Red Kite

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  1. Colin, I would play hard ball and turn the tables with something like "I do not agree to any extension of time, but if a decision is not made within this period I will assume you have no objections. After <decision date> I will proceed on the basis that you agree that permission has been granted by default (unless you contact me within 14 days)". I would quote the NPPF being in favour of sustainable development and since the original permission established this principle then you are confident that the Appeal Inspectorate will uphold this application. Go ahead with implementing the NMA and then if they serve an enforcement notice go for retrospective on the basis that they agreed to it by default. I wouldn't bother with an Appeal on Non-Determination (though its a good bargaining chip). I would however make sure that any communication is signed for and you have proof! I would write off the fee - unless you want to prove a point. Though it depends if your NMA is trying to 'fly under the radar' in any way - in which case I would keep very quiet! I am saying nothing about my own NMA - radar? what radar?
  2. Yes this is a fixed price Groundworks plus drainage contract with a specialist contractor. We have been talking to the contractor for over 5 years, at that point we were going to go with Weber Haus (the Euro put paid to that idea!) and he does a lot of the GW for all the German OSM's. Weber Haus have used him for 10 years plus and would not use anyone else. He is happy and able to work to the tolerance the Germans ask for (about 5mm!) and comes highly recommended. This for him is not a big job - hate to see bigger. So yes we are paying top dollar, and I am sure we could have gone cheaper (or DIY!!!! ) but the quality and knowledge is absolutely top notch. I heard some advice at one of the shows that was 'work with the best possible people you can afford' - we can just about afford this and so far he is proving to be the best. As a fixed price contract, as long as you dont have hard deadlines, it doesn't matter if there are weather delays, but as you can see they are cracking on. Also worth considering that we would likely have been on really deep trench fill foundations (or piles and ringbeam) for a more traditional foundation design; expensive and a pile of unknown risk. Raft foundations btw dont work well on sloped sites! (for some reason MBC declined to offer their brilliant raft foundation solution). Building the way we have adds some cost but takes a lot of the risk out (if you dig that deep!!!) and gives us two houses on the plot and lots of additional basement space. The rule of thumb is that the basement floor space will cost you per m2 'about the same' as the upper floors - but you get the foundations as a bi product. So then its down to how much space you want and can afford. Given we had a height restriction of no more than the existing bungalow we couldn't go upwards, which left outwards or downwards. Outwards wouldn't have allowed two houses on the plot easily due to planning and site restrictions (we tried!). So we went downwards, which works well with the sloped site. Certainly not the route for everyone, or for a cost sensitive DIY build (I couldn't imagine doing this as a DIY or even PM + Subcontract project like so many brave souls on this board seem to do), but as with all self-build you get to choose exactly what route you want to go down (or 'choose your brand of insanity'). Though were that route takes you is a different story........As they say 'its a journey'.
  3. Yup, muckaway costs what it costs, same as everything. Question is what do you need to allow for and what things to factor in that are part and parcel of the dig. Based on our somewhat massive dig (see the blog) it aint as simple as it seems. These are non-expert observations and based only on what we have seen - your mileage may vary. Ours was approx 600m3 - 'as dug' or 'in the ground' gets a bit immaterial at that point - its just really big and expensive! Firstly you need to understand what the ground is like - to the depth you plan to dig (plus some), and over the whole site. Our clay was relatively easy to dig out but was potentially very messy and sticky. Also we know it was pretty consistent over the site but we did hit a patch of gravel in the clay that meant more sheet piling we had not accounted for. Not picked up on our soil survey btw. Then you need to calculate just what volume to dig (the obvious bit) - you will need at least 1m all round the outside of the slab to allow access, and then you need to batter back (i.e. create a slope to ground level) so it doesn't all fall back in (or sheet pile if you dont have the room). The batter angle (or technically the angle of repose ) depends on the ground conditions so you need to check with your SE on what is a safe angle. You also need to dig deeper than the slab as you will need a sub-base (Type 1), some blinding layer, insulation somewhere, the slab itself, screed, floor covering etc/ So work from FFL downwards and add the extras to the muckaway. BTW dont dig any more than you have to - you can't un-dig and any dug areas you dont need will probably need to be backfilled with brought in materials not your muckaway. As you say the 'in the ground' volume is not the same as the 'as dug' since it 'fluffs up'. I think this depends on the soil type - there are calculators that help (eg https://source4me.co.uk/calculate_excavated_spoil.php) determine volume and weights. Weight is also important as our lorries measured weight load and beeped when they were up to weight - even if there was space to get a few more bucketfuls in you stop at a weight limit. Wet clay is very heavy in winter - summer might have been better - or if you can dig and leave it for a few months to dry before carting it away I am told this helps reduce the cost/weight. I suspect that if you talk to muckaway contractors they will work that out for you - but it might 'fluff up' in the process. Drainage of the site, both when digging and afterwards, are really important - when you dig a big hole it typically fills with water. Our guys very early on dug a temporary French drain - a trench filled with gravel - round the slab. This then goes into a temporary sump and is pumped out and keeps the site dry-ish or manageable. You need to have somewhere to pump to btw. We will get a proper drain later but this temporary one is all extra cost - more digging and gravel in that you probably dont think about. You need to think about the logistics - our site looked huge but when it comes to digging and muckway its really tight. You need to have somewhere to stand the lorries to load them, and you need to make sure they dont get stuck in the mud - or leave half your site on the highway. Our guys dug an off road area, filled it with type 1 and then compacted it, just for the lorries. Hardly a drop of clay on the road - but more muckaway and costs - but a great base for our new driveway. Also there seems like there is a huge amount of skill in digging: first some digging, loading some, moving the digger, making sure you dont dig yourself into a corner and generally thinking a bit before going wild with a big digger. Our biggest time constraint while digging was getting enough lorries in a day - but we were close to the point of not being able to fill them fast enough. If you want to keep some topsoil for landscaping then you need somewhere to store it - or it goes into muckaway and then you buy it back! And you will need some storage area on site - so that might just be where you were planning to store the topsoil! So to summarise the simple steps - get a topo and soil survey so you know where you stand. Then you will need an SE to design the foundations / basement and he (or she) will probably have the biggest cost impact on your whole project cost (if I knew then what I know now!), plus a drainage engineer in our case. Then you work backwards from this and the Architects designs to the hole, how big it is etc etc. Then you can figure just how much it is likely to cost, and how the logistics might work. In our case our GW contractor wasn't able to price the job until the SE had spec'd the concrete and produced the steel bending schedule so it was unknown for a very long and worrying time! So good luck with the project, and hopefully all the above was just a recap for you - I would say that muckaway is the bottom of the iceberg!
  4. Hi, we are looking for a patent glazing solution for a flat-ish lightwell about 1.3m x 6m. It sits at about ground level so needs to be safe toughened / laminated and can 'flat' or up to about 15 deg pitch. There seems to be some on going joke on the board about walk-on glass that I dont understand but this could be walk on, but doesn't need to be. It needs to be thermally efficient since it sits in the thermal envelope of a 'close to PH' house - so triple glazed panels and some form of thermally broken framework. It abuts a vertical wall on one side and sits atop the basement wall at the other. We were envisaging some form of 'patent glazing' i.e. cross beams separating the 6m length into bays that get glazing panels. Has anyone done anything similar - any thoughts? and suppliers? Thx
  5. The video shows the black plastic membrane going down this week, followed by an enormous quantity of steel. What you dont see is that with all the rain the pump has been running continuously to try and keep the rainwater at bay - getting lots of water on the slab at this point is a bad thing as the membrane floats up which is a 'bad thing', its a bit better now because of the tons of steel on it! The black membrane goes down in three layer - first the sealed flexible which is heat sealed and goes up over the shuttering and is sealed around the pipes. Then a rigid layer in sheets on top to protect it, and then another flexible plastic layer. The aim here is that the whole slab is waterproof and no water comes up through it. We will also have additives in the concrete itself which makes it 'waterproof concrete', and talking to the guys this pretty much makes the membrane redundant - but B Regs requires two 'just in case' methods of waterproofing. Then in goes a ridiculous quantity of steel mesh (rusty brown in the video) in two layers standing off the slab on blocks of concrete referred to as 'Mars bars' and separated by 'chairs' (if I have the terminology right). Its a really good question why there is so much steel? We think we could build a skyscraper off the slab and it seems overkill for a lightweight timber frame house. However the Structural Engineer designed it and since he is a Professional (with a capital P) it seems he can add contingency and safety and 'just in case' (same as the waterproofing) as he sees fit and we get no choice at all. Its all backed up with pages of abstruse calculations on the bending strength of steel and concrete - the joke about SE's is that 'they have their moments'! The only comfort is that it should withstand any earthquakes we might get in Wiltshire ,and its all backed up by his Indemnity Insurance so, apart from the cost. its all wonderful. Also interestingly the contractors said that 10 - 15 years ago slabs like this only has a tiny amount of 'anti crack' steel mesh that worked just fine, so it seems that those earthquakes must be getting more common (or more likely SE's more cautious). Though in an age of trying to be Eco and 'save the planet' you might have thought there would be a move to design to 'good enough' and not to seemingly overdo the huge amounts of steel and concrete (really not a green material - especially with waterproof chemicals) used in construction. But having just watched 'The Accident' (a C4 drama where a building collapses and kills lots of kids and they are all questioning the construction methodology and start apportioning blame) on catch-up then perhaps they have a point. After the mesh has gone down they started on the L Bars that tie into the slab mesh and stand up into the vertical walls so they hold back the ground around them. They should finish these and the 'Kicker' next week. The Kicker is a small upstand around the outside of the slab that gets poured at the same time as the slab and then the walls are shuttered up from this. They estimate that the slab will get poured next Monday - and they plan to pour it in a single exciting day!!! The other progress is that the Planning Officer signed off our Planning Conditions. This was after a bit of to and fro on the materials - we showed her samples of the render (cream K-Rend silicon), roof membrane (slate grey IKO) and the grey cladding panels. Seems like she didn't quite understand these - they are Rockpanel which is made from Basalt stone (pretty Eco) and finished in a textured grey - apart from the snazzy finish it looks a bit like render board. After a couple of rounds we got there, and now we can technically start the house construction. Up to now all we have been doing is 'foundations' to keep within the letter of the conditions which preclude 'house construction' until the Planners have approved the drainage, materials and landscaping! Luckily we had no 'pre-commencement' conditions so could get on with work while the Planners faffed around! See https://www.dropbox.com/sh/th9f6e3cel5dm1q/AAAfsWdAH184J75bCNUUtzVra?dl=0 for the weekly videos
  6. The steel sheeting was installed by the groundworks contractor and was planned into the design. The longer side is onto shared drive so is there for 2 reasons, to stop the drive way falling into the hole and to protect the workmen. We did not have enough space that side to batter the clay back. The additional section was added when they found some loose sand in the clay. They were fitted by the excavator with a hydraulic hammer, this is very skilled as you have to keep moving the excavator arm to keep the sheets vertical . The steel sheets are hired in but all part of the quote!
  7. The video for Week 6 doesn't have Thursday and Friday as the camera played up (I blame Halloween) but good progress. this week. You can see them laying in the service ducts and drainage pipes and then laying a thin 'blinding layer' of concrete = our first pour. They then went on to put shuttering up around the edge ready to fit the waterproof membrane and then the steel on top. By Saturday (see photo) the rain had filled it up quite a bit and the black shuttering you can see round the edge keeps it in a treat (or is that Trick or Treat?). The problem comes is that if this happens after the membrane goes down and before its weighted down with the steel then the membrane floats up. Lets hope its dry (ish) next week. And see below we can now officially pump it out on Monday. This week (I am sure it is related to Halloween) our worst nightmare came back to haunt us - Planning !!!! Having spent 5 years fighting Planning we thought we were home and (relatively) dry, but no; Planning raised its ugly head yet again. Six weeks ago we put in and paid for Planning Conditions to be removed, and on the day the decision was due we contacted the latest Planning Officer (we are on our 7th so far) who had 'forgotten' about it, was most apologetic and asked for a 3 week extension. We needed three conditions removed: Materials, Landscaping and Drainage, so it was passed it to the Wilts Drainage Engineer who promptly came back and queried the design they had agreed 18 months ago! He wanted cctv surveys, hydraulic modelling and a repair schedule for the Highways drain so he could agree to let us discharge some of the surface water into it (i.e. a really drawn out and very costly agreement). However they had agreed to this as part of the Planning Application and were really difficult about it then! So we duly pointed all this out and offered to work with them and suggested that rather than granting an extension we would hold off on our third Appeal unless that became necessary. We were delighted when they decided to remove their objection! Now all we need is to get the materials agreed, and as she requested an elevation of a post and rail fence (WHY???) , the Architect has drawn a beautifully detailed picture. Hopefully she will agree the landscaping and materials we should be condition free! We had a visit from the Structural Warranty surveyor who, unlike the BCO, came across as really negative and slagged off our basement and contractors when in fact they have already declined to insure the basement anyway. We debated if were going to pay for Structural Warranty as there is much discussion that its often not worth the paper its written on - but in the interests of future resale and the Council of Mortgage Lenders we bit the bullet. However if the first visit is anything to go by its less than inspiring. So first concrete is in and we are probably a couple of weeks away from the main slab - which is the bit that the BCO and LABC want to see almost as much as we do. See https://www.dropbox.com/sh/th9f6e3cel5dm1q/AAAfsWdAH184J75bCNUUtzVra?dl=0 for the weekly videos
  8. Ha, Ha, the steel should start soonπŸ–‡οΈ! Nervous - why would we be nervous πŸ˜“πŸŽ’
  9. Video is at the same place - see Week 5 πŸ™‚ Play count the muck-away lorries again πŸ™‚
  10. The last of the big muck away at the start of the week and then laying the base stone layer means that we are pretty clean on site and the mud is hardly an issue. The surveyor came and marked out accurately and the Architect produced the detailed layout for the services - electric, telecom, water and soil stacks and you can see these being laid in towards the end of the week. They will come up through the slab and so need to be pretty accurate. Pretty soon we will be ready for the steel and shuttering for the slab and some serious concrete. It is amazing to see how fast this moves forward and how big and deep the base is when you get to stand in it and look up. Also exciting to start to see the layout of the two houses being defined by the services that map onto the floor plans we have held in our imagination for such a long time. An interesting development this week was the concrete filled trench you can see being dug an then filled back in with our first concrete pour. The SE originally wanted this 1m deep below the slab, but the BCO was not even sure why you need anything under a 300mm steel reinforced slab (and the G/Ws have never seen it needed before). The SE wants it to protect the front of the slab from frost damage and expansion and contraction in the area where it comes out at ground level and is not insulated underneath. Some negotiation resolved this to 300mm of concrete under the front of the slab as 'sufficient', and then the ground workers said it would be a real pain laying the drainage pipes through the concrete so we have a deeper section where the pipes go that will be filled in with dense concrete blocks around the pipes, and then have the slab poured on top. A bit more complex but it saves a bit of digging and concrete so everyone is happy. We seem to end up steering these type of these things between the G/Ws, the SE, the Architect and the BCO, but rather than being a nuisance it is really interesting to see how this all comes together, and we would much rather this than the G/Ws blindly following the plans. Pete (the Gaffer on site) often says, "Chris come and look at this - I am not sure this is the best way to do this" and we really do listen because he has done this at the sharp end for years, the voice of experience! Also there are a load of other things to figure out in term of suppliers and lead time - like front door, lightwells etc - when you have 12+ week leadtimes these decisions get critical pretty rapidly and staying on top of it keeps us both pretty busy! See https://www.dropbox.com/sh/th9f6e3cel5dm1q/AAAfsWdAH184J75bCNUUtzVra?dl=0 for the week by week video diary - Week 5 πŸ™‚
  11. Can you let us know as well as we need some thanks
  12. All, thanks for the comments - it seems like there is no clear cut answer here (perhaps in Scotland) - and at the end of the day its all about risk mitigation and recovery. As we all know claiming off a Structural Warranty or a SE's PII would be almost impossible - but NOT following them would make life very difficult IF anything went wrong in the future. So as will all of these things it was down to negotiation - the strip foundation is down from 1m to 300mm deep - and everyone seems happy! I am still not convinced that you need anything under a 300mm RC slab (unless you are expecting bunker busting missiles!) but IF there is ever a problem I can prove I did 'the right thing'. And in the scheme of things what's a few m3 of concrete here or there! The other concern from the BCO had was from a H&S perspective was how deep the guys would be working - this is resolved and they will be working at about ground level. This was one I was not prepared to compromise on - making sure the folks on site are safe to work trumps absolutely everything in my book. Plus I believe it gets really messy if you have preventable accidents on site, and though I am not the main contractor I do have (at the very least) a moral obligation in this. I always make a point when I visit site to look around and ask the guys if everything is safe for them to work. For example there is a little bit of mud (amazingly small) coming off the site during the day - less than the farm gateway down the road - and they sweep up at the end of the day, but I suggested a couple of 'mud on road' signs, So just in case anything happens we can say we made the effort - a simple CYA strategy. I know Elf and Safety sometimes gets a bad rep and the micky taken (rightly so IMHO when it flies in the face of common sense), but as self builders at any level of involvement we do have a very serious duty of care. Sorry rant over - I will now get off my soap box!!!!
  13. I wish!!! If you can figure how to magically get rid of muck-away then you have it made and lots of folk here will beat a path to your door! Trust me those super quick lorries are really expensive- money gone in the blink of an eye😞. I think there is an expression "where there's muck there's brass" - no more true than when you build a house - but I believe that a portion goes in tax so at least I am supporting a worthy cause!
  14. Interesting scenario - my SE has designed in some strip footings under my slab and says they need to be there for frost protection. However by BCO says he is happy if they are not built as he is happy with the ground and the slab (300mm RC) on its own. So who wins? and am I OK to go against my SE and follow the cheaper route OK'd by the BCO? Any thoughts or experience? Thx
  15. And when the Pro came with lasers and GPS etc to set out our site he bent down to spray the accurate position of the front corner of one of the houses and saw a nail about 5cm in one direction and spot on in the other from his mark. He said "whats that?" "Mine" I said: - done approximately with a builders tape and no real though to accuracy. I was pretty pleased and it just goes to show that even on a slope you can get pretty close with simple tools. Now if I had spent the time I am sure I could have got it much closer. However when I see the contractors out there all day with an auto laser and measure checking and re-checking everything I think that probably the initial setting out is the least of the problems. Probably what you will need is a quick way to check as you go along so I would be looking for the right tools, or be prepared to spend a lot more time.