Heritage Constrained Buildings
On a recent visit with a developer we were ushered into an old farmhouse which was serving as a site office. The developer quickly made it clear that the farmhouse played no part in his plans. It was to be pulled down and by way of justification he pointed out some cracks which, a knowledgeable eye could immediately spot as being a very lame excuse for demolition. This farmhouse was a curious survival in an industrial wasteland that is to become a major housing development. Although a modest enough building of a sort that, on the face of it, remains reasonably commonplace, there were hints of something much more interesting and significant. Specifically the breadth of the chimneys in the gables, the steepness of the roof and the smallness of the windows all sprang out. But inside more was to greet us. The turnpike stair, the original eighteenth century woodwork and then, in the upstairs, a small but most elegant early eighteenth possibly seventeenth century panelled drawing room which spoke of a thoroughly cultured owner of that date. What an amazing gem! And if the developer did but realise it, an outstanding potential asset to the development which, at modest cost in the greater scheme of things, could add a touch of badly needed class and historic interest to his development.
It was interesting to see this clash of cultures in operation: on the one hand you have the macho developer standing for no nonsense. He has an old wreck of an unlisted building. A bulldozer would clear it in a morning. He has a commercial task to perform. You could well imagine him clapping his hand to his head and passing remarks about tree huggers or some such. For our part we appreciate that conserving such a building is a world away from the skillset of a house builder and a vision of how it might be does not immediately spring to the mind of such a person. We do respond emotionally to a situation like this, but we also completely understand the commercial context.
However it is no use to developers paying lipservice to their green credentials and ambitions if they cannot employ the right expertise to make the most of an asset like this. This is not about money. We come across this sort of situation again and again. It is about knowledge and the expertise to extract commercial advantage from what, at first glance, looks like a bit of old junk but, like a the sort of thing that is unrolled from an old rag in the Antiques Road Show, ends up having everyone gasping.
At GLM we have been fortunate enough to work with many, many clients who understand and appreciate the magic that can be brought forth from buildings whether Listed and therefore subject to statutory constraints, or just old and interesting and full of potential. We believe that intelligent “adaptive re-use” is a key part of the green agenda that should, by now, be embedded in our commercial culture.
– David Gibbon, RICS Conservation Accredited Building Surveyor