Written by Charles Lloyd, Senior Director, The Private Office, CBRE
Back in the 1930-50’s, the grand mansions of Mayfair, which had been designed and built for the aristocracy of the 19th century, became expensive and somewhat unviable to run as a private family home, resulting in many of them being converted into office uses. Fast forward 40 years and that trend started to reverse, partly because companies wanted modern, lateral, open plan offices with good lighting and air conditioning, but also because buyers were attracted the grandeur of these magnificent houses in an area that was going being transformed into the luxury hub of central London.
Alessia Mosci, our Creative Director reflects on the significance of upcycling in the context of architectural refurbishments and climate change.
"Lately I have been trying to track down the origin of the word ‘upcycling’, an expression that for the past twenty years has been primarily associated with the restyling of old furniture or with the reconfiguration of timber pallets into flowerpots and makeshift seating areas. Upcycling is much more than that, at its heart it is about reducing waste and keeping materials and products relevant. Its practice, together with re-use is becoming increasingly meaningful in the context of a new circular economy, defined by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation[i] as an aconomy ’…based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems’.
If being ‘eco’ sounds like a compromise, or something that other people do, then consider taking a small step towards sustainability instead. Even the smallest action will make a difference and big wins can often be found without the need for massive expenditure or compromise. Our sustainable big wins for your period property, and the environment are:
1. Sign up to a ‘green’ tariff for your electricity.
2. Replace your old boiler with a modern gas alternative. Consider air source heat pumps or other passive solar technology.
3. Think about potable water usage, add water efficient appliances, low flow aerated taps and showers. Add a rainwater butt for watering the garden.
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With so many design choices options available, and so many different opinions out there, deciding how best to upgrade your period property can be perplexing. At MWAI are a lucky to have a wealth of experience working on both heritage and refurbishment properties around London and can help you make the right choices. MWAI’s top tips for your hit list are:
Think about long term flexibility and keep it simple.
Over-designing your house can make it awkward to use in the future. Consider your current lifestyle but allow yourself to the ability to grow and change. Will your teenage children really want a pink bathroom - or can you find a design that is friendly practical and timeless? Do you really need to knock all the rooms through into one, or can you imagine being able to swap uses around in the future?
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Are character period buildings one the most valuable property assets we have in the UK?
The climate challenge often feels far removed from the everyday concerns of our clients, property professionals and the supply chain. As architects working on residential refurbishment, we are at forefront of decisions made by householders and developers in the London property market. Due to London’s very high property prices and building costs, it is hard to escape the subject of value’ in design and planning choices. Value can (obviously) be financial, but when ‘value’ based decisions are equated to sustainability it can transform the way we think about period properties?
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For homeowners starting a new project it is often difficult to know what to do, whom to go to and how to work well with consultants. Referrals and recommendations for consultants and builders are often found by asking other property professionals, or through friends and colleagues. MWAI receives 90% of new commissions through personal recommendation. If you haven’t found the right architect, or want to expand your shortlist, where do you go next however?
As Chartered Architects, it is no surprise that we recommend that you visit the RIBA website. The RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) is famous around the world for its exceptionally high standards. The ‘Find an architect’ service provides an online database and search engine for RIBA Registered Architecture firms like MWAI. All practices are professional, chartered and hold Professional Indemnity insurance. The website provides a snapshot of each practice’s service, style and expertise to help you find the right match.
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The often, complex problem of finding the right professional team for your project is unfortunately not helped by the decentralised process within the UK market. MWAI are ideally placed to help assist you in the decision making of who to employ, when to employ them and what to employ them for. MWAI can refer you to our trusted network of property professionals.
Most projects in Central London will require you to employ one or more professionals to help you complete the work required. There are a great many options available to you in the UK, with no set way of approaching the problems. However, if you have had previous overseas experience of building projects, it is useful to reflect on this to draw parallels with the UK system.
For clients who are interested in lifestyle, furniture, and decorative objects, you may wish to start a project with a specialist architect firm or an interior designer. Most architects do not provide loose Interiors, as they do not have the dedicated procurement vehicle required to deliver the service and products in a professional manner. MWAI do, however. Most interior designers cannot provide you with architectural or planning services or contract administration. MWAI can. It is a core part of our service. We specialise in client relationship management.
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