Can a single storey be more than a bungalow?
I've recently bought a site that already has planning permission, but owing to privacy issues, I'm only allowed to build a one-storey house to avoid blocking my neighbour's view. How do you recommend making the most of the available space but staying away from the elderly connotations of the bungalow?
Rowan Thompson, Clapham
With an increasingly ageing population, single-storey dwellings are going to be the desirable homes of the future. And you might say that any connotations of the elderly might be commercially astute, then. In one of the series of Grand Designs, we follow the construction of a single-storey house designed by the late, great Richard Paxton, an inspired architect who never made it to old age. This is an extraordinary twenty-first-century bungalow, super-sustainable, highly engineered and blessed with vaulted ceilings and a semi open-plan layout. It was Richard, incidentally, who designed Monty Ravenscroft's single-storey house which we filmed for Grand Designs.
The answer, in short, is to employ a good architect. Look around for one that fits your needs and budget, also take a look at examples of their past projects. Alex Michaelis designed a multi-storey house that was mainly underground. Don't discount the fact that you can build down as well as up.
Architect and technical director at Scott Brownrigg architects, planners and designers (01483 568 686; scottbrownrigg.com)
Should I replace lead pipes?
I've just moved into a Thirties semi-detached house which still has lead pipes. Is it advisable to replace these or can I simply fit a specialist water filter system?
Gillian Brown, Kent
Lead has long been outlawed as it is unsafe for use in connection with anything we might consume. Lead, if ingested, has a very bad effect, hence the ban in the Seventies of most lead-based products. I doubt even the best water filter will remove all the harmful lead particles. They are designed to filter the normal range of minerals and particles found in water delivered by your local company.
To be technical, EEC Directive 98/83/EC bans the used of lead in any drinking water system. The pipes supplying water to your home are owned by the water company, if these are made of lead they must be replaced by law. Pipes within your home are your responsibility. I strongly urge you replace them as soon as possible.
This, of course, is for supply pipe work. However, it is not advisable to have domestic drainage pipe work in lead, either. It is possible for children to touch the lead and become contaminated. Lead contamination can build up over a long period and the effect may not be immediately noticeable. Lead pipes are also irregular and new pipe work will be more efficient. For more info, go to the Drinking Water Inspectorate's website, dwi.gov.uk.
The Structural Engineer
Structural engineer and technical director at Cameron Taylor
(020 7262 7744; camerontaylor.co.uk)
Water recycling dilemmas
I live in the middle of London in a Georgian terrace, is it possible to install a grey water recycling system? Should I also install a rainwater harvester to decrease my mains water usage?
Stephen Walsh, Islington
Grey water is from washing machines, basin and bath wastes and, once filtered, stored and pumped, can be fit for flushing toilets or gardening. But the equipment and electricity involved mean that it can be more sustainable to first try reducing water usage and perhaps diverting bath water, if salt and detergent-free, onto a dry garden.
Rainwater harvesting involves similar automated equipment and the raw material naturally looks better - it can be used for toilets, washing cars and perhaps washing machines - and is a hi-tech version of the old-fashioned outdoor water butt. Alterations to pipework should be referred to the council's building control department and the water company, to ensure drinking water supplies are not contaminated. If the house is listed then changes both inside and out - even to some pipework - may require listed building consent.
A system needs careful visual and technical design, and may have to pass official approvals before any contractors can move in.