Building Regulation Changes – The perceived impact!

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07/06/2022

Tom Kimber

Tom is an Associate Architectural Technician with BoonBrown offering expertise within the company on building regulations and technical standards.

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You will be aware there are significant updates to Parts L (Thermal) and F (Ventilation), and two new documents, Parts O (Overheating) & S (Electric vehicle charging) of the building regulations that are coming into force on the 15 June 2022.

These are the most significant changes to the regulations in recent years.

Without going into the technical details of each change, Parts L & F have been revised and Part O introduced as an interim step to assist the Governments desire to get to Net Carbon Zero. Part S sets out parameters for electric vehicle charging.

For past changes to the regulations, there was an obligation to secure the building regulations application through the interim period by making a start on site.  Now however this has been increased to a ‘significant start’ on site.  Where previously the start on site could have been a very light touch, now the significant start is requiring that all the footings for the development are to be poured, or the site drainage for the scheme is to be installed.

We have been seeking clarity from local authority building control, private assessors and the NHBC and the uniform response is that if you have a site of 1 or 100 units, the footings or drainage of all the site will need to be installed by 15 June 2023 if you have a building regulation application running before this year’s deadline.

This would include all phases of a large, phased site, where previously if regulations changed then the plots not yet started would still be built under the older regulation set.

As a practice we are experiencing a desire from clients to submit building regulation applications prior to 15 June 2022 to ensure that the current regulations can be built to, giving the year’s grace to get the footings for the site poured.

The new regulation changes will now introduce a higher level of thermal performance and airtightness to the building fabric, improving the ventilation strategy and assessing and limiting the overheating (solar gains) within a building.

For example, in Approved Document L domestic external wall U values have been tightened to 0.18 W/m2/K, ground floors to 1.3 W/m2/K and roofs to 1.1 W/m2/K.

Within Approved Document F the air permeability for new build residential has been reduced to 5 from 10m3/m2h. Whole building ventilation rates have also increased.

These changes will not be overly difficult to achieve in themselves. As a practice we have been working with very similar U values over recent years on a wide range of projects where planning permissions have already required a betterment of the existing regulations, and in our experience with air tightness, with good site control most of our projects have achieved below 5m3/m2h in their air tests.

Approved document ‘O’ is principally directed at new build residential units, although does include live/work premises and is the driver for looking at the solar gains and improving the removing the excess heat within the home.

The known impact of this is that the likely input of a thermal modelling specialist at a far earlier point of the project. Currently, it is likely that the earliest point that many consultants are employed is once planning has been approved and a project is moving into the working drawing package stage.

The implications of the new regulations will require design teams to seek guidance from thermal modelling at a far earlier project stage.

If this isn’t actioned, then there is a risk that once planning is permitted and the next stage of the design development progresses, there will undoubtedly be the requirement to go back to planning to adjust the designs, adding in time and cost to the client.

Approved document S seems to regularise the addition of electric vehicle charging points on sites. It is the first approved document to my knowledge to introduce a financial cap as a defined figure. This does not appear to be related to an index linked increase, so time will tell how this document will be affected by the cost-of-living increases that the country is currently experiencing.

It is understood that although we are very close to the new regulations being adopted, the final SAP software is yet to be officially distributed to the SAP consultants. Many will have had a chance to see the ‘Beta’ testing version, but the final issue is still to be released.

As a practice with an office in Somerset, we wonder if there will be a delayed impact on planning due to these regulation changes principally due to the current phosphate and nitrate issue affecting the Somerset levels and their catchment area.

What about schemes already submitted for a planning permission?

For the last couple of years many planning applications in Somerset have been in stasis until the phosphate and nitrate stalemate has been concluded.

These will all have been designed based on the principles of the current building regulations, and the perception is that once the planning is released, many sites will need to be appraised against the new building regulations with the probability that planning will need to be resubmitted.

For any projects going through the planning process, it could be recommended to submit your Building Regulations application before the 15 June 2022, as this can be done with just the planning application reference number and a limited set of drawings (site plan, building plans and elevations).

This would provide the year’s grace on having to adopt the new changes, however in Somerset would still be dependant on the Phosphate issue being concluded and the planning permission being granted.

With significant updates like this there will be a period of settling into and understanding the changes and their impact.

No doubt, the next 12 to 18 months will be an interesting time whilst consultants, manufacturers and clients all start to piece together the changes required.


Flushing out the phosphate problem or just a pipe dream?

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10/02/2022

Andrew Tregay

Andrew is an Associate Planner with BoonBrown providing planning consultancy across a broad spectrum of sectors from planning applications to land promotion. He has experience with residential, commercial and retail based schemes both big and small working for a diverse range of clients.

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For some time now planning applications for new residential development across most of Somerset (and in parts of Dorset) within the river catchment of the Somerset Levels and Moors Ramsar site have been held up following the Court of Justice’s judgment in the so-called ‘Dutch N’ case[1] relating to a ruling on the interpretation of the Habitats Directive.

This issue is not new to planning or unique to Somerset or Dorset.  Numerous other protected habitats have been affected by excessive nutrients and it is widely accepted that it is incumbent upon the relevant Local Authorities to devise a strategic solution to a complicated problem.  Inevitability this a very time-consuming process.

Rather than simply waiting for a strategic solution, BoonBrown has, in conjunction with Registered Provider Stonewater, been working on a range of on and off-site solutions. Several of these have been presented to Natural England and have been well received.  As such we are now close to unlocking a number of residential development sites.

One such scheme is on a town-centre, brownfield site, and utilises elements of Stonewater’s existing housing stock retrofitted with water savings devices.  This innovative and cost-effective mitigation solution has the added benefit of reducing water consumption for existing tenants who choose to have the devices fitted.

This in turn means there is less water going through the water treatment works thus less phosphates going into the river catchment.  In this way credits can be generated to unlock stalled developments that lie within the same sub-catchment area as the existing stock, whilst at the same time protecting agricultural land from unnecessary fallowing.

We anticipate a decision regarding this innovative mitigation strategy shortly, whereupon Stonewater, in partnership with BoonBrown, will roll out the solution to unlock several other planning applications for much needed housing developments currently delayed by phosphates.

If you have any questions please contact Clive Brown, Matt Frost or Andrew Tregay at BoonBrown.

[1] Joined cases C-293/17 and C-194/17 Coöperatie Mobilisation for the Environment UA and Others v College van gedeputeerde staten van Limburg and others


‘The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires that Run the World’ - Oliver Milman

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14/06/2022

Elizabeth Malone

Elizabeth is a Chartered Landscape Architect, passionate about creating sustainable landscapes. She is particularly interested in urban design, conservation and naturalistic planting design.

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It is Mother’s Day 2022, my husband is renowned for the selection of novel presents, and so I begin to carefully unwrap my gift, only to be greeted by the title ‘The Insect Crisis’ – slightly shocked by this year’s unusual present, I decided to give it a read, during those fleeting moments of toddler sleep, I found myself sucked into a disorientating (particularly considering the events of recent years), increasingly apocalyptic description of the world we currently inhabit.

The prologue is gripping and deeply depressing in equal measures, describing a lifeless world, devoid of colour, birds starving to extinction, in fact all manner of fauna and flora unable to co-exist – the world is painted as one of putridity – beetles absent, unable to breakdown decaying matter – millions of acres of land laid to waste. Descriptions of food supplies disintegrating – a third of global food production dependent upon pollination from not only the bees, but flies, moths, wasps and beetles. Common food items, such as apples, honey and coffee become scarce and expensive commodities. Strawberries, plums, peaches, melons and broccoli no longer able to be obtained, with remaining vegetables oddly-shaped and pathetically shrivelled. Starvation averted by a main stay of wind-pollinated wheat, rice and maize – beige plates now an order of the day.

As anyone who frequents my desk will know, the next description fills me with much alarm, in the absence of the pollinators of the cacao tree – chocolate supplies are now cut off! My attempt at lightening the mood, is met by descriptions of the slow starvation of the human race – once entire ecosystems collapse – this serves to accelerate said process.

The prologue ends as follows ‘Wild meadows vanished, followed eventually by tropical rainforests… Cascades of extinctions rippled through our denuded planet. For those of us left, the misery was finally complete’.

Desertification (United Nations University, 2015)

I am only three pages in at this point, and I am desperate to find answers. As a Landscape Architect, we seek to improve the natural environment, I am keen to learn more to inform my work and to help mitigate, prevent such a hellish existence from taking place. Biologist E.O. Wilson writes ‘Within a few decades the world would return to the state of a billion years ago, composed primarily of bacteria, algae and a few very simple multicellular plants’. There have been five mass extinctions in the past 400 million years, of which insects have survived all of these. Have we done so much damage since the industrial revolution, that now even the insects are in trouble?

In recent years, the Entomological world has pointed to major declines in the abundance and species diversity of insects around the world – often seemingly without cause. In 1970, Brad Lister, an Ecologist travelled to Puerto Rico to document its insects, rudimentary ‘sticky traps’ were set up – plates smeared with a sticky compound and distributed on the forest floor. By sunset, the plates were a blackened mass of insects – ready to be picked off, dried and weighed. Thirty-five years later, following up his work – the same experiment produced a handful of specimens. This happened day, after day – their results showed that 98% of insects by biomass had gone.

Similar studies from around the world echoed the same findings, such as ‘the total mass of the world’s insects receding at a breakneck speed of 2.5 percent a year’.

(AFP/Getty 2017)

I think it is fair to say that we are all aware of the plight of the honeybees – who have become the poster child for insect decline in the public consciousness. Furthermore, in the United States, the abundance of four species of bumblebee has plummeted by as much as 96% in recent decades. Well-meaning budding beekeepers may be causing more harm than good, with poorly-managed honeybee hives being ‘little ecosystems of plagues and contagions’ according to Jane Memmott an Ecologist at Bristol University. By bringing in honeybees – bumblebees and solitary bees may inadvertently be starved due to the land required to sustain said honeybees. Honeybees require 45 kilograms of honey to get each colony through a year and it takes 2 million flowers to make half a kilogram of honey.

In 2019, scientists at the University of York, found that Moths, also important pollinators, are dropping in abundance by 10% each decade in Britain. British butterfly numbers have nearly halved in the past fifty years, whilst ‘more than twenty species of bees and flower-visiting wasps have completely vanished from the United Kingdom since the Victorian era’. The causes of said declines, almost certainly include habitat loss, exposure to pesticides and climate change.

Insects have long been seen in negative terms, as pests, as ‘creepy crawlies’. The often maligned wasp, has long been seen as a source of potential pain, a US study showed that wasps can grasp ‘transitive inference’ e.g. if A is greater than B and B is greater than C, then A must be greater than C. Sorting of insects into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is therefore an unhelpful approach in understanding these complex creatures.

Aside from pollination and propping up the ecosystems of this planet (!) – insects and their derivatives have also been used for medicinal purposes for Millenia. Modern science is currently tapping into the great potential that insects hold in fighting diseases and antibiotic-resistance.

The UK is now considered to be one of the least wooded countries in Europe. Agricultural land now makes up nearly 3/4s of land cover. The drive for agricultural efficiency and techniques of modern farming have led to larger fields, half of all hedgerows have disappeared (key habitats for pollinators and insect predators of crop pests). Vital chalk grassland habitats have declined by 80%. A three-crop rule introduced by the EU, means that for much of the year, there is no crop growing at all, just barren soil – leading to the starvation of bees and other insects.

In the ‘Accidental Countryside’ Steven Moss argued that ‘modern agriculture would provide a better home for insects if it was bulldozed and replaced with houses and their gardens’. Britain’s gardens are often invariably more diverse than most arable fields.

Insects have also been devastated by the use of pesticides, the likes of Glyphosate, a commonly used poison that is regarded as a likely carcinogen – is currently being banned or in the process of being banned by a number of countries across the globe. Perhaps, most potent of all are unsurprisingly, the insecticides. The now banned DDT has been eclipsed by the current use of neonicotinoids, which has been calculated to be 7,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT. Dave Goulson claims ‘a single teaspoon of imidacloprid is enough to kill as many honeybees as there are people in India’.

I have summarised a small section of the 260 pages of this fear-inducing and eye-opening book, what can we now do, it is important that certain chemicals are restricted and sufficient, joined up land (even at the margins) be given over for insects to repopulate.

Examples of rewilding projects such as at Knepp – a system of nature-based farm management – allowing the tools of nature to reinvigorate the landscape to become a more common occurrence. Wildlife corridors are imperative, especially in relation to climate change. Buglife, have modelled ‘B-Lines’ a grand ambition for 3,000 miles of insect corridors comprising wildflower habitats.

In urban environments, green and brown roofs are showing great promise in supporting insect life, with some reports demonstrating greater levels of biodiversity than the brownfield sites which they are replacing. Ensuring that more space is given over to ‘green infrastructure’ – creating valuable, connected habitats in both rural and urban contexts.

At a domestic level, reducing the number of times we mow or weed our lawns or use outdoor lighting can help, as well as a reduction in the use of chemicals in a garden setting.

The insect crisis, is really a human emergency, and it is important that we act now, globally.


Energy saving through Retrofit

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14/04/2022

Sarah Small

Sarah is an Architect with BoonBrown specialising in low energy design. Sarah has recently completed her own self build home to Passivhaus standards and is passionate about sustainable design.

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Over the last few years there seems to have been an increased awareness of climate change and the environment, this together with the Government’s 2050 Net Zero CO2 emissions target has led our industry to consider new ways to make buildings more efficient, less reliant on fossil fuels, and promote renewable technologies. The current energy crisis due to soaring fuel costs is also making us more mindful about where our energy is coming from and the need to be less wasteful with it.

Can green buildings work for us to solve this issue?

Incorporating technologies into new build has become common place for most sectors, with the most efficient method of creating new ‘green buildings’ being to utilise the three steps below.

Keep the cold out

Using modern methods of construction focusing on a highly insulated and airtight envelope ensures that heat is retained and prevented from escaping, therefore minimising the need for additional space heating.

Recycling waste heat

Waste heat recovery systems, including Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) and waste-water heat recovery technologies ensure that waste heat is recycled, providing warmth to fresh air reducing the energy demand for heating.

Renewable technology

Finally using renewable technologies such as Solar Panels, Solar Thermal and Heat Pumps can generate energy, store it and even sell it back to the grid in some cases.

The upfront costs of building this way can be greater than traditional constructions, however the technology used can create savings over time which outweigh the initial outlay. The technologies are continually reducing in cost as they become ever more mainstream.

So new buildings can benefit from this type of approach but what about existing buildings?

Existing commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings can benefit substantially from the same ethos employed above and also carry the benefit of utilising their existing building structure, retaining all the embodied carbon and the savings that come with it.

This type of upgrade to an existing building is referred to as a Retrofit and a key part of the design is to employ a whole building approach. This is a holistic assessment of the entire building fabric in conjunction with a specialist Energy Consultant who will thermally model the building to identity and highlight the key areas to be targeted.

Replacing existing heating systems with renewables, swapping old lighting to LED fittings, improving the thermal performance of the external envelope, and introducing solar technologies will all contribute toward targeting  Net Zero Carbon.

There are differing levels of Retrofit from a light touch to much deeper approach and each offers vary degrees of benefit Vs cost. It is worth noting that some existing buildings will not be suitable for Retrofit due to their age or construction, so not every project is suitable. The detail of the design and installation is key to ensure they work in harmony together, and it’s critical that  projects are both  designed and installed by professionals.

Putting theory into practice – Beaucroft College Wimborne

BoonBrown have been working recently with a team of consultants on a Retrofit project for a Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND) facility in Wimborne, Dorset on behalf of Dorset Council. The project will be one of the first in Dorset to benefit from SALIX funding which is a government backed scheme to provide public sector projects with funding to reduce carbon emissions, lower bills and improve energy efficiency.

The site is the former Wimborne First School which consists of a group of buildings with notable architectural merit, unfortunately the buildings have been vacant for several years. Parts of the school are over 100 years old and have been subject to several adaptions over its life. The buildings have a number of the original features which are considered important to the setting of Wimborne and need to be retained.

A thorough assessment and survey of the existing building was undertaken to understand the existing structure, materials, and fittings. We worked with an Energy Consultant to identify the most cost effective and beneficial Retrofit adaptions for the building, which included the three steps we outlined above.

Keeping the cold out

The Retrofit follows a whole building design strategy with a fabric first approach which aims to exceed the current building regulation standards. This consists of thermally upgrading the accessible external fabric of the buildings, increasing air tightness, and replacing the existing single glazed doors and  windows with double glazed units.

Recycling waste heat

New heat recovery units (MVHR) within the classrooms will increase the amount of fresh warm air in the buildings, improve internal comfort levels while providing excellent ventilation.

Renewable technologies

The existing heating system is a very inefficient gas boiler which is not fit for modern purposes. This is to be replaced with an extremely efficient air source heat pump and solar voltaic panels placed on each of the south facing roofs which will reduce energy bills and help further reduce C02 emissions.

It has been calculated that retrofitting the existing buildings to current building regulation standards will reduce C02 emissions by approximately 77%.

As with the new build route, the key to making this type of refurbishment work is ensuring the details of each inclusion and system is designed and installed correctly so everything works harmoniously. Crucial to this is that the works on site are carried out by skilled contractors and that the technical detailing is followed to ensure the benefits of the Retrofit method are realised.


Rise of the EV

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17/08/2022

Andrew Tregay

Andrew is an Associate Planner with BoonBrown providing planning consultancy across a broad spectrum of sectors from planning applications to land promotion. He has experience with residential, commercial and retail based schemes both big and small working for a diverse range of clients.

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As you may or may not be aware the Government has decreed that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2030 to aid the UK’s climate objectives. This got me thinking about the impact this will have on how we consider the sustainability of places, communities or settlements. At present places with limited facilities and/or lacking in public transport options are generally considered unsustainable locations therefore most new development (especially housing) is resisted. However, what happens if how we move around becomes entirely sustainable, for example via electric vehicles (EV’s). I appreciate, in reality, this is an oversimplification however hypothetically if I can get from A (let’s consider it an unsustainable location by current standards) to B in a zero emissions vehicle then is point A still an unsustainable location? Whilst true sustainability is not just about movement it appears to have become an oft mistaken focal point for decision making within planning.

This also ties into a whole raft of planning considerations, and it would appear the rise of the EV will invariably force us to alter our mindset on what we consider a sustainable location. This will have both positive and negative implications for many communities. It may open more settlements for new homes helping alleviate the crippling shortfall in housing (especially affordable) delivery across the country.

Conversely this will test the weight we accord to other material planning considerations such as biodiversity, settlement character and landscape impacts. This is of course someway off yet however consideration of future needs is the very essence of planning.

If EVs do rise as predicted, then obviously entirely new infrastructure will be required to ensure our new battery powered beasts of burden stay topped up, which is a major concern for many people who are on the fence about committing to an EV. The Government has committed to invest £1.6 billion in new charging infrastructure, both directly in charging facilities but also to grant to Local Authorities to create local funds. As part of this there are also grants for businesses and homeowners to install charging points at their properties. The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) is a grant that provides a 75% contribution to the cost of one chargepoint and its installation (obviously subject to various stipulations).  The Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) is similar in that it offers grants of up to 75% of the cost but covers up to 40 charging points.

These grants are especially useful as we have noticed that Local Authorities are more inclined to lean in to and enforce any policies that require charging points on new developments.

In Summary

We will have to wait to see what the future holds however for the mean time developers; business owners and homeowners should take a look at the grants on offer and consider the benefits in implementing charging infrastructure now.


The Big 'E' and Permitted Development Opportunities

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07/02/2022

Andrew Tregay

Andrew is an Associate Planner with BoonBrown providing planning consultancy across a broad spectrum of sectors from planning applications to land promotion. He has experience with residential, commercial and retail based schemes both big and small working for a diverse range of clients.

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Welcome to Class E

We have been living with the revised Use Classes Order for over a year now, giving some time to reflect on its implications and the new opportunities it has created. The Governments drive to reduce perceived bureaucracy and to broaden the scope of flexible land uses may not have been popular in some circles, but it has certainly shaken the system up and provided commercial landlords opportunities to diversify their potential occupant pool without the need to engage with the planning system.

Firstly, the new E Use Class brings together quite a diverse range of uses from the now revoked A1/2/3, B1, D1(a-b) and parts of D2 Use Classes. Therefore, uses such as office, retail, some leisure, café and nurseries are all in the same use classes rather than being spread across several, leading to interesting interactions and potentially opportunities for more flexible use of floorspace. As the use of a building can move freely within its current use class (without requiring express planning permission) it should, in theory, be easier to change the occupier and open a more diverse range of potential tenants for owners without having to engage formally with the planning system.

This change is significant, and it is well worth owners of commercial, recreation or retail buildings taking another look at the potential opportunities to expand their potential pool of tenants.

As one door closes another opens…

Obviously, the changes to the Use Classes Order left many of the ‘legacy’ Permitted Development Rights allowing a change of use to residential, in limbo. The transition period is now behind us and elements of Part 3 of Schedule 2 (changes of use) such as Class O have fallen away or been altered.

Yet new opportunities have arisen… enter Class MA (part 3 of Schedule 2) boldly striding in to fill the void left by the loss of Class O and friends. Class MA allows commercial, business and service uses (Use Class E) to convert to new dwelling houses. As you might expect this comes with a number of stipulations, limitations and conditions as well as the requirement for a prior approval application. Many of the conditions will be familiar to those acquainted with the former Class O or Class P however many of the issues caused by the, arguably, limited prior approval requirements under Class O (and others) have been tightened up. Those wishing to utilise their Class MA permitted development rights must now also give consideration to natural light and impacts on conservation areas, thus requiring a more comprehensive submission especially as Class MA has not been popular with many in local government.

Overall, some doors to residential conversions have been closed however a big one has opened up and it is certainly worth seeing what lies beyond.

In Summary

Recent changes to planning Use Classes have made quite considerable changes to how different uses are grouped, with the new Class E being particularly diverse.

Class MA allows for the diverse range of uses under Class E to be converted to residential subject to a prior approval application.

 


BoonBrown appointed on Abri's Planning Consultants Framework

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15/12/2021

BoonBrown is delighted to be awarded first place on Abri’s Planning Consultant Framework, announced recently.

Formed in November 2019 by a merger between Radian Group and Yarlington Housing Group, Abri is a not-for-profit organisation, providing more than 35,000 homes in the south and south west of England.  Abri is committed to investing in local communities to make them stronger and more vibrant, whilst helping provide homes to those who really need them.

Commenting on the appointment, Matt Frost, Town Planning Director at BoonBrown, said: “ This is great news for BoonBrown – we look forward to strengthening our existing relationships with Abri to assist in their aim to provide homes and to build communities across the South of England.”


Northstowe shortlisted for Housing Design Awards

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28/03/2022

We are delighted and very proud to announce that our scheme The Fenways, Phase 2B Northstowe has been shortlisted for the very prestigious Housing Design Awards hosted by Design For Homes!!!

A fantastic achievement for BoonBrown and the project team including Keepmoat Homesarc Landscape Design & Planning Ltd and Luken Beck.

Our parcel is part of a large new town masterplan in Cambridgeshire, with our reserved matters application approved last year.
Working with our valued client Keepmoat Homes, we are excited to enter the delivery phase for the 300 homes, commercial units and public realm.

This key view is taken across the Greenway to the mixed use commercial and apartment building on the corner. The design re-elevates a regency style approach to development with a more contemporary architectural form.


Dorset Museum awarded Bronze for 'Large Visitor Attraction of the Year'

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19/04/2022

We are delighted to announce that one of our technical projects, The Dorset Museum, has won bronze in the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category for the South West Tourism Awards!

Congratulations to the Dorset Museum, the design team and contractors Acheson Construction Limited !


BoonBrown appointed on Dorset Centre of Excellence

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15/03/2022

We are excited to announce that we have been appointed as Project Architect, Landscape Architect and Principal Designer for The Dorset Centre of Excellence!

We are proud to be leading the design team and observe the transformation as the beautiful building and grounds are sympathetically refurbished.

We have been appointed as the architects for Phase 2 of the development of the Dorset Centre of Excellence, on the former St Mary’s School site in Shaftesbury.

We have already been working in partnership with Dorset Council UK to design the landscaping for the site, which includes Dorset’s new school for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), Coombe House School.

Phase 2 will see the further development of The Dorset Centre of Excellence, a centre of learning for professionals working with children and young people and a community resource.

It will offer training and courses, making use of the state-of-the-art facilities, including provision for arts, culture, music and sport.