Boutinot Wines Fit out 5

Old vs. new: Restoring historical buildings

If you’re looking to upgrade your office, you might be weighing up the benefits of a building restoration project vs. a new build. In this blog post we share the key things you’ll need to consider if you’re planning to restore a historical building.

Why restore a historical building?

There are lots of reasons to choose to restore a historical building. Here are just a few:

Preserving the past

One of the things that people love most about older buildings is their character. Historical buildings often contain unique details that just can’t be replicated or would cost too much to recreate. Features such as columns and beams, complex brickwork patterns and specially carved woodwork are all common in older buildings.

On a practical level, these features are visually appealing. They make a statement on their own and cut down on the need for internal decor. But, as well as looking good, these building details also tell a story. They are a visual representation of our history and often reflect the industries of the past. For many modern businesses, preserving this history by breathing new life into a building is reason enough to undertake a restoration project.

Historical buildings often contain original features such as columns

Sustainability

Generally speaking, restoration projects are more environmentally friendly than building something new. New build projects have a big carbon footprint. The materials and equipment needed to construct a new building have a big environmental cost. Then there’s the carbon emissions generated by transporting them to the construction site. With a restoration project, you are reusing what’s already there. As a result, most restoration projects need far fewer materials and don’t produce as much waste.

A common misconception is that new builds are better for the environment as it is easier to install energy efficiency measures in them. While it can be trickier to do this in a historical building, it is possible to retrofit an older office building with eco-friendly elements if you have the right team in place.

Cost

On the whole, building a new office will cost more than renovating an existing structure. Land, materials and related infrastructure costs can often be more expensive than you might think.

That’s not to say that restoration projects are cheap. They often say that the older the building, the more surprises you’ll get – and sadly, surprises often come with unexpected costs! But with careful management, it’s highly likely that your restoration project will still be cheaper than building an office from scratch.

Office design and fitout with exposed piping

What are the challenges of restoring a historical building?

While there are lots of benefits to a building restoration project, they do come with their own set of challenges. Here are some key things to be aware of:

Permissions

Perhaps the trickiest part of any building restoration project is making sure you have permission to make the changes you’d like. And don’t forget, you need to make sure you have these permissions in place before any work begins. If you’re building is listed, you’ll need to speak to your local planning authority as a first step.

Design and layout

Even after you have permissions in place, there still may be certain restrictions in place. For example, you might be given consent to do certain repairs, but you may not be able to change the design and layout of the building. This can cause a number of issues such as:

Finding the right team

Restoration projects can be complex. It is important to find people with the skills and experience to work on older buildings – but this isn’t always easy.

Working with an architect, surveyor or project manager to help you scope out the project can be a great first step. They will be able to help you find a contractor that has the experience you need. Check out conservation accreditation schemes to find professional advisers with the relevant skills and expertise. 

Office fitout with restored beams

Is a restoration project right for my business?

In the end, restoration projects and new builds both have their pros and cons. Restoration project can throw up certain challenges, but they can also be incredibly rewarding. They key is to get the right people in to support you.

Managing the building project yourself may save money initially – but can be a false economy. Our advice would be to work with professionals with experience of older buildings from the outset. They will be much more likely to identify potential issues before they become a problem – saving you money in the long-run. When the time is right, we’d love to support you with the design and fit-out of your office restoration project.  We’re adept at working with professional advisors to bring your vision and their plans to life. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

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