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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
These two books are the perfect starting place to help you get to grips with one of the most vitally important aspects of our society - our homes and living environment.

PLEASE NOTE: A download link for Volume 1 will be sent to you by email and Volume 2 will be sent to you by post as a book.

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    • CommentAuthorgravelld
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2017
    I'm finding it difficult to learn through the construction industry to work out what I should be doing next.

    Our house has repairs required to some elevations and I'm taking the opportunity to improve performance by insulating and replacing windows/doors.

    So far I have:

    - Designed the new look in sketchup
    - Modelled the energy requirement of this job, plus a "target" for the house, in PHPP, so I know thicknesses etc
    - Collected together details of how I want things done
    - Drawing up the window schedule should be possible

    It seems like an odd question but what do I do next?

    I feel like I need a builder who I can build a good relationship with and we can do this together, as there will be stuff I just don't understand and we would have to explore, e.g. moving drainage.

    There are no AECB or Ph registered builders in my area. There's only one Ph within a 20 mile radius, and I do know who built that, but they look like a fairly large firm...

    Just fishing for ideas as to my best next steps. Maybe I should engage an architect because they might have better contacts, but I was trying to avoid such costs.
    • CommentAuthorMarkyP
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2017 edited
    talk to people about prices - architects, builders and specialist trades. Contact some architects to discuss the scheme, let them give you a fee proposal with some options - how would they approach the scheme? maybe some overall building control drawings, detail drawings and possibly some project management. Get a few main contractors to come and discuss the project, they might give you some good free advice, and will give you an idea of what they need to give you a quote (drawings and schedule of works). They will also possibly tell you bits they would like to handle and bits they might like you to take care of. It's also good to ask builders what they have experience with, what they like doing and what they do in-house vs sub-contract. None seemed very keen to get involved in my EWI, for example. Just too far outside their comfort zone. Having lots of these conversations really helped me refine my plans and decide on my approach.
    • CommentAuthorgravelld
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2017

    I have talked to a couple of architects. I have got some guideline prices, but these are pretty high. E.g. hundreds of pounds for detail drawings (each!), when I don't really see the value of this - most detail drawings can be found from manufacturers (can't they?) and some of these will depend on what we find when we reveal the eaves etc anyway - I don't understand why these have to be rolled new for each project. Then they want me to have a full measured survey doing... that's another 1-2k. I'm not convinced it is required.

    I think contacting main contractors would be a good step, and just be prepared to waste my time because a lot just won't be interested.
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2017
    Have there been any Eco-house Open Days in your area? If still posted, they're a gd way to collect local names of builders, architects, clients etc. Any nearby Transition Towns?
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2017 edited
    What MarkyP said. Talk to lots of people, partly to discover information and find out what you still need to know, and partly to see how you get on with them and whether you would feel comfortable paying them money.

    Which way you choose to run your project depends to some extent on what people you find and whether they're happy to come and work for you and you're happy to employ them. It's also about your own confidence and abilities in drawing, planning, project management, DIY etc. There will be obstacles and mistakes along the way and it's how you and your plan cope with them that matters.

    edit: what Tom said as well; another good way to find contacts.
    • CommentAuthorMike1
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2017 edited
    Architects are great for projects that require a heavy design input, but your scope seems far more restricted than that. I'd suggest that a Chartered Building Surveyor is likely to be a better - and probably lower cost - choice to pull everything together at your preferred level of detail.

    Building surveying does cover quite a large field though, so check out websites and references to make sure you find someone used to handling such works.
    • CommentAuthorgravelld
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2017
    More great feedback thanks. There are no upcoming open days. There are a few Phs/Enerphits in Nottingham but no open days coming up (I have been to one before, I'll try pinging them as they did have a recommendation). I don't really know how far builders prefer travelling but it's a good 30-40 minutes away.

    Mike1, it's a bit difficult to understand who to employ before you know why you should employ them. I know I need a builder as I don't have the time, skills or experience for the actual work on site. But I'm not sure what a surveyor would bring.

    I'm going to have to grind out a lot of conversations I think.
    We joined the AECB when we started our build process. We used to go to their local meetings. Good way of meeting like minded business people.

    Not exactly the same scenario (I'm an architect so that took care of the drawing part), but like you we also struggled to find tradespeople that we could trust to take care around airtightness etc.

    In the end this came down to taking a common sense approach to some of the detailing. I hesitate to use the phrase 'idiot proof' because most tradesmen are incredibly smart problem solvers, but if you can reduce each exercise to a more straightforward methodology it's often a lot easier for everyone to understand and can often tolerate pauses in the build process etc. a lot more than if you have complicated junctions that need several trades on site at once.

    We also looked at industry accreditations like the Federation of Master Builders, and more internet based review sites like Trust a trader. Although the usual caveats with internet reviewers apply - people only tend to write when angry/dissatisfied or asked to by a mate, so be wary of extremes at either end.

    Finally, it's worth talking to suppliers to see if they do 'toolbox talks'. Often a manufacturer selling a slightly more uncommon product (i.e. intelligent membranes or woodfibre insulation) will also be keen to make sure it is installed correctly. They sometimes offer to come to site and educate the workforce, so if you do find a willing contractor then you may be able to offer them some free training as part of the job.

    It's often better to find a keen tradesman who knows a related field and is keen to broaden their knowledge than a know-it-all who's built a hundred like it by learning how to pass the airtightness test with dubious squirty foam.
    • CommentAuthorgravelld
    • CommentTimeNov 8th 2017
    I'm in the AECB! No events in the east midlands.

    Thanks Tom. Can't say I trust FMB or any online rating site. Definitely think I should leverage the toolbox talks though... something to add to the EWI choice checklist.
    • CommentAuthorMike1
    • CommentTimeNov 9th 2017 edited
    Posted By: gravelldMike1, it's a bit difficult to understand who to employ before you know why you should employ them. I know I need a builder as I don't have the time, skills or experience for the actual work on site. But I'm not sure what a surveyor would bring.

    That would be a great first question to ask them, actually!

    But potentially things such as:
    - verifying your ideas
    - advising on your other options (moving drainage, etc.)
    - preparing a specification for contractors to price, possibly with drawings
    - preparing any details not covered by manufacturer's standard details
    - preparing building regulations applications
    - sourcing a contractor
    - verifying contractor's bids
    - verifying contractor's proposals (if you're relying on them to propose products or materials)
    - health and safety advise
    - site supervision visits & troubleshooting
    - negotiating contractor's variations / extras

    There are some of us here who are able to do all those ourselves, but if you've no prior experience it's a big step.
    • CommentAuthorgravelld
    • CommentTimeNov 9th 2017 edited
    So a "Chartered Building Surveyor" would do all of those things? (I'm putting in quotes so I know what to search for on Google!).
    • CommentAuthorMike1
    • CommentTimeNov 9th 2017 edited
    Posted By: gravelldSo a "Chartered Building Surveyor" would do all of those things?

    Potentially, but it depends on the particular surveyor's areas of interest. Some focus almost exclusively on home inspections (for example) while others have broader interests; you should be able to tell from their websites.

    The RICS has a search facility you could use: https://www.ricsfirms.com/ - select 'building surveyors', of course...
    • CommentAuthorgravelld
    • CommentTimeNov 10th 2017 edited
    Found a couple more possible contractors today.

    Might seem like a dumb idea but I simply searched for "sustainable builder leicestershire". For some reason I was assuming all such builders would be AECB member or Ph members! Pretty dumb now I think about it... Hopefully something will come of it.

    Another idea: search planning portal for high performance builds and find out who built them. Not sure how easy that search would be, what keywords to search for.
    • CommentTimeNov 11th 2017
    The local building control might be able to suggest some contractors that are worth talking to. As might builders merchants.
    • CommentAuthorgravelld
    • CommentTimeNov 11th 2017
    Yeah, talking to BC, if they are available, might be a better bet than trying to blindly search PP for info that might not even be recorded.
    You sound like you are in a similar(ish) situation to the one I was in during my self build, realising that finding good contractors, interested in green building and willing to do something different to the normal way, was probably going to be key to getting a good outcome.

    You probably need to have lots of conversations to either find an architect that has experience of building to the spec you want and will be able to marshall contractors to get the result. Or the other route would be finding a builder who wants to learn / become a serious eco builder (as there are none in your area with proven experience already).

    I think having someone that is willing and committed to the results you want is probably the biggest thing.

    I ended up with an architect and a builder, neither of which had serious green / eco experience and as a result I have a building that missed all of the performance targets that I'd set myself. It is however beautifully designed and finished and having an architect definitely saved me an enormous amount of time, stress and bought a lot of nice touches to the house.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeNov 12th 2017
    Find out if any changes need Planning Permission? Building Control Approval?
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