Paul Trace of Stella Rooflight discusses the importance of maintaining the historical integrity of buildings during an economic downturn.
It’s hard to imagine a tougher economic climate. Having emerged from the pandemic, businesses and homeowners are beset by the rising costs of fuel and materials, economic shockwaves from the war in Ukraine and stark warnings of 11% inflation from the Bank of England. This is compounded by ongoing building supply issues that are still being experienced as a result of Brexit.
As the cost of most building materials such as timber, steel and glass continues to increase, the impact will most keenly be felt among those working on self-build, renovation and extension projects. No doubt, this perfect storm of economic woe has resulted in the postponement of many such project, however, for those that are pressing on, most will be looking to cut back on budgets in whatever way they can and compromises on quality are inevitable.
Fortunately, when it comes to the majority of building projects, especially new build or modern homes, there is plenty of choice out there for most materials and components, and shopping around a little can yield useful savings. However, if your project is historically sensitive, for example a Listed building, barn conversion or a property in a conservation area, then choices may be more limited.
There are many examples of imitation ‘conservation’ products on the market, for example plastic being used as a replacement for cast iron rainwater goods, windows and rooflights. While these products might offer a cheaper alternative, there are few, if any examples where these materials should be considered appropriate.
According to Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s historic environment, in their Materials for Historic Building Repairs article “The use of authentic traditional materials helps to retain the character of historic buildings and in turn supports traditional industries and vital craft skills. They argue that “some materials can actually harm the existing historic fabric and speed up deterioration”, and urge for consideration to be given to “the potential durability of the material used and its future maintenance requirements”, they conclude in saying “what might seem like the cheapest option might not always work out so in the long run”.