29th May 2020

Upcycling buildings

investigating capacity to delicately add height and space, heavy structural alterations to support the repurposing of a building or undertaking complex works within a fully occupied building.  The case for reuse of buildings has always been strong. We recognise this in our own Climate Charter, but with worldwide focus on the climate crisis, these complex and fascinating projects have gained new significance.

“Getting into the minds of those who designed and constructed the original building” 

Working with the complexities of existing buildings for the likes of Cadogan, National Trust and Ocubis is what we thrive on. Our approach is to spend time to really understand the building – extensive research helps us get into the minds of those who originally designed and constructed the building. Without this knowledge and attention, designs to adapt buildings can be over complicated and so more expensive.  Sometimes visits and onsite investigations aren’t possible, sometimes historic drawings don’t exist – we have to be creative with our research!

For example, at Dial House in London, our client appointed us to carry out a feasibility study for the addition of three storeys.  Without historic drawings we needed to research the building via a series of keyhole investigations, and desktop research including historic building codes to understand original loadings and foundation strategy.

At the Grade I listed Red House in Bexleyheath, built for William Morris by architect Adam Webb we helped to restore and repair the surface water drainage around the historic property. The existing system had malfunctioned and led to settlement and damage to the building. As part of our research, we visited the Victoria & Albert Museum and retrieved the original Webb drawings. From this we discovered a large disused underground rainwater harvesting tank, which we then incorporated into our design.

“Old buildings are robust, we can get a lot out of them“

Old buildings, particularly the concrete frames of the 60s, 70s and 80s buildings were designed in anticipation of loads they never encountered, as such there is redundancy and so plenty of opportunity to be found within the existing structure.

At Cannon Green for Ocubis, the scheme required an additional two storeys and roof terraces to be added to two concrete framed towers built in the 60s.  Investigations, including ferroscanning and breaking out of concrete to expose the reinforcement, allowed us to assess the capacity of the existing concrete frame. Columns, cores and foundations were analysed under existing and proposed loads and in most cases the existing structure was found to have capacity to take the proposed loads. We could therefore minimise strengthening works and so making significant savings on both programme and budget.

“Many of these buildings remain in occupation throughout the works”

Inevitably, many of these buildings are occupied or in close proximity to occupied buildings.  Minimising noise, disruption and more importantly risk are therefore crucial.

At Pavilion Road in Chelsea, our client Cadogan appointed us to transform a row of garages, once stables and accommodation for large townhouses, into new retail units.  The accomodation above is part of Cadogan Gardens Hotel. With the hotel in occupation throughout we removed.

Some good project examples are:

Upcycling buildings