Sunday Express - 08 February 2015
Transforming old agricultural buildings or deconsecrated chapels and churches is nothing new in Britain but the idea of “upcycling” interesting old buildings is more popular than ever.
You may think this is just an American word for recycling but it was German engineer Reiner Pilz who invented the term in 1994 when complaining about EU directives that led to Germany’s disused buildings being totally demolished. Building projects requiring reclaimed materials had to be imported from the UK.
Since then upcycling has become a clarion call for Europe’s Green movement, although in Britain we also upcycle old properties just because we like them. Robin Chatwin, head of Savills South West London, says: “We first saw abandoned former industrial buildings being converted into homes on a significant scale in the 1980s, which started with the vast old working docks.
The trend for turning these buildings from industrial to residential use probably began slightly earlier in New York but it was a real departure in how we approached unconventional spaces and how they could be reconfigured to be lived in.
Over the years we’ve become very good at it. You only need to look at the transformation of Battersea Power Station, which is regenerating a huge part of London, to understand why it works and the continued appeal of living in old working buildings.”
The same is true of The Garden Quarter, formerly RAF Bicester in Caversfield, near Oxford, where buildings from the 1920s to 1940s are being transformed in more than 23 acres of landscaped grounds.
The includes a 1940s electrical substation. Converted into a three-bedroom house with a top-floor atrium to produce a highly individual Art Deco-style property, now on the market for £525,000 with City and Country.
It follows last year’s conversion of a Second World War decontamination bunker on the site, while other buildings to be redeveloped include the sergeants’ mess, sergeants’ quarters and old ambulance station. In all 212 apartments, cottages and houses will be available by the time work finishes next year.
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