Listed buildings present a unique challenge for homeowners and architects alike. They represent a slice of history; a physical piece of our own societal legacy, hewn into rock, stone, and glass. They’re some of the most beautiful and enviable properties in the country, but while they may hold their own cultural importance, they’re also really difficult to renovate.
One of the most common renovations many people will want to make to a listed building is by updating its glazing, but it can be nigh-on impossible to get permission to tear out and replace original features - leaving property owners feeling that they have no autonomy in the design or performance of their property.
Fortunately, there are solutions - they just require a bit of expertise, some architectural creativity, and plenty of experience. At Cantifix, we’ve worked on countless listed buildings over the years, and we’re seeing more clients than ever looking for solutions to this challenge - here are some of the most valuable things we’ve learned.
Why listed buildings are a challenge
Listed buildings present a few unique hurdles when it comes to renovation. The main challenges arise in two areas: the practical limitations of working with old, potentially fragile buildings, and the planning application process - which involves gaining permission from the local authority before being able to make any significant changes.
Obtaining Planning permission
Obtaining permission from the local planning authority to make changes to the glazing in a listed building can be a challenge. If your building is Grade II listed (which it most likely is, 91.7% of the listed buildings in the UK are Grade II), you’ll need to gain ‘Listed Building Consent’, as well as any applicable Planning Permission and Building Regulations approval.
The local council will make the final decision - if you’re looking to replace existing glazing, either because it’s impractical, or because it’s broken, the local authority’s priority will be to preserve the ‘character of the building’. They will normally advise repair rather than replacement, and if you’re simply looking to upgrade, in most cases this will be turned down.
So if you’re looking to add more light to your home, or provide better ventilation, what can you do?
The solution: Extend rather than renovate
Rather than taking the proverbial hammer to your property, a much stronger and more secure idea is to extend the existing structure. This option solves the immediate issue of ‘maintaining the character of the building’, because you aren’t actually taking anything away, or changing any of the existing features.
When putting together a proposal or plan to your local authority, it can be a lot more flexible to plan an extension - which can then be amended or adapted following feedback - than restrict yourself to working with the existing glazing in the property. Local authorities are much more likely to look favourably on projects that leave the existing building unchanged.
The best kind of glazing to use in a listed building extension
When it comes to extending a listed building, there’s also something of a ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to design: structural glass. Cantifix pioneered the concept of using glass as a construction material over 30 years ago, and in the following decades technology has advanced significantly - it’s now possible to build entire extensions out of glazing.
If you’re looking to improve a listed property, a structural glass extension is almost always the best option, mainly down to the fact that there is no better way to not only preserve the existing building, but ensure it remains visible, in its full glory. This kills two birds with one stone: you create new, usable, elegant spaces, and you maintain the character and quality of your property.
Why is structural glazing so effective?
Structural glazing is endlessly versatile, and ticks all of the boxes for both you as the homeowner, and the restrictions local authorities will need to enforce. Often, councils will insist on a clear distinction between any new structures and any historical buildings, and structural glazing is an extremely effective way of achieving this: it’s elegant, modern, luxurious, and minimal - offering a stark contrast to older buildings made from brick, wood, stone, and featuring historical aesthetics.
Structural glass also offers a practical, as well as aesthetic, boon for homeowners; using the latest glazing technology, extensions made from structural glass are a far cry from a typical conservatory - glass can be precision-engineered to maintain interior climate, ensure safety and security, and even improve our wellbeing.
A good example of this is Solstice Glass - Cantifix’s first glass offering designed specifically to enhance our wellbeing, by maximising exposure to the most beneficial aspects of sunlight.
Limitless design potential
One of the most frustrating aspects of trying to renovate listed buildings is just how stifling, aesthetically and creatively, the restrictions in place can be. It’s the equivalent of designing with your hands tied - you can’t do anything that changes the character of the property, so putting your own personal ‘stamp’ on your home, and creating spaces that reflect your lifestyle and personality, can be close to impossible.
By opting for a structural glass extension, providing you can meet the authority halfway when it comes to agreeing things like where the extension can be placed, and it’s total size, there are almost no restrictions to the kind of spaces you can create.
Kitchens. Home offices. Lounge spaces. Reading rooms. Structural glass extensions are perfectly-equipped to provide these kind of spaces in a property, and create personalised, practical interior environments, tailored to your own specifications. They’re also the perfect way to seamlessly blend the interior and exterior worlds - providing homeowners with a space from which to enjoy all the benefits of natural light, and even marvel at the beauty of their own property and outdoor spaces, while enjoying the calm tranquility an extension like this can provide.
It’s always a good idea to employ the services of an architect, and a glazing specialist such as Cantifix, when extending a listed building. This will result in the strongest design and proposal, to both meet your own needs, and appease any restrictions the local authority may impose.
By working with an experienced specialist, you’ll also be able to benefit from their years of expertise, leading to creative and transformative results that can elevate your property, and your life at home. If you’d like to find out more about how structural glass can be used to improve your listed property, simply get in touch.