Twelve days on from receiving planning permission I feel like things are starting to move in the right direction. I'm swinging from excited to terrified, but I suspect that will be the way of things for much of the year to come. Now in a whirlwind of emails, phone-calls, site visits and general attempts to get everything in place practically and bureaucratically to start in March. For example, today's magical mystery tour combination of bureaucracy and practicality has involved lifting manholes to photograph the drains and work out where they go and phone-calls to the dramatically titled Sewer Protection Team at Wessex Water, in order to determine whether the drain is classified as a private or public sewer. Thankfully, as it only serves our bungalow and is on our land it's still private which means that one big bundle of added (and expensive) paperwork is avoided. Any work over - or within 3 metres of - a public sewer would need permission from the relevant sewage authority, which in Wessex Water's case has a £225 fee attached. (NB: a private sewer now becomes a "public" one once it leaves your land, so work needs to be more than 3 metres away from the point it crossed the boundary... ours is around 4.5 metres from that point so we're okay).
On the planning front, Kuba - the designer - (www.jakubwihan.com) is starting work on the detailed drawings for building regulation approval. We've appointed JHAI as our independent building inspector for building control - they're local (based 5 miles away), have experience of other sustainable builds and materials including strawbale, and have a good reputation for helpfulness. For SAP Assessment (Standard Assessment Procedure for energy rating of dwellings, taking into account all energy usage from heating, lighting, hot water etc, the sources of energy used, and the relevant CO2 emissions) we've chosen Phil Neve of Brilliant Futures who is based just south of Bristol - as well as doing the relevant calculations to ensure compliance with Part L of Building Regs (which deal with the conservation of heat and power) he will help us ensure we are building something that will be as efficient as we can make it, keeping our energy use (and operational costs) as low as possible.
Kuba is also going to help me prepare a sensible schedule of works. Having a list of what order things need to happen in and roughly when will be enormously useful to me and help prevent me becoming overwhelmed before we even begin.
I'm awaiting quotes from ground-workers and a builder who may do the digging of the foundations, drains and the hole for the rainwater harvesting tank, possibly also building the basic foundations. I have spoken to a roofing carpenter who advertised "assisted selfbuild" among his services - he seems likely to be the ideal person to work with on the roof, as he is geared up for "green" builds and understands what we are trying to do. Plus he's friendly and I think I would feel comfortable working alongside him under his direction (I have built basic kiln-shed roofs, but would definitely benefit from expert direction with the bungalow roof). Decisions on all these will be made once quotes are in.
Almost inevitably we have already come across some changes that will need to be made to the plans as approved, some as a result of consultation with a structural engineer, some just from realising better ways of doing things. Rather than re-use an existing chimney which isn't quite in the right place we will probably now remove it, claiming back more space and having a more practical steel flue rising directly from the masonry stove (more about masonry stoves in some future blog, but in brief: they're lovely, incredibly efficient, brick-built, giant wood-fuelled storage heaters. Go google them). The ceiling in the lounge/kitchen area where we're taking the room through the loft to roof-height will now slope evenly both sides rather than having a slightly odd floating wall part-way through the room (see image below, culled from the plans - new proposal at the top): this should look nicer, will be structurally simpler, and will allow a much greater spread of light from the new rooflights (which will now be slightly lower in the roof). Finally, we're swapping around the position of Anna's studio and the separate toilet, so that the loo is next to our bedroom. We should have thought of this earlier - with Anna's limited mobility it can be a struggle to get to the loo at night, so having it next to the bedroom makes perfect sense, and it would have been so frustrating to have made an otherwise lovely home with a long wobbly walk to the toilet from the bedroom. It's original position was a hangover from when we still planned to have a massage treatment room. From the outside, this means a couple of windows will be further along a wall than they were.
All those changes now need to be formalised with the planning authority, as (very sensibly) condition of the planning permission is that we build according to the plans submitted. So now we have to submit new drawings showing the new position of the windows and chimney and apply for a "non-material amendment". The ever-helpful planning officer said it shouldn't be a problem, and the process for that is meant to be much faster than planning permission itself. The changes to the lounge/kitchen ceiling may mean we have to adapt and re-submit our Bat Mitigation Plan too as it affects the area of loft available to any bats that should decide to take up residence there. They'll get less swooping around space but more roosting space. The ecologist responsible for our plan will consult with the Natural Environment Team and see what they say.