Frequently Asked Questions

ConsultationPassivhausPlanningBuilding RegulationsCDM (2015)ServiceTenderingConstruction

How soon can you carry out the initial free consultation?

We are keen to meet potential new clients and will meet as soon as possible, this is normally within 1 weeks’ time, but will be able to attend sooner if required.

Can you visit at the weekend or evenings?

Meeting during the week is favored , but if this is not possible we appreciate an out of office hours meeting will be required. It is important to have daylight to enable us to see the building or site properly.

What happens after the consultation?

We will prepare a file note detailing key elements about the site or building and any influencing factors, it will also detail the discussions we will have had about your requirements, how you intend to use the space and what we feel is the right style for the project including your likes and dislikes.

We will then prepare a fee proposal detailing what we would expect our fees to be for the brief as discussed, through the various stages of work. It will also describe what is and what is not included within this fee and also what we would expect other fees and costs would be, such as Structural Engineers fees and planning application fees.

These will then be emailed to you for your consideration along with any other helpful documents or regulatory information.

How long would the consultation take?

We would normally suggest 1 to 1 1/2 hours, but it as long as is required.

Can I open my windows in a Passivhaus?

Yes you can. In the heating season opening the windows will reduce the efficiency of the building. Your Passivhaus will have a good supply of fresh clean heated air via the MVHR unit.

Can I visit a completed Passivhaus building?

Yes, the UK Passivhaus Trust organize open days each year. as does the International Passive House Association. Details will be available on their websites.

What is the form factor?

The form factor is total external area of the thermal envelope divided by the use-able (treated) floor area. The lower the value, the better the performance of the building.

Will a Passivhaus cost more to build?

Yes, the high quality construction, design and workmanship as well as the greater amounts of insulation and the better performing components will lead to increased costs. But this will be offset by the decreased energy costs, improved quality of the internal environment and the energy security.

Can the Passivhaus standard be used to design commercial buildings?

Yes, many commercial buildings have been built to the Passivhaus standard, especially schools. The better internal atmosphere and air quality leads to a more productive working and learning environment. Also because commercial buildings tend to be larger than houses, the form factor is often lower and therefore easier to achieve the standard.

What is MVHR?

Mechanical Ventilation Heat Recovery, this is the unit that removes stale or used air from your building whilst extracting most of the heat from this used air and then transfers the heat via a heat exchanger to the incoming fresh air into the building. For Passivhaus the unit must be certified and the system must be designed, installed and commissioned by an suitable M&E engineer.

Why is air tightness so important?

The Passivhaus standard for air tightness is 0.6 m3/ at 50 pascals. The current UK Building regulations is limited to 10. This means that 15 times the amount of air can be allowed to escape from a normal UK new build, compared to a Passivhaus, which results in a lot of heat energy escaping through gaps and holes in the building and the creation of cold spots and drafts within the building. Having high levels of air tightness allows the creation of the warm, comfortable, quiet and energy efficient internal environment you get with a Passivhaus.

How soon can we start work on preparing the design?

We aim to be able to make a start within 2 weeks, but this does depend on our current workload.

What is the difference between a ‘House Holder Planning Application’ and a ‘Full Planning Application’?

A House Holder Planning application is for all applications to an existing dwelling, including extensions, new outbuildings, alterations or an annexe. A Full Planning Application is for almost anything else, such as a new dwelling, a replacement dwelling, a commercial application and a change of use, but to name a few.

What is Listed Building Consent?

Listed Building Consent is required for work on a Listed Building and is normally applied for alongside a planning application.

Which work on a Listed Building requires Listed Building Consent?

Listed Building Consent is required for all works of demolition, alteration or extension to a listed building that affect its character as a building.  An application for Listed Building Consent is made to, and determined by, the Local Planning Authority. If there is any doubt whether Listed Building Consent is required it is advisable to contact the relevant Local Planning Authority or Heritage department of the Local Authority. We can do this on your behalf.

Will you submit the Planning application for us?

Yes, typically we will act as your agent and submit the application on your behalf including liaising with the Planning Officer if necessary. Once the design is agreed with you we will then work towards completing the Planning pack, which includes the forms, drawings and other details that may be required such as a Design & Access Statement. We will then email and/or send this to you to give a final check over prior to submitting.

What is the consultation stage of a Planning Application?

The consultation stage is a minimum 21 day period where various consultees and neighbours have the chance to comment on an application.

Who is consulted during the consultation period?

Typically the consultees will consist of; your neighbours and the Parish or Town Council. Depending on the application there may also be consultee requests from the Heritage department, Highways, Environmental Health, Environment Agency amongst others.

How long will it take to receive a planning decision from when we submit an application?

We normally advise clients to allow approximately 8 to 13 weeks.

What can we do if our planning application is refused?

This seldom happens, but we do keep in close contact with the Planning Officer during the application process and keep our clients informed of progress where relevant, this ensures we have done everything we possibly can to gain a positive result. If it later appears that a refusal is likely, unless an appeal is feasible or desired, we would recommend the application is withdrawn, reviewed and renegotiated.

What is the Building Regulations?

The Building Regulations are a set of rules and standards that are produced by the Government to ensure minimum standards for health, safety, welfare, convenience, energy efficiency and sustainability are achieved.

What are Building Regulation drawings?

Building Regulation drawings contain the technical details of the project and along with other supporting information are submitted for a Building Regulations application and for the Builder or Contractor to prepare a quotation and build from.

Will we require a Structural Engineer?

Possibly, depending on the design, we will advise you if a Structural Engineer is required. We will ensure you are informed of the costs prior to commencement and we will then liaise and coordinate directly with the Structural Engineer on your behalf.

Why is the area of glazing to our project limited?

All buildings, new builds, extensions and renovations both residential and commercial are required to have a certain level of thermal performance. Glazing is typically the weakest element of any building in terms of thermal performance and therefore to comply with the Building Regulations we will be limited with the amount of glass we can use in a design. However there are several different things we can do to maximize the amount of glazing in the design, such as upgrading other elements of the building, creating renewable energy or improving the efficiency of existing heating systems.

Will you submit the Building Regulations application for us?

Yes, once the drawings and associated information is complete we will then email and/or send this to you to give a final check over prior to submitting. Once authorized by you we will submit the application on your behalf and liaise with the Building Control Officer or Appointed Inspector if necessary through to an approval.

Whats the difference between a Building Inspector working for the Local Authority and a private Building Inspector?

A Building Inspector working for the Local Authority is the traditional route to have Building Regulation plans vetted and the work inspected on site. The private Building Inspector (Appointed Inspector) works for a private firm, but carries out the same role as the Local Authority Building Inspector. We have regular Inspectors we use depending on the location of the project and also take into account the clients or the builders preference.

What is CDM (2015)?

CDM (2015) is ‘Construction Design Management’ that was updated in 2015. In relation to Architectural Services at the design stage, that there is a role called ‘The Principal Designer’ someone must take this role who is involved in the design decision process and makes sure that Health and Safety is considered at all design decisions. We will provide you with initial information about CDM (2015) at the consultation or proposal stage.

Where can I find more information about CDM (2015)?

The government’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) & the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) websites are both informative. Alternatively we can recommend specialist’s to assist in this area.

Why should I engage Optimum Architecture?

Our role is to help you achieve the objectives you require, which we will carry out with passion, a good eye and our experience. We will assist, challenge, advise and be honest in our opinions with you. Our ultimate objective is for you to be pleased with our work and performance, such that you will be happy and willing to recommend us to others.

How soon can you start work?

We aim to start work on a project within 2 to 3 weeks from instruction, subject to our current workload, but will endeavor to start as soon as we can.

Which Builders or Contractors to select for a quotation for the project?

Our normal advice is to select 3 Builders or Contractors you are happy to award the work too, in selecting these 3 you should consider if they have carried out similar projects before, are capable of the work involved  and if they have satisfied clients, etc. Then once you are satisfied with the above you should then ask for a quotation with as much detail provided as possible including a potential start date and contract length. We are able to assist with this process if you wish.

What information will be required by the Builder or Contractor to provide a quotation for the work?

The more information the Builder or Contractor is provided with the more accurate the quotation will be and the less chance of extra’s. Ideally the builder should be provided with:

  • The Planning pack (Application form, Design & Access Statement, Approvals, Approved drawings and any other documents within the application).
  • He/she should also be provided with the Building Regulations pack (Application form, Approval, Approved drawings, Structural engineer’s calculations and any other documents within the application).
  • Then finally any additional information from you, the client, such as finishes, electrical requirements, makes and models of sanitary ware etc.

How do we choose the Builder or Contractor once we have received the quotations?

Once you have the quotations in they should be scrutinized and checked that all you have asked for is included and make sure that each Builder or Contractor is quoting for the same end result. It is also important to make sure you feel comfortable with the builder or contractor and communication goes well between you. Then you decide. We are always available to assist with this if you wish.

Will I be able to ask you questions about the project at the Construction stage?

Yes, we are available on the telephone or on site for either you or your builder to ask questions about the project, this may be subject to our agreed hourly rate.

We have come across a problem on site during construction, can you help us resolve it?

Yes, our objective is to assist you in achieving the completed project in the best manner possible. Post approval we normally work on an hourly basis and charge accordingly.

All details and answers on this page are generic only and should not be relied on for your specific project. If you require specific advice then we recommend you contact us directly with your question, your property details and as much information as possible and we will endeavour to answer as accurately as possible.



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