4 key considerations for listed building renovations

Every renovation project will come with a unique set of challenges, but those challenges are likely to be multiplied and magnified when the project is a listed building. According to Historic England, ‘listing marks and celebrates a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations’. In practical terms, what this means to anyone undertaking renovation of a listed building is that Listed Building Consent should be sought through the proper channels, projects will need to meticulously planned and costed, and that contractors should be chosen with particular care.


There are an estimated 500,000 listed buildings on the register today, with 92% being Grade II listed[1].


Only work with experts

A building is not listed to prevent it from being changed, nor is listing intended to freeze a building in time. It’s done to protect the special interest of that building while enabling it to be used and enjoyed. For organisations renovating large, high value properties, the emphasis will therefore usually be on creating stylish modern areas that do justice to the building’s heritage. This will inevitably need to be done within tight deadlines and all the time adhering to strict protective protocol. While it can seem like an impossible task at first, everything is made easier by working with the right professionals. But what should you look out for when choosing the right people for the job?


Our team has gained valuable insight from working on high value listed building projects –  like one recently completed on a Neoclassical Grade II listed building in a prestigious part of Central London (ECV3). Here we draw on our experience of that project to outline four key things which every organisation should consider when choosing their suppliers and partners:


1) Quality of materials



The quality of materials should always be of paramount importance when undertaking a project of this type. There is no place for ‘low budget’ materials in a listed building renovation: high quality, traditional materials, used in designs which carefully complement existing styles, should be used to celebrate and protect the heritage of the building. Be sure that you work with a professional supplier who understands the end goal of your designers and architects and can communicate effectively with them. Low grade materials and poor understanding of design can lead to a sub-standard finish that won’t stand up to scrutiny  – and the need for costly corrections.


What we did: Our EC3V project required the replacement of floors and stairs to make interior areas more contemporary and stylish. After selecting samples from our trusted supply chain of stone suppliers around the world, we collaborated closely with the project architects to select the right materials with the right tolerances and characteristics. In line with their designs, we used stone directly sourced from Portugal to cover 500m2 with 100 x 100 carefully cut pieces. These we laid by hand with precision accuracy, to ensure grout joints were perfectly aligned throughout the entire floor.  


2) Quality of service


When working on a large scale renovation of a listed building, there will be a hundred different issues to consider and multiple teams to oversee. With careful project management so critical, you need to be certain that the partners you choose are meticulous in their approach and consistently reliable. Quality of service means being able to understand and comply with any timeframes or access restrictions for your site. It means them having expertise not only in the job they are doing but also in what it means to be part of a larger renovation team. Check credentials carefully, ask for client testimonials and always expect a carefully mapped process. If they can’t tell you what theirs is, there’s no way of knowing if they can adhere to yours.


What we did: Our ECV3 project took place in a building where all resident businesses stayed open. This created important considerations around ventilation and dust control, as well as material delivery times and working hours. We undertook the majority of our work outside of business hours, timing delivery of materials carefully and removing tonnes of waste during early morning hours, to limit disturbance of traffic and disruption of businesses. Planning meetings before and during the work ensured that we always had an in-depth understanding of any issues which might arise – such as the need to protect underfloor heating systems- and could have contingency measures in place. Our own careful internal processes were adapted to fit with the needs of the client’s project management teams and  we supplied a project sheet timeline detailing critical dates that the Kinorigo team, architect and client needed to be aware of.


3) Elimination of risk


High value renovation projects will always have risk control as a central issue. This means something slightly different to every project team but will include considerations around budget control, hitting completion deadlines and ensuring health and safety protocol is carefully adhered to. When you choose partners, suppliers and contractors for your listed building renovation project, it’s crucial that they understand their responsibilities and are willing to take full accountability. Will they work with you to limit risk exposure? Have they considered all of the issues which could affect your deadlines and budget? Do they take health and safety seriously? When it comes to eliminating risk from your project, you need to be sure that they will take your concerns seriously.


What we did: Our ECV3 project required meticulous planning, including packaging materials to ensure no damage in transit, and clear date setting for final orders to accommodate a summer shutdown in the stone industry. Our client wanted to maintain the existing floor substrate. To ensure this could be achieved without damage, test areas were removed to check the depth of the screed and so that we knew exactly where movement joints ran. Ventilation was also a key concern, as stone dust contains silica – which is dangerous if inhaled. We reduced risk by supplying efficient ventilation machinery to protect those parking on site. And to ensure everything ran seamlessly, our dedicated project management team facilitated daily updates between the architect, client and contractor.


4) Clarity of communication


A  listed building project will only run smoothly if communication is clear and consistent from beginning to end. When you choose your partners, you want to be certain that you have the common goal of successful project completion, to the highest possible standard. This can only be achieved if your partners are easy to reach, easy to talk to, and speak your language. If communication is patchy at the beginning of a relationship, it’s unlikely to improve – so only ever work with teams that can provide perfect clarity from the outset.


What we do: Every project Kinorigo works on has one thing in common – brilliant communication. From the moment you contact us to discuss your needs, through every stage of your project, to the moment of hand-over, you can be sure that we will be continuously thinking through the details, asking the right questions, and giving you the right information.


Interested in finding out more about our people, products and services? Why not get in touch today? Email info@kinorigo.com or phone on +44 (0)24 7642 2580

[1] https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/listed-buildings/