Wednesday, 12 August 2020

What should I clean after Covid 19?

 

A lot of industries and companies are struggling financially due to the pandemic, and there is probably some temptation to try and reduce costs by cutting back in the cleaning department.  However now is not the time for that.  We need to be ramping up the amount of cleaning we are doing and looking at what extra cleaning practices we can add in.  This isn't just to prevent spreading germs further, but also to maintain safety standards.



One of the vulnerable spots is in restaurant kitchens.  The extractor systems can get grease build-up, which in turn can lead to fires.  It is really important that extractor cleaning records are kept and that restaurants, cafes and industrial kitchens ensure they are cleaning their extractors frequently enough to keep the grease build-up below 200 microns.  Anything above this level can risk starting a fire.


With all the changes we are seeing in office buildings, for example, with new partitions being put in and different ways of using spaces, building managers must make sure that their air ventilation cleaning regime is still suitable, and that all ductwork is kept clean.  This will be vital in stopping the spread of the coronavirus along with other germs.  All cleaning regimes should be documented and detailed records kept to make sure that things can be monitored.  In some places, the existing ventilation system won't still be suitable so steps should be taken to install an appropriate system that will be appropriate for the new ways of working.



From now on, companies will need to reassure employees, customers and clients that it is competent and taking all possible measures when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness in the workplace.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Is Passive House certification worth it?

With Passive Houses on the increase in the UK over recent years, there are some that say you can simply build to Passive House standards, there's no need to really get full certification for it...but is this true?  Why get Passive House certification?  There are many benefits so let’s take a look….

Firstly and most importantly, let’s give the quick answer.  Yes, you should definitely get the full certification.  So, let me explain a bit about why.  By getting Passive House Certification, you get your construction team to be held accountable for what has been built.  There are rigorous standards to meet before certification will be given, so by getting it certified, you know that you've got the real deal.  You can rest easy knowing that your Passive House construction is quality assured, with long-lasting performance, and energy efficiency.  Knowing for definite that it is built to the Passive House standards will give you great peace of mind.  This will also in turn add to the value of your property as it has been independently certified.



Certification gives you the reassurance that the energy efficiency level that was agreed will actually be achieved.  It will also potentially save you money because by having your designs independently checked, you are more likely to pick up any errors before it's too late and costs you money to correct.



You wouldn't study for your GCSEs, then not take the exam, would you?  Look at Passive House certification as the same!


Friday, 7 August 2020

How do I build an eco friendly house?

There is so much to consider when building a house, but here are just some of the key basics to think about when building your sustainable home.

Location of your build is really important. A south-facing site is the ideal for building a sustainable home.  It not only helps to reduce heating bills by using the heat from the sun but also provides a higher amount of rays for PV usage if you decide to have them.  If the house is too exposed, you will need to take more care ensuring your house is airtight to avoid draughts.

Before you employ anyone to get involved, make sure you speak to people who have built a similar property.  Their knowledge and experience will be invaluable and could save you time and money in the long term. Ask them what went well and what issues they had?  Ask them if they have any contacts that they recommend using?  Make sure you speak to as many people as you can and learn from their experience.  




Make sure you are clear in your mind with what you do and don't want.  Changing your mind at a later stage can be time consuming and costly. (Remember, this is all before you even employ an architect!) The last thing you want is for a overly keen architect to design their dream home in your name, and before you know it you're living in a house that isn't entirely what you had in mind.  So before you start, brainstorm, draw pictures, write lists, get clear on what you want.  Think about layout, what you'll want to use each room for, any materials you want to use, type of heating etc.  Once you have your lists sorted, then you can employ an architect to design from your ideas and dreams.

Your architect will be able to advise you based on your requirements and budget.  You should also consider consulting a structural engineer, electrical engineer and plumbing engineer.  These all bring their own specialty in to the mix, and it can sometimes help to get them all working together.  It can be good to keep your architect involved throughout the build - just in case you need any aspects of the design amending, or if you need extra drawings to get you through planning/building regulations.



To keep your heating bills as low as possible in your new home, you need a high level of air tightness to reduce the draughts.  People create moisture naturally, as does cooking etc, so you will also need mechanical ventilation to make sure that moisture is removed to prevent damp, but also so that you have clean, fresh air in your home.  Mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery (MVHR) ensure that the heat in your home isn't lost through this transfer of air, so it saves you money on heating bills.

When you're thinking about insulation for your home, make sure you have plenty, and consider what type you use.  The more insulation you have, the lower your heating bills are likely to be.  There are so many different types of eco-insulation now, you will need to do your homework to find one that is a sustainable source, but that also delivers the performance that you want it to.  Natural insulations tend to level out the heat loss more gradually, so you have more of a steady temperature in your home.  For further reading on this, visit www.passivhaustrust.org.uk or www.aecb.net





Whether you know exactly what you want your new home to look like, or whether you have no idea yet, there are always people out there to help and advise, so don't be afraid to ask...and keep asking questions until you have your dream eco home!

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

What do I need to do when I move house?

Moving house can be a really stressful time, its there in the top 5 most stressful events in our lives! For most of us it isn't something we do that often fortunately...but it can be hard to remember all the important things to do.  

Here is a handy reference list to make your move as stress free as possible!

1)  Decide on a moving date as soon as exchange happens - avoid Fridays and weekends as these will be most expensive for van hire or removal team hire as they are the most popular days
2)  Shop around for the right removal company or van hire company - prices can vary considerably. Don't forget to be a bit cheky and ask if they can do a slightly better price...never hurts to ask and could save you some pennies!
3)  Have a clear out!  We all have things we don't actually want or need.  Send these to a charity shop before you move - no point in moving with them.
4)  Most removal firms provide boxes at a cost.  Don't overfill them.  Make sure you can still lift them.  Then make sure you label them with what is in them (for you to unpack) and which room they need to go to (to help the removal men).  Some removal companies pack for you - make sure you specify if anything needs to be put in a different room in the new house.  Make sure you tell them you want to make a note on the boxes they pack so you know what is in them.


5)  Make sure your belongings are insured whilst in transit.  This will be a combination of the removal company insurance and for anything you pack and they transport - probably your home contents insurance - but check to make sure on both fronts.
6)  Make sure you have someone to look after your pets and/or children on moving day.
7)  Consider hiring professional cleaners to clean your new home before you arrive. Whilst this is an extra expense it can make the day much easier especially as you never kno what time you are going to complete.
8)  Pack an essentials box - cups, kettle, milk, tea bags, biscuits, loo roll etc.  That way if your boxes don't arrive with you, or you don't feel like hunting around for the box with the kitchen stuff in, you can still celebrate moving day with a cuppa
9)  Consider leaving an instruction page for the people buying your old home - bin days, appliance manuals, keys etc.  It can be a nice touch for your buyers to receive a 'welcome to your new home' card with your best wishes.


10)  Get all the keys for your old property together and take them all to the estate agent.
11)  Arrange a redirection of your post with Royal Mail.  Keep a record as you change your address with companies, and then when things are redirected, add them to that list to make sure everyone is covered before your redirection runs out.
12)  If you're moving to a new area, make sure you notify your GP and register with a new one - same goes for dentist and any other medical services.
13)  As soon as you get to your new home, register to vote - you don't want to miss out on having your say.
14)  Make sure the removal company has a set of keys to your new home, or travel with them.  Make sure there is someone there to let them in to your new home if this isn't possible.


15)  When you arrive at your new home, check that all utilities are working (water, gas, electric) and read all the meters.
16)  Consider changing the locks on your new home when you get there - you never know who the previous owner gave a set of keys to.
17) Finally...relax...your in your new home. Weall rush to unpack and get sorted as soon as possible but really what is the rush? Get out what you need and enjoy your new home. It's been a busy day and the boxes will still be there tomorrow to unpack!

Monday, 3 August 2020

What is sound insulation testing?

Sound insulation testing is compulsory for all new build homes in the UK, and has been since July 2004.  So what is it and how is it done?



Basically, sound insulation testing is a check to see if your new build prevents the passage of sound adequately.  This is both sound travelling through the air, and through the materials in the build itself.  Your new build should be reducing the amount of noise being carried, which is why it is so important to carry out sound testing between two adjoining properties.  

The number of tests that a property needs can vary depending on its design. A rule of thumb is 10% of the development. For example if you have 50 flats you will test 5 sets of floors and walls. If the wall and floor make up is different or not consistent you will need to test that wall or floor individually.  When working out the no. of tests though make sure you round up...its better to be safe than sorry!

A sound test is carried out by a qualified engineer who will come to your site.  Please make sure the property is ready to test though! Too many times I have turned up for a test and the site isn't ready.  Any half decent sound testing company should issue a checklist before the engineer goes to site to make sure you are ready.



At the test itself, a range of background noise is measured before the test.  A sound source is placed in one side of the party wall / floor and a microphone measures the sound transmitting through the wall/floor.  (This is an airborne sound.)  When testing the floor we test for both airborne and impact. (Impact sound is created by using a small machine that has a set of hammers which create the impact.) 

The only time you do not require a sound test for a party wall or floor is if you registered and used "Robust detail". This is a set of details proven to meet the sound criteria. The company "Robust detail ltd" may turn up to test the wall / floor.

Sound is a science, please DO NOT take short cuts. If you are converting buildings with existing walls, please get a pre test and get recommendations from a specialist sound  consultant to design your wall and floors to meet the necessary requirements. This will save you time and money in the long term.



To learn more about sound testing take a look at the below page - the video explains the process and how you need to prep in full:

Friday, 31 July 2020

Renovating on a budget - ideas to simplify your project. Don't be afraid to change your style!


We've all wanted to do home improvements to increase the value of our homes. Maybe you're looking to sell and you want to get the best offer but you don't want to spend a fortune getting there? There's a fine line between adding value and spending a lot! If you're looking to stay in your home for a while you might have more reason to spend a little more. This, over time will add extra value to your home so you won't be out of pocket. To know what improvements to do, you really need to work out what bracket you fit into.




I recently wrote a blog about updating kitchens and what they can do for your home. If you're looking at improvements then this is a good place to start. A lot of people look for a feature kitchen. Our lives have changed and, as I said in the last blog, we want, need and expect more from our homes now more than ever. You have a few options with the kitchen and starting off at the most expensive end, you could add an extension. Gaining more space for your existing home is often cheaper than buying a place that already has this space. You don't incur the moving costs, the solicitor's bill and the likelihood is that you would still want to decorate and put your stamp on it.


If you're just looking to update your existing kitchen you could consider changing the cupboard doors and work surfaces. This is a quick and easy way to revamp what you already have and in terms of money and time it shouldn't be a big job. There is also a new trend where you can quite literally cover your existing units and work surfaces or even paint them. This is obviously the cheapest option and you can do it yourself. However this isn't a long lasting solution and is probably only best if you're thinking of staying in the property and using it as a 'stop-gap' until you know exactly what you would like, or until you have managed to save for your dream kitchen.



Depending on what home you have you might even have some period features that you can reinstall, revamp or uncover. Maybe you have a fire place that has been boarded up. This could easily alter the feel and design of any room. If you're fortunate enough to have these features then make use of them.

I know that not everyone has a garden but if you do then get those green fingers out. This is something that you can do yourself if you're wanting to complete it on a smaller budget and all of your money can then be spent on plants and accessories. However, if you would like the tailored professional look then employ a landscape gardener. They really do know what they're doing and a landscape gardener can add some real value to your home.



There are many sites online with some excellent ideas on home improvements to suit any budget. Check these out for example.
https://www.money.co.uk/guides/9-easy-ways-to-add-value-to-your-home.htm
https://www.frugalandthriving.com.au/8-ways-to-improve-the-value-of-your-property-without-breaking-the-budget/

Essentially whatever you want to do to your home, whether it's for yourself or to entice a buyer/renter there are many ways to do so. There are varying different levels of improvements and with them come different levels of budgets.

You will and can do whatever you want to your home. It is your home, your style and your money, don't be swayed by someone else.... trust your instincts!





Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Eco building- construction at its best. Top tips on which materials to consider when building green.


So we are at the point where eco homes are homes of the future. We need and want them to sustain and one of the hardest decisions to make is what materials to use. Firstly you need to think about the look of your home; your materials will play a massive part in the aesthetics of your build. You need to find materials that work together with your idea, the style of your home and ones that provide the best eco benefits.



There are many materials that you can consider and I unfortunately don't have the time to talk about each and every one so, I thought it was best that I discussed the most obvious. Starting with timber, you have the option here to choose sustainably grown timber which not only provides you with natural materials but also allows you to essentially give back what you take. You also have the option of using recycled timber which can add to the 'look' of your home. 




Natural stone is another good material and limestone for example is fire-resistant, sound-absorbent and strong. The downside here is that this material isn't replenishable and it is not always local so you will have to consider the transportation process.



Concrete is another material that is often considered and in fact, at the moment seems to be on-trend. It is strong, low maintenance, fire resistant and ages well. This is a man-made material and the process isn't often as eco friendly as you might think. 

What you might not have thought about is how your materials are sourced, how you get them to your site, how far they have to travel and if they are replenishable. These are all factors that play a part in your build. If you're set on building an eco home I would imagine that the impact on the environment plays a big part in your choice of materials. You can build your home to the highest eco standard but if the production process itself contributes harmfully to the environment then you may have forgotten your goal.



Your eco future will be mapped out once you have your home, your bills will be lower and your environmental impact will be small in comparison.

Here is a site that has some amazing ideas on different materials that you can use, some you might not have even thought of let alone considered. https://elemental.green/10-eco-building-materials-revolutionizing-home-construction/

Sometimes you may think that an idea seems a bit strange but do your own research, things are only strange when we don't understand them. From knowledge we get growth. Eco homes are thankfully here to stay, lets play our part in providing a sustainable eco friendly future for the generations to come.


Monday, 27 July 2020

SAP testing....yet another compliance. How being the best will benefit you!

SAP testing / calculations  aka Standard Assessment Procedure is the assessment used to test your build's performance. I know there seem to be quite a few  procedures and testings to get through and I, for one, know how daunting this can sometimes feel. But, if you knuckle down and plan from the beginning you won't have anything to worry about. These calculations  will soon become second nature.

SAP assessments essentially enable the Government to compare builds across the UK. Imagine being at the top of that table! Plan with your architect right from the beginning. As I have said time and time again, use the resources you have, utilise peoples' knowledge and experience. Experience is something that can't be taught through books.



You would be able to employ a SAP assessor who will be able to ensure that you achieve the highest possible standard to pass your assessment should you employ them from the initial stages. Essentially they will work from the plans that your architect has drawn up. These plans need to be on point. (I can't stress how important it is to have a close, comfortable working relationship with your architect.) This is something that will evolve over time, although you will know fairly instantly if you will be able to work together or not. You need to be able to communicate well, you know what you want and your architect knows how to implement it. This will be one of the most important relationships you'll have and you'll likely want to use the same architect for each of your projects.

Essentially your SAP assessor will work from your architect's drawings and will provide you with your predicted energy performance certificate. The assessment will quantify a home's performance in terms of energy . This will determine the environmental impact of the building while maintaining a comfortable living space for all occupants. The ratings provided are from 1-100 and based on the energy cost of that build over a year. The higher the score the lower the running costs for that dwelling. The results are based on factors such as the heating and hot water systems, the internal lighting, the renewable technologies that are used within the building and the elements of the structure.  The SAP test will obviously need to be finalised at the completion stage. From your final assessment you will receive your EPC (energy performance certificate). Remember that your results will be logged in the central register.



Construction is one of those industries where there are many different levels. For example you can produce top quality builds, mid-range or lower end so you really do need to know your clientele. Having said that, working to a budget doesn't mean that you have to take a knock with your compliances. Planning and working closely with your architect and assessor will allow you to achieve the best results possible. In fact, it can actually be more costly to make alterations once the work has been completed. Do it right the first time, not just right but the best it can be.

By getting excellent results in your SAP calculation you'll receive lower running costs from your build and achieve the best results will allow you to stay ahead of your competitors and who doesn't want that?







Saturday, 25 July 2020

Building Regulations - working together as the dream team!



Why do we have Building Regulations?

You wouldn't be human if you hadn't asked yourself this question before. I know first hand how frustrating these regulations can be! You feel you're getting somewhere and then you find you're tied up in red tape. These regulations don't exist to stop you from building your best home, they're here to help you build your best home... safely. That's the key, without them we wouldn't have safe secure builds and no matter how much red tape there is to get through we don't want to have homes that are unsafe; bottom line.





Building Regulations evaluate all aspects of your build; foundations, damp-proofing, structure, insulation, heating, sanitation, accessibility and fire safety just to name a few. The regulations are here to ensure that work is carried out safely. They also protect you and others from unsafe and unregulated builders. Regular site visits make sure that the work that's being carried out is in compliance with the measures.


You can always ask questions while you have your Surveyor there. Take advantage and if you have anything that you want to know, ask. It can be an extremely costly practice to 'fix' or alter things once the work has been completed. Assuming you have the right employees then you won't have anything to worry about. Your trades will know their crafts so trust them. You hired them after all.



If you're in the business of eco builds (and this is the way that most companies are heading), then the Building Regulations are on your side. The Government has a deadline of 2050 for net zero carbon emissions. That might sound a long time away but don't be fooled, that will come around quickly. If you haven't thought much about the eco side of building then there is no better time than now; soon you won't have a choice. The regulations also aim to improve the conservation of fuel and power, protect the environment and promote sustainable development. This is just part of the role of the Building Regulations.

What you must remember is that anyone who works for Building Control will attend regular courses and training and this can be used to your benefit. As I said, ask questions and utilise their knowledge. If you need a trade they might even be able to put you in touch with reputable people? They are on your side although it might not always seem that way but trust me, they're not your enemy!

If your build doesn't pass the Building Regulations and you ignore that fact then there will be serious consequences. Not only will it be costly to rectify but you could even find yourself in a position where you have enforcement involved. Enforcement have the power to remove an unsafe build that is not compliant. This isn't something you can bypass and it isn't something you should bypass.

Not only do these regulations help protect the public from unsafe builds, they also help keep the quality of builds high. We are building houses for the future; we need to make sure they are built ready to take on the next generation and generations after that.





Thursday, 23 July 2020

Eco building at its finest- what can be achieved....


From inspiration come ideas!

I am an advocate for eco builds to whatever level. The more we can protect our environment the better it is for the generations to come. There's so much material out there that can lead you forward into the eco sector if you're not already convinced, or if you're looking to get a bit more information. Either way it is such a good idea to research. Some of the best ideas come from inspiration and inspiration comes from seeing exactly what you can do. Sometimes it is good to show everyone what we can achieve. All you need is a good workforce, a plan and some clever ideas. 

I am going to show you a few of the best, most extravagant eco builds the UK has seen to date. These are not the cheapest of cheap but they can really show you what you can achieve.



BedZED, is the UK's first large scale eco village.  This village was completed in 2002 so has been established and working now for 18 years. I'm not saying it didn't have problems but it was ahead of its time. I'm sure if this were to be built now there would be updates made. Things can change a lot over time and with experience, new technology and advances that come into play, it would be hard not to make small changes. Having said that, this village is so forward thinking and is certainly standing the test of time. It comprises 100 homes, office spaces, a college and community facilities. It really is a purpose built eco village and just proves what can be done when planned and executed well. The complex benefits from green buildings, renewable materials, innovative heating, reduced energy consumption and self sufficient heating and electricity. 
 
You can read up about BedZED here https://www.bioregional.com/projects-and-services/case-studies/bedzed-the-uks-first-large-scale-eco-village

It is not just homes and villages that are taking the environment seriously, a number of offices around the country are also joining in. They are making the future greener and they are cutting their bills down in the process. For example there are offices such as PwC HQ in London which apparently have a biofuel combined cooling heat and power system, low flush toilets and green walls just to name a few, in turn lowering their impact on the environment and maintaining low bills off the back hand. 



Co-op HQ in Manchester has also joined the eco train. The building is configured to optimise passive solar for heating, cooling and day lighting. The solar panels apparently provide 80% of the hot water. This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you would like to look further then take a look at the links I've suggested. These give you examples of builds that have applied eco technologies and gives you an insight of what can be achieved. 

There are so many examples I could show you and I know these are at the larger end of the scale but I am fascinated by what can be done with the technologies that we already have. These can be applied, evidently to any size or shape of a build, whether its a village, office block, or your home. This is the future and it is exciting. 

If you would like some more inspiration, please take a look at these sites. There are many builds out there that are really flying the flag for eco; the quicker we get on board the better. Just look at what can be achieved. Construction really is an amazing industry. 



https://www.pbctoday.co.uk/news/planning-construction-news/five-of-the-uks-most-impressive-eco-buildings/40160/

https://c-r-l.com/content-hub/article/6-uks-best-eco-buildings/

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

New Part L regulations - will gas heating be gone forever?


The amended method of calculating home energy efficiency is changing the heating system industry forever, and quicker than you may think… With the new Part L regulations set to be used in the near future, I think there will be an immediate retreat from gas central heating systems and an adoption of electric heating.


Gas

Pro’s

Con’s

·         Effectiveness in relation to cost

·         Costly installation from scratch

·         Faster warm up time

·         Annual maintenance (excluding breakdowns)

·         Still runs if electric cuts out

·         Short life span in comparison to electric

·         88-90% efficient in most cases

·         Isn’t a green source of energy

·         Can produce air temps 25 degrees warmer

·         Inefficient to the point they harm our planet

·         Burns cleaner than other fossil fuels

·         Wastes energy through pipework

 

Electric

Pro’s

Con’s

·         Same fuel factor rating in SAP as gas

·         Potentially more expensive in the long run

·         Cheaper and easier installation

·         Longer heat up time

·         No Maintenance costs

·         Chance of overloading your electric system

·         100% efficient

·         No warmth or water if power cut strikes.

·         No noise emission or limescale build-up

·         More expensive breakdown costs

·         No restrictions on property layout

 

·         Clean and respectful to the environment

 

·         No chance of harmful gasses congregating

 

 

 

We will see a 55% reduction in emission factors for electric heating bringing it very even with gas emission factors.  The change comes as we’ve seen a massive decarbonisation of the electricity grid in past years. Over 30% of electricity is now being generated from renewable sources.



Although electricity is the way forward, we still need to consider the heating of larger homes (which gas is better suited for). Most importantly how will the end user be affected? With electricity costing on average 14.37p per kWh and Gas costing 3.80p per kWh.

Are providers going to lower prices with obvious increase in demand?

Are we entering an era of fuel poverty on top of ever rising house prices?

What incentives will the Government put in place to assist the people of this Great Country?


What should I clean after Covid 19?

  A lot of industries and companies are struggling financially due to the pandemic, and there is probably some temptation to try and reduce ...