By Thomas Homes on 28/02/2018
The best sustainable regeneration schemes involve renovation not removal; imagination not imitation. Old buildings have the potential to be valuable and sustainable assets and there are strong arguments for retaining them rather than demolishing and starting afresh, not least to prevent the loss of the embodied carbon locked in their fabric.
Reusing old buildings creatively can act as a catalyst to the process of regeneration, with successful schemes harnessing the history, stitching together communities and drawing outsiders in. Critical to this is the use of good, modern design that embraces an architectural style that is of today and gives new life to old buildings, rather than being some poor pastiche of a past era.
Attempting to blatantly copy or create a pastiche of an earlier age often feels uncomfortable and is rarely successful. What’s good about old buildings you keep and you preserve and you respect, and what’s not good you change. When you make that change it’s unapologetically modern.
Thomas Homes have successfully used good design in the conversion of many historic buildings.
At Old Railway Quarter, a mixed-use development at the heart of a conservation area in Swindon, Wiltshire, Thomas Homes has created a successful scheme based on buildings rooted in the history of the Great Western Railway. Working with Woodfield Brady Architects, Thomas Homes has carefully slotted 56 mezzanine and loft apartments into the vast interiors of two large 1840s’ workshops with cast iron trussed roofs, now called Chain Testing House.
The homes are accessed via shared ‘streets’ running within the old buildings. This maintains a sense of the original volume and industrial past which is helped by the visibility of the original trusses and the use of appropriate new materials that provide a tactile and honest feel. Considerable thought was also given to the incorporation of 177 photovoltaic (PV) panels. While they are visible, their impact has been minimised by positioning them in line with the newly inserted rooflights to provide a unified appearance that suits the industrial nature of the buildings.
A more conventional but nonetheless spectacular scheme by Thomas Homes is the conversion of St Mary’s Hall, St David’s Hall and St Laurence’s Hall on London Road in Reading into 53 new homes. Constructed in the 19th century, these properties have always presented an imposing frontage to one of Reading's main thoroughfares. The buildings were originally used as dwellings but later acquired by the University of Reading for teaching and administration and formed part of the London Road campus.
The conversion of these buildings are being carried out in a careful and considered fashion. Many features of the original properties have been retained and enhanced to offer a blend of classic and contemporary. Front doors and entrance halls remain, staircases and balustrades refurbished and fireplaces and cornice detailed restored as the historic fabric of the building is maintained. The retention of historic features together with further enhancements provided during this restoration project have repositioned these buildings back to their former glory dominating this prime position on London Road.
Ready for occupation in March, only ten properties remain at St David’s Hall, with prices starting at £285,000 and with the government’s Help to Buy scheme qualifying purchasers would only need a 5% deposit of £14,250 to purchase their new home. A show apartment is available to view at the neighbouring St Mary’s Hall.
For further details contact the Thomas Homes Sales Centre open Thursday to Monday 10am to 4pm on tel: 0118 931 1409. Parking is available, call ahead for details.