Get­ting Ceil­ing Heights Right

They’re of­ten for­got­ten com­pletely, but ceil­ing heights are an im­por­tant part of the de­sign of your new home. De­signer Pete Tonks ex­plains why

Homebuilding & Renovating - - CONTENTS - Pete Tonks Pete Tonks is a de­sign ex­pert and di­rec­tor of PJT De­sign Ltd. He has been de­sign­ing self-build homes for over 20 years, and is a spe­cial­ist in de­sign­ing oak frame homes.

De­signer Pete Tonks ex­plains why this over­looked de­sign el­e­ment could make all the dif­fer­ence in your new home

o, your sion you project, new are home, in and a po­si­tion or you re­model/ex­ten- feel to you de­sign have ev­ery­thing cov­ered. You’re per­haps work­ing on the de­sign, you might have cho­sen bricks and tiles, you may have even picked your kitchen and bath­rooms, and you are good to go, right? But what about the ba­sic shape and form of the build­ing and the spa­ces con­tained within? Gen­er­ally, when I am de­sign­ing for clients, we get into fairly lengthy di­a­logue about the size and num­ber of rooms and how those spa­ces in­ter­con­nect with one an­other. In other words, peo­ple tend to vis­ual things in 2D and work out how prac­ti­cal the lay­outs can be. The third di­men­sion, height, is of­ten not even on the radar dur­ing the early de­sign stages but it ab­so­lutely should be as it is quite pos­si­bly one of the most im­por­tant el­e­ments. How­ever, a build­ing project of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent when it comes to ceil­ing heights. Un­for­tu­nately, most of our ex­pe­ri­ences of ar­chi­tec­ture and lay­out at res­i­den­tial level will have been shaped by mass-built de­vel­oper homes, which work on the most ba­sic of con­trol ents’ been tur­ing — Ed­war­dian sec­ond There pa­ram­e­ters most homes fairly the half — are, no­tably or av­er­age main­stream and of which from of the for Vic­to­rian course, 19th our hous­ing 8ft ob­vi­ous may ceil­ing par­ents’ cen­tury, have and ex­cep­tions eras. stock rea­sons (2.4m). prac­ti­cal, also or the Dur­ing grand­par- from gen­er­ally Vic­tori- of to cost fea- this the the ans boom. to prints; build were This ceil­ings more faced put houses with were pres­sure a stag­ger­ing but sub­se­quently with on house­builders smaller pop­u­la­tion pushed footup­wards The have Ed­war­dians, made to a give point the of by hav­ing im­pres­sion con­trast, higher seemed of ceil­ings space. to to This make ar­ti­cle a state­ment takes the of one’s op­por­tu­nity wealth. to look be­yond the reg­u­lar ap­proach of ‘stan­dard’ ceil­ing heights and how you can max­imise your space, and at the same time, en­hance the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence. The 2.4m ceil­ing height has crept in over the years as it works to the cours­ing prin­ci­ples of brick­work (75mm on av­er­age: 65mm brick plus 10mm joint) and you will find that most sheet ma­te­rial used in con­struc­tion, whether that be ply­wood, plas­ter­board,


MDF, eg­ger board and so on, all come in 8ft x 4ft (2,440mm x 1,220mm) sheets. It there­fore makes com­plete log­i­cal sense to set ev­ery­thing to align with th­ese di­men­sions. How­ever, when you have the op­por­tu­nity to do your own thing, you don’t re­ally want to con­form to the norm. So very of­ten, one will see storey heights which are be­yond the 2.4m stan­dard. The There rais­ing ex­tra Im­pli­ca­tions plas­ter­board, are storey ob­vi­ous heights, cost and of such im­pli­ca­tions Adding blocks as and the Height cost bricks, when of and ing tim­ber if you are frame con­struct­ing or steel frame, your project your studs uswill need to be longer. Be­cause they are longer, the sec­tion sizes may also need to in­crease, all of which will bump the bud­get up­wards — not nec­es­sar­ily be­yond your bud­get, but in the grand scheme of things, I would sug­gest that in the most part, the ad­di­tional con­struc­tion costs com­pared to the spa­tial gible higher per­for­mance There and ceil­ings im­pact are well some at­tributes worth would when great the it be comes of ben­e­fits ex­tra con­sid­ered a build­ing, in­vest­ment. to in the hav­ing negli- ba­sic par­tic­u­larly Higher ceil­ings in terms pro­vide of space, the op­por­tu­nity heat and light. for win­dows to be placed above head height, such as clerestory win­dows. And be­cause they are higher up, they will gen­er­ally be sub­ject to a less in­ter­rupted air flow than if they were down at ‘nor­mal’ level. This al­lows ex­ter­nal fresh air to flow into a build­ing and cir­cu­late in a larger space in a down­ward cir­cu­lar mo­tion. The larger the space, the bet­ter the flow, and height is a key per­for­mance el­e­ment to this con­cept. Like­wise, if well in­su­lated, a room with high ceil­ings can still re­main at a com­fort­able level but you should ex­pect to pay more to heat the space purely from a vol­ume per­spec­tive. Again, you would need to weigh up the pros and cons and as­sess how im-

“Re­cent stud­ies have proven that rooms with higher ceil­ings in­voke a feel­ing of free­dom and ex­plo­ration”

por­tant both tive to around still in­tegrity. a Any­thing com­fort­able Ground ben­e­fit as main­tain­ing from well 3m raised For a be­yond from floor as from lo­gis­ti­cal the per­sonal or hu­man higher rooms fin­ished vaulted ar­chi­tec­tural most this, and scale pref­er­ence part, flat have say ceil­ings fi­nan­cial floor ceil­ings for you to the level bal­ance space in­stance still are po­ten­tial vis­ually. per­spec- – – to re­tain while up ra­tio. you, and to a full fin­ished fer­ent ing Such but two-storey and in­clu­sions would floor would level, cer­tainly room never would will of feel give feel take around cosy the com­pletely away wow or 5m com­fort- fac­tor. space from diffrom ered This when the brings first set­ting floor, me your onto which ini­tial the has sub­ject brief. to be con­sid- of psy­chol­ogy ently to spa­ces and how and us how hu­mans this may re­act af­fect dif­fer- the de­sign proven of that your rooms scheme. with Re­cent higher stud­ies ceil­ings have in­voke a feel­ing of free­dom and ex­plo­ration whereas rooms with lower ceil­ings re­strict in­quis­i­tive­ness and gen­er­ally con­strain thought pro­cesses. How­ever, a low ceil­ing in a snug can cre­ate a sense of calm and re­lax­ation, whereas a much higher ceil­ing in a grand hall­way or din­ing room will give you that emo­tional lift when­ever you en­ter this en­vi­ron­ment. sion er sider Even fer­ence con­straints; it sim­ple us­ing would There Sunken Curve/bar­rel ceil­ings of glu­lam if one nowa­days a spa­tially. you are not taller step Floors: into var­i­ous if are make tim­ber the down your ceil­ing Vaulted: re­stricted Be and site This sense por­tal ways scheme, sure can is are and will within to Th­ese to to frames make of­ten on is dig give check in­tro­duce such use­ful ridge down. a are the con­structed a flood or flood huge as: rel­a­tively post im­pres- to height. high- zone, con- risk and dif­beam one plate other Mono­pitch Duo-pitch side frames be­ing height of lifted the with (typ­i­cally Vaulted: Vaulted: roof curved to cre­ate be­gins joist The Very trusses. the at lat­ter level) pop­u­lar mono­pitch. nor­mal is and where with wall the many if one frame you of is self-builders are the the con­sid­er­ing most roof im­pres­sive space and above. us­ing es­pe­cially parts oak of frame, ef­fec­tive an oak as com­bi­na­tion ex­pe­ri­ences Ul­ti­mately, will of a dif­fer­ent de­sign be the which most zones mem­o­rable, and fea­tures spa­tial a and all of height this. A can good play de­signer a very im­por­tant will un­der­stand part in how pres­sion low re­sult­ing ceil­ings can in a pro­vide cosy and spa­tial com­fort­ing com­taller ex­pe­ri­ence, zones. and H how to then blend this into

Gen­er­ous ceil­ing heights are more com­mon in self-build and ex­ten­sion projects, as home­own­ers and de­sign­ers are happy to go be­yond the norm of 2.4m-high ceil­ings — and have free rein to do some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. A Strik­ing De­sign Fea­ture

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