Blog 7 - Windows...A frame for our scenic views

Published: Friday, 03 November 2017 12:43

Choosing the type of windows/doors is a very important decision to make as it frames the landscape, views and provides us with shelter from the outdoors. We decided to work with Lynch Windows, Buncrana and we found them to be very professional and well experienced. We were delighted to be able to work with such a professional local company that was right on our doorstep and who were very competitively priced.

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Blog 6 - A Roof Over Our Head

Published: Monday, 25 September 2017 15:39

I only thought the design stage was hard until I had to start deciding on finishes for our dwelling. I started to loose my professionalism getting very indecisive as decisions had to be made. It's easy to see a finished product for a client but making a decision for myself that I will have to spend the rest of my life looking at is a whole other ball's giving me a better understanding for clients!

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Blog 5 - On Site

Published: Tuesday, 29 August 2017 15:44

We had just returned home from spending 10 days in sunny Spain with the family and got a lovely surprise with the digger on site. To say I was excited was an understatement!! The week our Contractor Seamus Friel & Sons started reading the site I actually "drove past" about 4 times a day... so if anyone seen me driving up the Derry road to turn at the beach car park to come back down the road you'll understand why...a dream coming to reality can make a girl go a little crazy ;)


It only took a couple of days to read the site and pour the foundations and within 2 weeks from commencement the sub-floor was in place.


While the contractor was on site we were discussing our heating system with our chosen specialist NuTherm NW. We had decided to go with vertical bore hole ground source heat pump and to get the 2 no. 80 metre deep bore holes dug while the site works were ongoing. When the bore hole diggers arrived on site they hit water at 60 metres and had to stop work. Thankfully Gavin and Damien from NuTherm NW came to the rescue and were able to guide us very professional through what seemed like a major problem and came up with an alternative solution. We managed to work out enough horizontal area within the garden to proceed with a ground source heat pump but by changing from vertical to horizontal pipework. I liked the idea of only having 2 vertical bores within the site as opposed to the entire garden space having pipework underground but once advised by the professionals that this would have absolutely no effect to our garden use I was very happy with the solution...and the horizontal option worked out in our favour financially.


Once the sub-floor dried out our competent block layers started on site. They had constructed the walls to 1st floor level within one week. We used McDaid Bro's for our concrete and blocks and Cross Concrete Flooring for our 1st floor concrete slabs, both highly recommended. As I had designed large corner windows to our sea view elevation we required bespoke lintels to be designed and manufactured and chose a local Buncrana company Crana Engineering Ltd. By using local companies for bespoke items can work out a lot cheaper than using a large nationwide company but you may require an engineer to specify the items but it is definitely worth looking into.

As an architect I know that room sizes always look smaller to begin with but I struggled with convincing myself for our own house. I worried I hadn't made the rooms big enough and had slight anxiety that I could no longer alter the drawings as I pleased. We now had to live with what I had designed. However, the more I visited the site as the works progressed I knew I loved the design and regained confidence in myself. I loved the look of the house, the split level layout, the windows that capture the amazing Lough Swilly backdrop and how well the whole house functions. Seeing my husband and kids finally walk through the rooms that I had created with delight was like winning a global architectural award. The months of designing and re-designing had definitely paid off.


Blog 4 - Building Control

Published: Monday, 24 July 2017 12:16

So you've received the Final Grant of planning permission, secured the funds, now it's time to get your project started on site...well it's not as straight forward as that anymore! I will give you some information on the new changes required, which may come as a long read if your not at this stage but please bear with me as I've detailed our personal choices in the bottom goes.....zzzz!!

Since March 2014, the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, BC(A)R 2014, have laid down very strict requirements when erecting a building. The Commencement Notice must be forwarded to Building Control not less than fourteen days and not more than twenty-eight days before the commencement of work on site. There are a lot of documents, detailed working drawings, specifications, inspection plans and certificates that are required to be lodged and signed at Commencement Notice stage and must be electronically filed on the Building Control Management System (BCMS), which your architect can prepare.


The amended regulations require that you employ 3 key persons for the duration of your building project, which are:

-Assigned Designer (your registered RIAI Architect can carry out this role)

-Assigned Certifier (your registered RIAI Architect can carry out this role)

-Assigned Builder (Builder must be competent and have 3 years experience doing similar projects)


Once you've chosen these assigned persons it's now time to consider the type of build you require. Before any documents are submitted on BCMS you must ensure that your dwelling will achieve an A3 Building Energy Rating (BER). My sister, Anita Galbraith, is our SEAI registered BER Assessor within the practice and she can guide you on all the options available for your home. An air tightness test is also required to ensure there is no air leakage through the building envelope and all materials used on the project must have a CE Mark and a Declaration of Performance, which is a requirement of the Construction Products Regulations 2013. If this information is not provided to the Assigned Certifier they will be unable to issue Completion Certificates for the building.



With regards to Renewable Energy Technologies the following is what your dwelling requires to comply to BC(A)R 2014:

-10kWh/m²/annum contributing to energy use for domestic hot water heating, space heating or cooling, or
-4kWh/m²/annum of electrical energy, or
-a combination of these which would have equivalent effect.

Renewable Energy Technologies refers to renewable energy sources, e.g. solar thermal systems, solar photo-voltaic systems, biomass systems, systems using biofuels, heat pumps, aerogenerators and other small scale renewable systems.



There are a lot of very difficult decisions to be made at this early stage although I do believe that BC(A)R 2014 have ensured that you get the highest quality house you deserve. On a personal level, I have been guiding clients through this process since the regulations came into place so I had a good idea of what we wanted and what was available. I have also been orgainsing a local weekend event called Designer Homes Exhibition over the past 5 years, and have been learning from the local exhibitors on all the renewable technologies available...discovering products right on our doorstep! There are so many local companies that can provide your renewable products without having to source from global companies at higher costs.


Our first step for this stage of the project was sitting down with our BER Assessor and discussing the options available to achieve an A2 rated house. After many discussions (and debates) we discovered that my much wanted cosy open fire was a straight out no-no with our BER Assessor! Anita explained that with the scale of our house and highly insulating the envelope we were then going to "cut a big hole in the roof and let all the heat escape". I can totally understand why open fires are unefficient but this was a sore point for me. I had this romantic imagine of winter evenings laying in front of the open fire, reading a book with a glass of wine (in reality the kids wouldn't be long putting that image to rest) so I had to get over it and on to Plan B. We decided to remove the fireplace completely from our sitting room as I didn't want 2 stoves within the house (we have a stove in the living area) and focus on the sitting room becoming our TV room. We then decided to increase our cavity wall from 150mm to 200mm with pumped bead insulation, a multi-fuel stove in the living area of the kitchen, triple glazed windows, and our heating system will be a ground source heat pump and mechanical ventilation. As part of our ceiling is sloped on the 1st floor due to it being a 1 and 3/4 storey we decided to use a spray foam insulation between the rafters with dry lining insulated boards over them. We choose to spray rather than use insulation boards between the rafters as I felt there was less chance of cold bridging occurring.


So with all these aspects decided on it was now time to get the Working Drawings created and signing of all the Building Control forms prior to submission. We choose a registered and well experienced local building contractor, Seamus Friel & Sons, to take on our project. Their standard of workmanship is high and I have worked with them on many other projects within the office. After all the tough decision making and complying with building regulations it was now on to the more exciting parts....getting started on site!

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