Monday, 2 January 2017

Garden Building Trends 2017

Garden Building Trends 2017

Written by Richard Grace – Project Director - Garden Structures - (project designer). Specialist in Planning Permission and Building Regulations. 

(We are now entering our 15th year + I myself am entering my 65th year)…. So “things are changing for me”!

Things have changed here - this was built by us 12 years ago!


Earlier last year we designed and installed another complete Living Annexe in a traditional way but with a low pitch roof to comply with permitted development. Main room, kitchenette and bathroom provided 30 sq m of living space and a storage area. This was the first part of a total garden refurbishment.
Pumped sewage was used to get waste 50 metres back to the main property.
When building a low pitch roof we are usually favouring Colorcoat Urban standing seam panels which work well at very low pitch. The capillary action of traditional tiles make this impossible and the use of flat roofing. Felt, fibreglass or epdm (black rubber) is simply not as attractive. This colorcoat roof has a 30 year guarantee and is simply the best!

The client brief was simple - “mum and dad want to stay over, it needs to fit in with what we have, who knows what it will end up being used for". We need a shower room with toilet + kitchenette of course and it must be warm in winter and cool in summer.
On site survey I could see the land was damp-ish, sloping a bit,  but the outlook, access and space was ripe for a new creation, maybe traditional in design. Everything possible within permitted development planning rules and current building legislation was packed in. We were commissioned to handle the WHOLE JOB. from digging to handing over the keys and a few paint brushes.

      A lot of this post content is new - but others remain the same! 

This morning 2/01/17 all over the news there is a Government announcement about help with housing money here > my comments on this below: If you make a quick calculation on these figures it is not enough!

      Demand for additional living accommodation. is being driven strongly upwards by a number of factors:

      House prices are up simply due to supply and demand. (in London it has become more and more difficult for young professionals to get on the house ladder at all). In most parts of the country wage growth is being held far below property cost increases. 

     The Garden Building market however is simply “booming” – there has always been demand for “sheds” – something better has always been available built in thick wooden planks “the log cabin style” (see Dunster House and others). BUT now it seems that living quality garden buildings are becoming the norm for many family situations.

---- back to Garden Buildings:

     These buildings have a “superb” comfort level and fully featured for both living and working. Even small ones:


     OK that’s enough of that – but one last thing. It is becoming more and more acceptable to build more living space – going back only a few years the garden accommodation market was restricted by the additional cost of planning permission and implementation of building regulations. 

     If the new building is 30 sq m or less and if close to boundary has a maximum height of 2.5m or less then these do not apply. If the do then we can handle all the documentation and applications. You need to check if neighbour's are happy that's all.

     We have been in the Garden Buildings business now for a long time. In recent years I have been writing this year-end review. It was an interesting year so – here goes - my review! Featuring a couple of our most interesting and demanding projects. (With “candid” comments as usual!)

     The year held some great successes and some difficulties (as usual) - like every other – both good and bad!!! This blog post is (a sort of notepad straight out of my head), some of it is “risk A” but so what!. I do hope people accept it but as usual I am me. (again)..

     Here (below) is a picture of  one of last years completed project which has more “knobs and whistles” than anything we did so far” The brief was to: “create extra space for working at home”. My clients “Home Office”.... Their garage had been given up for conversion into living space for mum AND there would be nowhere to continue an organised life working at home. An awkward but unused garden space was designated and we were contacted in late summer to design and build the whole project. On arrival the garage conversion was finished (almost), Granny had moved in and we had too - (staying at nearest Travel Lodge - to build the new Office.

     This has a pitch roof but complies with permitted development and has simply the highest specification imaginable. A particular feature is that in order to save garden space and cope with the diagonal rear boundary it needed a cut off corner so it has five walls. (if you think about this you will understand that the wall-plate is not completely level). Otherwise there is not a lot of difference from normal in this traditional timber frame structure.  

    The plot was lower than the house, so due to garden slope the waste from plumbing needed to run uphill (my tried and tested small-bore) economical solution was used. You can see this on my web link to you tube. On completion there were more wires and conduits in the trench than anything we have ever done – serving just about any communications known and not relying on “wifi”. Under floor heating, masses of insulation, sockets everywhere, A lighting scheme worthy of a theatre – inset down lights with dimmers, external lights on flip-flop to house etc, etc.

        The internal walls were clad in vertical redwood tgv cladding (I call it “wooden wallpaper” – but this wallpaper was 19mm thick and needed to be fitted floor to vaulted ceiling around roof beams, room structure, windows and doors, internal room structure etc…  External walls were clad in the highest quality clear grade western red cedar all around (pre-treated on both sides) with two coats of the most expensive stain available prior to fitting.

        A surrounding deck with inset lights  was constructed right up to the boundary on two sides to reduce maintenance – etc. etc. etc. We did it ALL from site clearing to handing the keys. It included many changes to original spec... “introduced almost daily” by our best and most cooperative client to date. (I guess Richard (the other one) will read this!

So “after this for openers” what is happening now in the Garden Building Business is this:

The Internet and the ability to do this sort of thing and change it quickly has modified our planet forever. Here's a word for non-futurists. Watch out - as the pace of change is still increasing.
This review is based on what is happening in the Garden Building business now. A lot is still good and demand remains higher than ever.

Here are more photos of my own favourite project the year.

We were contacted in the summer by client wanting to  urgently to house mum. When I visited the site my first thoughts were that the space was too tight. The garden was small and the garage was built right on the boundary on two sides. To take it down would have been severely disruptive to 3 neighbouring properties and the structure was fine. 

The decision was made to both convert and extend the garage ending up with a building providing the accommodation which looked for all purposes like a complete new building. From the inside and outside the building achieves this. To do it, the old asbestos roof was stripped off and the garage levelled at the necessary height for a complete new roof to be continuous over the timber frame extension. Inside the brick garage was battened and insulated + plasterboard in the same way as the extension. It worked well. A somewhat unusual approach but OK and now fulfilling a very important purpose.


There has for a long time been a market for mobile homes in gardens for many years – they look like this.

They arrive on a lorry and can be put in place by a crane if back garden access is difficult – They can stay or go and don’t require any permissions.
A new alternative has been developed by Smart Garden Offices which is simply way up market from this. Here is a photo:


Smart have been in the business from the very start and have impressive modular building manufacturing facilities + bags of experience. They design and make studios and offices but are now investing heavily in the accommodation boom with this new product – “zedbox”. Its basic design is similar to the plethora of the widely available flat roof cedar clad office boxes cropping up in gardens everywhere.  These cedar boxes are sold now by about 30 competing companies in our market. This one is no doubt superior to the traditional mobile home / caravan and looks better but - is it permanent or transportable? (well it is modular) so maybe this is a new trend – we will see and I wish them well.
I guess the choices are – build permanent and consider added value – or install temporary and accept the cost / potential reduction of future market for your home.

SO HERE IT IS - We are still pushing the boundaries of design. Creating new stuff, using new techniques.

More on curved roof: This one was worth showing the photo!

It seems that the costs of a total project need to be clarified and taken into account in a different way: All of these make a difference to cost of build.

  • Site access
  • Site preparation
  • Services provision
  • Manufacture of building components or kit
  • Level of comfort heating and insulation
  • Choice and quality of windows and doors
  • Level of Finnish – (does this include)
  • Floor covering
  • Internal and external decoration
  • Landscaping
  • Services connections
  • Plumbing and electrical specification
Add all these to your list when considering the costs.

Good  garden office accommodation costs £1000 per sq metre and top notch living accommodation costs £1500 per sq metre. Sometimes very high spec adds to this.  Sometimes site difficulty makes a difference as well!

Let me know if you need any advice.


1 comment:

  1. I would say, garden offices are a great addition to the garden, for small business owners and start-ups as well. they are not only affordable, in fact they come in lot of styles and colors.


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