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Considerations When Designing a Conservatory

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The first thing to consider when designing a conservatory is decide exactly why you want it in the first place! After all, one man’s conservatory is another woman’s garden room. Is the space to used primarily for planting, growing and protecting garden plants or are you really looking for more living space that’s pleasant to use in the summer (and perhaps also the winter)?

Most people think of a conservatory as essentially a ‘glass house’ and in Britain the formal definition of a conservatory is “..a building that has at least 50 per cent of its sidewall area and 75% of its roof glazed with translucent materials, be they polycarbonate or glass”.

Once you have decided what purpose the conservatory will meet you can then think about design.

It’s probably a good idea to keep things simple but make sure you consider the following;

  • Think about the Sun – It might seem obvious that a conservatory should face South in order to achieve best exposure to the sun. However, given the magnifying effect of glass panels, the room can quickly overheat. Consider roof blinds in your conservatory or perhaps even place it on a different aspect.
  • Space – Is the area big enough and of the right shape to accommodate all you want to include?
  • Environment – If you plan on using the conservatory as a functioning planting area and a shelter for less hardy plants make sure the area has appropriate flooring (to allow for water spills and soil). Also, make sure the area can be properly ventilated. On a hot summer’s day most plants (and people) won’t thank you if they are locked up in a conservatory without good ventilation! Glazed roofing panels and blinds work well and can be automated for the less mindful.
  • Practicalities – An water tap and even a floor drain (with accompanying fall in the floor level) is a great idea for the keen gardener but it might be considered less aesthetically pleasing to the coffee morning set! Design for purpose. In either event, perhaps consider large floor mats inset into the floor by the garden door and access to the main house. Little muddy feet are rarely welcome. Also, think about how you propose to access the roof panels to conduct cleaning and maintenance work.
  • What about the Winter? – If housing hardy plants then an unheated conservatory should be fine but if you plan more of an orangery or tropical garden you will need to think about heating. Extending the central heating into the conservatory, making sure the radiators have their own thermostats, is a useful way to control temperature year round. Using double glazed panels will help with the heating bills and reduce dripping condensation. For a more agricultural purpose, space heaters can be used effectively and again, can be set to a thermostat.
  • Access for Build – Whatever you decide upon, make sure the builders have appropriate access to the area in which they will be working. In an ideal world you will not want tradesmen trampling through the house whilst work is underway.
  • Is it legal? – In many cases a small conservatory extension is likely to be allowed under the permitted development rights many of us enjoy. However, if your property is listed or in a Conservation Area or subject to particular restrictions, you may be required to apply for planning permission before starting work. You will also be required to meet the requirements of current Building Regulations.

Whatever your plans, a conservatory is a great way to extend your living area and extend the season so that you can better enjoy your garden. Just make sure that by extending your home you don’t overly restrict your garden in the process!

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