Many heritage properties that are still in use as residences today were built long before the arrival of internal plumbing, let alone boilers for central heating. It’s not that our tastes have become more refined, modern living simply requires much more thermal efficiency and mould prevention than the architects of yore could have even imagined, let alone what the technology of the time could achieve. Add this to the inevitable decay and drafts that come with decades of time passing, and it might feel like an impossible task to update a heritage property for modern living, especially with the restrictions in place that mean you must preserve the look and feel of the building. So, how do you go about it? Peter Daniel, at the Rooflight Company, explains how this very question kickstarted the business…
History of the Rooflight Company
The Rooflight Company’s story is directly linked to the problem of updating heritage properties for modern living. Our founder, architect Peter King, was finding that an increasing number of his clients wanted to extend into their attics, but to do so would require adding light and ventilation into the space. At the time, roof windows and dormers were the only options available, which didn’t fit the aesthetic of the Victorian style properties his clients owned, so would not be allowed by the Conservation Officer.
As an alternative, Peter sought out some beautiful original cast iron, single glazed rooflights, but found that their performance was nowhere near that of the modern-spec alternatives.
Peter therefore made the decision to begin designing his own rooflight product, combining the original look of the Victorian cast-iron windows with modern day performance. He used steel, introduced double glazing, draught slipping and a new patented thermal lining of his own design.
Just like that, the Conservation Rooflight emerged. Using the original Victorian patterns, Peter designed a range to fit the wide variety of homes he worked on. Conservation Officers and architects loved the product as it provided low profile, slim sightlines which remain as stunning as they were a quarter of a century ago. To this day, it is still regularly specified. Butler’s and Colonial Wharf is just one example of this…
Butler’s and Colonial Wharf
Originally built in the 19th Century, Butler’s and Colonial Wharf served as the largest warehouse complex in London for more than 150 years. It accommodated goods being unloaded from ships using the Port of London at the peak of British involvement in the global spice trade.
Having fallen into disrepair over the years, in 1980 the decision was made to convert the building into a residential estate. As a result of the unusual shape of the building, each flat had low ceilings and oddly positioned partition walls. This was particularly problematic as it reduced access to both light and ventilation for the residents.
A full internal restructure would be required to bring these flats into the 21st century. This is what McDaniel Woolf Architects proposed to do, reordering the layout of the 80s apartments within the Grade II listed Victorian property to create bright, spacious, and well-ventilated luxury abodes.
But, like Peter King before them, McDaniel Woolf Architects still faced the challenge of combining the requirements of a modern homeowner with the restrictions placed on a historic building.
The top floor apartments would need light, so rooflights seemed like an obvious addition. But, as a listed building, these rooflights would need to suit the look of the property, while meeting modern standards. Naturally, McDaniel Woolf got in touch with the Rooflight Company with the specifications for bespoke versions of its Conservation Rooflight.
The team at the Rooflight Company worked with the architects to create these rooflights, which also included self-cleaning glass and automatic openings, delivering on the expectations of luxury that potential buyers would have.
Architect Richard Woolf stated that “McDaniel Woolf are proud to continue their close collaboration with the Rooflight Company, two decades of successful partnership. At Butlers and Colonial Wharf, our requirement was for oversized replacement rooflights for a Grade II Listed nineteenth century C19 industrial building in London’s Docklands. This could only be undertaken by a manufacturer with the ability to work closely with ourselves and our mutual client and advise on the technical opportunities and limitations a bespoke project required. The final installation has respected the significance of the historic site, whilst providing a solution of the highest quality.”