What are the key challenges and considerations when undertaking a complex refurbishment project on a listed building?
Referred to as being of special architectural or historic interest, a Listed Building brings with it a unique set of circumstances when compared to working on conventional industrial property development.
But what are the main challenges and considerations when undertaking a Listed Building refurbishment for industrial use?
I’ve looked at some of the main challenges which can arise, referencing Chancerygate’s work on the Klinger Building, a refurbished Grade II Listed Building of 61,560 sq ft in Sidcup, south-east London, as a working case study.
Keeping building safe and secure
Safety and security are paramount when undertaking an industrial refurbishment on a Listed Building, particularly in the earlier stages, to protect its structure, those working on the project and the general public.
When Chancerygate took over the Klinger Building, the structure was dangerous with lots of broken glass and holes in floors and the roof, whilst the parapets on the roof were not high enough to be deemed safe. All of this meant site safety was a major area for concern, especially with the high number of break-ins to the development which were happening at the time. There were also signs of vandalism, fire and graffiti.
Despite putting blockades and barriers up, this didn’t deter break-ins, so keeping the site secure from intruders was a real challenge during all phases of this industrial property’s refurbishment.
Dealing with local authorities
Buy-in from the local authorities can be a key challenge for a complex refurbishment project. In the case of the Klinger Building, we had to deal with two local authorities. Although the site was located in Bromley, the access route was in neighbouring Bexley, which meant that once the industrial property development was complete, Bromley would gain the positive benefits such as regeneration and employment, whereas Bexley would have the drawback of extra traffic.
The lead in to the refurbishment project consisted of a 10-month timescale, including pre-application submission and discussions, with lots of technical and design work undertaken upfront, as part of the this. By undertaking a large proportion of the work in advance and consulting very closely with all stakeholders prior to submission, it took just four months to get the planning approval from Bromley Council.
Local community and usage
From the outset of an industrial refurbishment project, explicitly setting out how the project will benefit the local community in the way it is intended to be used can help to alleviate any concerns. Chancerygate held a one-day engagement session in the local area and, with The Klinger Building being a structure of local significance, it drove lots of interest.
In terms of usage, Bromley Council was keen to ensure it was used for employment purposes. Some London boroughs, such as Ealing and Hillingdon, are focusing more on their residential priorities, however Bromley Council wanted this scheme to create jobs for the area. This meant there was positive support from Bromley to find a solution that kept as much of the Klinger Building as possible but was a viable development that took the site off the Historic England At Risk Register.
Demolishing parts of the Listed Building
The front section of the Klinger Building was originally built in 1937, with subsequent buildings being added in the 1950s and 1960s to expand on its operations.
As part of our work, it was agreed that everything except for the clock tower and street scene – which needed to remain to comply with heritage requirements – would be demolished. This amassed to 80 per cent of the site being taken down.
Part of the challenge with the demolition was what had actually been classified as ‘Listed’. As the 1950s section was built onto the original 1930s front office and clock tower, it was classified as being part of the Listed Building, meaning it could not be demolished until we had obtained Listed Building Consent for the work to proceed.
With any Listed Building, it’s imperative that its heritage is respected and maintained during any refurbishment project. Both Historic England and Bromley Council wanted to keep some of the important aspects of the Klinger Building to preserve its heritage.
The building has lots of good examples of art deco finishes, such as curved glass in the half landing windows, original balustrading and terrazzo flooring. These have been maintained and restored as part of the refurbishment. The original steel Crittall windows were replaced with new double-glazed windows also made by Crittall, which had its original factory only half a mile away from the Klinger Building.
The second floor of the building originally provided an executive flat. To maintain the building’s heritage, Bromley Council originally wanted to maintain the flat’s original layout and keep the fire-damaged timber panelling, however Chancerygate advised against retaining the panelling due to the condition it was in after being left derelict for 20 years – this was agreed, but with the layout kept.
Façade repair and retention
The outside of the Klinger Building’s clocktower and façade had damage which needed to be restored as part of the Listed Building refurbishment. New bricks had to be matched with the originals from the 1930s, meaning several different types of brick needed to be used to patch up and repair any damage. These bricks were also used on the new build units facing onto Edgington Way to keep consistency across the project.
Mitigating challenges of a listed building refurbishment
Undertaking a complex refurbishment project on a Listed Building brings with it a range of extra challenges and considerations.
With thorough planning and buy-in from the local authorities and community, a project can successfully regenerate the area while preserving its heritage and delivering a good financial return.
Chancerygate’s development of the Klinger Building and wider Klinger Industrial Park has been recognised with the accolade of refit/refurbishment of the year at the inaugural Insider South East Property Awards. Find out more about our development portfolio over on our Current Projects page.