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Bitpipe last won the day on November 24 2020

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  1. I don't know.. last week's was a real down to earth, relatable story of an everyday man and his £4.5m budget.
  2. Great advice from Dave there - the HBB is a great buy. You're already doing a lot right as the most efficient house shape to build cost wise is a square / cube with gable ends and a pitched roof - tells you all this in the book. By luck, that's also what we have Also smart that you have areas that need minimal finish (garage) or can be left until later (room in roof). We were in a similar position with our basement and top floor - however when getting quotes I was always surprised that the incremental cost of including those spaces was not excessive, you've also got to weigh the advantage of doing it now at zero VAT vs doing it later and paying 20%. A compromise can be to get to first fix in those areas then buy and store additional materials for post completion work. While the VAT claim cutoff can be quite strict (3 months post completion), I have had trades come back a year later and still charge me zero VAT for labour based on our original agreement.
  3. We had a good architect in that he designed a building we liked visually and functionally and most important got us through planning (eventually). Like you, he was not that interested in how it was built (was only really experienced with traditional methods), how it performed (low energy etc) and had no ideas at all about the basement which he was always a bit resistant to. So we parted company at that point on good terms and we took over the management of the build - did our own planning conditions discharge and used an independent BCO who was very helpful - plus all the resources on this site. Saved his quoted £15k in fees also for the next stage (detailed design). We were helped to some degree by choosing a comprehensive timber frame package that included their own SE and were able to provide the BCO with all the detail they asked for. However we did commission our own SE for the basement and they produced the drawings to take to tender and all the calcs to satisfy BCO. So if you're considering changing architect stop and think whether you need one at all and explore other options. Are you contemplating DIY for the ICF or using a contractor? I used a SE (Tara) who now work at Build Collective ( and are pretty experienced in ICF although I did not end up going down that path myself.
  4. That's a great position to be in. The goal now is to get your architect and SE to 'value engineer' the house you want for the budget you have. Quite often you can get a dramatic effect, such as contemporary views, by using a series of smaller windows vs large and expensive expanses of glass - we have a few 'slot' style ones that are 600mm wide but 2m tall (and the same horizontally, higher up the wall) which really work well and they were quite cheap. Keeping to standard dimensions (e.g. 2.4m ceiling heights, standard internal door widths etc) will also reduce material and labour cost. We kept our interior colour palette quite muted but then used a signature colour (in our case a sharp teal) to add a bit of zing. We had custom coloured glass splash-backs made for the kitchen (not expensive at all) and used a whole panel of the same coloured glass in the downstairs loo vs wall tiles - again, not that expensive. Outside we tried to avoid the standard anthracite grey and used Basalt Grey instead (RAL 7012) to give a softer look for windows, cills and guttering etc - it's all the same cost if you're getting it powder coated. Are you having a traditional pitched roof or going flat? The latter can be expensive and problematic if not installed flawlessly so you could consider a traditional roof (i.e. slates) but at a very shallow angle (15 degrees). Anyway, lots to throw in the ideas pot there - it may take a few iterations but you should be able to get something with the look you want that won't break the bank. A few signature elements (such as your metal staircase) can make a big statement.
  5. Welcome! You don't say where you are in the UK so hard to comment on budget - the rule of thumb is usually £1500 /m2 with some degree of project management from you (hiring individual trades) with that shooting up if it's a completely hands off build (i.e. you trust entirely to a single contractor) and down if you can take on more work yourself, depending on your skill set. You also need to factor in services cost (power, water, sewerage, telecoms) and access that will meet the planners satisfaction - sometimes these can be prohibitively expensive and kill your project at the outset so get ahead of them now. The other unknown is ground conditions - if it's brown land (ex industrial or similar) your LA may well want a contamination survey and remediation plan as a planning condition. Good that you have a friendly ground-worker, more important than a discount (they have to make a living) is working with someone you can trust and who can give you good advice. Architects, SEs and BCOs can all over specify and having an experienced hand to counter balance that is invaluable - that's where you'll save money.
  6. Sounds obvious but it's the last thing you complete We had a final physical inspection with a to-do list of outstanding items - most were paper based, MVHR commissioning cert (DIY), electric & gas sign-offs etc. We had some outstanding glass to install (Juliette balcony) so just sent pics of that with a tape to show it was the correct height.
  7. Yep, I had some wide variation in quotes. Essentially you're looking for a firm that has the plant and the contacts to arrange the concrete works. Maybe drive around a bit and see what's going on in the local area to get some more firms on your radar - look for works at schools or new builds vs domestic jobs. One of my shortlisted contractors did some site prep for me and only in conversation did he say they could quote for basements etc so you never know.
  8. Just be prepared as this will be the start of it. They will have something to say about every single event, whether a delivery, noisy works etc. You need to be reasonable but firm from the outset. Let them articulate the concern (e.g. dust) but don't let them dictate the solution - just say you'll do your best to address it.
  9. Bitpipe


    From our experience, you can get quite emotionally attached to the first few plots and there is the risk of overpaying to 'get the dream'. We dodged a bullet early on - was an old farmhouse with what would have been a plant nursery business at the rear. An odd shaped plot with some issues about access to the front. However we loved its location and were sad when we could not make it work financially but it took experienced friends with cooler heads to get us to walk away.
  10. Yes, so an incentive to only take what you need. When I was with them (2015/6) they just need an email to release funds - no valuations once the solicitor did the initial paperwork.
  11. I would guess you may be able to import VAT free (or reclaim any VAT paid outside the UK) and pay the then pay VAT on arrival and then claim it back again? Or the exporter needs to collect the UK VAT on behalf of HMRC - I know for this reason, many smaller retailers will no longer ship to the UK. Damn all that bureaucracy that we had to endure previously.
  12. I know that my wife was trying to get one on behalf of the business she works for during the summer as she kept being asked for it release samples from work released from customs (although they sent them anyway) but it was not obvious how to do it. Probably needs it now post deal. During my (pre-brexit) build I directly imported lots of kit from EU - basement light-wells, velux, bathroom fittings etc. Was able to reclaim the VAT paid through the HMRC self build scheme also so no idea what you need to do now.
  13. One further thought - tell your architect that you're open minded on the build method and to specify a nominal wall thickness for the design. This can change later and at worst may eat a little internal floor area. Some designs are more economical to build than others - acres of frames floor to ceiling glass, curves, complex angles, funky roof designs etc will be expensive to realise whoever is building. You can often get the same effect in a more effective way e.g framing a view with several smaller windows, high level horizontal windows to let light in etc. This is where your architect can earn their money. Just be careful when you're designing areas like kitchens and utilities where you will be dealing with the usual cabinet / appliance widths of 600mm - don't make it too tight! Also, if you have runs of built in wardrobe, design it around the IKEA standard dimensions as you'll save thousands doing that vs
  14. I think he means that RHI payments are contingent on how crap the house is currently performing. As you're passive and have a high SAP you won't get much if anything (the flip side of this is the number of existing houses getting ASHPs installed that prove totally inadequate for their needs). I think a few here have DIYd their ASHP - if you have ducts and power etc then you are most of the way there. From what I've read on this site, the complexity is configuring it (i.e. the s/w) If you just have empty UFH pipes though you will need a plumber to hook it up to a manifold, pump, controller etc. That's maybe a bit too involved for DIY.
  15. I don't see how your chosen build method impacts the design your architect produces which should be about how to create a dwelling that works for you as a home, looks appealing from the exterior, makes the most of the site and most importantly gets planning permission. How you build it comes second really. Your structure will need to meet or exceed building regulations wrt insulation and airtightness, which all the current build methods can do. Also you can combine any exterior finish (brick, stone, render, timber) with any build method if desired. Most of the methods net out at the same cost as some are material heavy and labour light (e.g. SIPs or TF) and others are more of an even split (ICF, blocks etc). Once through planning we looked at everything from ICF to SIPs to bock before settling on a passive standard timber frame and cast in situ concrete for basement. At that point we'd parted company with the architect as they were no longer adding value to the project. We discharged our own planning conditions and managed the build thereafter, saving at a min the 20% overhead that a general contractor would use and were able to pick and choose the trades we wanted vs being lumped with the ones the contractor chooses. Plus we drove down the budget across the board with a lot of deal hunting. We commissioned our own SE to do the basement design and took that spec to contractors for quote. I did a few bits and bobs like insulating the exterior of the basement and the MVHR plus wielding the broom. Choosing a timber frame package was best for us as it was a turnkey package and got us quite far along (airtight shell once windows had gone in) in a short time. They produced all the necessary drawings and their own SE calcs to satisfy building control. However had we gone down the ICF route, our SE was happy to produce the detailed designs for the whole house. So keep an open mind and choose the option that suits your circumstances. Best of luck on the employment front. The self employed and small business owners / contractors etc do seem to have been overlooked.