Building Blox: Week 9 – Roof, utilities started & Property Technology

What we did:

  • First floor brickwork,
  • Roof brickwork,
  • Excavation started for utilities.

It’s amazing how much the site has transformed over the past week. We’ve gone from a single-story building on Tuesday morning to a double story and part of a roof by Saturday!

Even with the Bank Holiday break, the brickies continued with their momentum from week 8, getting the blockwork up to the roof ridge, that is the top point of the roof.

Efficiency through imprecision...

One of the things you quickly realise on a building site is that much of what is built isn’t to the level of detail or accuracy of the design. When it comes to bricklaying, the traditional way bricklayers mark out where they should build to is to pull a string between two pins… #sophisticated. Of course this isn’t precise, but the inherent flexibility this gives (although maybe counterintuitive) allows contractors to construct more practically and so efficiently, by not having to cut bricks, windows, etc. to non-standard sizes.

Traditional roof construction...

…is done using timber trusses, a series of triangular timber frames which span the ceiling and form the structure of the roof – you’ll see what I mean in the pic below:

Simple 'King' Truss roof

Simple ‘King’ Truss roof design

As commodity products, these are often made-to-measure in a factory and secured to timber connected to the first floor blockwork. This is one of the few areas in traditional building where more efficient pre-fabrication has commonly replaced trickier on site construction.

In my case the roof has a less common vaulted ceiling, meaning the first floor rooms extend up to the roof, so there is no attic space. As such the roof has to be made differently, including using some heavy steel supports – we will come to this in a later post!

Installing water and power

Also this week we got started on installing the connections for utilities, excavating part of the existing concrete road. Excavation into the unknown is always quite an exciting part of a job because you may uncover some hidden past. No ancient burial sites here, but we did find what was possibly an old storm drain and some faulty pipework which may have actually been contributing to damp issues in the existing buildings. More interestingly, on a previous development we uncovered an old war bunker which makes sense as High Wycombe had an important strategic RAF base.

Technology in property

Enough of a history lesson and on to the future, namely the ‘Future: Proptech’ conference which took place this Thursday.

Property Technology, or Proptech as it is coming to be known, is the use of technology to solve problems in the property market. This is as broad as online property listing portals such as Zoopla and Rightmove, to virtual reality viewing tech to showcase properties, to ‘Smart home’ tech e.g. heating systems you can control with a mobile app. There were some fantastic speakers and one hot topic is that of property shifting from a product to a service which we are already seeing more evidently in commercial property with businesses providing their employees more flexible work spaces, such as from WeWork, instead of providing rigid office locations and layouts.


As I’m interested in alternative building methodologies to traditional bricks and mortar, one of my main objectives was to meet experienced developers, building designers and innovative construction businesses to get ideas on how to construct my next projects in a more cost effective and quicker way. Tech within construction is often referred to as ‘Contech’. I got some helpful feedback and direction, however it seems like right now there are some elements of the construction process which can be made more efficient, but requires longer in designing/planning, so more investment is needed before you start. There doesn’t seem to be a single new method to help construct buildings from start-to-finish, at least not on my scale of building. Still a lot to learn and research further!


Next week we should be getting the roof design, and after realising there is a lot more space than anticipated there, I get to indulge my wannabee architect whilst looking at if we can add another floor in the roof space!

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