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Shed office: Six steps to take before taking the plunge

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What do you find to be the hardest part about working from home?

Perhaps it is the distractions created by your family, or the fact that you can’t stop helping yourself to the contents of your fridge when it is just a few yards away from you. 

Or maybe, without your usual commute, you find it hard to switch out of work mode at the end of the day. 

If you’re trying to find a solution to one of these problems – and you have the luxury of a garden – then it might be time to invest in a ‘shoffice’. 

A shed office structure is allowed if it does not take up more than half of the outside space

A shed office structure is allowed if it does not take up more than half of the outside space

With almost a third of the UK workforce now working remotely according to the Office of National Statistics, ‘shed offices’ – or work spaces built in the garden – have become something of a craze for homeowners. 

Given the uncertain future ahead, the trend may well be here to stay.

1. What is a shed office?

As the name suggests, they are a cross between an office and garden shed.

But these modern super-sheds are a far cry from the moss-covered, cobweb infested, rusty tool stores of the past.

In some cases, homeowners are fitting them with every modern convenience, from insulated walls and underfloor heating to high-speed wifi and luxury bathrooms.

‘In our experience, they are favoured by people who have decorated their homes beautifully and now want a bespoke space in their gardens – or owners of traditional houses who crave a more contemporary space to style and enjoy time in,’ says Rachel Oliver, marketing manager at Malvern Garden Buildings.

2. How long do they take to build and how much do they cost?

As you might imagine, the cost and construction time depends on the type of outbuilding you go for.

The typical cost can be anything from £5,000 to £25,000 depending on the design and materials used.

The cheaper, more basic models are usually around 2.4metres by 1.8metres, whereas the more expensive installations measure up to 5metres by 3metres.

The build time can also vary widely depending on whether you would prefer your shed office to be built from scratch on site, or to purchase a pre-fabricated one which can then be delivered and put together in a matter of days.

‘If using a pre-fabricated structure, this could be ready for use once delivered to your home within a few days – but as with anything, you will likely pay a small premium for this luxury,’ says Conrad Cherniavsky, an architect at CVC Architecture.

‘Alternatively, using a more traditional on-site construction process you are likely looking at around 6-9 weeks depending on the size and complexity.’

3. Do I need planning permission?

Typically you won’t need to have planning permission, as the majority of garden offices would fall under the scope of what is known as permitted development.

However, within these rules there are certain limitations that it is useful to be aware of.

First, the eaves of the building must be no higher than 2.5metres, whilst the highest point must be no more than 4 metres if it has a dual pitched roof, or three metres for any other type of roof.

Pre-fabricated shed offices often only take a matter of days to erect once delivered

Pre-fabricated shed offices often only take a matter of days to erect once delivered 

Second, the floor area must not exceed 15 square metres – otherwise you will require building control sign-off to show the structure fits within building regulations. 

Third, a garden office cannot contain a sleeping area and must not be used as a separate dwelling unit.

Fourth, if you need to connect your new workspace to the mains utilities you will need permission from building control. 

Finally, it must not take up more than 50 per cent of the outside space surrounding the original house.

The original house refers to your property as it was first built, or as it stood on 1 July 1948 if it was constructed before that date.

This means that you would be wise to check whether your property has been extended by a former owner – in case that compromises the amount of space you can build on.

You can use your garden office as you wish - as long as you don't have a stream of visitors that could disrupt your neighbours and you don't intend to sleep overnight in it

You can use your garden office as you wish – as long as you don’t have a stream of visitors that could disrupt your neighbours and you don’t intend to sleep overnight in it

Furthermore, if you live in a national park, a listed building or a conservation area, you will need to seek specific permission from the local planning authority.

‘Strictly speaking, a garden shed can be erected without planning permission as it falls under permitted development,’ says Cherniavsky.

‘But if you’re forking out £15,000, you may prefer consulting a professional in order to secure a lawful development certificate prior to construction in order to give you peace of mind.’

4. Will it impact my home insurance?

One aspect that homeowners might forget to consider is home and contents insurance.

‘Make sure you update your insurance provider, as it could increase the rebuild cost of your home,’ says Jessica Willock, home insurance expert at Confused.com.

‘Not doing this could invalidate the policy if you need to make a claim in the future.’

Some insurance providers will not offer full cover for items in any outbuildings as part of their standard policy.

A homeowner would be wise to check the exact wording of their home insurance policy to understand to what extent they are covered.

‘It’s important they consider the insurance implications of storing items in external buildings,’ says Adam Holland, head of technical and development underwriting at AXA Insurance.

‘Although items stored in outbuildings can often be covered by a standard home contents insurance policy, there is usually a limit of around £2,500 – but it can be lower.

‘Exclusions also often apply to items such as valuables, money, business tools, bicycles, keys and locks.’

5. Is a garden office a good investment?

Improving the saleability of your home is often a key consideration when making improvements.

With many predicting home working to be a feature of our lives in a post lockdown world, a garden office can be expected to appeal to buyers in the future.

‘They certainly do add to the value of the property, as the initial £15,000 – £25,000 outlay will usually be matched by the increase in value of your home on a pound per square foot basis,’ says Grant Bates, director at estate agent Hamptons International in Islington.

‘The only caveat is that the build quality must be good, ideally using sustainable materials and having running water and electricity – making it an extension of the house as opposed to a glorified shed.’

Not all insurance companies will offer cover for items in the garden or in outbuildings

Not all insurance companies will offer cover for items in the garden or in outbuildings

It is also important to consider whether your new office compromises the existing garden space – this could mean you might put off some future buyers where a larger garden is a priority.

”Shoffices’ are a smart investment, not only for the longevity of you living at the property, but also for purchasers seeking a property with this functionality,’ says Henry Longton, senior chartered building surveyor at Knight Frank.

‘However, it’s worth homeowners considering the other side of the coin, whereby the size of your garden could be compromised. It is reasons such as this that make it difficult to conclude whether this home improvement would directly add value to a home.’

6. What else should I consider before building one?

First and foremost, you’ll need to work out what you’ll actually be using it for.

‘How the room is going to be used will have major implications on the size required and what facilities need to be accommodated,’ says Cherniavsky.

‘Bathrooms or a utility space will need a water supply and plumbing which will add to the overall cost, as well as likely adding limitations to where the building can be positioned.’

Next, you’ll need to consider the style, design and features that are important for you.

‘We’d always advise people to go for a double-skinned and insulated building so that it’s a comfortable space to work all year round,’ says Oliver.

‘Consider what size of building best suits your needs, and what you would like it to look like – do you want traditional or modern?

‘Also think about where you would like to place doors and windows, whether you would like it painted or unpainted, and which style of roof you prefer as well as considering how it will suit the kind of work you’ll be doing.’

The popularity of the Shoffice has been fuelled by the home working trend since March 2020 with people looking to move their office out of the house into a completely separate space

The popularity of the Shoffice has been fuelled by the home working trend since March 2020 with people looking to move their office out of the house into a completely separate space

Finally, consider the orientation of your shed office: whether it is north or south-facing could make an enormous difference to how you design it and use it.

Quite often, a garden office will only have windows facing in one direction, because they are typically tucked away at the end of a garden.

‘Natural light and orientation plays a critical role in creating a good working space,’ explains Cherniavsky.

‘For example, an artist would specifically want a north facing studio so that they avoid any direct sun and have softer ambient light throughout the day.’

‘Others will want a south facing structure, with extensive glazing to maximise natural light, but will then quite often suffer from overheating in the summer, therefore requiring some element of shading to be incorporated into the design.’

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Orange warning in place for five counties on west coast

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Violent storm force 11 winds are expected off the west coast as Storm Barra approaches on Tuesday morning.

Met Éireann has upgraded its marine weather warning to red, the highest category, on Irish coastal waters from Galway Bay to Bantry Bay from 3am on Tuesday morning to 11pm tomorrow night.

A status orange warning is in place on land for the counties of Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork from 6am on Tuesday morning until the same time on Wednesday morning.

Counties included in orange warning could see damaging gusts of up to 130km/h which will head to high waves, high tides, heavy rain and storm surge.

The rest of the country will be under a status yellow warning for the same period with the possibility of localised flooding.

Met Éireann head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack told Newstalk Breakfast that the storm system is developing rapidly over the Atlantic at present and will hit Ireland’s western seaboard on Tuesday with strong gale force winds which will quickly extend across the country.

There will be heavy rain turning to sleet and snow on higher ground, she warned.

Met Éireann will meet with gardaí, local authorities and emergency services this morning to update the progress of the storm and provide advice on what precautionary measures should be taken.

“It will be a pretty horrid day,” added Ms Cusack who advised against cycling.

The high winds and heavy rain will continue throughout Wednesday but they will have moved on by Thursday.

On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, senior meteorologist Liz Walsh warned that trees could be knocked down during the high winds. She also advised that outdoor street furniture should be taken in or tied down and cautioned that Christmas decorations could be damaged.

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Coronavirus rules for driving tests spark complaints

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Claims of rude testers, of not being allowed to cough and having to drive with windows open due to Covid-19 were among the complaints received from people who failed driving tests recently.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA), which oversees driving tests nationally, released a sample of the 1,505 complaints received since the start of last year under the Freedom of Information Act.

New figures show the driving test centre in Cork had the highest pass rate with 75 per cent of people passing, while the lowest was Charlestown in Dublin with a 42 per cent pass rate.

One person complained he had told his tester he had asthma and might need to cough because he had recently changed inhalers, causing irritation to his throat.

“I was advised that if I coughed at any stage, the test would be over immediately. This was difficult to control while under exam pressure and added a huge amount of unnecessary stress and pressure,” the individual complained.

Another individual complained their tester said if their face mask slipped “a little bit from my nose” while driving, the test would be ended.

“I’m in shock how he treated me that day,” said the complainant.

Another learner driver who failed said their car was hot and “very uncomfortable” because the tester said the hot air de-misters had to be kept on to prevent the windows fogging up because the back windows had to be kept open due to Covid-19.

One complainant said the tester seemed to have prejudged the test when they spotted a small stain on the driver’s seat as the car was supposed to be “spotless”.

‘Anxious’

“The tester was clearly taking it too far. I was complying with all Covid precautions as I had just Hoovered and sanitised the car and it was simply a mark on the seat.”

There were general complaints beyond Covid-19 issues. One person complained about feeling “anxious” because the tester was “sitting there shaking his head”.

Another said their tester repeatedly shook his head and sighed several times, and then made notes on the score sheet, which was “extremely off-putting and really unfair”.

Another driver said the tester was “extremely condescending and patronising” and mocked their answer to a signpost theory question about an “unguarded cliff edge”.

“We don’t drive along cliff edges in this country,” the tester was quoted as saying.

The RSA has been dealing with a backlog of driving tests due to the pandemic.

The centres with the next highest pass rates were Clifden (71 per cent), Killester in Dublin (70 per cent), Birr, Co Offaly (70 per cent) and Cavan (69 per cent).

The test centres with the next lowest pass rates were Dublin’s Churchtown, since closed (44 per cent), Nenagh, Co Tipperary (44 per cent) and Mulhuddart (45 per cent) and Raheny (46 per cent), both in Dublin.


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Former US presidential candidate Bob Dole dies aged 98

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Bob Dole, the long-time Kansas senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, has died from lung cancer. In a statement, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Dole’s wife, said: “It is with heavy hearts we announced that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died earlier this morning in his sleep. At his death at age 98 he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

In late February, Dole announced that he had advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment. Visiting him, President Joe Biden called Dole his “close friend”.

On Sunday the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, like Biden a Democrat, ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

Born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, Dole served in the US infantry in the second world war, suffering serious wounds in Italy and winning a medal for bravery.

His wounds cost him use of his right arm but he entered state politics and soon became a longtime Republican power-broker, representing Kansas in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the Senate until 1996. He had spells as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Senate minority and majority leader.

In 1976 he was the Republican nominee for vice-president to Gerald Ford, in an election the sitting president lost to Jimmy Carter. Two decades later, aged 73, Dole won the nod to take on Bill Clinton.

Against the backdrop of a booming economy, the Democrat won a second term with ease, by 379 – 159 in the electoral college and by nine points in the popular vote, the third-party candidate Ross Perot costing Dole support on the right.

Dole received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honours.

In the Trump years and after, Dole came widely to be seen as a figure from another time in Republican politics.

On Sunday, the political consultant Tara Setmeyer, a member of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, tweeted: “I cast my first ever vote for president for Bob Dole in 1996. A war hero with a sharp sense of humor ? another piece of a once respectable GOP gone.”

However, Dole remained a loyal Republican soldier, telling USA Today this summer that though Donald Trump “lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did”, and though he himself was “sort of Trumped out”, he still considered himself “a Trumper”.

Dole called Biden “a great, kind, upstanding, decent person”, though he said he leaned too far left.

He also said: “I do believe [America has]lost something. I can’t get my hand on it, but we’re just not quite where we should be, as the greatest democracy in the world. And I don’t know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime.”

On Sunday, Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said: “Sending heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of Senator Bob Dole. We honor his service and dedication to the nation. May he Rest In Peace.”

– Guardian

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