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House Renovation in the North East UK

Most of the United Kingdom is urbanized with almost no area for new residential projects on most of the bigger cities. Space is a premium asset that can blow up the budget of a family. Because of that, most people in the big cities of UK live in terraces, flats or micro-flats that weren’t designed thinking in their way of living. Instead of buying or building a new house, a more affordable approach is house renovation.

This renovation trend started in London, were a few strategies and challenges that are more common. One of the challenges is the design restriction that are imposed on buildings located on conservation areas. These are regions that are designated to safeguard areas of architectural or historic interest, the character and appearance of which it is desirable to preserve. Often, houses that are in these areas must pass a strict aesthetic code to get a planning permission. In London, there are 27 conservation areas. However, not only Londoners has to face this problem. There are over 10.000 conservation areas in the United Kingdom[1]. Architects in the North East UK, also have the same problem. There are, according to Durham County Council[2], 93 conservation areas in County Durham, and, according to North Tyneside Council[3], 17 conservation areas in North Tyneside.

One of strategies that can be used when renovating a historic building is to use contrasting materials and elements on the areas that we are renovating or extending. By contrast, we create surfaces and volumes that helps others understand what is new and what is original in the building and, by using materials that are now more available to us, we also can solve problems, like the lack of natural light and natural ventilation, that didn’t have an affordable solution when the house was built. Glass and metal are some of the most popular materials used to cause contrast in house renovations.

Another challenge that architects most face is finding a way to enhance the quality of life of their clients. One way of doing this while working with the strategy related above is creating openings made of glass. According to a research made about the impact of natural light on our overall health[4], daylight exposure is important to promote longer and better sleep and has a potential to make people more physically active. Crittall doors, windows and akylights allow plenty of natural light to enter the interior of the house.

Since the clients wanted a design that enhanced their quality of life and their original house had a lack of natural light, part of the design focused on creating new openings that lead to more daylight exposure. Below we can see, when comparing the first image with the second, how the architects used crittall doors, windows and skylights to allow plenty of natural light to enter the interior of the house.

However, most of the conservation areas restrictions only allow these solutions to be used on the back of the house, creating a new problem: how brighten the rest of the house with natural light without creating new openings. One popular solution is to open the floor layout, specially the ground floor, knocking down walls that divide the kitchen, living and dining area. By doing this, we allow the light to flow freely inside the house without creating new openings.

Through a close collaboration with their clients and with a strategic approach to the planning process, changes can be made that allow the house to access a greater amount of daylight and create a better flow between each room. These improvements not only have a potential to improve the quality of life of the clients, but likewise increased the overall value of the house.

[1] HISTORIC ENGLAND. “What is a Conservation Area?”. Retrieved June 07, 2019 (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/local/conservation-areas/).

[2] DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL. “Conservation Areas”. Retrieved June 07, 2019 (https://www.durham.gov.uk/conservationareas).

[3] NORTH TYNESIDE COUNCIL. “Conservation Areas in North Tyneside”. Retrieved June 07, 2019 (https://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/category/1158/conservation-areas-north-tyneside).

[4] Boubekri M, Cheung IN, Reid KJ, Wang CH, Zee PC. Impact of windows and daylight exposure on overall health and sleep quality of office workers: a case-control pilot study. J Clin Sleep Med 2014;10(6):603-611.