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5 of the Weirdest Houses in the World

In a studio like ours, as the years go by, it’s fair to say we’ve stumbled across countless weird and wonderful house designs and layouts.
Open plan, broken plan, eco-friendly, classic and hundreds of other variations appear on our desks every day but, every so often, something will catch our attention that’s weirder than normal…
So, for your inspiration, we present to you the 5 weirdest houses in the world!

 

Dr Seuss House, USA

Dr Seuss House, USA

First up, the infamous Dr Seuss House in the United States.
This strange dwelling can be found in the wilds of Alaska and stands at 12 stories tall, or 185 feet, and also features its very own escape tunnel and safe room, amongst other features!
Despite being so eye-catching the house currently sits empty and has been in a constant state of unfinished construction for over 15 years!
The owner, a local attorney from Anchorage, seems to have no plans to move in but we can bet the views from the top are enough to make anyone jealous!

 

read more on this weird house – click here

 

The Crooked House, Poland

Krzywy Domek

Next, we move from the haphazard to glossy, modern architecture at its finest…and weirdest!
The Crooked House, known as Krzywy Domek (“little-crooked house”) in Polish, was first opened in 2004 as part of a shopping centre in Sopot, Poland.
As you can clearly see, the house was inspired by old medieval fairy tales and stories and covers 43,000 square feet in curvy, wacky design straight out of a Brothers Grimm story!

Krzywy Domek

read more on this weird house at – click here

 

Ballytarsna Hackett Castle, Ireland

Ballytarsna Hackett Castle, Ireland

image was taken from aransweatersdirect.com

Moving swiftly on we now return to the Emerald Isle and more specifically, Ballytarsna Hackett Castle in Cashel, County Tipperary.
We might be based in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, but we regularly travel the length and breadth of the island and know the countryside is no stranger to some weird and wonderful designs!
In this case, you can actually book, via Airbnb, to stay a night in your very own castle courtesy of Texan investor and property developer John Carrigan who bought and redeveloped the site twenty years ago and still lives there today!
Guests will be treated to 5 floors of classic castle atmosphere, in a build that has stood since 1220, and even get a chance to explore the dungeon below…if they’re brave enough!

find out more on this website we’ve found – click here

75 ½ Bedford Street, USA

75 ½ Bedford Street, USA

From the old world to the new world, we now move to 75 ½ Bedford Street in Manhattan, New York City!
This tiny little house is approximately 9 ½ feet wide but shrinks down to just 2 feet wide at its narrowest! On top of that, it’s just 999 square feet of space in total…not much in the Big Apple!
Despite its size, Bedford Street boasts quite a history including being a former carriage gateway entrance, cobblers shop, and candy factory.

The classic redbrick exterior gives way to a beautiful interior featuring a galley kitchen, two bathrooms, fireplaces throughout the house and a central spiral staircase and runs right through all three floors.
As is to expected in Manhattan, this little slice of New York has been sold for crazy prices over the past two decades. The last sale, in 2011, fetched over 4.3 million dollars!

75 ½ Bedford Street floor plans

 

The Thin House, England

The Thin House, England

Our final weird house continues the “thin” theme with The Thin House in South Kensington, London, England.
This wedge-shaped property is slightly more deceiving than its counterpart in New York as at its widest it’s a “massive” 34 feet wide! Not huge, but still bigger than Bedford Street.
Despite its size, it features a 600 square foot studio apartment which incredible views across the London neighbourhoods below and was recently sold for a crazy £895,000!

you can read more on the express website about this house


We hope these weird and wonderful creations have inspired you in some small way on your own design journey. Each, in its own way, shows what can be achieved with quirky ideas, limited space or an unlimited imagination!

Whether you want something as unique or prefer tried and true, you can get in touch with our team here to discuss your dream home or redevelopment.

have you seen our clients testimonials?

clients testimonials.

These testimonials are flying out every Tuesday on our social media under Testimonial Tuesday.

check out some of our client’s testimonials… we plan to have a dedicated page to these on our website once I can find time 😀

 

clients testimonials

 

slemish design studio architects clients testimonials

 

slemish design studio architects clients testimonials

 

slemish design studio architects clients testimonials

 

Client’s Case Study Water’s Edge Glenarm

Our next Client’s Case Study takes us to our Water’s Edge B&B Glenarm project with Jenny, Pete & Norman (the dog). They give us an insight into what it’s like to build your very own B&B from a disused Police Station 

Client's Case Study Water's Edge B&B Glenarm
Our client has recently been award NI’s Best Guest House/B&B Stay

Why did you decide to build your dream home?

We wanted to leave the rat race in England and live by the sea. We wanted to run a business together and work from home. We drove past the police station in Glenarm when over visiting family and before we knew it we had bought it.

How did you come about Slemish Design Studio?

Mr Google helped. We were living in England when the purchase was going through but we wanted to use Architects local to the area where we were buying. We shortlisted 3 and asked them to provide sketches based on our brief, to tender and then to meet with us on site. We liked Slemish Design Studio’s way of thinking and their easy approach. We immediately gelled with Joe and Steven and we are certain we made the right choice.

When putting your brief together, what was top of the list?

Maximise sea views from all guest rooms and our own living areas. Retain the character of the building. Provide a flexible but workable place to live in and run a B&B from allowing us and our guests to have privacy and space.

Client's Case Study Water's Edge B&B Glenarm

What is your must-have feature you wouldn’t compromise on?

Large sea facing window in our living space.

How have/did you found the experience so far.

Slemish Design Studio was an excellent team to deal with, Joe and Steven were always on hand to talk through issues when things got tough. We lived in a camper van in our driveway during the build and sometimes things got a little overwhelming. We found that the guys made time for us, gave us sound advice and acted as our advocate when we needed any issues of a technical nature resolving.

What was your favourite part of the process?

We enjoyed seeing the building take shape after it had been gutted and we loved watching the plans come to life. We particularly enjoyed witnessing the big window go in.

During the whole process, what did you find the worst

Variations!

Have you used anything different such as MVHR/Eco etc in your house

We wanted to install MVHR and we are pleased we didn’t compromise on this. When costs increase unexpectedly it is easy to decide not to install something that isn’t a necessity. We run a B&B and we find that MVHR helps keep temperatures constant and air fresh.

How would you describe your project

Enlightening, rewarding, overwhelming, emotional but on the whole a fantastic experience, every day was a school day. No regrets.

Have you any tips for any future self-builders

Plan everything in detail, write it down, research. Give clear instructions, know what you want to see in your home. If something is really important to you do not compromise. Keep a diary, a site diary if you are living on site, but in any event a diary of works and events. We have found it really useful to refer back to both during the build and afterwards, even recently when an item failed after almost 3 years, we were able to show that although purchased on a particular date, it wasn’t installed until some time after resulting in it being within warranty leading to a free replacement. Above all, enjoy the experience, for us, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we are so pleased we were able to be involved in the process. Slemish Design Studio enables you to remain involved at all stages of the build so that you feel part of the team.

 

If you fancy a night in a luxury and award-winning 5star B&B get in touch with Water’s Edge Glenarm

new granny annexe in broughshane on site

One our of our latest projects has started on site.
A new modern granny annexe to a period home in Broughshane, Ballymena.
Steven from our office has started this & we’ll be overseeing everything onsite… helps when it’s only 2seconds down the road from the office

We work and a variety of projects all over Northern Ireland & in the Republic of Ireland…..feel free to get in touch should you wish to discuss your project on the form below.

 

granny annexe broughshane

How much does a smart home cost?

we’ve been asked this question a few times – How much does a smart home cost?
Everyone’s looking to put new technology into their homes & as everyone knows it moves quicker than a new iPhone being released.

We asked Alan Clarke from Techfit who specialise in Smart Home Solutions and Home Automation Systems.
Techfit is currently working on a smart home for one of our clients at present, which includes Full control system including, Cinema room, Philips lighting system, Home networking, TV/Sky/4K distribution, Full. WIFI set up, Remote Blinds, Alarm, CCTV, Motorised sliding gate and 2N integrated video intercom.
We look forward to bringing your more on whats happening with our project on site.

So…… How much does a smart home cost?

We all, given the choice, would opt, when building our new home or renovating our existing home, to include a smart home specification. Imagine all the conveniences it would bring – with the installation of a central hub unit and a fully networked home. You can integrate your TV, phone, broadband and satellite services throughout your home, and immediately de-clutter your living spaces of cables and boxes, with one remote-control controlling everything. Giving you the fundamental infrastructure to build on for the future of your home.

As well as that you have the abundant conveniences of one-touch control of everything around your home. Using your smartphone/ tablet to control your lighting, your heating, central audio, home cinema, blinds and curtains, alarm, CCTV, electric gates and intercom, and all access points to your home.

How much does a smart home cost? philips home lighting automation

 

A Smart Home could change your life, bringing you a new level of comfort, convenience, energy saving and secure peace of mind. Not only can it free up time in your daily life that might be better spent elsewhere, but it also eliminates the daily burden of having to keep track of all the chores that need to be done.

 

How much does a smart home cost? control 4

As home automation systems become the mainstream you will find many do-it-yourself systems hitting the market, consumers are faced with the decision on whether to tackle the setup of a home automation system themselves, get their electrician to tackle it or to hire a professional to do the job. While you will definitely save money by the DIY method, don’t let the cost of a professional sway your decision when a home automation system is such an integral part of your home.

We regularly receive calls and emails from newly built homeowners who let their electrician install what they described as a “smart home system”, which turned out to be not so smart. So the message is clear – leave it to the professional installer.

Your average home builder would set aside a budget of approximately £15K to £20K for a kitchen and £8K to £12K on appliances, and think nothing of doing so, and may quite possibly end up changing this equipment in years to come. Ultimately, the question is, how much value do you put on having a smart home? Bearing in mind, once installed, with the exception of software upgrades, you will never have to review this smart home infrastructure again.

How much does a smart home cost?

 

So, how much is making your smart home going to cost? Is it something that you can afford? We all want the “bells and whistles” of a modern smart home, but affordability is something that needs to be considered, i.e. is it in the budget? For a lot of us, that’s the real issue. Who wouldn’t want the trivial matters of everyday life automated and improved? None of us in our right minds would turn down that offer — that is if we could afford it.

As it turns out, the cost of smart home install doesn’t have to break the bank as long as you’re clever about it. Let’s take a look at what a typical smart home installation could cost you.

On an average 2,500sqft house your costs will be approximate:

  • TV – Data- Wi-Fi Networking – €3,000 + VAT
  • 4-Zone music system including speakers – £4,000 + VAT
  • Lighting Control (for main rooms only) – £4,000 + VAT
  • Control System (Processors & Remote-controls) – £3,000 + VAT
  • CCTV and Alarm – £3,500 + VAT
  • Labour & Commissioning – Dependant on the level of specification.

For your free no obligation quotation please email us your floor plans today. Or why not pre-book your appointment to visit our showroom and let us demonstrate first-hand all the features and benefits of our control systems.

We will custom design a smart home solution to meet your specific requirements, and more importantly your budget.

At TechFit we will project manage every aspect of your installation. TechFit also offers a simple, efficient, productive and cost-effective way of integrating and automating business environments. We work closely with the commercial sector, helping business owners and managers to automate and control every aspect of their business.

From idea to installation “TechFit is with you all the way “….

Phone our team today (042) 942 0261

Email us your plans: info@techfit.ie

 

tips on planning an extension

The planning stage is an important part of planning your extension or renovation. Working that little bit more now will help in the long run with your project.

 tips on planning an extension

It doesn’t matter what size your project will be, it pays to sit down with your architects & go over everything in detail.
This is the part of the project that we find clients most existed.. the before stage, sitting down & going over their ideas for what they want at the end of it all.

In our case studies with our clients, we’ve asked them to pass on some tips for planning your project.

Having done this twice, and saying after the first time never again –I think self-builders should be prepared for the extra effort and time it will take to go through this process. Having lived in quite a few different houses, we were lucky in that we knew how we liked to live,
Tristan & Ruth Kells House
 
Just really enjoy it, make sure you have a positive mindset towards the project. Choose your architect carefully and encourage them to push the envelope with your brief a little. Remember they have trained to create new and exciting buildings. Look at lots and lots of architecture online and challenge your tastes. I read that your taste will change every 5 years.
 
Be very clear about what you want. Never take anything for granted and write everything down. You will always go back to look for that one name and number. Finally, just enjoy it!
Cathy – Rathkenny House
 
building a house is one of the most stressful things you can do but also very rewarding,
I would advise anyone who is thinking about it to definitely give it ago but make sure you get the right people behind you from the start.
Mark & Nicola – Buckna House

 For renovation inspiration, check out this before and after project just outside Randalstown, County Antrim

 
 

Client’s Case Study Martinstown house

Client’s Case Study at our Martinstown house takes us to, Self-builders Ciaran & Catherine. They give us an insight into what it’s like to build your own grand designs.

case study martinstown house architects ballymena

Why did you decide to build your dream home?

We were given the opportunity to build beside my parents. While it has always been a dream to build my own house I didn’t expect the opportunity to arise so soon! As the plot is on family land we felt we really needed to honour the site and ensure that the house would be a home for life.

How did you come about Slemish Design Studio?

I had seen some of their work online and I liked the style of architecture. When I went to meet Steven and Joe I felt we clicked and would work well together, they are both really lovely guys and I felt that we had really similar taste in material finishes and designs. They were really supportive throughout the building process and really approachable.

When putting your brief together, what was top of the list?

My list was about 4 pages long! I was careful not to impose limitations on what they could create but I outlined how I wanted the house to ‘feel’ and work as a home. Some priorities were that I wanted to be able to reach the gardens from any point in the house. I wanted to be able to see through the house to the view upon entry. I liked single storey buildings and courtyards and I wanted a contemporary house which borrowed from the local vernacular.

What is your must-have feature you wouldn’t compromise on?

As with most things in life budget can dictate how a project becomes a reality. There are always compromises to be made! One thing I was determined we would include is black timber cladding and I am so glad we did as I love the finish.

How have/did you found the experience so far.

Many people say building a house is the most stressful experience of their lives but I genuinely loved it. I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to build my own house and I really tried to relish every moment, there is nothing quite like poring over the plans for your home or visiting the site as the design drawings become real walls and windows. I remember seeing my views framed for the first time by walls and realising that this was what I would wake up to every morning!

What was your favourite part of the process?

I find it really difficult to pick just one, I so enjoyed the process of working with the architects, liaising with the builder, designing the kitchen etc. I suppose having the opportunity to work with people who are passionate about their jobs was the best part.

During the whole process, what did you find the worst

As this was going to be a ‘forever home’ I got myself tied up in knots about where to prioritise budget. There are very important decisions to be made in terms of the spec of the house as insulation/windows/roof decisions can only be made once. We had to really wrangle with this to ensure the budget was allocated sensibly. In the end, we decided to invest in the ‘bones’ of the house and accept that certain aspects such as the landscaping and some rooms would have to wait until after we moved in.

Have you used anything different such as MVHR/Eco etc in your house

We installed a BEAM MVHR house, invested in a deep cavity and lots of insulation in the walls and roof, the windows are triple glazed and while we currently use oil for our underfloor heating, long term we will explore more eco-friendly options like a heat pump.

How would you describe your project

It was a pleasure to plan and build and is a pleasure to live in.

Have you any tips for any future self-builders

Just really enjoy it, make sure you have a positive mindset towards the project. Choose your architect carefully and encourage them to push the envelope with your brief a little. Remember they have trained to create new and exciting buildings. Look at lots and lots of architecture online and challenge your tastes. I read that your taste will change every 5 years.
The builder will make or break your experience, do your research and speak to past clients to check out how the houses they have built are standing the test of time and how they found the builder to work with. I struck gold with John (ESTCO LTD). I would build another house in the morning but only if I knew John would be my builder, he was wonderful.

 

selfbuild live belfast 2018

selfbuild live show belfast this weekend – 16th-118th February

Come meet us at the selfbuild live show in belfast this weekend..come along to Titanic exhibition centre
Hall 2 Stand K2 to speak to us about any architecture or planning questions.

for free tickets you can get them from their website here 

should you have a project you’ll like us to discuss please feel free to get in touch via our social media or our contact page – click here

selfbuild live belfast 2018

Merry Christmas Everyone

We’d like to wish all our clients, friends, family & all those who just like our work a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year… Hope Santa comes & we’ll see you all for a very exciting 2018

 

happy christmas architects ballymena

we’re extending our office!!!

sooo..we’re taking the 2 rooms below us for more office space.

these rooms were the original entrance into the old office block along with the reception area for the old pattons, joinery works.
these days they are used as the Raceview Mill General Office & a tourism office…. and soon to be new architects office space 🙂

Our Plans!!!

these ideas have been playing on our mind for quite a while now. with 4 of us in the office we need extra space for meetings.
the master plan is that we use down stairs as our main working office for the 4 of us, which can expand to suit 6/8 people.
& the first floor is to be used as our meeting space with one area being our main meeting area & having a more casual meeting space,
this will help when we’ve 2 meetings on the go & also for when we’ve our monthly CPD’s (continuing professional development)

now the hard bit.

between the 4 of us we’ve been sketching googling, pinteresting the bit out to put ideas on the table… thankfully we’ve always had an idea.. its just putting it into practise.

AMD Services is a building contractor that we’ve worked along with since we’ve started 5 years ago & pleased to say are helping us with the work on the office… again thankfully as we can design really nice house’s etc but when it comes to actually building it, it’s a different story.

the good thing about this office extension, will be that the 4 of us have all input into what it’s going to look like etc.. at the end of the day.. everyone wants to enjoy going to their work!!

I’ll keep you posted with more updates on what’s happening with our office as it goes along.

 

new offices

modern house in straffan approved

We’ve recently have gained planning approval from Kildare County Council for our modern house in Straffan.

this house will be built to passive house standards & will include timber cladding & zinc roofs.
keep in touch to see more updates as we go to site.

if you’ve a project you’d like to discuss, feel free to get in contact with ourselves “click here”

 

modern house straffan kildare architects

renewable technologies

Daly preferred technologies – Ryan’s Expert View

A guest blog from Ryan Daley of Daley Renewables – we’ve worked with Daley Renewables on a number of projects, so he’s well worth listening too!

The Daly Approach – How best to spend your money?

At Daly we specialise in a number of heating, ventilation and renewable technologies all designed for new and existing domestic and commercial buildings. We get lots of enquiries for various technologies but in some cases, we see prospective clients focusing on technologies that may not be best suited to them.

This Blog will aim to shed some light on the best approach people should take when designing and building a new home with a view to incorporating various heating and ventilation systems. From 1 to 7 below this is the ranking we have placed on the importance/ relevance of all the areas/technologies we are involved in.

 

1.Insulation and Air Tightness

Over the last 10 years we have seen numerous approaches to insulating and applying air tightness products to new homes. Some of these have been exemplary and some have been incomprehensible. We would advise going with an architect and builder who are well schooled in this area and can provide intricate detailed drawings on how they will make your home airtight. Make sure all this detail is on your working drawings before you go out to tender. In some cases, we are happy to provide our recommended airtightness specification if we are your chosen heating & ventilation contractor before going out to tender. Making a home airtight is not rocket science and is the foremost step in creating a low energy home. We have had clients in the past spending thousands on the best triple glazed windows on the market and not aware that they should have the frame taped to the block/ timber frame. Going with a trusted timber frame company is safe bet as they will guarantee a certain air tightness result for your new build. See photos below of some good and bad examples we have seen over the years!

Good Insulation
Good Airtightness
Poor Insulation
Poor Insulation

2.Ventilation System

“I have not budgeted for this. I will just open the windows to get some fresh air”. That is fine. We have no issue with doing this. But…..Why put 150mm insulation in the floor, go triple glazed windows and have a 200mm cavity wall to keep heat in and then shoot yourself in the foot by having to open the window to let fresh (cold winter) air in?! Put simply if you are not going down the route of a good mechanical ventilation system we would say what is the point of having great insulation, air tight tapes etc. Click here to read our blog on various options for ventilating your home. You are encouraging the risk of condensation and mould growth without a constant change of air. Here you can read a blog from our suppliers’ website and it is well worth a read to find out the merit of effectively ventilating your home.

3. Underfloor Heating

“It is hard to control, we can never get the temperature right and we have high oil bills”. Underfloor heating has had mixed reviews over the years and rightly so. At Daly we understand how the system should be designed to ensure the home is heated to a constant comfortable temperature at extremely low running costs. In our experience we have seen low temperature underfloor heating systems being installed with high temperature gas and oil boilers and if the incorrect controls are adopted the home owner can end up confused on how best to run it, how to set the controls and can have temperature overshoots forcing them to panic and turn the system off. The key for us is that the smart control is all done for you with our intelligent weather compensated controls (we use an outdoor sensor to monitor the outdoor temperature and adjust the flow temperature to the underfloor heating system) which means customers should never have to tinker with the controls. The correct level of heat they require is there for them 24/7 and they do not have to fiddle with controls in order to achieve this.

4. Heat Pumps

At Daly our specialist subject is heat pumps. We understand how they work and we are very passionate about their benefits. A heat pump will give you the lowest running costs over any other heating system as it gets 75% of it’s energy from the surrounding ground or the air outside in the case of air source, making them 4 to 5 times more efficient than a gas or oil boiler. We find that clients choose to go for this system because they understand the technology, they understand that they will be living in a house with very low running costs for the lifetime of the house and they have a house which is very comfortable to live in and which has hot water on demand, all with virtually no maintenance. By doing all the air tightness and insulation measures you are creating a low energy home and a low temperature heating system will be suited
perfectly to this type of building, especially if you have underfloor heating which is a low temperature heat emitter. The both systems combined are a perfect fit. You also will only have one Utility Bill, electricity, meaning less bills to pay plus you are safeguarding against future oil price spikes. With the electric vehicle market building fast momentum, a heat pump will fit in nicely in the all-electric world which we are headed towards, where more power than ever is being generated from renewable resources. The 8th June 2017 was a momentous day in the UK as renewable sources of energy generated more electricity than coal and gas for the first time. Without any grant assistance heat pumps will have the quickest payback over any other renewable technology.

5. Solar PV

Solar Photovoltaic Systems works by generating electricity from panels (typically 14 or 16) on a roof or ground mount frame from DC power which is used in the property after an inverter is used to convert the power from DC to AC. An average system will generate 3,300 kwh per annum. If all of this is used in the home this would save £502.00 each year (based on electricity price of £0.145p/kwh + 5% VAT). Similar to heat pumps, they require little if any maintenance which is a major benefit to the system. With the battery storage market on the horizon the dawn of self-consumption and zero energy bills will be here in the not too distant future. Our Ecoforest ground source heat pump suppliers are close to launching a very innovative product, their E System, which will automatically trigger the heat pump to come on to produce heat and hot water when there is excess energy being generated from the PV System. When the heating and hot water system is satisfied, it will then offload the solar energy into an incorporated battery to be used for the other domestic appliances in the house. The benefit of this is that the battery lifetime will be longer as the heat pump electrical energy is not coming from the battery as it gets first priority.

6. Solar thermal

Does it still have its place? We have seen the first hand the benefits of this system but are conscious of the design considerations. The correct sizing of a solar thermal system is vital to the efficiency and longevity of the system. Free hot water (up to 65 degrees during summer months) for showers and bathing for 6 to 7 months of the year means that customers who opt for this system never regret having it installed.
With Solar PV Systems having increasing demands from our modern homes with the onset of heat pumps and electric vehicles, there may be less time to heat up our all-important hot water for showers! This is where the solar thermal panels (typically 2 panels) come in to their own. Even having it taking the chill out of the water in the Winter means the Solar PV system, which is producing less power during these months, has more time to dedicate to the domestic electrical appliances in the home without having to worry about heating water.

7. Central Vacuum Systems

Central Vacuums complete the healthy living environment cycle. On top of the bonus of spending 30-40% less time vacuuming, the dust that is removed greatly alleviates symptoms of asthma or allergy sufferers. It works by removing dust and exhausted air to the power unit, stored in your garage or utility room so that it is not re-circulated in the home. Not essential to have but can you imagine hoovering without having to lift even a Henry around the house. Ahh….

 

How to Build a Dream Home

When someone says “dream home” to you, what comes to mind?

 

modern dream home outside newry

 

Everyone has a dream home locked away at the back of their brain but even though building that dream home might be a labour of love, it should also be carefully planned out and considered before pen is ever put to paper or materials have been bought.
We know that the idea of a dream home can represent different things to different people but there are a few constants in the process so, if you want to make it a reality, the points below should help guide your thinking.

 

Select Your Team

 Selecting and surrounding yourself with the right individuals can have a massive impact on the speed and success of your dream home project…as well as your own sanity!  When it comes to your dream home team the key individuals will include your architect, builder or contractor, bank lender (should you need credit or a self-build mortgage) and a solicitor, amongst others.  Whilst you don’t need everything set up from day one it helps as each member of the project will provide their own unique perspective which, all together, should help you avoid major pitfalls and problems.  Do your research, ask plenty of questions and choose wisely.

architects office ballymena kinsale belfast

 

Think Big Picture

Thinking “big picture” might seem obvious (you’re building a house after all…) but what we really mean here is constantly ask yourself questions before any major decision.
Your architects should be able to help during this process. If you want plenty of natural light then think about what that means to the building. Likewise if you prefer dark, cosy spaces, the design should follow this preference.
Similarly, you should ask yourself questions about what you want to do with the space available and where you want to place key features of the house.

 

Focus on Small Details

After you’ve nailed down big picture features it’s time to consider all the smaller details that can have a real impact on your home.One major consideration, as we move into an increasingly digital world, should be “smart home” product integration. Smart Home products include Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple Homekit and they can help control things like heating, lighting, security and entertainment in your house all from a smartphone app. Building with these near-future additions could help save costs in the long run.   Other small details could include the inclusion of under floor heating in certain areas of the house, wardrobe placement and storage space, access for pets, placement of bins, parking and more.

 

Style & Materials

Almost all of us are aesthetic animals at heart meaning that, when designing our dream home, we want to dive straight into the style, materials, colours and interior design.  That’s fine as long as you remember that finding a plot and deciding on major elements of the project come first. After that it’s time to get creative.

This is all part of the process and your architects will be able to help steer your thinking but you’ll most likely already know whether you prefer traditional or modern designs, stone cladding over timber, inside outside garden designs and so much more.

At this stage it’s important to be as clear as possible when delivering your brief to the architects. Give them as much information as possible, including specific opinions and preferences, so that they can create designs you’ll love.

 

Pick the Right Plot

For many picking the right plot isn’t an issue as families gift or inherit land between each other. However, if you’re completely starting from scratch then choosing the right plot will have a major impact on your dream home.

Not only do plots demand a large chunk of your budget, they also determine the location of your dream home, your future neighbours, the surrounding landscape and environment, views, access to public resources and amenities and so much more.

In short, choosing a plot is a massive decision and we’ve written a guide to help you through this process which you can access by clicking here!

Put all your effort into choosing the right plot. Everything else will flow from there.

 


 

Are you still in the “dream home” phase or are you ready to act?
Sometimes the best thing to do is to chat through all your ideas with experienced heads ready to offer guidance and direction where needed.

We’ve worked through loads of different projects, from new builds to extensions and barn conversions to modern designs, so we’d be happy to chat. You can contact us by clicking here or just reach out on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

How to Find the Perfect Plot

How to Find the Perfect Plot for your self-build

For many, finding the perfect plot of land is the start of the home building process but it can be a daunting task for first-timers and those of us who are inexperienced.  In reality, there are plenty of people out there ready to help and guide you through the process and the “perfect plot” is determined by only a few key factors.  Over the years we’ve worked on loads of different projects on various plots of land so we thought we’d collect together some of the key points that, in our opinion, make the perfect self-build plot.


modern house on building site

 

Set Your Budget

The first stage in the process, as with almost every aspect of building your own home, is to determine your budget. There are various rules of thumb to follow but for most self-build projects the plot of land will command between 20-40% of your total budget. This might seem like a substantial amount but, as we regularly hear from property experts, location is very important and plot prices will vary considerably depending on where in the world (or Northern Ireland if you’re a local reader…) you want to buy and build!

 

Talk to the Experts

We would recommend talking to experts regardless of your experience but if you’re a first-time buyer (and self-builder) then we would consider this an essential part of the process.  Who are these experts? They could be estate agents, architects like us, solicitors, builders or developers. Each profession will have their own thoughts and opinions on what makes the perfect plot of land so talking to as many people as possible will give you a clearer, fuller picture of what exactly you should be looking for.

traditional cottage being built outside ballymena

 

Analyse the Area

This is where most people actually begin the perfect plot process.  As mentioned above, location is extremely important and impacts everything from your own happiness in your new home to the property value, should you ever want to sell in the future. Analysing what you can get, and where, will help you hone in on the perfect plot. Analysis of the surrounding area will also help shape your future project plans alongside your chosen architect. Surrounding buildings, or lack thereof, will most likely impact the design and style of your new home.
As a result of these impacts, you should carefully study your new potential neighbourhood and consider whether or not your self-build project will work there.

How to Find the Perfect Plot

 

Identify Vehicle and Services Access

Another major factor in determining the perfect plot is to identify vehicle access via main roads and access to key services like water, gas and electric.  Without proper vehicle access, the plot is unlikely to get planning permission, if it hasn’t already, as builders won’t have the access they need to carry out their work.  Similarly, if the plot doesn’t have proper access to the services and amenities mentioned above you will have to budget for these features to be installed and connected to your future home.  Awareness is key here. Identify exactly what the property needs or already has and then make an informed decision from there.

 

Identify Planning Permissions

Planning permission is a serious issue and we would highly recommend that you never purchase a plot of land under the assumption that planning permission will be granted. There are so many factors at play when undertaking your own self-build project that you should treat planning permission like a “black or white” issue. The plot of land in question either has planning permission or it hasn’t and if it hasn’t then we recommend waiting until everything is officially signed off or moving on to the next plot of land on your list.

 

Make Your Move

 After everything has been thoroughly considered it’s time to make your move.  It might seem strange, especially if you’re a first-time self-builder, to commit such a large amount of money to a plot of land and nothing else but this is the first stage of the self-build process. Talk to the experts in your world, make sure the plot ticks as many boxes as possible and then go for it. After that, you can look forward to the design process and eventually be laying those first foundations.

 

If you have any more questions about finding the perfect plot we’d be happy to give our thoughts and make it as specific to your situation as possible. Just contact us here or on our facebook page 

I’ve read recently on facebook about spray foam insulation.. What is it?

What You Need to Know About Spray Foam Insulation

SPRAY FOAM INSULATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Spray Foam Insulation: The Essentials

Although spray foam insulation has been in use since the 1940s, primarily for aircraft, for the past 30 years, continual product innovation has seen the increased adoption of spray foam insulation in residential and commercial construction. The rapid growth of sprayed foam insulation in building construction, thanks in part to its immediate and long-term benefits, has allowed the insulation material to sit confidently alongside traditional insulation types in providing thermal comfort for building occupants.

But what is spray foam insulation?  Are there different types available for different applications? And, how does spray foam insulation address the latest building codes while anticipating any changes to the building code? In this post, we explore the fundamentals of insulating foam and more.

 

What is spray foam insulation?

Spray foam insulation, also known as foaming insulation or sprayed insulation, is a two-part liquid insulation material(link is external) that insulates and air seals wherever it is applied. The material comes in two large 55 gallon drums – an iso and a resin. These two liquids are kept separate until applied at the job site by a qualified, licensed spray foam installer. The two liquids travel up through a heated hose to the spray gun where they are combined to create the foam. The foam expands within seconds to fill the cavity surface.  Depending on the type of sprayed-in foam insulation used, closed-cell or open-cell, the foam expands between 40 and 100 times its size upon application.

Open cell spray foam insulation is ideal for interior use

The types of spray foam insulation

Product innovation over the years has seen the introduction of several different types of spray foam insulation. Primarily in residential and commercial construction, open-cell and closed-cell spray foam is used while high-density spray insulation is used as roofing foam in commercial or industrial construction. Open-cell sprayed-in foam insulation, a soft low-density material, is typically used for interior applications such as wall cavities, the underside of roof decks, attics, basement walls and crawlspaces. The open cell structure of low density foamed insulation allows for moisture permeability to help contribute to moisture management and bi-directional drying of the wall assembly.

Closed-cell spray insulation, a rigid medium-density material, can be used in exterior applications such as continuous insulation applications, as well as interior applications. This type of foam insulation has a higher R-value per inch making it also suitable for small areas that require the highest possible R-value to meet building code requirements. Closed-cell spray foam’s rigidity help reject bulk water making it a recognized flood-resistant material by FEMA(link is external).

The benefits of open-cell spray foam

As mentioned, open-cell foaming insulation is best suited for interior applications/house insulation, offering an array of advantages of traditional fibrous insulation materials. Benefits of open-cell foam insulation include:

  • Allows for bi-directional drying
  • Can accommodate long-term creep and seasonal movement
  • Can be installed at a significantly lower cost and target the same specified R-value*
  • Is not considered a food source for mould
  • Provides sound dampening qualities, ideal for use in media or theatre rooms, office’s 
  • Lower installed cost, per square foot

The benefits of closed-cell insulation foam

While open-cell foamed insulation has many benefits over traditional insulation types, closed-cell sprayed-in insulation goes beyond to offer additional advantages.  Although closed-cell sprayed insulation foam has a higher per board foot cost, there are benefits that the material offers including:

  • Ability to reject bulk water (closed-cell foam insulation is recognized as a flood resistant material by FEMA(link is external))
  • Can be applied at very low temperatures (as low as 5°F)
  • Adds wall racking strength as well as impact resistance
  • Higher R-value* per inch  – easier to accommodate high R-value* requirements in narrow spaces
  • Lower vapour permeance (can be a Class II VDR)
  • Higher tensile and bond strength

Closed cell foam insulation can reject bulk water

How does spray foam insulation R-value compare?

R-value, the thermal resistance measure of insulation, varies between all insulation products whether they are fibreglass, cellulose, open-cell spray foam insulation or closed-cell sprayed-in foam insulation. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power.  Focusing on spray foam insulation materials, there is a difference between the two main types. According to an industry publication, Fine Home Building(link is external), the R-value for open-cell spray foam is between R-3.5 – R-3.6 per inch. However, there are open-cell spray foam insulation products actually offer R-3.7 per inches such as Icynene Classic and Icynene Classic Max. The open cell structure of low-density foam insulation means the R-value is lower than its closed-cell counterpart. Nevertheless, open-cell spray foam does offer superior and consistent thermal insulation and air sealing properties.

In regards to closed-cell sprayed in foam insulation, R-value can range between R-4.9 to R-7.1 per inch. Closed-cell insulation products, such as Icynene ProSeal, allow builders and architects the ability to achieve R-21 in a three-inch pass. Innovations such as Icynene ProSeal LE allows for an initial pass of five inches (5”) to achieve R-35.

Spray Foam Insulation & Global Warming Potential (GWP)

Global warming potential (GWP), as defined by the EPA(link is external), is a measure of how much energy the emissions of 1 ton of a gas will absorb over a given period of time, relative to the emissions of 1 ton of carbon dioxide (CO2).  Spray foam insulation products that use water as the blowing agent – typically open-cell foam, however, Icynene’s ProSeal Eco is a 100 percent water blown closed-cell spray foam – have a global warming potential of 1, the lowest possible number.  This is because water in the mixture reacts during the application process to release carbon dioxide and heat. The GWP of the blowing agent is that of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has a GWP of 1.

A major part of the innovation of spray foam products over the last three decades has been the evolution of blowing agents. Blowing agents are the gases used to expand the cells of foam plastic insulation and give it additional insulating properties. Closed-cell spray foam products typically use synthetic compounds as blowing agents because:

  • they offer improved insulation performance
  • their longer molecular structure migrates out of cell more slowly
  • the closed structure of closed cell foam restricts gas loss best

Today’s “third generation” of blowing agents have a GWP of 700 to 1000 which is still remarkably high considering water/CO2 has a GWP of 1. However, innovation from some chemical manufacturers like the Chemours Company has introduced the next generation of HFO blowing agents such as Opteon 1100, which significantly reduces the GWP impact when using closed-cell spray foam insulation products.

Spray foam insulation and global warming potential

Using SPF to address various IRC Building Codes

While the immediate and long-term performance attributes, the flexibility of use and various types of foaming insulation make a strong case for using the insulation material in residential and commercial construction, how does it address the ever-changing building codes?

Today, each of the 50 states follows a different set of building codes making navigating these codes confusing, particularly for architects or builders that have projects in multiple states. In some cases, the building code changes significantly between the state and certain cities or counties within the state. For example, at the time of writing Arizona had adopted the 2015 IRC Building Code, however, Phoenix was on the 2012 IRC, IBC and IECC code. With the majority of states either on the 2009, 2012 or 2015 code, below are some high-level points to consider and about how spray foam insulation contributes.

  • 2009 IRC Building Code
    • Houses built under this code are required to be 15% more energy efficient than the 2006 Building Code.
    • Prescriptive requirements call for higher insulation levels in most building elements in virtually every climate zone.
    • This is the first code that prescriptively calls for a home to meet a defined airtightness standard, though no testing is required.
    • Visual inspection is required for all areas of the house that need air sealing and thermal insulation spray foam can typically attain 8-9% of the needed energy reduction by sealing the house in hard to reach areas.
  • 2012 IRC Building Code
    • House built under the 2012 Building Code are required to be 30% more energy efficient than the 2006 Building Code.
    • 2012 Building Code also requires higher insulation levels in many climate zones and introduces “continuous insulation” requirements on the exterior walls in several colder zones.
    • Homes in Climate Zones 1 to 2 must have an Air Tightness 5 ≤ Air Changes per Hour @ 50 Pascals while homes in Climate Zones 3 to 8 must have an Air Tightness 3 ≤ Air Changes per Hour @ 50 Pascals.
    • Spray foam insulation easily and reliably achieves 3 Air Changes per Hour @ 50 Pascals.
  • 2015 IRC Building Code
    • The 2015 IRC Building Code introduces the Energy Rating Index (ERI) number as a measure of overall building energy efficiency and sets an ERI target for performance in each climate zone.
    • Spray foam insulation still is considered the most economical method to attain the Air Tightness Requirement of 3/5 ACH and lowest ERI.

Foam insulation as an air sealing material

One of the key differentiators between traditional insulation materials and spray foam insulation is the latter’s ability to insulate and air seal. Foam insulation provides an air barrier to wherever it is applied to help mitigate air leakage from the building. Air sealing the building envelope with sprayed-in foam insulation also helps address moisture ingress to reduce the risk of mould and mildew growth as well as the formation of ice dams in colder climate zones during the winter months.  When you compare foam insulation with traditional fibreglass insulation and cellulose insulation, sprayed insulation minimizes air infiltration, it assists in limiting moisture vapour from entering and escaping the home, which in turn reduces the load on heating and cooling systems. Below is a video that compares fibreglass, cellulose and open-cell spray foam in terms of insulating and air sealing value.

 

 

Spray foam insulation is a complex, but high-performance insulation material, that has helped evolve the category further in the past 30 years to allow architects and builders to advance the way they imagine, design, and construct residential and commercial structures.

this information has been taken from the Icyene Website on advice from our spray insulation  subcontractors One Step Insulation

Should you have any questions feel free to get in contact with ourselves or One Step insulation