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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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Residential Advice Tips

What Is Spray Foam Insulation & Does It Stop You Getting a Mortgage?

Unfortunately, this type of insulation can cause some serious issues and be a big headache for property owners and buyers. From damage to the building to making a property unmortgageable, spray foam insulation comes with a whole host of risks property owners need to be aware of. 

Will spray foam insulation stop you from getting a mortgage? Yes, in many cases, spray foam may limit how willing mortgage lenders are to give you an offer. Spray foam comes with a high risk of damage to a building due to reduced ventilation, increased condensation and damage to roof timbers. Therefore many mortgage lenders view properties with spray foam insulation as not worth the risk. 

Read on to find out more about the risks of installing spray foam insulation and what other options you have to increase the energy efficiency of your property.

What is Spray Foam Insulation?

In recent years spray foam insulation has become increasingly popular with homeowners in the UK. Unfortunately, this type of insulation can cause serious issues and create a big headache for property owners and buyers.

Spray foam insulation, is, as the name suggests, a foam covering sprayed on the underside of roof coverings. The aim is to provide a thick insulation to improve the thermal performance of a house. 

Is Spray Foam Insulation Safe?

In short, no. When applied to the underside of roof coverings, spray foam insulation encapsulates the roof timbers, reducing ventilation to the roof space and increasing condensation as it alters the due point of the structure (the temperature at which moisture within the air will form into a liquid and create condensation). 

Additionally, imagine the roof leaks. The difficulty of spotting a leak amidst all the sprayed foam could mean timbers are left getting wet for a significant period of time, leading them to rot and decay with no opportunity to dry out. This rotten wet timber could also lead to insect attack, fungal decay, and instability of the roof structure. 

Does Spray Foam Insulation Stop You Getting a Mortgage?

The risk of problems developing is so high that many mortgage lenders are now refusing to lend on properties with spray foam insulation, and we’ve rarely viewed an installation which hasn’t had adverse effects in due course. The same goes if you’re wanting to finance the property in any way, whether you’re applying for a mortgage, remortgaging, or applying for equity release.

It is always worth getting impartial advice before making alterations or new installations in your property. The salespeople unfortunately don’t provide any warning of the potential harm such installations pose or give a balanced view of the product. And why would they? It’s their job to sell these products and only these products. They take no onward liability and likely receive commission for each sale, so there’s no incentive to care about the owner, the building or trying to sell the property in 5 years’ time.

Having balanced, independent, expert advice will save you stress, time and money in the long run. Too often we’re left explaining the dangers and damage caused by spray foam insulation long after the fact, and when the house is unmortgageable and expensive remedial work is required. Get in touch with our team of honest surveyors for more advice and information.

What is the Guidance On Spray Foam Insulation?

In recent years The PCA (Property Care Association) and RPSA (Residential Property Surveyors Association) led a joint consultation to address the issues with spray foam insulation, aiming to provide clarity to surveyors and valuers about how to report on the condition of a roof with spray foam applied.

One of the key conclusions arising from this consultation was “It is unlikely that a surveyor undertaking a valuation or a condition survey will be able to provide any advice relating to the condition or life expectancy of the roof structure where the installation of PU foam is not supported by detailed technical information.”

The required level of technical information is considerable.

In most situations the surveyor will be unable to comment on the condition of the timber roof structure without lengthy invasive investigations, often resulting in partial or full removal, and irreparable damage to the insulation or roof coverings.

This has led to the LABC (Local Authority Building Control) taking the decision not to accept the application of spray foam installations (even those with third party accreditation such as BBA) under their warranty schemes.

Perhaps this clear guidance and market position have come too late as no doubt over the past few years many homeowners will have had spray foam insulation systems of some description installed. This has no doubt increased exponentially over the last 12 months as home owners search for answers to the energy crisis within a context of poorly thermal performing housing stock.

The sale of these systems often takes advantage of the lack of awareness and knowledge of building owners and the absence of experienced specifiers and designers within the market. It’s important to be aware that not all solutions advertised are sold in the property owner’s best interest.

To see more from the Property Care Association (PCA) on their findings in regard to spray foam insulation, visit their website.

What Can You Use Instead Of Spray Foam To Make Your Home Energy Efficient?

In recent years much research has been undertaken on how to improve energy performance in historic and traditional buildings. This suggests buildings and any adaptations should be assessed holistically.

As with any change, it’s important that owners and occupiers understand that buildings, traditional and historic buildings in particular, should be operated in a certain way and to disturb this equilibrium without proper consideration can lead to serious issues developing over time.

These systems, among others, are sold as a simple and easy solution to solve what is a complex problem which needs careful consideration on a case by case basis. A short term solution often leads to long term problems.

There are a number of other options for improving energy efficiency, including breathable and permeable insulations and the use of natural building materials which don’t inhibit the movement of moisture in the building. Seeking independent advice can ensure you understand the construction of the building, and how to sympathetically improve its energy efficiency. 

How Can Our Surveyors Help?

Whilst spray foam insulation may seem like a quick fix, the risk of damage to a property and likelihood of mortgage lenders to not lend against the property, makes it a material to steer clear of. If you’re looking to improve the energy efficiency and thermal performance of your property, get in touch with us here for some independent expertise that you can rely on. 

Spray Foam FAQs

Does Spray Foam Devalue Your House?

In short, yes spray foam does devalue your house. By installing it, you reduce the amount of airflow in your roof, which can lead to issues including mould, wood rot, and overall reduced structure stability. Each of these issues are a risk to mortgage lenders, which may limit how much your house is valued at. 

How Do You Remove Spray Foam Insulation?

Spray foam removal is something we wouldn’t recommend attempting to do yourself! A professional will be able to safely cut away the foam from your roof or other construction materials, whilst avoiding electrical wires or parts of your home structure. Removing spray foam is likely to cost you around £5000, depending on how much needs to be removed.

Can Spray Foam Rot Your Roof?

Yes. As we mentioned above, spray foam isn’t a breathable material, which decreases the amount of airflow in your roof. Reduced air flow leads to damp, mould, and rotting of the wood in your roof.

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Beginners Guide Featured Residential Advice

Where to start with an extension: The Architectural Process

We all want to live in a home we love, but sometimes we need to make improvements, adaptions and create a little extra space. Building projects begin with a want or need, maybe you’re outgrowing your family home or need some home office space, whatever it is we’ll work with you to turn your ideas into the perfect space. Building, extending or altering a property can be stressful, but using years of experience and heads brimming with creativity, we’ll guide you through every step of the architectural process to bring your vision to life.

So, what does the architectural design process involve?

  • Initial Consultation & Design Brief;

We’ll always begin with a design brief meeting, be that over the phone or in person, to discuss your project, what you’re wanting to achieve, any ideas you already have, and how we can help you. We’ll then issue you with a bespoke quote so you can understand the costs at every step of the architectural design journey.

  • Measured Survey;

Once we’ve had our initial design brief, we’ll come to the site to conduct a full measured survey. This is a comprehensive survey of the site which involves taking measurements ready for initial drawings. We’ll be on-site for a number of hours ensuring we fully understand your property, any issues which may arise, and to discuss our initial ideas in person. We won’t say no to a coffee whilst we’re there!

  • Drawings;

This is when the fun part really begins as we start creating the initial drawings for your project. Don’t worry, we can do lots of iterations until it’s perfect for you. We’’ll produce existing plans of the property and issue design options as per your initial brief, this may include alternative options of the internal layout or external appearance, where discussed as part of your brief.This isn’t just lines on a page, we’ll bring your project to life.

  • Planning submitted;

Once you are completely happy with the designs, we’ll submit them for planning permission, liaising with the council’s planning officer as we wait for approval. It can take 2 months plus for planning to be granted on a residential property, with larger and more complex plans sometimes taking longer, and if the planning office requests changes we’ll need to discuss these with them and potentially make some amendments. Where a proposal doesn’t require a planning application and falls within Permitted Development Rights, we typically advise our clients to submit a Lawful Development Certificate Application to the Planning Department. Permitted Development Rights are always changing  and this verifies the proposed works meet the requirements at the time, preventing any issues when you come to sell your property.

  • Technical drawings;

Once your planning application has been approved, feel free to pop some champagne whilst we create your technical drawings and specifications, working with a structural engineer to achieve approval from building control. These drawings include key elements of the construction, such as the foundations, supporting steels, and electrics, and can be used to gather quotes from tradespeople ready for construction to begin. They are also used to ensure that safety regulations are met and give clear guidance to your builders on how the project is being constructed.

  • Party Wall;

If your project is going to affect the boundary wall with a neighbouring property, you’ll need a party wall certificate. It’s important to start thinking about Party Wall requirements several months before you want to start work and ideally ensure your designer is working with a Party Wall Surveyor during the design process to ensure there are less issues during the party wall process. Making changes to the design can be difficult, particularly post planning stage, where alterations to the external appearance may require further consultation with the planning department.

  • Construction begins.

It is finally time to start the construction and turn your ideas into reality. We’ll always be here if you need to ask any questions. Here’s where we may step away for a less complex build. However, we can be on hand to ensure your work is competitively tendered to achieve the best price, contracts are administered to ensure you’re protected, and works are managed on site to ensure you get the best quality and finish.

So whether your renovating, creating more room or building from scratch, at Fourth Wall we will always put you at the heart of the design process and be with you from start to finish. Get in touch if you’ve got an idea, whether you know if it’s feasible or not, we’re always happy to schedule a call.