Listed Building refurbishments bring with them many challenges. As buildings considered to be of special historic or architectural interest, the process of renovating such a property can be complex. Here we’ll explore the main challenges involved.
But before we explore those challenges, what exactly does it mean for a building to be Grade I, Grade II*, or Grade II listed?
As explained by Historic England, Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest and only account for 2.5% of listed buildings. Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest, accounting for 5.8% of listed buildings. The remainder of listed buildings are Grade II and considered to be of special interest, this most common category accounting for 91.7% of all listed buildings.
The older a building is, and the fewer of its type will remain, and the more likely it is to be listed. Working with historical architecture and building materials can be challenging, but our experience in renovating and refurbishing Listed Buildings has shown us it is possible, when all necessary considerations are taken into account.
Let’s take a look at the main challenges Listed Building project can present.
The key challenges with Listed Buildings
Original architectural features within the building will often be integral to its listed status, and so cannot be altered. This can include doors, windows, fireplaces, cornices, internal plasterwork and stonework.
In the example below, the cornicing had been concealed for many years, which is why it was in such good condition.
Listed Building consent
If you’re planning to alter, renovate, extend, or demolish a Listed Building, Listed Building consent will be required under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. This is a way for the local authority to make decisions that balance a building’s historic significance with other factors such as its function, condition, or viability.
The process of attaining permission to make changes is a vital step. Conducting work on a Listed Building without permission is a criminal offence, so the process must be gone through correctly. In many cases, there will be technical and design work involved up front, and we would always promote pre-application discussions prior to any listed building consents.
Early engagement with conservation officers, and Historic England where applicable, enables good relationships to be forged from the outset and helps address any concerns.
Limited choice of repair methods
With older buildings we would always promote using traditional construction methods and materials where possible, to preserve the historic character of the building.
Below is an example from our work on the Corsham Almshouses. Here, we had the existing mortar tested to understand the precise build-up of the lime mortar, which allowed us to ensure that new repointing works tied in exactly with that of the existing.
It’s important that the heritage of any Listed Building is respected and maintained during a refurbishment. Heritage statements are produced in order to assess the potential impact of any works or alterations on the significance of the building’s listing.
Examples of our work on Listed Buildings
Hotel Indigo, Bath
As part of a major restoration project for the Grade I listed Hotel Indigo Bath, CMS Architects were involved in the completion of a series of 18th Century underground vault rooms, forming eight new luxury bedrooms, a gym, and staff facilities.
The exposed vaulted Bath stone ceilings create a unique experience of historical architecture and careful consideration was required to provide comfortable living spaces whilst preserving the building’s historic character.
This project was particularly unique and interesting, featuring original coal chutes and intricate detailing. It presented a rare opportunity where planning permitted tanking to the rear of the vaults to weatherproof the rooms and provide ensuite bathrooms; careful attention was required to the detailing of this to ensure the protection of the historic fabric.
The Circus, Bath
Over the course of two years, CMS worked on a renovation of a large property in The Circus, Bath,
a Grade I listed terrace and a distinguished asset of Bath’s Georgian Architecture. In taking on this project, our objective was to retain the building’s historic qualities whilst refurbishing it into a modern, stylish home. With considerable early fabric remaining intact, it remains an exceptional heritage asset.
The highlight of this project was uncovering hidden heritage treasures that had been concealed and protected by false ceilings, cupboards, and walls. It was incredible to reveal the building’s original splendour and then bring this feel into the renovation, retaining its sense of grandeur.
We worked closely with the client to create a feeling of opulence and luxury, without introducing too many new finishes. Our approach was light-touch, utilising much of the building’s original fabric such as its floorboards, whilst still giving it an air of quality.
So, we have seen that undertaking a refurbishment project on a Listed Building has its challenges. But our experience has shown that with thorough planning and support from the local authority, such renovations can be carried out to great effect, whilst preserving the building’s heritage and historic character.
If you would like expert support with a Listed Building project, please get in touch. We would be delighted to help.