Britain’s architectural heritage is rich and varied. We are rightly proud of that heritage, and measures are in place to help protect it. In England alone, approximately 374,000 buildings are Listed, which mean any proposed alterations have to be approved by the planning authorities, who will consider them in the context of their special interest.
While, we can all agree this worthwhile in the name of preserving unique buildings, it can also make maintenance of listed buildings complicated and expensive. There are many legal and statutory as well as technical issues to be navigated. And that’s where a good building surveyor comes in. At Earl Kendrick, we have extensive experience in maintaining often high-profile Listed buildings in London and the South East, having recently opened an office in Brighton. This short article sets out some of the issues we encounter when it comes to maintaining these buildings.
First off, heritage buildings are typically made with very different materials from those used today. So from the specification stage it’s important to identify appropriate replacement materials and corresponding construction techniques. In the case of some traditional materials, eg timber window frames, it is often preferable to repair existing materials rather than replacing them. In any case, rigorous onsite inspections will be required throughout the course of the works.
Moreover, heritage buildings can be unpredictable, and later alterations or adaptations may have been undertaken, so the maintenance of these elements should be planned for from the beginning. Indeed, even before particular repairs are needed, it is wise to put in place a good conservation plan to manage maintenance and spread the cost over time.
It is important that heritage buildings are well maintained, not only for the benefit of their owners and occupants, but for the wider community. Buildings like those found on Brighton’s Brunswick Terrace and Sussex Square, for example, are real assets to the local area and the city, contributing to the quality of life of all those who enjoy them, even if just by walking by on a regular basis.
Indeed, it is because of the value of heritage buildings to society as a whole that the planning system exists. Unsurprising, then, it is important to consult widely with anyone who may be affected by changes to the building as part of the process of applying for ‘Listed Building Consent’. This is formal permission from the local Planning Department to undertake works, and will only be given if the special interests of the building as a heritage asset have been taken into consideration.
So the more preparation that goes into planning and specifying work before applying for consent – preferable with reference to a long-term conservation plan – the more likely it is to be granted. By considering the interests and sensitivities of everyone with a stake in a building’s future, it is possible to plan and undertake maintenance in such a way that preserves that building’s unique qualities for future generations.
Zoë Walheim, Chartered Building Surveyor & Team Leader, Earl Kendrick Associates Ltd