Renovations and extensions in a conservation area: how fibre cement can be a good option for facades and roofs


by Lisa Grosse, Cedral

With one of the oldest housing stocks in Europe and over 10,000 conservation areas in England alone, developers and homeowners in the UK frequently have to take into account local restrictions when making decisions about exterior alterations, improvements and extensions. The style of an extension and the materials chosen for the exterior may be affected by special controls and even if a property is not in a conservation area, planning issues may arise such as the preservation of roof lines.

While this will vary depending on the council, there are a few general principles which seem to hold true, particularly within a conservation area. In general, specifying façade materials for a home and even minor alterations like re-cladding, will need a planning application. Similarly, the roofing material will also need to be seen as sympathetic to the character of the building and its surroundings.
For a development in a conservation area, it is critical to be aware of the local regulations or restrictions in relation to colours, finishes and energy performance. At the same time, key points to consider are:
• What are the fire safety ratings?
• What are the eco credentials?
• How does it add to the aesthetics?
• How durable is it?
• What is the cost (not only the initial expense but maintenance)?
• How easy is it to install?

One of the trends for residential exteriors is a move away from products like high pressure laminate and aluminium composite cladding towards more natural, A-rated, tactile materials. Increasingly, homeowners and architects are thinking about the environmental impact of the products they use. One of the products which has been growing in popularity is fibre cement cladding which is available in weatherboards for a more traditional lapped style or in a flush fitting tongue and groove, providing the opportunity for a more classical or contemporary flat finish. In making a decision about colour, it’s wise to factor in the house’s orientation and amount of sunshine as well as the surrounding vegetation.
The physical and environmental context of the building will often establish a range of pre-conditions for the design, choice of materials, fixing and installation of the roofing. Climate, exposure and micro-climate will all be important.

Why consider fibre cement
The use of fibre cement cladding or roofing slates is a way to maintain continuity and to provide an appearance of traditional materials, offering technological advances while also satisfying the planning authorities. Fibre cement uses fewer raw materials and less energy in its manufacture and produces less waste than most traditional building materials and is recyclable. For example, cladding made of fibre cement to give the appearance of wood, will be much more robust and will need minimal maintenance in comparison. Fibre cement cladding doesn’t expand in heat, rot or discolour, and has an excellent fire classification of A2-s1, d0. Additionally, a ventilated façade, where the façade cladding doesn’t sit directly against the insulation, improves energy efficiency, enabling the rapid drying of external walls, reducing condensation and humidity.

Fibre cement slates are also a good complement to traditional materials used in older buildings such as brick, stone or wood. Lightweight, they are easy to work with, can be placed on lighter roof structures without the need to strengthen them, making them an ideal option for renovation. The slates are thin, and as a result don’t require much mounting height, leaving enough space for maximum insulation of the facade without going over the building line. And this material is non-flammable, with an excellent fire classification  of A2-s1,d0.

Here are a few examples illustrating different aspects of the successful use of fibre cement to meet the requirements in a conservation area.

The Cedars
When an old doctor’s surgery in Malvern needed to be demolished to make way for three blocks of 16 apartments, the brief was very specific. The site is surrounded by trees and most of the apartments would have views of the surrounding Malvern Hills. Working in collaboration with the client and architect, Danny Pointon of Brooks & Pointon, the primary contractors on the site, explains the decision to install Cedral fibre cement slates for the roofing to match the high end brief and as part of a successful application for planning permission in this conservation area.

“In Malvern, we have to incorporate a lot of detail into new builds to meet the local planning regulations, hence the brickwork in the finished structure. We used Cedral Rivendale in colour Blue-Black. This is a very attractive and smart product, which fitted with the high end look the clients wanted to achieve. Everybody was very pleased with the finished result.”

The Rivendale slates are designed to reflect the qualities of natural slate and the material, fibre cement, is strong, sustainable material, lightweight and performs in the toughest weather conditions. With a textured surface and dressed edges, Rivendale combines the innovation of modern roofing technology with the look of a natural slate.

The planning application took over a year to be approved but the end result was worth it - a stylish new building that fits into local environment in an attractive way.

Hawkshaw Lodge
When Bleaklow Mill, a well-known local landmark in Hawkshaw, Greater Manchester, Bleaklow Mill was redeveloped into Hawkshaw Lodge, 24 luxury apartments, Cedral Rivendale fibre cement slates were specified as a roofing solution. David Walls, managing director of developers Cambrian Homes says,“The fact that this site is set in a green belt conservation area meant that the choice of materials was critical; we wanted a roofing material that would blend into the natural landscape. The local planners originally specified natural slate but, due to the site’s exposed positioning, we had concerns about the fixing. There were also additional worries about the irregularities inherent in natural slate.”
Cedral Rivendale fibre cement slates provided the perfect alternative to natural slate and ensured the project adhered to strict planning requirements stipulated for this conservation area. David explains: “After hearing about the environmental benefits associated with fibre cement, the planners changed their mind about insisting on natural slate. The Rivendale fibre cement slates were aesthetically ideal as well as cost effective.” These slates have excellent environmental credentials, including an A+ rating (the lowest environmental impact) as defined in the BRE’s Green Guide to Specification and and also provided a consistently sized product which reduced installation time as no sorting or grading was required on-site

Church Broughton
Market Harborough-based Leaf Architecture has achieved a visual cohesion with its modern, angular three bedroom development and a neighbouring Grade II church spire. A key aim of the project was to use the application and tone of the cladding of the new home to create a visual harmony between the two bordering properties.

The use of Cedral Click in Slate Grey helped to allow the traditional and contemporary come together within the conservation area, with the new home’s facade making the most of the sunlight and shadow and complementing the adjacent honey coloured stone.

Graham Road
An architect-designed 1970s house in South Yorkshire was given a modern makeover using smooth-finish Cedral Click in Slate Grey. Over time the exterior had become dated and dilapidated. The homeowners considered replacing the exterior cladding with a similar type of tile but worried that vertical tiling wouldn’t give them the quality, contemporary look they wanted.

The fact the building was in the Ranmoor Conservation area could have posed a problem and initially the homeowners faced some challenges from the local authority planning office. As Cedral facades had been used successfully in other conservation areas, the project was approved. The tired looking house has been given a new lease of life and neighbours are very happy with its improved appearance.

River Tay Home
BlackDog Architecture was commissioned by a retired couple to create a beautiful and modern family home on the picturesque banks of the River Tay in Newport-on-Tay. The brief as set by the client stipulated a low maintenance property, but one that also displayed tangible aesthetic appeal against the scenic surroundings and which could meet the rigorous stipulations of local planners. Following specification in a final slate grey finish from the Cedral Click colour palette, its selection met with full approval from the local planning committee which deemed it wholly appropriate for use within the prevailing conservation area.

Michael McGurk, who led the team at BlackDog Architecture, says, “The ongoing maintenance requirements were a priority for the design and this underpinned our decision to specify the Cedral Click solution. The Cedral Click product gave a lighter shade and another texture to the finish, complementing the overall design. Although the client liked the idea of natural timber, Cedral Click solution proved to be the ideal alternative due to weathering and annual maintenance being kept to a minimum.”

The unique installation system that supports Cedral Click also offered real benefit for the project. Michael McGurk, adds, "The construction programme was assisted by how Cedral Click is installed. Once the profiles and starter profiles were set out, the joiners were able to quickly install the product using the unique Clip Click assembly system. Essentially the Cedral Click planks are placed flush against each other and fixed at 600mm intervals using stainless steel clips which provide a secure fixing with minimal delay.”

There won’t be one single design solution that fits all and individual circumstances will vary but as these examples show, fibre cement cladding and roofing can be successful options in a conservation area, providing a material that is durable, low maintenance and easy to install; environmentally friendly with optimal thermal performance, and with an aesthetic that works in harmony with the surrounding homes and landscape.


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