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Listed Building Alterations and Extensions

We are carrying out increasingly more work on Listed Buildings which is a fascinating area of work requiring an understanding of history, context, local materials and techniques, crafts and culture as well as the usual combination of design skills, competence and experience.

Alterations and extensions to Listed Buildings require Listed Building Consent or combined Householder Planning Application and Listed Building Consent for the carrying out of any works whether internally, externally or within the ‘curtilage’ that would affect the building’s special architectural or historic interest.

We recommend that a pre-application consultation is had with the council as the best way forward in the first instance and this route is generally recommended by planning authorities.  It is a cost effective means of obtaining an ‘in principle’ response before significant expense is incurred.  Diagrammatic sketches, together with photographs, overlays and a site plan can be enough to illustrate the proposed use, scale, form, and external materials of what is proposed.

Good design can play a large part in the process.  Listed Buildings need not be preserved untouched, like museum pieces but proposed changes need to be informed and justified.  Preservation of the existing fabric can be coupled with a sympathetic, imaginative and ‘legible’ intervention that secures the economic sustainability of the building perhaps for several hundred more years of useful life.  Alterations related to the existing historic fabric and architectural features are likely to be more controversial than an extension which can be designed to ‘read’ separately in order to minimise the impact.  Similarly, an extension to the principal elevation is unlikely to be acceptable.

Applications for Listed Building Consent require to be accompanied by a Heritage Statement covering the evidential, historical, aesthetic and communal aspects of the Listed Building and what is being proposed.  This has to demonstrate how there will be both ‘less than substantial harm’ and a public benefit.  A specification and methodology are required to demonstrate that there will not be harm to the existing historic fabric.

At the end of the day some change is inevitable to ensure the continued use and enjoyment of Listed Buildings but professional advice from an architect is essential to avoid a missed opportunity and/or a costly mistake.

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New Skills

Tragic though it is Covid-19 will be as nothing compared to the coming perils of climate change and resource depletion.

What buildings will we be designing in this new normal and what new skills and knowledge will we need? I can’t see many airports, open plan offices or shopping centres being built any time soon. More likely warehouses and distribution centres, healthcare and social care facilities, homeless hostels and half way housing and houses with gardens. What are we going to build these buildings from and how should they perform? This article suggests that we mine existing buildings for their reusable resources and the time must surely have come to make zero energy design mandatory as it is essential we get to net zero carbon a lot sooner than 2050.

It's architecture Jim but not as we know it.

It’s architecture Jim but not as we know it.

As architects part of the fun is always learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge. One new skill will be looking ever harder at the potential for the adaptive re-use of existing buildings to serve our future needs such as the conversion of offices to homes. Existing buildings represent embodied carbon investments made in the past so their re-use allows us to avoid the carbon emissions resulting from the construction of new buildings. Another will be the techniques to thermally upgrade the existing building stock through a massive insulation scheme and a shift to electrical heating (where energy is required) powered by renewable energy. Maybe not ‘architectural design’ as we know it but important skills to learn.