Overview of an attic renovation project: international standards, feasibility and architectural solutions. A practical case study with DWG CAD resources and 3D model ready for you to download

There are many steps to consider before starting an attic renovation project and in this post, we will provide various architectural solutions for converting your attic and maximize unused spaces.

First and foremost, you will need to verify the feasibility of the intervention and assess the actual possibility of transforming the attic into a living space according to relevant regulations.

Some examples of international regulations will be remarked further on this article in addition to practical tips to tackle an attic renovation project with solutions.

Finally, you will also have the opportunity to download  project layouts in DWG (floor plans and sections) and the 3D model produced with an architectural BIM design software.

Attic renovation project: ideas and examples

 

Basic considerations for an attic renovation

An attic renovation is the urban adaptation of the top floor of a building, usually having sloping ceilings, and its conversion for residential use. Before starting remodelling and refurbish an attic space, it is necessary to verify that the interventions to make it a liveable space are compliant with local regulations.

Attic renovation project: ideas and examples

Not habitable attic – cross section

A correct planning would allow to gain extra space and add more value to your home, as well as containing restructuring costs while making the most of systems installed in the first instance (electrical wiring, plumbing, sewerage system, etc.).

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Habitable attic – cross section

International standard examples for renovation projects

What follows is an overview of the most important codes affecting the majority of attic conversion projects. You will need to apply to planning permissions if required and present the necessary documentation before starting works.

Let’s see some international standard examples to refer to when carrying out attic renovation works:

  • Canada

In Canada, it is necessary to apply for building permits and the application must be submitted also in case of extension or alteration works to the municipal offices according to the guidelines of the federal state.

In the United Kingdom, most attic conversions can be carried out without planning permission if the proposed conversion meets certain conditions, but you’ll still need to satisfy building regulations and check regulations approval with your Local Planning authority – LPA.

Construction enlargement and renovation works in the United States require Building Permit that comply with the “Building Code” issued by the “International Code Council” and are presented to your local City Hall.

In Spain permits to carry out construction works will depend on the local city hall.

For alteration or renovation works, it is necessary to request a “Certificate of occupancy”( Cédula de Habitabilidad) compliant with the “Código Técnico de la Edificación” (CTE).

For example, for an apartment renovation in Madrid there are 3 types of urban planning license cases:

  1. licenses and / or authorizations are not required for minor renovations
  2. for small renovation changes that do not involve a design project, it will be sufficient to communicate the intervention (“Actuación Comunicada”) to the town hall
  3. ordinary procedure where a project is involved.

Access the city of Madrid webpage for information and forms to download on urban planning permits

  • Brazil

In Brazil, the ABNT NBR 16280 that came into effect in 2015 must be followed. For renovations and structural works, a technical expert or company must provide permits and authorizations to the RRT (Registro de Responsabilidade Técnica).

In France integration or renovation works for residential buildings are regulated by the national Urban Planning Code.

Download the DPMI (Déclaration préalable pour une maison individuelle et/ou ses annexes) form to carry out works or build extensions for a detached house

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Useful solutions to prepare an attic conversion project

Once the feasibility of the recovery operation has been verified, you will face an interesting design challenge.

Organizing the spaces of an attic, in fact, requires smart architectural solutions that make the environment livable and pleasant. Here are our design tips:

  • open new windows and dormers to provide the proper ventilation-lighting levels
  • create terraces to convert even unused spaces into more livable environments
  • commission custom furniture or closets to take advantage of tight spaces
  • create double height areas if the attic is connected to the house directly below
  • check the transmittance of the roof.

Windows and dormers

Designing and building new openings will be essential to improve the effective livability and healthiness of an attic environments.

Glass openings can be substantially of three types:

  1. windows/balconies
  2. dormers
  3. skylights

When it is not possible to make openings on the vertical envelope of the building, it is necessary to adopt alternative solutions such as dormers and skylights to bring in natural light and air from the inclined roof surface.

The perceived brightness and comfort of the space will thus increase through internal spaces lighting.

Terraces

Usually, being positioned on the top floor of the building, the attic has an optimal position, and allows to enjoy the panorama below.

For this reason, it is advisable to try to obtain, within the outline of the roof, small terraces or walkways by removing part of the roof structure with a height below the minimum allowed.

Attic renovation project: ideas and examples

 

Custom furniture and closets

Ensure you make the most of the space with adequate storage and include built-in wardrobes, made-to-measure furnishings or fitted storage rooms. This choice allows to recover useful spaces by maximizing surfaces that would otherwise be lost.

Double height

If the attic to be recovered is a functional extension of the house directly below, one valid solution is to create a double height and put the two floors in visual communication, by cutting the floor deck, preferably in areas with a lower height.

Having double-height spaces allows you to improve the perception of space that will seem larger and airy.

Insulation

Since most of the heat loss occurs in an attic, a good roof insulation is necessary. For an ideal result, different materials can be used, such as expanded polyurethane, wood fibre, cork, rock wool, glass wool and cellulose fibre.

Attic renovation project: a practical case

Our case study features a non-habitable attic, with a total surface area of approximately 100 m², minimum height of 1.30 m and maximum height of 3.30 m. The environment, covered by a gable roof, has no opening to the outside and is accessible via an internal reinforced concrete staircase.

The intervention does not include a height or slope variation.

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First, the existing volume has been modified by subtraction. We have imagined that part of the roof, the one at the lower heights, had been demolished with the consequent withdrawal of the external infill line to leave space for the terrace.

In this way, the new front of the building, facing the terrace, will have a minimum height greater than the one of the current situation.

On the other side, instead, two large dormer windows have been designed, increasing the usable space and modifying the internal height.

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Next, functions have been redistributed. The distribution choice was dictated by the client’s personal needs and by purely architectural and functional needs. Originally, there were no internal partitions or plant installations. The position of the entrance door has been redesigned in order to recover the living area, also taking advantage of a portion of the stairwell, incorporating it in the new apartment.

The entrance created is separated from the living area and is equipped with a wardrobe and a closet.

The entrance leads directly into the living area that is an open space and includes the relaxation area with sofas and television, the dining area and the kitchen. In order to make the kitchen less impactful, a system of bifold doors has been designed hiding the cooking area. From the living area, a small hallway leads to the most private area of ​​the house consisting of two bedrooms, a bathroom and a storage room.

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The complete reinterpretation of the rooms has made it possible to transform a non-livable space into a real home for an average family of 3/4 people.

Download DWG CAD resources (floor plans, cross sections) and 3D BIM model of the project

In the section below, you can download the DWG drawings and the architectural model of the attic renovation project for free. In addition, you can download the free trial of the architectural BIM design software used to produce them, synthesis slides and videos of the complete project.

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Download the 3D BIM model (.edf file) of an attic renovation project

Download the  DWG drawings of an attic renovation project