4 Sep 2014 - Research
By Dennis Sharp 4th September 2014
Hardly a house in England has been left unaltered or extended. Many of these alterations and extensions are damaging to the buildings and reduce their value! With careful planning and a clear approach, it is possible to avoid common pitfalls and transform a building into a home that will be a valuable asset as well as a joy to live in.
The most basic question to ask is if you really like the renovation project you are about to embark upon. Does it excite you, will it transform the way you live and work? If not, it is not worth the effort- carry out basic maintenance, slap a coat of paint on and save yourself a lot of trouble!
Homes are our biggest personal investment and have a direct impact on the quality of our lives. Transforming an existing house is not an easy task, it requires skilful planning and a realistic budget.
It is easy to spend lots of money building palaces but it takes care, skill and cunning to build economically and get value. Doing it yourself is rarely an economic option. It is synonymous with doing it badly. Some people would argue that the annual damage inflicted by British DIYers on their homes is probably greater that that suffered in a natural disaster by many poor developing countries.
The performance and use of homes today is entirely different to the expectations and requirements of the original owners. We are an ageing population. Most households are single people or single parent families. There has been a technological revolution that enables us to order our groceries on the net and work from home but even brand new homes do not come with wireless technology and or facilities to store deliveries.
Many of our clients are very hesitant about being bold with their requirements because they cannot see how their dreams can be realised, economically, spatially or technically. Complex requirements are often by very simply resolved once the design options have been explored.
There are a few simple rules to help guide the renovation process. We call these rules ‘COVET’:
Well designed extensions with sensitive alterations that enhance the existing property can substantially add to the value of a house.
Much has been written about the returns on adding bathrooms, ensuites, conservatories and new kitchens. Little is mentioned of the more innovative, economic and effective ways of enhancing properties. It is possible, for instance, to upgrade homes so that they require no heating or install underfloor heating to do away with radiators. The additional cost of superinsulating walls, underfloor heating and triple glazing is not onerous if considered at the start of a project. Solar panels for heating water are also economically viable particularly if installed when the plumbing system is renewed.
The renovation of older buildings is made easier if the proposed alterations are sympathetic to the materials and construction of the existing structure -enhancing features rather than make an imposition. A careful and knowledgeable approach will pay dividends, enhancing the existing house and making it a joy to live in.
1930s Modern Movement House
This Listed building, a Modern Movement house in Buckinghamshire, was recently renovated for £200K. The main challenge for the owners was to deal with the concrete wall construction and to extend the house without ruining its character. DSA upgraded the insulation on all the walls, installed underfloor heating and designed a separate structure to take new garages and store rooms. Extensions to the main house were carefully done so that people have to look twice to spot where the house was extended. The design did not ape the original- the house and landscaping was completely renewed with new bathrooms, garages and services for the 21st century to suit the life style of the new owners. The project won a Malcolm Dean Design Award in 2002.
1760s Medieval Hall House
This medieval hall house had been altered and extended in the late 1890s and the 1930s. When the new owners purchased the house it was in very poor condition and a complete renovation of the entire house was required together with a new master bedroom and family room. The main design solution was to add a wing which retained the outline of the original medieval house that was south facing and to create a courtyard to enhance the setting and enable young children to safely play outside. The light airy new extension will complement the rather darker medieval rooms and transform this house into a home for 21st century living.
There were a number of builders in Hertfordshire in the Victorian and Edwardian era who experimented with concrete construction. Woodcock Lodge was an L shaped Elizabethan Lodge that has substantial concrete extensions. DSA subdivided the house into five units but maintained the setting and grandeur of the original by enhancing the landscaping with its square moat and bluebell wood in a manner that all five households can share and enjoy. The main architectural challenge was to give all homes a south facing living room and insert bathrooms. The project has been so successful that few people sell their homes and when they do they are much sought after.