Duncan Gunn named as Laterem Group Consultant Architect

Duncan Gunn named as Laterem Group Consultant Architect

Duncan Gunn named as Laterem Group Consultant Architect : The Laterem Group has announced Duncan Gunn (GUNN Associates) as Consultant Architect. The Group is a multifaceted, London-based organisation specialising in property development and investment opportunities across the United Kingdom. The Group is split between Laterem Capital which orientates around investment into small and medium-sized developers and Laterem Developments which finds land opportunities and develops them out itself.

Duncan Gunn named as Laterem Group Consultant Architect - Since leaving the Oxford School of Architecture and having also studied in the United States, Duncan worked with leading design practices before starting his own practice in 2000. Since then, Duncan has become a leading figure in the design of residential and mixed-use design, both new-build, and changes of use and permitted development. Duncan brings with him his knowledge of the sector and his thought-leadership on the 'new high street', changes in mixed-uses, and residential requirements. Duncan's practice operates from Soho, London and, as well as its client work, works closely with LandAid, the property industry charity, providing pro bono services.

Duncan said:

"I am delighted, and honoured, to be announced as Laterem Group's Consultant Architect. Bringing together investment, development, design, and construction expertise, it is an exciting company to be involved with. We have been looking at several promising sites already and are looking forward to a busy 2022."

https://www.lateremgroup.com/

 

#architect #design #construction #development #investment

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Gunn Associates Trusted Land Awards

GUNN TrustedLand Awards 2021

Double Winners at the TrustedLand Awards 2021

Gunn TrustedLand Awards. We were more than delighted to have scooped TWO Awards at the 2021 TrustedLand Awards last week.  GUNN Associates won Architect of the Year for the second year running, and Duncan Gunn won TrustedLand Legacy Builder Award in the individual awards.

On Wednesday 8th December 2021, TrustedLand and headline partners Aureum Finance welcomed the 2021 Real Developers and Approved Professional Panel to a special live awards ceremony in Angel, North London, to reveal this year's fantastic winners of 10 award categories.

Architect of the year trusted land awards

The TrustedLand community nominated, and the judges got busy judging! 

In association with Approved panel finance brokers, Aureum Finance, the TrustedLand awards, this year, hosted nine developer and professional categories for recognition. Nominations from the existing Members, Advisors, and external land partners led to 19 firms nominated for company awards, and 7 individuals put forward. 

The judging panel cast their votes for the Development of the Year and the Collaboration Award, whilst total nominations were used to decide the winners of the other seven.

Well done GUNN team!

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plan homes for climate change driven flood risk.

Plan homes for climate change driven flood risk.

Plan homes for climate change-driven flood risk.

Plan homes for climate change driven flood risk: Housing secretary Michael Gove should reset planning policy to ban developers from building thousands of new homes in high-risk flood areas, the think-tank Localis has argued.  In a report published last month entitled ‘Plain Dealing – building for flood resilience’ the place experts set out how deepening climate change pressures and rising housing demand have resulted in an increase in flooding on properties in at risk areas.

In original research undertaken for the report, Localis discovered that almost 200 planning permissions have been granted on floodplain land so far this year for some 5,283 new homes in the highest-risk local authorities in the country, the overwhelming majority some 4,255 in areas pre-identified as highly likely to flood.

Among its key recommendations, Localis calls for government commitment to empowering communities to manage flood risk locally in a ‘resilient’ way that allows them to pursue their local ecological, economic and social goals. In this context, resilience means flood strategies that focus on living with floods instead of just preventing them and involve a flexible approach to flooding and a rapid recovery from inundation.

Other report recommendations for policy and regulatory changes include suggestions to: –

  • Make developers liable for the sustainability and insurability of any new developments built in floodplain areas.
  • Support effective collaboration between the public, private and civil society with the aim of reinvigorating and re-incentivising flood insurance schemes and partnerships – for example comprehensive risk management in at risk urban regeneration zones.

Localis chief executive, Jonathan Werran, said:

“There is a clear need to reset government policy and regulation to prevent an otherwise unavoidable 50% uptick in the numbers of houses being built on floodplains over the next half century. At the same time, with climate change another unavoidable reality, we need to strengthen communities to become resilient in adapting to, living with and responding to flood pressures.”

 Grace Newcombe, Localis lead clean growth researcher, said:

“We know that climate change is intensifying, flooding is increasing, and housing pressures are rising. Floodplain development necessarily sits at the intersection of these demands but it must not come at the expense of individual and community safety. Clearly defined flood resilience objectives from the national Government aligned with whole-system collaboration is needed to protect homes and businesses and stimulate building back better. Failing to do this and continuing to build new homes in floodplain areas without resilience measures is a planned catastrophe.”

Martin Milliner, Claims Director at LV= General Insurance said:

“Climate change will increase the UK’s exposure to weather-related hazards such as flooding, and it’s vital we prepare for this. Whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to increase housing we have concerns about the UK’s resilience to future flood events, and in particular the number of new housing developments in flood risk areas that are still receiving approval. With those involved in the planning process ignoring the current guidance, this runs the risk of putting an ever-increasing number of communities at risk.

“Flooding is an extremely traumatic event which has a devasting impact on a person’s life, both physically and mentally. This research highlights a concerning amount of current and future development in high flood risk areas. To tackle this, we need to come together and develop a holistic approach to flooding for the long term, with property developers, insurers and Government – both nationally and locally – tackling the issue of building on floodplains.”

Despite being able to achieve a planning permission in Flood Zone 3, the highest risk areas, developers, and homebuilders should be obliged to confirm that the homes will not only be habitable but also mortgageable. Some planning permissions only go so far in safeguarding future residents' living conditions and safety and not only is there a moral imperative but there should also be a legal imperative to ensure that all homes that are constructed can be lived in - Government must Plan homes for climate change driven flood risk. 

 

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Trusted Land Awards Legacy Building Award

GUNN shortlisted for 3 TrustedLand Awards

GUNN shortlisted for three TrustedLand Awards 2021

GUNN shortlisted for three TrustedLand Awards 2021: The TrustedLand community has now nominated the established SME development firms and professionals that make an additional mark in their industry.

GUNN Associates is nominated for Architect of the Year (We were 2020 Winners) and Duncan Gunn has been nominated for two individual awards; TrustedLand Contributor of the Year and Legacy Builder Award.

In association with approved panel finance brokers, Aureum Finance, this year sees nine developer and professional categories for recognition. Nominations from the existing Members, Advisors, and external land partners led to 19 firms nominated for company awards, and 7 individuals put forward.

You can link through to the 2021 Awards article on TrustedLand here: https://trustedland.co.uk/article/finalists-announced-for-2021-trustedland-awards.html

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Please give me a call/email if you'd like to speak about how to protect your project, click here

We work with developers and landowners to maximise the potential of their sites and increase their ROI. The developments range from 9 units to upwards of 50 units, and often include areas of other uses such as commercial, retail, and F&B. We have excellent working relationships with a range of trusted consultants and suppliers and can advise on all aspects of these developments; from feasibility stage through to completion. We have developed an efficient and accurate site viability programme to assist developers and landowners evaluate their sites and this is offered at feasibility stage.

Trusted Land Awards Legacy Building Award

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COP26 Leadership lessons from the built environment

Opinion: COP26 Leadership lessons from the built environment

COP26 Leadership built environment: The UN climate summit, COP26, brings officials from almost 200 countries to Glasgow to haggle over the best measures to combat global warming. As the host nation, the UK is responsible for overseeing these negotiations and trying to extract meaningful pledges from the representatives of almost 200 countries in attendance.

COP26 Leadership from the built environment -The design community is committed to addressing climate change. As architects, we often associate our professional identity with the buildings we design. However, the changing nature of society and the economic climate means there is growing pressure on societies to find creative solutions to complex issues via the built environment.

The UK has led with their commitment to reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels and now more than 100 world leaders have promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, in the summit's first major deal.

This week more than 200 businesses and groups have backed a report calling on world leaders to radically reduce the greenhouses gases produced by the built environment. These public and private sector clients, developers, architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers, and collectively calling not only for stronger environmental regulation but also for more resources and infrastructure to facilitate a sustainable built environment.

The report trails the Built Environment Summit – a two-day virtual conference held in October for the sector to unite ahead of COP26. It was presented with a demand for “bold regulations and purposeful policies” to world leaders at the COP26 summit. They say the construction and property industry stands ready but that the lack of commitment from global governments is choking progress.

The practices and organisations have united around the detailed report published by the RIBA and Architects Declare (which we are proud to have signed up to) which sets out essential actions to support the decarbonisation of existing and future buildings.

RIBA President, Simon Allford, said:

“This timely report emphasises the critical role our professions can and must play to tackle the climate emergency, and clearly states where we require change, particularly within challenging political landscapes and inadequate policies. Industry and governments need to work together to accelerate the global decarbonisation of buildings.

I encourage the entire sector to endorse and amplify the report’s recommendations – we must speak with one voice to deliver a clear and urgent message.”

Maria Smith, RIBA Councillor, Director of Sustainability at Buro Happold and report editor, said:

“This report is a call for governments across the world to include built environment actions in their net-zero plans. The built environment sector can be a transformative force in meeting the challenges of the climate and biodiversity emergency. The knowledge, tools, and skills exist, but support and infrastructure is needed to mainstream best practice and bring about the transition to a fair and sustainable built environment for all.”

The built environment and those that shape it are critically important. Our buildings are responsible for almost 40 percent of global carbon emissions. There is no doubt that we need bolder regulations and more robust policies to change this for our future, and effective leadership at every level here will determine success or failure.

The full report can be read here.

The media at COP26 has also turned its attention to the leaders outside of the conference halls, not the politicians, talking of “revolution not reverence”. And this shows the nature of leadership in its wider context. Of course, diplomacy is needed in the real world, negotiations and deals are struck, and concessions made, but there is also a place for leaders like Greta Thunberg, who lead with raw facts, emotion, and perseverance.

At a micro-level, the expectations of our developer clients has changed, so we have moved quickly to re-evaluate the way we design and how we advise them. A focus on innovation in design and digital has enabled us to respond to these market-driven challenges and offer flexibility. It’s crucial that we still continuously and review, adapt and rethink the layout of spaces in light of the wider macro-economic drivers which are fundamentally changing how we use spaces to live, work, learn and play.

Please give me a call/email if you'd like to speak about how to protect your project, click here

We work with developers and landowners to maximise the potential of their sites and increase their ROI. The developments range from 9 units to upwards of 50 units, and often include areas of other uses such as commercial, retail, and F&B. We have excellent working relationships with a range of trusted consultants and suppliers and can advise on all aspects of these developments; from feasibility stage through to completion. We have developed an efficient and accurate site viability programme to assist developers and landowners evaluate their sites and this is offered at feasibility stage.

Image credit: Philip King/Shutterstock.com

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Party Walls Developers

5 Tips for Developers on Party Walls

Tips for Developers on Party Walls. Party Wall legislation can be tricky, and the legal jargon surrounding it can take ages to negotiate around. We like to help our Developer clients to find creative solutions to overcome the challenges of legal boundary and neighbourly issues at the design stage of their scheme. Early consultation with all parties at an initial stage, will ensure that any fundamental issues which can cause delays or even halt developments later down the line are highlighted early.

💡👉 TIP 1 - You can issue a party wall notice yourself.

Developers advice on Party Walls: The Party Wall Act does not require a Party Wall Surveyor to issue the initial notice to the adjoining owners. You can download the guide to Party Walls here ( https://www.gov.uk/party-walls-building-works ), print out the sample Notice, and issue it to the adjoining owners. If you are going to do this, read the guide first so that you issue the correct Notice and understand the timeframes. It is only if the adjoining owner dissents against the Notice, or doesn’t sign, that you will need a Party Wall Surveyor.

💡👉 TIP 2 - Your surveyor can challenge the adjoining owner’s surveyor’s fees

If you are required to have a party wall award, the adjoining owners may choose to have a second surveyor instructed, which you will be obliged to pay for. Adjoining owners often think that this instruction is for ‘their’ surveyor but, in fact, both surveyors should be acting independently. If you or your surveyor believes that the second surveyor’s fees are too high, they can be challenged and negotiated to a mutually acceptable level.

💡👉 TIP 3 - How you can avoid a party wall award

The reasons for the Party Wall etc. Act becoming applicable are simple and can be found in the Government’s guide but, even if the guide suggests you need to use the Act, there may be ways to avoid it. One of the main reasons for requiring an Award is if your excavation will be lower than the adjoining owner’s foundations (if within 3 metres) but with some creative engineering design, you may be able to avoid this by, for example, cantilevering your ground floor slab, which would mean that your foundations are further than 3m away and so the Act would then not be relevant.

💡👉 TIP 4 - Why photographs are so important

Whether you require an Award or not, it is wise to take record photographs of both sides of a Party Structure. This will protect you from erroneous claims from the adjoining owners and protect the adjoining owners in the event of disputed damage caused by your works.

If you take the photographs (only of the Party Structure in question), ensure that they are given to the adjoining owner and agreed upon.

💡👉 TIP 5 - if you build a new wall on or astride the boundary you could get some of the money back

A Party Wall Award can work financially in your favour if your neighbour is wanting to use your wall to enclose upon i.e. they want to use a wall, on your land, that you have already built and paid for, to become one of their internal walls. In this case, your surveyor will write a sum into the Award that they will be required to pay you for the use of your wall. The sum is usually calculated as half the cost of the construction of the wall.

Please give Duncan a call/email if you'd like to speak about how to protect your project, click here

We work with developers and landowners to maximise the potential of their sites and increase their ROI. The developments range from 9 units to upwards of 50 units and often include areas of other uses such as commercial, retail, and F&B. We have excellent working relationships with a range of trusted consultants and suppliers and can advise on all aspects of these developments; from feasibility stage through to completion. We have developed an efficient and accurate site viability programme to assist developers and landowners evaluate their sites and this is offered at feasibility stage.

 

 

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Opinion: Materials and labour shortages in UK Construction sector

Materials and labour shortages - Builders’ workloads are at the highest level in over a decade but the rising cost of materials, material shortages and a lack of workers pose a major threat to the UK’s construction sector. Construction output is falling as a result of these material price increases and skills shortages; restricting smaller builders' ability to recover from the pandemic.  The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has commented in response to the release of Office of National Statistics (ONS) construction output data.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said:

“While it’s brilliant to see small, local building companies and sole traders bouncing back from the difficulties of 2020, record workloads and enquires are bringing significant challenges. An extraordinary 98% of small builders now face rising prices for building materials, with the same number expecting this to continue into the autumn. Half of those who responded to our survey are struggling to hire a carpenter or a bricklayer. Without these fundamental inputs, how can Britain build back better?”

Following a 24-year high in June, July’s dip in IHS/Cips index is widely blamed on ‘Brexit friction’. A combination of materials supply problems, labour shortages and steep rises in purchasing prices contributed to the ease in growth and were widely noted as a catalyst for the slowdown. Total construction new orders grew by 18% in the second quarter compared with the January to March first quarter period. The problems lie with the scarcity of some materials, and also the lack of reliable delivery times. In simple economics, it costs manufacturers more to get it over here with tariffs that they have to pay that they didn't have to pay before, supply and demand means that wholesalers and building product suppliers can charge more, so here lies the problem. The same applies to labour shortages. A lot of European workers went home at the beginning of the year and cannot return if they even if they wanted to because they're not allowed to work here.

The effect that all this has on developers and building contractors is worrying. These companies will contract with a building owner or a client, or an employer for a certain amount of money to do a certain amount of work in a certain amount of time.

If they enter into contracts, and then subsequently find that the price their price is too low, there is no mechanism to allow them to increase their costs, because the contract would say that the job had been under-priced. If the price of timber or windows has doubled, and it’s beyond the contractor’s control, a client might agree to accept the cost, but if the two parties don't agree, the contractor may see no alternative than to give termination notice of the contract, or simply walk away.

On projects that are currently running, this will look like unexpected price rises and delays because a contractor cannot find labour. A client could allow the extension of time in the contract, but there is no clause to say it is allowable because of a shortage of labour. A contractor can't claim an extension of time. There has to be an agreement understanding the situation at the moment so that existing contracts don’t come to a grinding halt if the two parties can't agree.

Another huge issue for developers is the implications for funding. Often a large proportion of their project has funding. Depending on contingencies within agreements, the lender becomes involved, so it’s crucial that there is an open dialogue with all stakeholders.

A solution would be to introduce fluctuation clauses into the contract that allows for an increase or decrease in prices for longer-term projects. It seems to me that this may have to happen more often for smaller domestic projects. If you are spending £60k on your (London) extension for example, and see a 10-20% cost hike, that’s quite significant!

If you're using a contract administrator, like an architect or a quantity surveyor or project manager, they probably use a JCT minor works contract.

There are fluctuation clauses in D&B and Standard JCT contracts but not in Intermediate and Minor Works - which are used on most SME developments. Although both Employers and Contractors will have no appetite to construct bespoke fluctuation clauses, and the contract administrator to evaluate and determine them, my advice is to at least discuss a working method of including a fluctuation method into these smaller contracts. It is important for developers to put an adequate contingency in place and have a realistic and open dialogue with funders about the very real likelihoods of upward costs even during small projects.

👉👉 Please give me call/email if you'd like to speak about how to protect your project.👈👈

This summary of fluctuation clauses from Designing Buildings Wiki ( https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Fluctuations_in_construction_contracts ) is a useful aid. “Fluctuation provisions in construction contracts provide a mechanism for dealing with the effects of inflation, which on large projects lasting several years can be very significant. On smaller projects, the contractor will be expected to take inflation into account when calculating their price (a firm price). On larger projects, the contractor may be asked to tender based on current prices (prices at an agreed base date) and then the contract makes provisions for the contractor to be reimbursed for price changes to specified items over the duration of the project (a fluctuating price). 💡 Most minor or intermediate contracts do not have this provision included.

Materials and labour shortages Fluctuation clauses in contracts may allow for:

  • Changes in taxation.
  • Changes in the cost of labour, transport and materials (sometimes referred to as 'escalation').
  • Increases in head office or administrative costs.

Generally, the contractor is not entitled to fluctuations after the completion date. The number of fluctuations may be calculated from nationally published price indices (for example Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) bulletins or public records) rather than calculating actual cost increases which could be very time-consuming.

Payment calculations are then based on a project programme for activity and a payment chart against the programme resulting in a cash flow projection. Quarterly percentage assessments of inflation are then added to the projected figures allowing for price fluctuation. If industry-negotiated labour rates are known in advance or a particular commodity such as steel is subject to spiralling price rises, additional allowances may come into play.”

There are three principal headings under which the adjustment for fluctuations might be considered:

  1. Contribution, levy and tax: the contract sum is usually based on the normal on-costs payable by the contractor by virtue of their status as an ‘employer’ of people. This would include things like taxes, National Insurance and other forms of excise duties and statutory contributions. Where the contract permits, the contract sum may be adjusted for changes in the rates or amounts at which these taxes or duties are paid, or in certain circumstances where new taxes are introduced, or old ones discontinued. 💡 This is unlikely to affect smaller contracts
  2. Labour and materials cost: the contract sum is based on the cost to the contractor of labour and materials current at a specific moment in time. (This is sometimes referred to as the ‘base date’.) Where the contract permits, the contract sum may be adjusted for actual changes in these prices. 💡 This is what we are talking about here.
  3. Formula adjustment: essentially a ‘hybrid’ where, instead of using the actual increases in labour, materials and equipment, the contract stipulates a formula, so that the contract sum may be adjusted, by applying the formula with a series of indices to calculate the increase or decrease for the relevant part of the work. 💡 This is far more complicated than ‘b)’ and not relevant for minor or intermediate contracts.

The risk of fluctuating prices can be dealt with as follows:

  • contractor to price the risk (a fixed or firm price contract); or
  • allow provision for contractor to recover full or limited fluctuations on certain prices (a fluctuating price contract).

JCT Design & Build, and Standard contracts can include fluctuation clauses, but the JCT Intermediate contract only allows for fluctuations when named sub-contractors are being used i.e: only the named subcontractor's prices can fluctuate. The JCT Minor Works contract has no such clauses.

Please give me a call/email if you'd like to speak about how to protect your project, click here

We work with developers and landowners to maximise the potential of their sites and increase their ROI. The developments range from 9 units to upwards of 50 units and often include areas of other uses such as commercial, retail, and F&B. We have excellent working relationships with a range of trusted consultants and suppliers and can advise on all aspects of these developments; from feasibility stage through to completion. We have developed an efficient and accurate site viability programme to assist developers and landowners evaluate their sites and this is offered at feasibility stage.

References:

RICS Guidance Note: Fluctuations (1st Edition, August 2016)

Designing Buildings Wiki  https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Fluctuations_in_construction_contracts


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Balneary Architecture Festival

Balneary Architecture Festival in Baile Govora, Romania

Balneary Architecture Festival - Hanelore Dumitrache our senior project designer, spent time in Romania this summer and had the pleasure of visiting the Balneary Architecture week-long event in her home town of Baile Govora.

Balneary Architecture Festival - Baile Govora is a spa town in Romania famous for its natural mineral springs. The town had been a cherished hotspot for balneary treatments since the early 1900s, visited by patients from all over Europe. Since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, many of the impressive buildings have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair.

Balneary Architecture Festival 2The week-long event hosted by Studo Govora aimed to revitalise local heritage buildings through art and civic activities. The event featured historical tours, architectural visits, exhibitions by architecture students and public consultations. In these consultations, students presented their proposals for Ivanovici Villa, with locals and tourists brainstorming potential future uses.

Balneary Architecture Festival 3

Hanelore Dumitrache our senior project designer, completed her RIBA Part 3 diploma with Distinction in October 2020. She is now a fully qualified Architect after 10 years of hard work and study. She now also boasts a full qualification as a European Architect.

 


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Exploring ICF and other Methods of Modern Construction

Exploring ICF and other Methods of Modern Construction: Remember the residential apartment scheme by GUNN that delighted the Croydon Planning Committee? A development of nine flats, car-parking, storage, and landscaped gardens in the leafy tree-lined area of Purley, South London was commissioned by Broadwing Homes to produce a design for the development of a residential apartment scheme consisting of nine flats and ancillary uses, such as car parking, cycle and refuse storage, and landscaped gardens. We’re working closely with the client to explore construction options using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).

Exploring ICF and other Methods of Modern Construction: Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF) is an innovative modern method of construction that combines the intrinsic strength of concrete with the exceptional thermal insulation properties of polystyrene to produce cost-effective, durable structures. ICFs are quick and easy to install. There are many benefits of using Insulated Concrete Formwork systems in the building of your home. Here are the key advantages of using the system over other systems on the market from our friends at econekt, (Experts in self-build and everything from ICF foundations, building or floor insulation, to a fully Passivhaus certified home.)

Thermal Insulation:

You will often find that when using Insulated Concrete Formwork blocks for your self-build project, this can completely omit the requirement for other sources of insulation, such as more traditionally used means like fibreglass, mineral wool, cellulose, or polyurethane foam.

Acoustic Insulation:

As well as thermal insulation, you will also find that ICF construction allows for a considerable reduction in the requirement of acoustic insulation in homes too. This ensures that noise levels are kept to a minimum between rooms. Perfect for homes to those with a certain musical talent, or to buildings that need to keep noise levels between themselves and neighbours to a minimum.

Efficiency:

A key advantage of using an ICF construction system is its efficiency of use in the build process. This is mainly down to the ease of use and installation with ICF materials, in turn, this ensures less of a requirement for labour and materials. Thus, rendering your project far more economical in the long run.

Energy Benefits:

Depending on which type of walling system and other ICF construction products that you decide on, your dream home could be enjoying little-to-no running costs in terms of heating. ICF’s insulation properties mean that your home’s energy can be generated from things like body heat and appliances, omitting the requirement for central heating systems in many cases.

Integrity:

ICF construction systems enjoy a wealth of benefits when considering the structure of your self-build project. You can enjoy peace of mind knowing that your materials are impenetrable to factors such as mould, rot, adverse weather, and damp. ICF construction has long been hailed as a much better alternative to traditional construction materials such as wood when conducting a self-build project.

Air Tightness:

Air tightness is generally an area of concern or risk when building your home. However, when working with ICF construction, the structural concrete core provides not only the structural integrity of the home but also the primary air barrier. Reducing the risk of this tiresome process and allowing more time to spent on the penetrations or window and door openings. ICF constructed homes can achieve an air change rate of less than 1 air change with no extra attention.

We work with developers and landowners to maximise the potential of their sites and increase their ROI. The developments range from 9 units to upwards of 50 units and often include areas of other uses such as commercial, retail, and F&B. We have excellent working relationships with a range of trusted consultants and suppliers and can advise on all aspects of these developments; from feasibility stage through to completion. We have developed an efficient and accurate site viability programme to assist developers and landowners evaluate their sites and this is offered at feasibility stage.

To arrange a call and strategic advice consultation with one of our Chartered Architects, click here, we’ll talk to you about your site or building, and how to get the most out of it.


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Editorial Credit: JessicaGirvan/Shutterstock.com

A Critical Review of the Architectural Profession through the Grenfell Tower tragedy

A Critical Review of the Architectural Profession through the Grenfell Tower tragedy: This month we caught up again with GUNN’s new Senior Project Designer, Ted Thrower. As part of his Level 7 Professional Apprenticeship at the practice, Ted combines practical experience in an Architecture practice, coupled with academic training from a university, in Ted’s case, London Southbank University.  In the challenging academic year 2020/2021, Ted set his sights on his dissertation project and decided to undertake a review of the Architectural profession through the devastating Grenfell Tower tragedy from 2017.

Architectural Profession: Grenfell Tower was part of the Lancaster West Estate, a council housing complex within West London in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The 24-storey tower block was designed in 1967 in the Brutalist style of the era by Clifford Wearden and Associates, and the Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council approved its construction in 1970.

On 14 June 2017, a fire broke out in the tower block, causing 72 deaths. More than 70 others were injured and 223 people escaped. It was the deadliest structural fire in the UK since the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster and the worst UK residential fire since World War II.

The fire was started by a malfunctioning fridge-freezer on the fourth floor. It spread rapidly up the building's exterior, bringing fire and smoke to all the residential floors. This was due to the building's cladding, the external insulation, and the air gap between, which enabled a stack effect. The fire burned for about 60 hours before finally being extinguished.

Ted’s dissertation is called ‘A Critical Review of the Architectural Profession through the Grenfell Tower tragedy' and he talked us through his process and the salient points:

“The dissertation was a way for me to dig deep into the professional world of Architecture, as I'm still on the edge of becoming fully qualified. I wanted to dive in, criticise, and scrutinise this catastrophic tragedy that's been headline media for four years now. I decided upon Grenfell, because I wanted to understand the background, history, design rationale, professional processes, the government’s link, and those of other consultants, by taking a step-by-step look at the events leading up to the tragedy. I wanted to see what could have been done differently – that’s my ‘Why’.

Dissertation Structure

In the first part of the dissertation, I looked at the original 1970s build and researched the concrete cassette panels, how the panels worked in context with the design rationale, and planning processes at the time. I then looked at the specific submission planning drawings that were submitted by Studio E for the redevelopment of Grenfell in 2012 and further specification information on the recladding. From there I considered issues from the macro to micro scale. In the 1970s, Local Authorities purchased private residential property on a massive scale to expand the stock of social housing and then, soon after, Margaret Thatcher introduced the ‘right to buy’ scheme. Private Developers seized the opportunity of hiring architects and building as quickly as possible to make money before moving on to the next one. It was interesting to discover that almost 50 years ago, in the 1970s, the Architect’s design wasn't fully completed in the first place, and insufficient care was given to the building regulations and general design.

On looking at the submission drawings, I selected and highlighted certain drawings to review and, again, I wanted to scrutinize the information on those drawings. Why were things not spotted that should have been spotted, and why was information missing that should have been necessary but that got through the planning process anyway?

The dissertation finished with the post-tragedy effect, following the Hackett Report. The Hackett Report involved a review of the current building regulations, specifically the fire regulations, and recommended immediate revision, ensuring a greater degree of stringency. For example, you can no longer specify any timber or flammable material higher than 18 meters in England (11 meters in Scotland). This was a big deal, because fire regulations do not change frequently.

I used historical texts and theoretical frameworks whilst exploring the chronological order of the 1970s impact, the submission drawings, and the impact from the tragedy to give clarity to the bodies involved in each of the processes. It seemed that so many things were overlooked at the time, not just from central Government, but by Local Authorities and other bodies. They overlooked design queries, community queries, and in my opinion, ethical queries too.

In the 1970s, the A40, by Shepherds Bush, was built, creating a physical division of the Borough between the wealthy and the poor. The area around the Grenfell Tower site was known to be avoided, with its large social-housing tower blocks adding to the intimidation. The A40 escalated this perception of the area and was detrimental to how people lived and work.ed  A lack of funding from central Government to Local Authorities and Building Control highlighted the biggest problems for the role of the architect. Currently, architects have little control in these types of situations; used purely as draftsmen than problem solving ‘master builders’ as the profession was once seen.

A change in the role of the Architect

In my opinion, the role of architects needs to be redefined.  We should have more responsibility in the specification of materials, the material sciences, and be able to test the limits of materials. A change in the services provided by an architect should be a more scientific approach, material science, with investigating and testing of various materials perhaps leading us to find new sustainable and safe alternative materials. An example would be testing materials to organic curves on modular arrangements that are efficient, quick, easy to install, inexpensive and more effective when used in specific applications. This needs research and time into understanding materials, technology, performance and specifications, as opposed to the development process that we currently have.

The architects’ relationships between the government, local authorities, government bodies and clients needs more trust. An architect should be appointed to challenge and push the limits of a project. By giving more responsibility to the role of an architect, it’s possible to ensure that things work in less of a ‘tick box’ exercise, and necessities are dynamically met in response to contextual safety, community, and environmental requirements. This is, after all, what we are taught to do in our university courses. 

We need to seize this new opportunity in the architectural profession.  The seeming uncertainty of government, underfunding of authorities, the need for sustainable design, collaboration and working alongside new regulations; there are many variables that need to be considered in this role as a matter of urgency but, fundamentally, we need to ensure the profession is not further marginalised.

When Grenfell Tower was originally planned, there was a greater masterplan where the site would have operated differently. Architects were used to produce planning drawings that considered the greater community, but with many key decisions now with governing bodies, responsibility is gone, or is left at the bottom of the pile. Current systemic shortcomings can now provide an opportunity, as a profession, to ensure that we become more important in the process.

The 1970s Grenfell Tower required architects to resolve issues, as did the 2012 recladding development that caused the catastrophe. Without change, in 30 years we may be resolving the same issues once again, not just to one tower, but to buildings across the nation. So, we need a different approach. Our role needs to evolve into material sciences for the specification of appropriate materials. It’s so important to make sure that these things don't happen again. I would like to think we can move forward and learn systemic and professional lessons from the Grenfell Tower disaster and that the role of architects will see a seismic shift very soon.”

Editorial Credit: JessicaGirvan/Shutterstock.com

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