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Should we buy a barn to convert into a dwelling?

barn to convertHere is a real story that might help you decide if you should buy a barn to convert….

Jake and Amy* had been dreaming of building their own home for a long time. One day, while walking their favourite route through a nearby village, they saw a for sale sign on a barn. A quick google revealed it was for sale at auction and an open day was coming up.

They were really excited about the possibility of living in a barn conversion

and even more so in a place they loved so much.

However, at the open day, there were lots of other interested parties scribbling notes and talking in hushed tones. Jake and Amy assumed the others were developers or builders and knew a lot more than they did about the potential opportunities and pitfalls of converting a barn like this one.

They felt out of their depth and unable to move forward.

If they were to go to the auction they feared spending too much. They feared not being able to afford to convert the barn. They feared that they wouldn’t be allowed to convert the barn due to planning restrictions.

What a disaster that would be!

Luckily for them they found an architecture firm when researching barn conversions online. They discovered an Appraisal service which put their fears at rest.

The Appraisal service gave them:

  • Ball park figures for the conversion cost – so they knew they could afford to convert the barn and it gave them a maximum figure to bid at the auction
  • Research into local planning policies – these showed a barn conversion would be seen favourably by planners in that area
  • It also highlighted potential build problems (such as drainage and underpinning) as well as solutions to overcome these

The Appraisal meant they could go to the barn auction with confidence.

Jake and Amy were delighted to win the barn with the highest bid and rang up the architecture firm in great excitement and almost disbelief

– now everything was in place for all their dreams to come true!

Since then they have been working with the same firm on designs for their dream home and will be submitting their planning application this month!

If their story resonates with you and you would like to speak to us about our Appraisal service, please contact us here

*The names have been changed but the stories are real

February 13, 2018
Should we buy a barn to convert into a dwelling?

Pastiche Free Zone

Contemporary Vernacular Architecture should never be about ‘Pastiche’, here’s why…

Pastiche free zone - Mole Architects

Above: Broadland Housing by Mole Architects

What is Pastiche?

There is much stigma around the term, but what exactly does ‘Pastiche’ mean? To put it simply, pastiche in Architecture refers to the imitation of style or character of other buildings. The term is not negative however it often has negative connotations, with the belief that the use of ‘pastiche’ within architecture produces unauthentic reproductions of the past.

Why do housebuilders use ‘Pastiche’?

There is something comforting about old things, this goes with old buildings too – it is a common fact that people like historic buildings. They have some sort of warmth about them (even if they can be very cold!), a sense of mystery and unknown, provoking us to use our imagination to conceive what was, how it was used and how it was built. Form, details, and embellishment presented within the architecture convey care and skill, speaking of another time and telling stories which teach us about our history, cultivating pride in our past and heritage. The problem is that:

 

British volume housebuilders offer their own warped version, at scale, arguing that we all like the ‘traditional’. But this is wrong…. We all like vernacular architecture because it speaks to us of our home, of our place or our people. But the same brick box applied numerous times whether you are in Norfolk or Devon has nothing to do with ‘traditional’. (quote from Clare’s book)

 

Not only this, but architects in Holland (FARO architekten) initiated a taste test to establish what people want from housing design:

 

The ‘Smaaktest’ 6 (taste test) …. discovered that both architects and ordinary people agreed that this new third way [Contemporary Vernacular Architecture] was better than a pastiche of the past or the complete disassociation found in Modernist design. (quote from Clare’s book)

 

Why housing design should learn from but not imitate the past

We can’t recreate the past

All these wonderful things about historic buildings however, cannot be authentically reproduced. We cannot truly recreate or replicate what has already been done, and attempts to do so can often end up as untruthful and unconvincing imitations of the past leading to a superficial echoing of historic character.

 

Contemporary architecture can learn from vernacular principles without resorting to pastiche, creating high-quality buildings that ‘fit’ in the same way that vernacular architecture does but reflecting a very different time. (quote from Clare’s book)

 

HHbR Copper Lane cohousing terrace

Above: Copper Lane by HHbR

Originality does not mean outlandish

It is true that it is almost impossible to design something completely unique that has not been done before. However, architecture does not insist on absolute newness or creating a bold statement, it just needs to have a sense of originality. We should always be learning from vernacular and historic architecture, and they should undoubtedly influence our judgement but should not impend our innovation and inspiration for new ideas and design. It is important to consider that one day, the building which we design will be old too, and in the future will represent and speak of our time today.

Lessons from our past

It is quite incredible what our ancestors have accomplished architecturally and we can learn a great deal from them. For many architects, it is hard to imagine a world without CAD, emails or even without a tape measure. Some of our greatest and oldest buildings, were built without any of these.

Clare’s Book

In Clare’s new book, ‘Contemporary Vernacular Design – How British housing can rediscover it’s soul’, she discusses how architecture ‘should learn from the past’, emphasising that successful contemporary vernacular does not use vernacular architecture for aesthetic inspiration only (as these can end up as naïve attempts to replicate originals), but also from the traditions used, whilst keeping in mind that new designs should deal with the kind of homes we need today, which will continue to evolve as our needs and available resources change.

CNA

At CNA we aim to learn from our surroundings and context, from the traditions, history and cultures to the physical environment (important views, materials and building methods used, textures, massing and landscape etc.), preserving our heritage where possible, however adapting designs to evolving ways of life and technologies.

Co-housing series 3: Working Together

Co-housing doesn’t have to mean living in each other’s pockets – it’s about the spirit of co-operation

HHbR Copper Lane cohousing terrace

The communal terrace at HHbR’s Copper Lane co-housing scheme

This is the third part of the Co-housing blog series, based on Clare’s book.  Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

A Whole More than the Sum of its Parts

1-6 Copper Lane in London, designed by Henley Halebrown Rorrison, blurs the boundary between co-housing and non-co-housing a little more.  By allowing residents to be flexible about the extent to which they want to share, this scheme is well-adapted to a contemporary urban lifestyle.  Trying to create the feel of a traditional village in the heart of a metropolis like London would not make sense; a housing development that can be occupied in various different ways is a much more suitable solution.

Each home has two front doors: one private entrance and one accessed through the communal hall.  This places control in the residents’ hands and allows them to be as private or public as they want to be in the moment.  If you are feeling sociable, or lonely, you can seek interaction, but if you are having a bad day it isn’t forced upon you.

Copper Lane is an example of neighbourliness, rather than community.  Through cooperation a group of people benefit from lower living costs and higher quality spaces – especially the garden space.  At the same time they are not tied to the site and have the freedom to leave London and settle somewhere else, as many people like to do later in life.  This is a clever and elegant way of reconciling the typical urban “bubble” with co-housing ideals and principles.

HHbR Copper Lane private entrance

A private entrance at Copper Lane

 

Embracing Individuality

Ashley Vale cohousing

Ashley Vale Co-housing

The Yard at Ashley Vale, Bristol, provides a sharp contrast to the Copper Lane scheme.  It ticks multiple boxes for rejecting the conventional developer model of providing housing by being not only co-housing but also self-build.  There is no unifying style of housing, as each self-builder came up with their own design, leading to a cheerful mish-mash of form, colour and materials throughout the site.  The houses are also in different stages of completion, so the overall feeling is organic and natural.  It is plainly evident that those who choose to live here, even those who are not the original self-builders, really care about their environment and where they live.  Having common beliefs, such as those concerning environmental sustainability and sharing economy, does not mean that these residents want to live in duplicates of the same house.  Each home at Ashley Vale is truly an expression of identity and aspiration, a clear antidote to “brick box” developer housing.

Ashley Vale cohousing

A variety of forms and materials at Ashley Vale

Ashley Vale cohousing

 

I take great inspiration from these housing schemes and the people who have realised them.  21st century living does not have to be the prescribed format it often seems to be, and feelings of “home” can be created even in the least conventional of circumstances (with a little help from your friends!).

Co-housing series 2: Sharing Resources

Sharing resources creates both financial and environmental benefits in co-housing

 

White Design LILAC cohousing

White Design’s LILAC scheme

This is the second part of the Co-housing blog series, based on Clare’s book.  Read Part 1 here.

Mutual Home Ownership

This model refers to sharing resources of the financial kind, in that you can afford a better quality home, space and lifestyle than you could as an individual. LILAC (Low Impact Living Affordable Community), designed by White Design, is, like Springhill, a co-housing scheme where many facilities are shared and a close-knit community has been created.  Residents set up a sophisticated Mutual Home Ownership Society (MHOS), into which they each pay a percentage of their net income to pay for a joint mortgage that covers the scheme as a whole.  The MHOS acts as a safety net for lower earners, meaning were their incomes to drop for some reason they would not have to leave the community.

Economic security is just as essential to a feeling of “home” as physical security, and this can be a greatly compelling reason for people to become involved in co-housing projects.

 

Saving Money with Reduced Space Requirements

Lancaster cohousing terraces

Eco Arc’s Lancaster Co-housing terrace arrangement

Co-housing means that residents’ requirements for their own homes are significantly reduced compared to conventional housing.  For example, in the Lancaster Co-housing scheme by Eco Arc shared facilities such as offices and guest bedrooms, and equipment such as washing machines and gardening tools, mean that the individual homes can be much smaller than average.  This is a great way of increasing density, improving thermal performance, and reducing costs.

The housing at Lancaster is arranged in terraces.  This is not only a typology that is popular locally, but also an energy- and space-efficient way of building.  The terraces also sit well within the levels of the landscape, meaning that many of the homes are “upside-down”, with kitchen and living areas upstairs, taking advantage of the spectacular views over the River Lune.  A side-effect of this arrangement is that you cannot tell who is at home as you walk along the level of the front entrances.  I imagine this affords the residents a little privacy and breathing space within such a close community where people are so involved in each other’s lives.

Sharing Equipment

By sharing tools, equipment, clothes, other not-very-often used items, residents not only reduce financial costs, but also their environmental impact (less waste).

Lancaster cohousing shared gardening tools

Shared gardening tools at Lancaster Co-housing