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 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 

What You Need to Know About Spray Foam Insulation

What You Need to Know About Spray Foam Insulation


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 sprayed 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 jobsite 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, 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 mold
  • Provides sound dampening qualities, ideal for use media or theater rooms
  • 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 vapor 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 fiberglass, 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 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 inch 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 have 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, 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 air tightness 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 mold 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 fiberglass insulation and cellulose insulation, sprayed insulation minimizes air infiltration, it assists in limiting moisture vapor from entering and escaping the home, which in turn reduces the load on heating and cooling systems. Below is a video that compares fiberglass, 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

Castledawson house featured in selfbuild ireland magazine

Castledawson House featured in Selfbuild Ireland Magazine




fancy working for slemish design studio??

we're hiring

slemish design studio are hiring!!

Due to our increasing portfolio of work and the success of the practice, Slemish Design Studio is recruiting for a qualified architect and/ or architectural technician to join our Broughshane studio. Slemish Design Studio is a young, vibrant, design orientated practice with a diverse range of projects. Primarily the focus has been on high quality residential projects but with an increasing stream of commercial work.

The successful candidate(s) will preferably have some post qualification experience, be fluent in AutoCAD and have a sound working knowledge of the current building regulations. Knowledge of Photoshop and SketchUp would be an advantage.
Proficient English language skills are necessary, with the ability to communicate with clients and other team members.

Salary will be dependent on experience and position.
To apply for this role please send the following items (via email only) to

Your CV
A brief Portfolio
A short cover letter

How to Convert Your Barn for Tourism

How to Convert Your Barn for Tourism

With the likes of The Giant’s Causeway, Mourne Mountains, Belfast, and more all on our doorstep here in Northern Ireland it’s no wonder that tourism is fast becoming one of our primary industries. Year on year growth, coupled with Tourism NI plans to generate £1 billion for the economy and 4.5 million visitors by 2020, suggests there will be increasing demand for tourism businesses which is why it might be the perfect time to consider a barn conversion.

If you’re considering entering the world of hospitality or thinking about opening a new tourism activity remember that conversions are closely monitored and follow guidelines set out in the PPS 16: Tourism publication.

The Conversion Process

With all of that in mind a barn conversion to tourism business can become a brilliant asset for both business and the surrounding rural community.
If done in a sustainable way, in accordance with all the required planning and building regulations, the reuse and adaption of existing and derelict farm buildings can be a great boost to the local area.
Due to the large and complex nature of barn conversions for tourism we would recommend following a clear path from start to finish, drawing on expert help if and when you need it. This planning will include the following key elements:

barn conversion in broughshane


As can be seen in the below section, Barn Conversion Regulations, having a clear and well-thought out purpose is crucial when seeking planning permission. If you’re starting with an unused building, and unless your chosen barn has already been converted for residential or business use, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll have to gain planning permission.


Due to Tourism NI’s aims for 2020 there are potential options for receiving grants and funding but this will only ever be achievable if every aspect of the project is planned and accounted for. When considering a potential project it is recommended that you draft in experts, including builders or architects like ourselves, to fully analyse the extent of the work needed.


A rural setting might be perfect for your new tourism business but it’s essential that your new barn conversion is connected to water and electric mains, sewage services and is accessible via public roads and provides adequate parking for guests or customers.
These are just a few of the elements involved in a success barn conversion for tourism project. Each project will be unique in what it requires and the facets within.

Barn Conversion Regulations

All of this planning will obviously have to include the relevant regulations and when considering your potential project you should be aware that planning permission will almost always be required when converting a barn. This is primarily due to the fact that you will be changing the use of the building from non-residential or agricultural to residential, hospitality or business depending on the path you take.

Guest Houses, Bed and Breakfast and Self-Catering all follow a similar path whilst hotels, even on a small scale, will be placed under more severe scrutiny due to the increased size and impact on the local area.

Tourism activities or businesses, such as food and craft outlets and leisure providers, will also be analysed closely to see if a countryside location is actually required or if the proposed project is needed in the rural area.

We recommend you closely study the PPS 16: Tourism publication which is available here.

Also, if you’re considering applying for funding from Tourism NI and Invest NI more information can be found here.
Finally, if you’re considering a barn conversion simply for personal residential use read our in-depth “how to” by clicking here.

Every day, when driving to client sites or meetings, we see the countryside filled with unused barns and abandoned buildings packed with potential.
If you’ve been considering a new project or just have questions on barn conversions in general get in touch or call in for a chat.





doagh house coming along well

On site at our Doagh project, all’s going well & another well kept site from Estco NI Contractors.

doagh site eco home

should you have any projects you’d like slemish design studio to look at, please do not hesitate to contact our office

view from ballyclare site

what a view from our site outside straid, ballyclare.
started on site & flying through it…more pics will be coming soon.

straid site ballyclare architects

What You Need to Know About Converting Your Barn

barn conversions in northern ireland

The Northern Irish countryside is dotted with beautiful buildings from our past no longer used but ripe with opportunity and potential. Each building, be it an old church, schoolhouse or barn, has its own charm and with barn conversions becoming more popular, attainable and manageable the possibilities are there.
If you are considering undertaking a barn conversion in the near future, take time and care to consider all aspects of the project.


With that in mind, your first consideration should be the ultimate purpose of the barn conversion. The reuse and alteration of these unique old buildings can take many forms including development for economic, tourism, recreational and residential facilities. There is also scope, in accordance with PPS 21, to repurpose for community facilities but retail plans will almost always be denied.
The perfect project will pair the right property with the right purpose so if you’re converting for a new home, office or tourism business consider all aspects and the variations of each.


Modern Barn Conversion Architects
slemish design studio architects surveying one of their barn conversion projects

After deciding on the right property and purpose, a comprehensive survey of the barn is absolutely essential to identify any potential issues before conversion work begins.
Surveys can be carried out by architects like ourselves, structural engineers or building surveyors and will help for planning to conserve the character of the building, highlight any structural issues and provide clear indications concerning project costs.


For all their charm, barn conversions are serious projects, and generally more expensive than typical new builds, and one major reason for this is the likely lack of connection to normal services.
As most barns, in their original state, would have been used for non-residential or agricultural purposes they are unlikely to be connected to electrical and water mains as well as required sewage systems.
It’s essential that you plan and budget to connect the property to the required services as soon as possible.


When it comes to barn conversions the design, layout and feel of the property is the most exciting part of the project. This is where you get to breathe life back into somewhere that’s been left derelict, unused and forgotten about.
However, even though it can be an exciting time, barn conversion design can be difficult and testing and it’s absolutely crucial you work with professionals experienced in this unique style of building. Almost all planning permission will be subject to retaining and maintaining the look, character and feel of the original structure.
This can prove problematic as old barns and unused buildings can come with limited natural light available, necessary but impractical wood or iron beams and limited access to creating new levels/floors.
With all of that in mind you might be rethinking your dream project but don’t be dismayed. With hard work, careful planning and the right guidance the end result can be truly unique, worthwhile and rich in character and integrity.

Modern Barn Conversion Architects


Finally, and underpinning everything we’ve already discussed, is the cost of your proposed project.
Unfortunately, there is no rule of thumb when dealing with such wildly unique projects and only after sourcing the right property, getting a proper survey and obtaining the correct planning permission will you begin to understand the costs involved in your barn conversion project. Also, the scale of the work needed and the involved of other parties will also largely depend on your own experience and knowledge.

We hope that this has given you some guidance if or when you consider a barn conversion.
They can be some of the best and most interesting projects to be involved in and luckily, we’re experienced in numerous projects on a variety of sites.

If you have questions on a project you’d like us to come see or need guidance contact us below or via our facebook page & we’ll do what we can to help out on your project.


Things to Consider Before Building an Extension

extension & renovation of existing 300yr old house outside crossmaglen, county armagh

With the New Year just past, you might be considering building an extension onto your current home.

Extensions can be wonderful additions to houses bringing new light and space, new rooms to explore and help improve energy efficiency. However, before the excitement starts take a step back and consider the project from start to finish.
In our experience building an extension can be just as challenging as any new build but hopefully, we can guide you through some of the finer details.

Before working on any extension project we always ask the party involved why they want to build.
To ensure the best result you need to hone in on exactly why you’re setting out on such a large project. Do you want to increase the value of the property? Or maybe you want to improve energy efficiency or living conditions?
Defining why will always lead to a better end result.

Modern Timber Clad Extension Architects Ballymena

timber clad extension to a semi-detached house – to act as an extension of the house & garden

This leads us nicely onto deciding on your aesthetic and physical goals for the project.
The most common requests are for the creation of more light and/or space. This could be due to changes in the environment around you (i.e. more buildings) or the growth of your family.
Alternatively, you might be happy with the space on offer but simply require the layout of your house to be reshaped in a way you’re now more comfortable with.
Extensions aren’t usually just about more space, so figure out what your goal is.

Planning Permission
With your goal, firmly set planning permission may be required and if this is the case it should be your first practical port of call when beginning to move forward with your new plans.
Here in Northern Ireland eleven local councils and the Department of Infrastructure handle the responsibility of planning equally. More information can be found at but please be aware of the possible scale of fees involved.

No matter how awkward you think a chat with your neighbours could be, it’s almost always a good idea before you begin any form of extension project.
Common neighbour concerns usually revolve around the existence of a shared wall, the potential loss of natural light or the potential to overshadow their property, specifically their garden. We recommend you keep anyone potentially affected up-to-date with the project to avoid any trouble.

Whether it’s your primary reason for the project or not, building an extension is a great opportunity to improve the sustainability and energy performance of your home. Depending on the current performance of your property, this can be improved with the help of experienced builders and architects through the implementation of properly insulated walls, double glazed windows and in some cases solar panels.

Architect Involvement
Not everyone plans to use an architect when undertaking an extension project and in many cases, this is perfectly acceptable. However, if you’re inexperienced, don’t have a trusted working relationship with your builder, or require planning permission, we would highly recommend getting in touch with us.  Not only we handle and advise on everything already mentioned, we will also view the project in a holistic manner from start to finish and be able to recommend on both big and small details.

Duration / Time Scale
Finally, extensions are serious projects and this is generally reflected in the duration or time frame involved.
Coming from Northern Ireland, or realistically anywhere in the UK or Ireland, weather should obviously play an important factor in your thinking and ideally, you should plan around the seasons. Take advantage of the darker, wetter seasons to design and plan before scheduling building to commence when spring and summer arrive.


As with everything we’re more than happy to answer questions, offer advice and steer you in the right direction so don’t be afraid to get in touch even if you’re not sure where to start.