Month: January 2020

‘Fast-Track’ Planning Permission Should be Granted for Beautiful Homes, Report Recommends

The government should fast-track planning permission for beautiful housing in the UK, according to a new report, which could be significant for self builders.

The Building Better, Building Beautiful commission published its Living in Beauty report this week which has recommended a series of measures designed to increase attractive housing. The commission was set up in 2018 to investigate how millions of homes can be built in England without compromising on quality and aesthetics. 

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick specifically mentioned self builders in his response to the report, and stressed action needs to be taken to ensure the planning system makes approval easier for attractive builds. 

(MORE: Self Build: All You Need to Know About Building a Bespoke Home)

Jenrick said: “We need to ensure our planning system, with all its flaws and complexities and convolutions favours beauty as the default rather than the exception, with more opportunities for smaller developers, for self builders, for entrepreneurs, for visionaries for great stewards of their landscapes.

“I will establish a ‘fast-track for beauty’ where individuals and developers, who have put in the time to create proposals for well-designed buildings, which use high quality-materials which take account of their local setting; that they can see their developments proceed at pace.”

Should the findings be adopted as policy, self builders could find it easier to secure planning permission if their builds are well designed and use high-quality materials. 

(MORE: Read Robert Jenrick’s speech in full)

Easier to Get Planning Permission

The proposed measures include planting two million trees, giving powers to local authorities to set design standards and awarding tax breaks for retrofitted buildings.

The report argues that if new housing developments are more aesthetic, they will be granted planning permission more easily as homeowners within the community are less likely to object.

This will incentivise developers, the report says, to use high-quality materials and create proposals for well-designed buildings, and will lead to fewer planning applications being held up. 

A goal of planting two million trees on streets should be implemented, the commission suggests, and developers should be encouraged to plant a fruit tree in an urban community orchard per house they build. 

Giving Local Authorities More Power

The Building Better, Building Beautiful commission has also recommended changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPBF) that would make it easier for local authorities to turn down planning applications on design grounds.

Jenrick agreed that local authorities need to have greater influence in the design of new homes. He added: “The report is right that local authorities will need to play a leading role in this design revolution. We will need to ensure they have the right skills and leadership to fully carry out their role as placemakers.”

Crispin Truman, chief executive of Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the countryside charity, said of the report: “The Commission is right to call for stronger local policies and more weight given to beauty in planning decisions. New homes and new places must be attractive, but also easy to get around without a car, pleasant to live in, low-carbon and friendly to nature. We urge ministers to take up the commission’s recommendations.”

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37% of Builders Predict Higher Workloads Following ‘Boris Bounce’, FMB Survey Reveals

Builders are more optimistic for their businesses this year following the so-called ‘Boris bounce’, according to a new survey by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The FMB’s State of Trade Survey for the quarter ending December 2019 revealed that 37% of builders are predicting higher workloads over the coming three months.

Boris Johnson’s General Election victory in December 2019 has been credited with UK house prices increasing in recent weeks, and the so-called ‘Boris bounce’ could be spreading to builders.

Growing uncertainty over Brexit had previously been associated by over 40% of tradespeople to slower business growth, and by one third of self builders, renovators and extenders who cancelled their home improvement plans

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Builders are more optimistic for the for the future, with over a third of small to medium-sized (SME) construction workers predicting higher workloads over the coming three months. We are yet to see if there has been a so-called ‘Boris bounce’ yet, following the election result, but there are some positive signs.”

One of these positive signs was employment activity increasing for the first time since early-2019, with 19% of builders reporting increased staffing levels. 

Looking to the Future

The survey also revealed that workloads for small building companies fell between October-December 2019, with roughly 21% of firms reporting reduced workloads. This was 5% higher than the previous quarter ending September 2019. 

Northern Ireland was the only UK nation to experience an increase in workloads and enquiries. 

“The end of 2019 was a very turbulent period in the UK, both politically and economically, with Brexit gridlock and a General Election. When you consider this, along with the bad weather we saw in October, it is not surprising that the order books of small and medium-sized construction firms took a hit,” said Berry,

“We know that many consumers were holding off making important spending decisions until the outcome of the General Election was known and this took its toll on workloads”.

The FMB anticipates material and wage costs to rise the next six months, but Berry is optimistic that the first post-Brexit Budget due in early March will provide an opportunity to restore confidence into the construction industry.  

“Builders will be instrumental in delivering key government objectives such as 300,000 new homes by the mid-2020s and reaching Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Berry added.

“Radical policies will be needed to deliver these targets which should include reform of the planning system and a new strategy to make our existing homes more energy efficient.”

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VAT Should Drop to Maximum of 5% on Renovations, New Report Argues

VAT on renovations should be reduced to a maximum of 5% to align the system more closely with new builds, a new report recommends.

The Building Better, Building Beautiful commission was established in 2018 to develop measures that would ensure new homes are built with high-quality design, and fit within existing communities. 

In its new report, Living in Beauty, which has been published today, the commission calls on the government to ‘align VAT on housing renovation and repair with new build in order to stop disincentivising the re-use of existing buildings’.

(MORE: Renovating a House: A Complete Guide)

Under the current VAT system the construction of a new-build is zero rated, while the vast majority of housing renovations and improvements are charged the full rate of 20%.

The report argues that certain renovation works such as reroofing, extensions, conversions and renewable heating’ should be zero rated or at most charged a reduced rate of 5%, as should ‘bringing derelict buildings back into use’.

(MORE: Can you reclaim VAT on your building project?)

Brian Berry, chairman of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), welcomed the proposal. He said: “The FMB has been calling for a cut to VAT for many years, but the time really has come to make the cut.

“I am glad the commission has highlighted the perverse situation where people are incentivised to demolish old buildings, rather than restoring them, due to our archaic VAT regime.”

Making a Green Impact

The report said that the implementation of this VAT change could reduce 240,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide across 92,000 homes.

In 2019, the Architects’ Journal launched its RetroFirst campaign argued that “the greenest building is the one that is already built”, and the Living in Beauty report supported this message: “The need to address this commands increasing public recognition, having been championed by the Architects’ Journal in its RetroFirst campaign.”

The ‘inconsistency of the VAT position within a system that seeks to ensure the most sustainable and popular’ development outcomes was also highlighted.

But Berry insists that the report doesn’t go far enough. He added: “The Treasury should cut VAT on all domestic repair and renovation, not just the areas listed in the report. The upcoming Budget provides the perfect opportunity to do this, and to help make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.”

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3 things to know before starting your Edmonton basement renovation

A basement renovation is a great way to add livable space and resale value to your home. Before you start with basement renovations, Edmonton homeowners should read these 3 things to know from Four Elements Construction:

Deal with moisture issues first.

Basements are known for moisture and water issues. Before you start to finish the basement, have a contractor check for any potential trouble spots. Trouble areas might be around window seals, plumbing or even along the foundation. Tell-tale signs would be water stains or even noticeable drips. If there are cracks in the foundation, have that repaired before doing anything else. The last thing you want is to discover a water problem after the framing, insulation and drywall is in.

If they find water is getting in through the foundation, you might have an issue with the grading of your property. Although it’s an expensive fix, it’s something you’ll have to deal with if there is flooding happening around the outside of the house. Otherwise you run the risk of flooding every time there is a quick snow melt or summer rainstorm. Learn about land grading near foundations.

Understand local building code.

When you hire Four Elements Construction for your basement renovations in Edmonton, they will take care of obtaining any permits for the project. They’ll work with the local municipality to get the permits and inspections required. This is important for any plumbing, electrical, HVAC or structural renovations that will take place in the basement development.

Doing this type of work is not something you should attempt to do yourself. Most of it will require sign-off from a certified contractor. Besides that, working with plumbing and electrical is always something you should leave to the pros. If something goes wrong, you can put your home at risk of water damage or fire hazards.

Get professional design services and create a plan.

Like any home renovation, your basement renovations Edmonton will go smoothly if you have a well-laid plan. Working with Four Elements Construction, you’ll get full design services. Before anything begins, a plan for all mechanical systems, lay out and finishing touches will all exist. This plan acts as a road map for the contractors doing the work. It also helps you create and stick to a budget, knowing what costs will be included for materials and labour.

Ready to renovate the basement? Contact Four Elements Construction!


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Security and Outdoor Lighting

Written by TDR Electric in Vancouver

Safety and security around your home and business are of great importance at TDR. This is why we can help install security and outdoor lighting around your premises to ensure peace of mind and sense of safety around your home and business.

What Is It?

Security and Outdoor lighting use passive infrared motion sensors to detect any foreign objects that emit heat. For example, if any object that passes near the sensor, it is the heat coming from that object that gets detect, not the actual motion of the object!


There are many benefits to having security and outdoor lighting installed by electricians in Vancouver. One of the advantages of installing security and outdoor lighting is to increase safety around the home and business. This includes discouraging criminal activity and deterring thieves as it makes it more difficult for them to enter the premises unnoticed. Additionally, outdoor lighting can aid in the control of unwanted pests such as possums, skunks, and raccoons.

Furthermore, outdoor lighting can aid in the overall safety of the home or business. Worrying areas, such as pools, stairs, and other hazards can be eliminated by installing motion detection lights. These will automatically light up the area, making your home and business much safer.

If you require installation of security or outdoor lighting for your business and home, contact us at TDR Electric and we will be able to assist you with any questions you may have.

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Breaking: New Build Starts Fall as Government’s Housing Targets Questioned

The government’s housing ambition has been called into question after new data revealed it has fallen behind its target to provide new build homes. 

There has been an 11% dip in the number of new build homes started between July-September 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. The findings have been released today by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

A total of 39,510 new builds were started during the quarter ending September 2019, down from 44,480 between July-September 2018.

The government has set a target of delivering a million homes in the next five years, but annual new build starts only totalled 157,550 in the year to September – a 7% decrease compared with the previous year.

While completions totalled close to 178,000 – an increase of 9% compared with the previous year – the government is not on target to meet its ambitions of 200,000 homes each year. 

Jason Orme, Content Director of Homebuilding & Renovating, said of the findings: “The latest housebuilding figures show that the current housing system is not capable of delivering the homes we so badly need in the UK.”

A more positive finding from the government’s report was that the latest quarterly total of self build starts was up 2% compared with the previous three months. 

Self Build: The Mainstream Housing Alternative?

Orme added: “Relying pretty much solely on private developers to build homes will always result in a constriction of supply and resulting higher prices. It’s only when radical change allows individuals to be masters of their own housing choices that significant growth will come.”

(MORE: Read Jason’s The Year of Self Build blog)

Self building your own home offers several benefits compared to buying a home: it can be tailored to your needs, preferences and budget, and can often help you get more value for money. 

Despite the government’s struggles in meeting its homebuilding targets, another encouraging statistic revealed that the 46,000 new build homes that were completed between July-September 2019 was 11% higher than the same period in 2018. 

However, the government’s completion of new houses in England was criticised this month for being mediocre and of poor design. The audit led by University College London also claimed that 75% of new housing developments should not have received planning permission

The next quarterly release will be published in March 2020 and will cover homebuilding data up to the quarter ending December 2019.

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When to splurge and when to save on a basement renovation

When it comes to basement renovations in Edmonton, it is important to know when to splurge and when to save. It’s easy to splurge on all the newest features, but is it necessary? With some smart planning, you’ll have a beautiful basement development, with high-quality features, without breaking your budget.

Seven Pillars Custom Building specializes in home and basement renovations. They share some tips to know where to splurge and where to save on your basement reno:

Room specific features: save or splurge

With room-specific features, think wet bars, surround sound or custom wine shelving. These types of investments are worth splurging on if the basement theme is around this. If you want to turn your basement into a bar to entertain friends and family, then you want to invest and splurge. If you plan to store lots of wine, then you want to invest in the right shelving, temperature control, and lighting. Otherwise, if your Edmonton basement renovations will double up on a few uses, such as entertainment and storage, then stick to basics. Don’t splurge unless it’s a necessity for the room.

Flooring and heated flooring: save and splurge

Basements usually feel colder than upstairs. The problem with this? Cold floors! Basement flooring, in general, is a matter of both splurging and saving. For general flooring, you can easily save money. Don’t feel the need to install real hardwood, when engineered or laminate will work just as well. The most important feature here is a floor that can withstand humidity and damp conditions.

With heated flooring, though, because of the colder tendency of basements, it’s worth the splurge. Instead of spending more money trying to heat the entire basement, having heated floors will do. It’s also one of those investments that pay off with most any room use. Second living rooms, home offices or media rooms will all benefit from heated floors – and you’ll love how cozy it feels on your feet.

Open floor concept: save

Basements are generally an open space to start, so why spend more money adding walls? Instead, work with the open floor layout to create a welcoming space. If you do want a closed space for a guest bedroom or laundry room, then spend the money to build those walls. Otherwise, make the most of that open space! Open floor plans allow for more flexibility with planning and create more of a sense of space. Both of these are aspects that you want to create in a basement that has limited room. Take a look at these open-concept basements for some ideas for your own space!

Ceiling insulation: splurge

Insulation is one of those things that you’ll always want to invest in, to make sure you get the best. Basements, in particular, are especially important to insulate or soundproof properly. Upstairs noises, especially footsteps, will carry loudly downstairs. Whether you have a home office, media room, or guest room, you want to keep those upstairs noises separate from the downstairs. It’s also an investment that will benefit any future plans you have for your basement development, as a quiet space is usually always preferred!

Proper lighting: splurge

Unless you have a walk-out basement or bedrooms that require windows, there isn’t going to be much natural lighting. Basement lighting is important to highlight features, set the right mood, and avoid any eye strain from poor lighting. The last thing you want is to walk into a dimly lit basement or an overly bright one.

Both fluorescent lights and LEDs are great options for basements. They use less energy and give off less heat, making them ideal for gyms, wine storage or for a suite. Install recessed lighting to avoid your lights dominating the ceiling space, and don’t forget dimmer switches for more lighting control.

Ready to get started on your basement reno? Contact Seven Pillars Custom Building now!

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Government’s Energy Proposals For New Homes Come Under Fire

A group of leading architects and engineers have criticised government plans that ‘will make buildings less energy efficient’.

Proposals to reform Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations are set to take effect this year, and remove what is known as the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard from Part L. 

But removing the Fabric Energy Efficiency Standard is “a step backwards” according to London Energy Transformation Initiative (Leti), a voluntary group of over 1,000 architects and engineers. Leti warns the move could reduce the energy efficiency of new homes.

“The proposals are framed as an improvement, but they actually represent a reduction in the energy performance standards of buildings,” said Clare Murray, head of sustainability at architecture firm Levitt Bernstein and member of Leti.

“They make the building look like it is performing better, when the reality is it could be much worse.”

What is Part L?

Under Part L, building a new home requires extra considerations for energy efficiency. The government’s introduction of these changes lay the ground for the 2025 Future Homes Standard, which will require new build homes to be future-proofed with low-carbon heating systems when it is rolled out in 2025. 

Leti also asserts the changes mean a building designed in the future could prospectively be allowed to perform to a lower level of energy efficiency compared with when the regulations were first introduced in 2013.

Instead, the government intends to introduce a new factor into the assessment of whether a building meets the criteria of part L, relating to the energy efficiency of the National Grid rather than the building itself. This, Leti says, will make a home look like it is performing better and have a lower carbon footprint, without the advantages of better energy efficiency.

The proposals have also been criticised for removing local authorities’ existing powers to insist on greater energy efficiency in buildings that Building Regulations demand. 

“Not only are the building regulations going backwards,” said Murray, “but local authorities won’t be able to set their own rules appropriate to their areas. It will roll the whole country backwards.”

‘A massive disappointment’

Joe Giddings, co-founder of the Architects Climate Action Network (Acan) campaign group, shared his displeasure over the proposals. He said: “From disregarding the performance of a building’s fabric to ignoring the embodied energy of materials, the proposals represent a total loosening of regulations. And it’s all hidden in a dense consultation document that seems designed to confuse. It’s a massive disappointment.”

Currently, all new building designs must meet the performance of a ‘notional’ design of parameters such as the thermal performance of materials and heating and ventilation systems. 

Self builders need to meet a series of measures to ensure that their build meets Part L1A (relating to new homes), which is achieved through a Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) test.

(MORE: Self Build: All You Need to Know About Building a Bespoke Home)

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5 Helpful Snow Removal Tips

If you live in a northern climate, snow is almost inevitable in the winter. While nobody likes shoveling their driveways, there are a few things you can do to make the process a little easier and safer. 

A general handyman services company will be able to help shovel your driveway or walkways as well as keep snow from piling up in areas you don’t want it. Regardless, here are some snow removal tips to use when the next big snowstorm hits:

5 Snow Removal Tips for Your Next Post-Blizzard Cleanup

Place Stakes to Mark Your Driveway and Sidewalks

Whether you hire a company to handle your snow removal for you or you’re doing it yourself, using brightly-colored snow stakes to mark the edges of your driveway or sidewalks can help.

You can use four to six driveway markers to line most normal two-car driveways. You can also use them to mark fire hydrants, gas meters and other things that might be hard to see in the snow. 

Apply Ice Melt Before the Storm

A slippery walkway or driveway can be dangerous, so don’t wait until after ice has formed to throw your rock salt.

Applying ice melt directly to the ground before a snowstorm, or before precipitation has a chance to freeze is the most effective way to manage icy surfaces. 

Wear the Right Shoes

Beyond your standard hat, scarf, gloves and coat, you should also invest in solid footwear to protect yourself from slipping on ice.

You can purchase shoes with special cleats designed for winter weather (note: these are different from sports cleats!), or pull-on cleats like Yaktrax that work the same way that tire chains do for your car. 

Bundle Up

Don’t forget to layer up, especially if your driveway takes a while to shovel.

Under the right conditions, frostbite can develop in two hours or less, depending on the air temperature and windchill.

Wear water-resistant hats, gloves, scarves and coats with enough layers underneath to keep you warm for the entire time. 

Be Careful Removing Snow From Roof

It can be tempting to go out and shovel often or to try and get snow off your roof. But do it safely.

If the temperatures are too low or there’s too much snow for you to move, don’t try to push it. You can always reach out to a general handyman services company to help you. 

When in doubt, call an expert for snow removal help

If you or a loved one need help safely removing snow and ice from your home this winter, reach out to Handyman Connection today. We’re a general handyman services company offering snow removal and home maintenance services to keep your home safe and secure this winter. 

The post 5 Helpful Snow Removal Tips appeared first on Handyman Connection.

Samsung Launches Germ-Killing Smart Wardrobe

Samsung Electronics has announced the global release of a smart wardrobe which features integrated technology to kill germs and remove dust. 

The AirDresser utilises a variety of technologies that can make clothes smell fresh and look smart, all while killing germs.

According to Samsung, the AirDresser uses powerful air and steam to remove dust and germs, which ‘refreshes and [sanitises] clothes’ to provide convenient, hands-free garment care.

How Does It Work?

From a homeowner’s perspective, the wardrobe is incredibly straightforward to operate. Hang a garment inside the closest, then initiate the cycle and wait for the AirDresser to complete its course. 

During this time, AirDresser’s Jet Air and Air Hangers release the powerful air to remove dust ingrained on clothes, while the Jet Stream tech sanitises the garments to remove germs by infusing high-temperature steam deep into the fabric. 

This sounds very noisy, but Samsung says the AirDresser is quiet enough for any room inside the home, including inside the bedroom. 

Smart Home Tech On The Rise

Smart home tech is consistently evolving to transform your home living, and Samsung’s latest creation of an “easy and effective home solution to meet [homeowners’] needs for clean clothes” is a great addition to recent smart home technology launches

Its Deodorising Filter function helps to freshen clothes, while its Self Clean technology dehumidifies the AirDresser’s interior without the need for costly cleaning detergents. The AirDresser even alerts users when it needs cleaning every 40 cycles. 

Aspiring self builders, renovators and extenders can maximise a home’s smart home technology without breaking the bank, and integrating smart home tech can help to save costs in the long-term. 

(MORE: How to Design a Smart Home)

Smart home tech has a multitude of uses around the home. It can be used to heat or light your property, improve security, provide multi-room audio solutions and create the ultimate home cinema, and even help you do your food shop. 

Samsung Electronics has not yet announced a release date in the UK for the AirDresser.

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