Britain has a wealth of historic listed buildings which reflect the history of our communities and public services on both a local and national scale. The need to preserve these buildings for future generations is significant, but in the context of today’s economic climate and widespread budget cuts, many of these properties - which are notorious for being difficult to maintain and expensive to run - are at risk of being abandoned and falling into a state of disrepair.
Converting these large historic properties for residential use is one such solution to ensure that their legacy is preserved for the future. Award-winning restoration specialist City & Country champions this approach and has successfully transformed a number of prestigious sites across the south and south-east of England into a stunning portfolio of unique homes.
Managing Director Helen Moore comments: “Around the country there are countless hospitals, schools and military buildings which, no longer in use, provide an excellent opportunity for restoration for residential purpose, which will ensure that they are cherished by their new owners. Aside from guaranteeing the preservation of these buildings’ rare period features and intricacies, heritage conversion can also help to provide new homes to stimulate the local housing market and boost the economy by providing jobs for tradesman operating in the restoration field.”
Historic restoration is highly skilled work and the level of detail required in the conversion of these properties can often cause inexperienced developers to run into significant time delays and additional costs. Budget management is therefore crucial, and completing these projects on time and on cost requires strict control and whole-team co-ordination from the outset. City & Country’s expert in-house team of architects, surveyors, tradesmen, landscape gardeners and interior designers all work together from the initial design stage right through to completion, in order to ensure that all areas of the building are given the time, care and budget they require and the best possible standards are achieved.
Simon Vernon-Harcourt, Design & Planning Director at City & Country, comments: “The popularity of the period buildings market is growing, as house buyers seek homes with a past and developers look for unique properties that will stand out from the often bland and uninspiring product delivered in the new-build market. At City & Country our guiding principle across the whole development team is to work with the historic grain of the buildings so that the new buildings are able to enhance the setting of the historic assets. Through thoughtful design, we are able to weave rich history with contemporary ideas to create properties that will enhance the historic buildings as well as be loved and cherished in the future.”
The range of unique architectural features at City & Country’s sites is broad, including original sash windows, oak panelling, arched honeycomb ceilings and intricate plaster cornices. Restoration of such a range of features requires a deep technical knowledge of the buildings and an advanced understanding of the construction techniques needed to restore them.
City & Country’s Conservation Architect, Ian Dieffenthaller, comments: “As building practices have changed since the times that many of these historic buildings were originally built, there are some aspects of their conversion that can be difficult to get right. Many traditional design techniques have been developed over the years to suit modern construction requirements, hydraulic lime being one such example. Having been used as a concrete base since Roman Times, the formula has been changed over time to now be available in a bag that only needs water added before use; a product simplification that significantly reduces build time and development costs whilst delivering the same authentic results of the past.”
City & Country’s work continues to flourish and the company has won many awards for its successful development of historic buildings, most recently the 2013 LABC Best Conversion Award for Bentley Priory, the 2013 Evening Standard Best First-Time Buy Award for The Garden Quarter, previous wins include the 2012 Sunday Times British Homes Conversion and Restoration Award for The Galleries. City & Country has also won numerous awards at the What House? Awards including Gold and Silver for Best Small Housebuilder between 2009 and 2012, Gold for Best Renovation of Balls Park in 2012, Best apartment for Balls Park in 2012 and Best Starter Home for The Galleries in 2011.
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