We are shortly getting married and my parents have offered us a choice of an old out-farm building, previously part of the existing farmyard, or a new site elsewhere on their farm.
Can you advise on any design considerations which should be taken into account when deciding on our options, also in relation to obtaining planning permission?
As the son/daughter of a farmer you are in a better position than most to obtain planning permission for a new house and to address the requirements of a rural declaration (this is information requested as part of planning application for a new house in rural areas).
Detailed responses and proofs will be required from you and your fiancée on your need to live in the area.
This "local need" can be difficult to prove if you already own a house in the nearest village or are working away from the locality.
Increasingly, it is becoming more difficult to get planning permission for new houses on rural greenfield sites. However it's easier to get approval for conversion of existing buildings within an existing farm settlement.
Some planning authorities actively promote the re-use and the refurbishment of existing buildings over new development sites and have a preference to clustering any new development adjoining an existing building.
Many older settlements have the advantage of a good location due to their early establishment in terms of shelter, orientation and views. There are many design advantages in choosing an existing house or settlement and re-using the character of existing stone walls, gates, trees or cultivated areas to quickly settle the building into the landscape.
It is unusual in rural areas to have access to main drains or combined sewage schemes, so the size of the site and the type of access to it can become an issue.
If, as on many rural sites, the water supply is from a well, the size of the site may need to increase to avoid contamination of the water source.
Keep in mind that you cannot connect into your parents' existing septic tank/sewage system without proving it has adequate capacity. This is difficult to do in retrospect, so allow for the cost of separate septic tank units and percolation areas that are within your control to meet with environmental protection requirements and general planning requirements.
When designing a house and its services, your architect will also consider how to ensure that future development is not compromised.
Existing adjoining vacant buildings can allow for the partial phasing of a project. A new house on a greenfield site will need more careful management of its scale or size.
Most county councils provide guidelines to what is acceptable in rural areas but all generally emphasise that attention to the design of the building is important and architects as design specialists can help with this.
Finally, the methods of achieving energy improvement on existing building construction can vary depending on the construction and age of the building.
Laura Bowen is an RIAI registered conservation architect based in Kildare and co-author of 'Reusing Farm Buildings'. She will be available for consultation along with other RIAI Architects at the RIAI Stand, 726, Row V, Block 1, House and Home at the National Ploughing Championship, September 25-27 next.