30 years in terms of publishing a magazine is a great achievement, 30 years when talking about old buildings is a single old brick in a four column train viaduct, still that’s not to say that over the last three decades things haven’t changed.
Tales of Old Buildings past
The late 80’s and 90’s of the last century were probably the last decades where serious abuses of repairs were carried out.
Previous decades allowed repairs with cement, inferior and modern building materials and with an uneducated attitude and understanding from the construction industry of “that will be ok and it will do”. Serious intervention from the likes of SPAB, English Heritage and the many societies that pride themselves on the protection of Old Buildings was really only made when the said organisations were contacted by conscientious owners, who had a sense of history and wanted to pay serious interest in ancient materials and methods therefore doing the best for their houses. I suppose 30 years ago was the first day at school where we had so much to learn and all the time in the world to learn it.
Tales of Old Buildings present
Today the property conservation industry is big business, publication like the Conservation Directory are used as industry bibles. SPAB, IHBC and the internet provide a myriad of information (not all of it good as I have met Google conservationists) that can assist the historic building owner complete any repairs, alterations and interventions that they require. The availability of old time building materials is also now widely available. Limes and aggregates, clay bricks and tiles, timbers and breathable decorating paints in any colour are the industry norm albeit more expensive than their generic counterparts. A visit to the Weald & Downland Living Museum will also give hands on visual approach to how buildings of a certain type were put together and how they should look. Reporting on misdemeanours carried out to listed properties and how the local authorities have dealt with them shows a real march forward, in some cases forcing the owners to reverse works done and in extreme situations handing out large fines and ordering the demolition of works carried out without Listed building Consent. Today we have a greater understanding of why, how, and with what these buildings were built with. The rot has stopped and we know in what direction we are going, and that’s a great thing.
Tales of Old Buildings future
There is a great expectation and responsibility to carry on and protect our old and listed building stock but also responsibility to in some way to be more proactive and to find a way to make our building more responsible to society. Old Buildings HAVE to become more eco-friendly. Old Buildings haemorrhage heat and use more natural fossil fuels to heat and power. Wooden windows, lack of brick cavities, open space under the floors and ineffective design in the roof spaces really don’t help. Minor interventions can be implemented such as secondary double glazing, more suitable insulation and a decent thermal image survey where it can show where the heat is being wasted, so it can be targeted. Slim line double glazing is an answer but I respect the loss of the crown glass ripple effect that one does not get with these new panels. Carbon neutral and Old Buildings just don’t go together. Perhaps offsetting carbon footprint is the future, where possible ground source heat pumps, hidden or within the grounds solar panels, insulation correctly installed, permission to install decent moist air extraction systems are a must. No one expects an Old Building to be as efficient as a new build so perhaps the heating and power usage for an Old Building should be capped!! Old Buildings were not built to be as hot as we expect them to be today, ventilated air movement is part and parcel of how these have lasted so long so perhaps we should enforce that in the future.
So my prediction for 30 years in the future with an Old Building. Buy shares in knitwear… Because everyone will be buying and wearing jumpers.
Until the next 30 years. Love Old Buildings….
Written by Steve Trodd. Love Old Buildings.
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