The secret to transforming a traditional or historic building into your ideal living, community or business space; keep your eye on the prize. It is a phrase we are all familiar with. It is sounds so simple, and yet when it come to restoring a property, it is soon lost in a fog of unexpected complexity, rules and regulations. If you are not careful you will end up tearing your hair out and regretting the day you started.
As experts in the restoration and conservation of historic buildings, MAAC Studio are regularly approached by property owners looking for help. When we start to discuss the project we find that they are have an idea about what they would like to do. Sometimes they have a target date relating to a life event (retirement) or historical event. So far so good.
We then find that there is an urgency to move the discussion on to technical matters. A perceived problem is highlighted, and we are asked; How should the problem be addressed? Who might be the best person to do it? How much would it cost? Do the need to apply for permission, (a product supplier said this wasn’t needed)?
These might seem like sensible questions but, in reality, they are already leading your project in the wrong direction. Here’s why….
Your project strategy should be focused on achieving your goals. Focus on the what you want to do and what you want to feel when you walk into each space, when you have moved in to the finished project.
Here is a quick example. You may want an office/study, but have you thought through the kind of work space you want to create. Do you want garden room? Somewhere quiet to read or write reports? Is it to be a private den or somewhere to meet clients? What sort of impression do you want to create; professional, creative, down to earth? An office space can be many different things, what works for one, won't work for another, what is going to be right for you?
This simple example should have illustrated the care and thought that is needed to create the right space that is going to do what you want it to do? Now do this for all the other spaces!
Take some time to understand what it is you love about your building, its special characteristics and features that make it unique. Make sure that you don’t lose hold of this in the process. This understanding will guide every decision you make form here on.
Only when you have a clear vision of the spaces that you want create, and the building features that you need to hold on to, can you begin to process of creating the road map that will take you from where you are now, to where you want to get to.
We can then start to examine the existing building fabric and look at how it can be adapted to best achieve your goals. You need to think about the geometry and layout, how you are going to move through the structure, what are the requirements for services, what can be achieved with the available budget. There are likely to be many more problems than those you can see or are aware of, so expert knowledge and experience is essential.
Your finished project will be the final step in a long journey. Before that there are many of stepping stones. Each step forward will depend upon the one that went before. To reach your goal, you will need to map out the steps that are needed and importantly, put together in the right sequence, that leads logically from one to the next.
If you focus on the technical issues too early, the project will drift away from your goals. You will be focusing on the stepping stones, without paying attention to the direction that they are taking you. Before long, you will find yourself going round in circles, wasting time and effort heading down dead ends or worse heading towards a different destination entirely. A lot of time, effort and money will be spent to achieve a project that doesn’t work for you, or doesn’t comply with building standards, leaving you disappointed and frustrated.
Even for a seemingly small, simple, straightforward issue, a technology led approach can have damaging consequences.
We were recently approached by the owner a large Victorian villa, built from sandstone with a slated roof. They had received a quote for a new heating system which seemed reasonable. They had been assured that this was the ideal energy efficient solution for a traditional property. They were ready to go ahead. I had the unenviable task of;
- unpicking their assumptions and,
- challenging the assurances they had been given by the insulation installer.
For many reasons, it was the wrong product in the wrong situation. Had they gone ahead the potential damage that could have been caused would have been immense. A couple of hours of my time prevented a very costly mistake.
There are many different paths ahead of you, but only one will lead to the right outcome for you, before you go too far, speak to an expert.
MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland.