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Retrofitting historic and listed buildings

By: Kelly Bellerson
Commercial Articles

Listed buildings hold immense value, not only for their historic connections, but also for the collective heritage they represent.

Working alongside a number of heritage organisations, the Government ensures the protection of these national treasures.

So, it’s vital to recognise the cultural significance and abide by the legal framework before going ahead with any upgrade works.

What to be aware of before retrofitting your historic/listed building

There are certain rules when it comes to renovating or retrofitting a listed building, which can be costly to rectify if upgrade works are carried out without permission or the required permits in place.

Listed buildings contain intricate craftsmanship and historical elements that contribute to their value so, guidance often focuses on the preservation of the property’s original features and materials.

However, listed buildings were not designed to accommodate the demands of modern living or to meet the energy efficiency standards expected today so dealing with outdated infrastructure, such as electrical wiring and plumbing, can pose significant challenges during the retrofitting process.

Landlords will need to consider how to adapt the building for contemporary use without compromising its integrity, as well as comply with modern building codes and safety regulations.

Maintaining and restoring the property’s features while integrating modern amenities requires specialised skills and meticulous attention to detail. Therefore, striking a balance between preserving the building’s historical fabric and incorporating sustainable technologies will require the help of a building surveyor.

Retrofitting advice

Before commencing any work, extensive research is essential. Landlords will need to understand the building’s historical context, original construction techniques, and architectural significance as this will inform the decisions made throughout the retrofitting process.

As stated above, listed buildings are subject to strict regulations and any proposed changes or alterations must gain the necessary permissions from local planning authorities and heritage organisations. A well-prepared and thoughtful proposal will have a better chance of approval.

Preserving original features is essential. A Building Surveyor can advise on the best way to restore or replicate elements that have deteriorated over time.

Careful planning is necessary to integrate modern amenities while minimising their visual impact on the building’s exterior. Concealing modern installations or using reversible techniques whenever possible is often the preferred approach.

Implementing sustainable technologies, such as energy-efficient insulation, heating systems, and lighting, can significantly reduce the building’s carbon footprint without compromising its historic character.

The aim of any retrofitting project should be to retain and enhance the building’s unique character, even as it adapts to new uses and technologies.

Next steps

If you are a landlord or a tenant of a listed building and are considering renovation works, you will need to seek independent advice from your local planning authority or Historic England to understand what works can be carried out.

If permission has already been obtained, one of our Building Surveyors can advise on the best upgrade works to meet your needs.

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