Recent events have meant many of us are revisiting how and where we work. If you’re thinking of working at home longer term, here’s a little help.
On sunny days a parasol, sturdy table and comfortable chair make a delightful impromptu workstation. But, for year-round use you’ll need something more permanent. First port of call is often the garden shed (shed working has never been more popular). But size is important.? Is there room for a filing cabinet, desk and your favourite swivel chair? Is your shed big enough if you want to expand? And what about its condition? Commuting to the bottom of the garden should find you mooching through beautiful planting eager to work, not shivering in draughts or dodging drips when it rains. Natural light is a must. Does your shed have windows? Security: Can you leave expensive equipment unattended?
What separates an ordinary shed from a year-round office or studio is power, heating, ventilation and insulation. Power is straightforward; a qualified electrician will run cables and install sockets. Heating isn’t too difficult either. An inexpensive convector heater will do. Or you could go au-naturel and install a small wood-burning stove. Insulating a traditional shed is probably the trickiest part and unfortunately isn’t as easy as just lagging the sides with loft insulation. There’s condensation to think of, especially if you’re using computers.
If you’re really embracing a change to working practices consider a custom-made model where it’s possible to have a warm insulated outdoor office complete with telephone connections, electricity and double glazing; everything but the kettle. They certainly cost more than a DIY retrofit but weigh up potential savings on office rental, moving costs and travel expenses. Integrated carefully a bespoke garden office or studio can add value to your house, and many can double up as a temporary guest room too.
Small outdoor offices often don’t need planning permission especially if they aren’t in the front garden (or forward of the front house elevation) and don’t occupy more than 50% of the back-garden space. Roof heights are limited to 3m for a flat roof, 4m for a ridged one. However in conservation area’s, area’s of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) or offices with the curtilage of a listed building additional, often more stringent restrictions apply. It’s always best to do a little homework beforehand to avoid nasty surprises. For further advice consult the Planning Portal (https://www.planningportal.co.uk) and/or discuss your plans with your local planning office.
Bigger structures need planning permission and buildings over 30m2 must meet building regulations (architects, architectural technicians and your local planning authority will help here).
Garden studios/offices are now big business so ring round for competitive quotes as prices vary dramatically from £500/sq. m to over £3,000/sq m.
Here’s a checklist to help:
- Sound insulation: How close is traffic noise?
- Space: Do you always just work alone?
- Lighting? (incl. lighting too and from your studio/office, if required).
- Services: Do you need a separate water supply or new power cable? Both will increase costs. Installing foul drainage has the biggest impact.
- Aspect: South-facing offices and studios get very hot in summer. North-facing windows are best, as there’s no glare from the sun.
- Don’t forget access! Check the route from road to site to make sure you can take easy delivery. If access is tricky then flat pack models may well be the only option.
- Style: Pick a model that blends into your garden’s surroundings.