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Commercial Advice Our thoughts // Residential Advice

How Should You Approach Listed Building Development?

Old buildings are often viewed as grandma’s china on the shelf: to be looked at, but not touched. However, as the price of land, labour and materials becomes more expensive and less available we’re seeing the redevelopment of heritage sites happening more often.

The listed building process is one of the best tools we have for protecting those assets, which in theory enables us to retain and protect a historic building while continuing to use it. However, we need a more robust and pragmatic approach to listed assets.

So, how do we sympathetically develop listed buildings? Understanding how and why a property was built is key to us as Chartered Building Surveyors. Development of heritage properties can and should be done, with a pragmatic approach taken, sympathetic to the history of the building and hand in hand with the local authority.

Read on to learn more about the current process for development of listed buildings, how we think they should be developed in the future, and some ideas for sympathetically restoring and developing your own heritage property. 

How Do Local Authorities Deal With Listed Buildings?

There is often a fine line between preservation of a building’s historic fabric and a structure which is no longer financially, operationally or environmentally viable. But what happens when a building can’t be adapted for modern use within the current framework of conservation protection? All too often we see the listing intended for the building’s protection become its pending death certificate.

The ever growing buildings at risk register is the canary in the coal mine, which despite the fantastic efforts of heritage groups, volunteers, enthusiasts and trusts continues to increase its numbers year on year. The Historic England buildings at risk register can be found by visiting this link

What Issues Occur When Developing Listed Buildings?

Listed buildings often provide a strikingly visual and sometimes more subtle less tangible record of our history, who we were and how we did things. They connect us to the places we visit and often the people we meet.

However, the old ways often aren’t compatible with modern use. The staircases are too narrow or steep to provide safe access, fire ratings can’t be achieved, the floor joists are undersized: but under current practices if listed these elements be preserved in perpetuity at all costs.

This often leads to a hybrid situation where redundant elements of the structure are retained in situ alongside new working elements, creating an expensive and cumbersome Frankenstein of a building which owners and operators must deal with.

Many elements of buildings were re-used from other buildings, timbers from ships, stone from places of worship for example. Things were done this way because they were practical, economical and suitable for use at the time.

A lack of understanding of old buildings often leads to a misdiagnosis of underlying issues and the use of unsuitable materials in renovation and development such as; cement mortar, chemical damp proofing, tanking or waterproofing, and PIR insulation. Understanding the building’s fabric is essential to then understand its development.

How Should Listed Building Owners Approach Developing & Renovating Heritage Properties?

Perhaps instead of retaining the fabric of a building in the manner you might a museum piece, or on the other hand rushing to the use of unsuitable modern materials, we should be considering the philosophy which constructed these buildings.

Installing solar panels out of sight, introducing sympathetic insulation, sympathetic double glazing, reuse of redundant elements elsewhere within the building are all alterations which could be suitable in certain situations and surely a better compromise than the alternative: doing nothing at all.

Wouldn’t this be a better continuation of a building’s story than the fate we have assigned to many heritage sites, left to decay until there is no history left to save.

With current regulations restricting development of listed buildings, it can be difficult to navigate renovations. However, there are still many ways to develop your listed building, and funding pots available to help you do so. Our listed building surveyors worked with residential and commercial owners and operators across Yorkshire and the North West, developing all manner of heritage properties from private residential to school buildings and high street shops. 

Rely On Fourth Wall’s Listed Building Surveyors

So whilst current regulations can make it a little more tricky to renovate a listed building, as Chartered Building Surveyors we can bring our experience and expertise to help you navigate this, understand your property, and move forward with developing your heritage property. Get in touch with our team of surveyors to start a conversation about your property, be that for a building survey, architectural services, project management, or anything in between.

Listed Building FAQs

What is a Listed Building and How Does a Property Become Listed?

Listed buildings are usually of historical interest or offer unique features which need to be preserved. Most listed buildings are those built before 1700 and up to 1850 – providing they are similar to their original condition. View more information from Historic England here.

Do You Need a Building Survey For a Listed Property?

Yes you do. If you are planning to purchase a listed property, it is recommended that you get a building survey, ideally a RICS Level 3 survey. This will enable you to get a clear picture of the properties condition, any issues detected, as well advice on remedial works. Find out more about Fourth Wall Bespoke Building Surveys here.

What Permissions Are Needed When Developing Listed Buildings?

It is likely you’ll need planning permission, either a complete planning application or building consent, before developing your listed property. Visit the Historic England site to learn more about listed building permissions needed here.

What Can You Do To a Listed Building Without Consent?

The Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act of 1990 states that it is against regulations to demolish or alter any part of a building’s character without permission. Anything more than general maintenance (think repainting walls, or repairing cupboard doors) requires consent. This even includes things that may not be visible, such as installing double glazing within your windows if that wasn’t there beforehand. 

How Do You Check if a Building is Listed?

You can complete a search on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) to check for a listed building.

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Commercial Advice Residential Advice

What is a Building Reinstatement Cost Assessment (BRCA)?

If you own property, no matter what size or for what purpose, you need to ensure you’re insured to the right level should anything happen. This is where we come in. A BRCA refers to a Building Reinstatement Cost Assessment (BRCA), often known just as a Reinstatement Cost Assessment.

Giving your insurers a rebuild figure for your property is not as simple as it may initially sound. If you’re underinsured, you could face a significant shortfall in funds to cover costs in the event of a claim, and if you’re over insured you’ll likely be spending a lot more than needed on insurance premiums. The former is becoming more prevalent in the current market, which has seen significant rises in materials and labour costs, leaving many proper owners at risk.

In fact, recent research has found that 80% of UK properties are under-insured – to put that in context, that’s around 587,000 high net worth homes and commercial property with a total value of £340 billion standing without adequate buildings insurance.

The first thing your insurer will do when you make a claim is check the building is insured for the correct amount. In the event your property is underinsured, many insurance policies will typically revert to what is often referred to as an “averaging” clause.

This generally means the final payout of any claim will be reduced by the degree to which the property was underinsured.

So, if a building would cost £300,000 to rebuild, but is insured for only £150,000 then the insurer consider the property to be 50% underinsured.  This means if you made a claim of £150,000, the insurer would only pay £75,000, 50% of the sum insured.

The activation of averaging clauses is common and many people get caught out. We’ve worked with a number of clients who have received reduced cash settlements. This can be negotiated, however, this method of mitigation is limited in comparison to either having a one-off assessment or request a desktop review to see if there is potential a building is underinsured.

What’s Involved? //

When we conduct a BRCA, we undertake an inspection of your property or properties, and issue you a report with rebuild costs for all of the elements taken into consideration. For example, should a property burn down, we’re not just talking bricks and roof tiles, it’s important to take into consideration costs for clearance of the site, new plans to be drawn up, professional fees, construction and materials costs.

When talking about reinstatement, costs are given to repair, reconstruct or renew assets to an equal, but not better, condition (note: we’re afraid a BRCA won’t estimate the costs to add a swimming pool or a few outbuildings, but will focus on reinstating a like for like property).

Our assessments include visiting site to conduct an inspection and measurements, and issue you with a report you can understand and get the most from. We report on an extensive range of properties of all shapes, sizes and uses, so you can be assured we’ve seen it before and know how to assess the reinstatement value of your property accurately.

Recommendations and Further Advice //

The RICS recommends existing BRCAs are reviewed regularly, generally every 3 years or upon reinsuring, to reflect fluctuations in materials and construction costs, or undertaken at completion or immediately prior to completion of the sale. An existing assessment should also be looked at again and re-issued if changes are made to the building such as extensions or extensive refurbishment.

This will enable us to make sure all your materials and buildings are fully covered under your insurance policy. You don’t want to spend tens of thousands on an extension or refurbishment, only for the reinstatement value to reflect the original building, so keeping on top of and conducting BRCAs every few years are something to factor in to your budget and maintenance plans.

The Fourth Wall Standard

All our surveyors are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). With our diverse range of services and experience across the residential, commercial and heritage sectors, including: building design, project management and project monitoring, we’re uniquely placed to ensure your building is adequately assessed and insured to the correct amount.

Get in touch ➡️ our online form is here or contact us via reimagine@fourthwallbc.com / 0161 706 1131 / 0114 400 0254.
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Commercial Advice Featured Our thoughts //

What is a Planned Maintenance Report?

As we come out of what feels like a very long winter, occupiers and landlords across the region are being hit with no end of surprise expenditures. From roof leaks to damaged cladding, properties of all shapes and sizes have fallen victim to the elements.

As we work with a number of occupiers on their planned maintenance programmes for the next 5-10 years, I’ve been increasingly aware of the need to build up our clients’ understanding of their properties as we help them avoid fighting fires and plan for the future.

A Planned Maintenance Programme, often known as a Planned Maintenance Report (PMR), enables both owners and occupiers to plan any necessary works into their budget, an essential step when looking to set reliable budgets, better monitor the financial health of projects and ensure value for money is demonstrated over the life of their property.

It doesn’t take me by surprise that you may be thinking ‘but do I really need it?’. It’s certainly tempting to take things as they come, but avoiding an issue can only last so long and a forward thinking approach is essential. Reactive work more often than not proves inefficient, costly, and in severe cases results in significant failures such as water ingress or structural damage, leading to further impact on business operations and the subsequent negotiation with impacted parties who may have suffered loss of earnings as a result. A painful prospect whether that’s your own business or one of your tenants.

Believe us when we say that regular maintenance is your best friend, helping prevent small issues from becoming larger issues at a later date.

We’ve seen a lot of properties in our time, and the biggest, and most common, issues we come across nearly always stem from a lack of routine maintenance. Ignoring that leak, putting off replacing those roof tiles, and leaving the potholes until they get really bad always lead to more issues down the line. If you’re leasing a commercial space, it can also mean a pretty hefty bill when it comes to your dilapidations responsibilities during or at the end of your lease.

Given the increasing need for efficient use of our resources, energy efficiency in the built environment and reducing waste, regular maintenance is an essential way of reducing deterioration of buildings and preventing unnecessary damage, ensuring properties operate at optimum efficiency, protect the health and safety of occupants, and ensure continued compliance with statutory requirements.

Simply put, a Planned Maintenance Report allows you to anticipate future costs of building work to your property so that you can budget for them and ensure repair works fit in around your business and cause the least disturbance possible. Whilst not everyone is as passionate about buildings as we are, there’s certainly something rewarding in enabling owners and occupiers to proactively maintain, manage and improve their properties for years to come.  

Get in touch to discuss your Planned Maintenance: reimagine@fourthwallbc.com // 0161 706 1131

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Commercial Advice Our thoughts // Residential Advice

Sustainability in Architecture

With the ever-impending climate crisis upon us and changes in living and working practices in a post covid world, the need for sustainable architecture which provides a tangible connection to the natural world has never been in sharper focus. Occupiers, customers and employees are taking greater care when deciding where they work, shop and eat out.  

Biophilic design is focused on connecting humans and the built environment to the natural world through the use of nature in architectural design, be that through new constructions or the redesign of existing buildings.  

For most of us, our natural habit is largely within the modern built environment, through where we both live and work. With more homes being built and the population of cities ever growing, this isn’t changing any time soon. The use of biophilic design seeks to enhance the spaces we spend our time in by incorporating the natural environment and the positive benefits an easy connection to nature brings us, be that through improved air quality or boosted mental health.  

If you’re a city dweller, you’ll likely have noticed one of the most popular concepts of Biophilic Design: green roofs. In 2018, it was found that 32% of all horizontal spaces are unused rooftops, and with benefits for both people and the environment, such as supporting biodiversity and wildlife, improving thermal performance of buildings, and allowing people to take a physical and mental break from the stress of work by connecting them to nature, green roof’s are becoming increasingly popular atop city centre office buildings, apartment blocks and retail spaces for this reason.  

From Stockport to San Francisco, biophilic design is being used to transform corporate spaces and add greenery to industrial areas. As part of a multi-million-pound regeneration scheme, a two-acre park atop Stockport interchange has been given the green light in an attempt to offset carbon emissions and give further green space for locals to enjoy. On the other side of the pond, ATXK have been inviting nature inside their offices to help employees feel a sense of freedom in a positive, healthy workspace. 

Biophilic design incorporates three key principles; Nature in the space, referring to the direct presence of nature, Nature of the space, focusing on taking inspiration from the spatial configurations in nature, and Natural Analogues, which uses indirect methods to reflect nature. The use of these principles drives towards a fundamental goal of Biophilic Design: to create a good habitat for people inhabiting modern structures, landscapes and communities.  

If you own or manage property and are keen to incorporate nature, but a green roof is a stretch too far, incorporating biophilic design through the use of living walls is an option for both interior and exterior areas. Both contributing to improved air quality and acoustics, along with better productivity and creativity, living walls have been noted to significantly increase workplace satisfaction. In our home town, Sheffield Hallam University have made use of this, redeveloping the atrium at their city campus to make use of biophilic design features such as living walls, whilst over in New York, Luxottica have been making use of living walls in their main office breakout space to encourage a relaxed and social space for employees. 

Even small changes to an office or retail fit out specification, such as the use of natural materials and colour pallets in favour of previously desirable and low-cost composite plastics and metals, can help evoke a connection to nature within the great steel and concrete boxes we call our urban built environment. As businesses begin to encourage employees back to the office, biophilic design is certainly something for property and business owners to explore.  

Looking to the future, we cannot deny the need for more sustainable choices in the way we live and work. Biophilic design presents opportunities for both residential and commercial property to improve the environment for those living and working in these spaces by incorporating nature and greenery simply and effectively into everyday life. With questions still arising over how to adapt cities post-Covid, we’re expecting to see the use of biophilic design increase in the years ahead. 

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Beginners Guide Commercial Advice

Understanding Dilapidations

In all tenancies, agreements are made in relation to the condition of the property and whose responsibility it is for repairs and maintenance, so it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities at any stage of leasing out or renting a property.

Put simply, dilapidations are the costs involved in returning a property to its original state prior to being let, such as repairs and reinstatement works for any alterations made to the property by the commercial tenant.

If a tenant doesn’t keep the property in the state agreed, the legal covenants and relevant dilapidations case law will apply and landlords can serve a schedule of dilapidations to a tenant, which will form the basis of their claim. The dilapidations process takes place either during or towards the end of a commercial lease and involves assessing any disrepair of the property, breaches of lease agreements, where responsibilities lie, and how much it will cost to remedy.

Disputes can arise between landlords and tenants over this process, so to reach a suitable conclusion when dilapidations claims are made, each party will appoint professional representatives in the form of surveyors, as knowledge and experience of construction and dilapidations case law is essential to handle the dilapidations claim process.

Your surveyor will provide you with the expertise and guidance to ensure a fair and reasonable settlement is reached, providing advice on timescales, risks and costs.

They should advise on your liabilities under a commercial lease, and provide a thorough evaluation of the condition of the property, determining the extent of any breaches and negotiating to find a solution that’s beneficial to all parties.

At Fourth Wall we bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to support both landlords and tenants, so if you’re entering into a new lease, considering leaving or have left your premises, get in touch.