2016 Review

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09 January 2017
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Now that 2016 has drawn to a close we can look back on the year and on some of the projects we have carried out throughout. 2015 was the first year that we no longer felt the effects of the recession, and the economic improvement continued throughout 2016. It remains to be seen whether the shock of the referendum result will have any impact in 2017.

Although we can never be quite sure what projects and concepts we will be working on and creating for our clients, there is often a pattern to our work depending on what is popular at the time. Having completed some exciting projects last year, we are optimistic for what 2017 will bring.

The practice is based in Saffron Walden in an area with the fourth highest number of listed buildings in England. Not surprisingly much of the year’s work has involved historic buildings, including fifteenth-century hall houses, Georgian town houses and barns. But we’ve been further afield too – working in London, Bedfordshire and even South Wales.
Some of the highlights of the year were:


Loft living
Aesthetically pleasing industrial interior design has become very popular over the year with the concept being sought after in family homes as well as coffee shops. With much of London becoming an archetype for this sort of fashionable loft living, we were excited to take on the task of renovating a large warehouse flat overlooking the Thames. We are in no doubt that obtaining an industrial effect will continue to be on the wish list for many individuals in 2017



Loft Conversions Essex

Restoring grade 2 listed buildings can be challenging, but a new chocolate shop was a whole new flavour! Working with a Chocolatier the practice reorganised a nineteenth-century shop in a minimalist style to include the manufacture, display and sale of high-quality hand-made chocolates. And as ever with a listed building everything had to be reversible. Glass screens separate the chocolatiers from the customers, who can watch the process from the start to the finish of these exquisite concoctions.


essex architects


Every now and again we find ourselves working on a thatched building. Although it looks fantastic, thatch is expensive and does not last forever. So there is a big temptation to use water reed, which lasts longer. Thatch is a material that made use of the leftovers after the harvest, and so is very regional: areas, where wheat was grown, are usually long straw, and areas like the fens where reeds are cheap are usually water reed. But woe betide those who use the wrong material! Changing from long straw to water reed is a material change and would need to list building consent, which is not often given. And be aware of wheat straw reed – a sort of half-way house, it originated in the West Country and is wholly inappropriate in East Anglia. One of the glories of living in an area rich in historic buildings is the delight of specific local styles, and having the right thatch is part of that.


Thatch Cottage Repair Essex

Barn Conversions
Although many of the great agricultural buildings of the past have been converted to residential, some still come on to the market, and with changes to the Government’s advice smaller and less historic buildings are available for conversion. Barns make dramatic spaces to live in – but be aware that the Conservation Officer will want to retain as much as they can of the big high spaces, and that they will resist anything that makes the building look too residential – so they’ll limit the size and position of windows and expect flue pipes rather than chimneys.



Barn Conversions Essex


New houses
Building plots are becoming harder to find these days and command correspondingly high prices. Hibbs & Walsh Associates Ltd have obtained Planning Consent for a number of new houses during 2016. The introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework has made the criteria for new or replacement dwellings clearer, but there is still considerable variation from one community to another. We have noticed an increase in demand for more modern buildings, particularly with double height spaces and big glazed screens, though folding sliding doors seem to be giving way to large metal sliding doors with very slim framing sections. New cladding materials are proving popular, with through-colour maintenance free artificial boards replacing the more traditional feather edge board. Shallow pitched roofs finished with slate are also popular as is standing seam zinc for both walls and roofs.



Build New House Essex


From thumbprint security systems and computer programmed cupboard organisation, we expect there will be a lot more for architects to have to consider in their designs next year. The “smart house” is already being discussed with some of our clients and fully integrated media and light systems are becoming much more the norm. Larger properties benefit from boundary CCTV systems and video controlled entrances. For those who want to control their central heating or run a bath from an AP on their mobile phone, the future awaits!


In Built Sound System Home


We thank everybody who has been part of our 2016 and we look forward to what 2017 shall bring!

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