21Mar 2016

Refurbish, Don’t Demolish

Posted in: News  –  By Patchett Joinery

When you’re buying an older property, you prepare yourself for any eventuality. From rotting beams to unstable foundations, old buildings have a way of throwing up surprises when we least expect them. However, whilst many people favour the demolition route, we’re firm believers in refurbishment. Here’s why.

Refurbishment projects, breathing some new life into a tired old property can do wonders for finances if you get your sums right. However, that said, there is a new band of homeowners in the market who seem hell bent on bulldozing rather than building. In the countryside this typically means substantial land, optimal south facing aspects and good transport links. Demolition consent has to be secured and planning permission for a new-build. The guidelines for typical tear down and build, is the law of the thirds: spend a third on the property and plot, another third on its replacement and keep the final third as your profit, according to the Telegraph. This is not so much a commercial venture, rather an opportunity to create a modern, square boxed, glass and steel, relatively unattractive bespoke building, (a personal opinion).

Refurbishment breathed new life into the BBC’s headquarters in Portland Place London. The main building is in Art Deco style, with a facing of Portland stove over a steel frame. It was officially opened on the fifteenth of May 1932. It is a grade two listed building and includes the BBC Radio Theatre. As refurbishment projects go, an extension was built to the rear and the main building was given a massive makeover. The original building was designed in collaboration with the BBC’s civil engineer, M. T. Tudsbery and George Val Myer, the interiors were the work of Raymond McGrath, an Australian-Irish architect. Art Deco first appeared in France at the First World War, it began to flourish during the 1920’s 30’s and 40’s, before its popularity waned after the Second World War. This visual arts style was defined by historian Bevis Hillier as “as an assertively modern style that ran to symmetry rather than asymmetry, and to the rectilinear rather than curvilinear it responds to the demands of the machine and of new material and the demands of mass production.

Another award winning refurbishment project was carried out by Urban Splash, in an extremely run down area in Salford. Its brief was to turn the run down terraced houses of the Salford 6 area unto uber-trendy “upside down” houses with bedrooms on the ground floor and living space upstairs. Instead of bulldozing the best bits of classic Victorian terraced housing, the houses were brought slap bang up to date at Chimney Pot Park in Langworthy. Urban splash also gave each house its own parking, a new balcony and terrace.

The other reason to refurbish rather than demolish is the waste generated by the demolition of a building. Around a quarter of the UK’s landfill and incinerated waste is generated by the above. Only four per cent of the seventy million tonnes of building waste produced each year is recycled: this is a shameful statistics. Reusing buildings saves waste and reduces the need for new building materials. If we can reduce the amount of building materials we need, we will also reduce the impact on the environment.

In terms of sustainability it is better to recycle old buildings than to demolish and build new ones. The United Nations Policy Framework to protect the global environment: the UN Conference on Human Settlement (Habitat 11), reports that: “Conservation, rehabilitation and culturally sensitive adaptive reuse of urban, rural and architectural heritage are also in accordance with the sustainable use of natural and human-made resources”

So why demolish? In some cases it may be necessary to demolish, but this should surely always be a last resort. Is the building really irreparable, or, as sometimes happens, is it being declared so by a developer or owner to simply make a fast profit.