairs, from basement to 2nd floor. Piece by piece.  On my own.

Stone Delivery :-)

Stone Delivery :-)


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An Architect’s Guide To Hardwood Floors

Hardwood flooring has significantly changed in recent years. Trends such as FSC hardwood, engineered vs. solid, while and dark hardwoods as well as other trends have completely transformed the industry. To keep you on top of these recent developments, here is an architect’s guide to hardwood flooring -

Wood Floor

Types Of Floorboard Construction:

Until a few years ago, there was only one type of hardwood floorboard construction on offer. Referred to as ‘real wood’ (to distinguish it from laminated wood) its industry term was in fact ‘solid wood’. It suited most properties with the exception of areas in which humid, warm or wet conditions flourished. It meant that areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, basement and even where under floor heating was fitted were off limits to hardwood floors. That has now changed with the successful introduction of an alternative type of floorboard construction called ‘engineered wood’.  Let’s take a closer look at each type.

Solid Type – Each floorboard is made wholly from natural wood. Species vary from common European to exotic South America hardwoods. As long as the floorboard contains only hardwood it falls under the category of solid.

For: Extremely strong floorboard that can exceed 100 years of service life easily. The use of full wood means that the floor will react well to many repetitions of sanding (a process that can rejuvenate worn-out looking wood).

Against: If fitted in areas of high humidity or heat, the floorboard will expand (in high temperatures) then contract (in low temperatures) leading to the floorboard ascending of the ground. Secondly, because of the use of complete wood, it is the dearer option of the two.


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My Renovation – Part 4 – Demolition!

So, it has been a while since I wrote Part 3 and for that I apologise!

Without further-a-do, let me continue the story from Part 2 (before we took a break to review Tradespeople and Suppliers in Part 3) – following the lengthy delay and stress that the plumber had caused I was motivated to plough on with the job.

Where the old boiler had once been there was a hole for a month or two (which I had used effectively as a fridge), eventually a shiny new condensing Viessmann Boiler was installed.

Wine Chilling "Cabinet"

Wine Chilling "Cabinet"

Newly plastered and painted wall for the boiler to be installed

Newly plastered and painted wall for the boiler to be installed

The new boiler, after 6 months of cold water this would be much appreciated!

The new boiler, after 6 months of cold water this would be much appreciated!


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My Renovation – Part 3 – Reviewing Tradespeople and Suppliers

This week I will take a break from the story of my home renovation, instead I would like to review trades or suppliers who have in some way stood out from the rest, be it for good or for bad.

I will start with one of the first contacts I made when beginning my projects –

Brewers:

The name is misleading I think, to someone who is not aware of specialist suppliers the name would suggest a company who supply to the home brewing hobbyist or landlords of Public Houses!  But no, these people are paint and decorator specialists.  They can supply pretty much anything you need for painting your walls, or in my case, all of the timber pallets I would be breaking up and “upcycling”.

I bought Blackfriars Clear Matt Duratough Varnish from them and would highly recommend it.  To keep the wood looking natural but give it a good layer of protection use 3 coats and before the final coat give it a light sanding.  Even on rough wood this will give a beautiful smooth finish that is easy to wipe down (e.g. for worktops).  It also has the advantage of NOT requiring white spirit/turpentine to clean the brushes, simply run the brushes under tap water.

Brewers were very knowledgeable and when there were problems ordering the required items I needed they went out of their way to suggest alternatives and give a very healthy discount to keep me going until they got the item in stock that I had asked for.

My only criticism would be that the branch near to me shuts at 5pm and doesn’t open at the weekend, which means I have to buy from them at about 7am when I’m on my way to work – not great for casual browsing.  Paint fumes before breakfast don’t start my day well.

The branch I used was on Queen’s Road, North Peckham.


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My Renovation – Part 2 – Plumbing

The next phase was to turn my attention to heating and hot water. It being March now I was bored of using a single electrical heater and washing in the kitchen sink with water boiled from the kettle (plumbing to the bathroom had previously been disconnected due to the previous occupants flooding the flat below). It should be noted that I had no option to try and resurrect the existing gas boiler which was certainly unsafe and had been decommissioned.
Washing all my clothes by hand was becoming a big chore after only living in the flat for a few weeks and without a laundrette within walking distance I was already dreaming of the day I could instal a washing machine!

I used RatedPeople again to put out to tender a more major job – to strip out the miles of pipes running round two walls of every room, re-plumb the entire flat, install a new boiler, and most importantly – install under floor heating.  At this stage under floor heating was a dream, not a necessity, so I was eager to find out if I could stretch my budget to include it as I was hoping to install stone flooring in some if not all areas.

Two people quoted for the job, one at around £10k, the other at almost half the price – £5.5k! I also contacted British Gas directly to get a third price, they wouldn’t get involved in the UFH (under floor heating) and quoted £10k alone for the re-plumb and boiler! They even went as far as whacking on around £700 for erecting scaffolding to simply push the flue through the wall, the representative was surprised when he told me he doesn’t get much work.

The choice was a simple one for me, £10k was well out of my budget so I considered the risks of choosing the cheapest company who had quoted only £5.5k for the job and opted for sole trader: Marc Delman.

Never again would I use him.


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My Renovation – Part 1 – Buying a repossesion, The Basics

So, where to begin!?

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was going through the stressful three and a half month process of buying a flat. Even considering being a first time buyer and purchasing a property that was unoccupied and not part of a chain it was a drawn out and expensive process that is certainly made better by being in my past rather than my immediate future!

I’m guessing you are all eager to see the photos of the pristine, gleaming, ready-to-move in abode right?

Well here it is!

Dirty living room

Dirty living room

Living room with useless cupboard full width across the room

Living room with useless cupboard full width across the room


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What Now? For the Architecture Degree?

01_THE Charter for Change by Dan Slavinsky

Above: Image from The Charter for Change created by Dan Slavinsky

It is always good to keep an eye out for the activities of the What Now Collaborative and what they have to say regarding the state of the architectural profession, and the education system that feeds it. I have been fortunate enough to cover past events by the collective, and also lucky enough to speak in their Charter for Change event (also with ZAP Architecture) held at the RIBA in 2010.

02_postcards exhibition

Above: Postcards on display from The Architect? What Now?

You can see my articles on their previous events here:

The Architect? What Now?

Charter for Change

The group is currently heavily involved in a ‘commission of enquiry’ into architectural education. This involves well known names such as former RIBA President Sunand Prasad, Dikon Robinson, and three other heads of schools of architecture. The result of the enquiry will be known when a report is published in April. Running parallel to this is the ‘Built Environment Education’ campaign seeking flexibility within the built environment. This is being led by Ryder Architecture, and of which ‘What Now’ was part of the founding group.


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