Matt Troiano | November 1, 2017
Farmhouse renovation, fuelled by favourable initiatives such as the government’s Permitted Development Scheme, has seen derelict, dilapidated outbuildings the length and breadth of England’s green and pleasant land restored as smart, stylish homes comprising all the modern trimmings.
Richardson & Peat has completed several farmhouse renovation projects in the past couple of years; therefore I speak from experience when I say the process isn’t as straightforward as ripping out and restoring an old barn or farm building as a splendorous dwelling. In fact, the actual refurbishment is the easy bit. What isn’t easy is the amount of legislative hoops one has to jump through in order to create a fully-functioning home in the great green yonder.
Before any refurbishment work begins, planners need to be assured the restored building’s use complies with existing conditions. Therefore, a local authority search will need to be carried out. The refurbished property must not exceed the footprint of the original building, either in terms of width or height. Also, an aspect of the original property must be retained within the rebuild. There’s no razing to the ground and starting again with farmhouse renovation.
There are also energy calculations to consider. These will depend on which materials are used in the renovation, but a certain level of thermal performance will still need to be met. As specialist contractors, environmental agencies are the biggest challenge we face when it comes to farmhouse conversion. They deal with the installation and deployment of waste and rainwater on remote sites. Due to where the outbuildings are situated, they are rarely connected to the gas, electric or sewer mains. To provide effective sanitation, it’s the building contractor’s task to install biotanks in order to clean and filter wastewater towards the nearest ditch. But that’s not all. Environmental laws state ditches must include swales and balancing ponds to even the flow of filtration and prevent flooding, another job that will fall to the construction company if such natural supplies are not present.
Utility services must also be provided, which in previous farmhouse restoration projects carried out by Richardson & Peat has involved engaging with the major network suppliers to install pylons in order to supply electricity. Stand-alone gas tanks and phone lines are another necessity if occupiers of these restored rural properties are to enjoy the same level of comfort as those residing in towns and cities.
With vital utility services installed, refurbishing the building fabric - the general requirement for farmhouse conversion - is relatively straightforward. In total, this type of rural refurbishment takes between seven and 12 months from initial assessment of viability. The sense of pride in creating a fully-functioning farmhouse from a virtually empty unused shell is immense. Richardson & Peat’s vast experience in such conversions means we are now fully-conversant with the whole process - it holds few surprises or frustrations.
However, those embarking on a similar development for the first time should be aware that the renovation work itself could merely be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to transforming these ramshackle buildings into comfortable, desirable homes.