Bring­ing old barns back with new tricks

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Con­vert­ing a derelict barn into a home has never been for the faint-hearted. Tus­sles with lo­cal plan­ners and con­ser­va­tion­ists have dis­cour­aged even the most de­ter­mined buy­ers in search of ru­ral idyll.

Now, the use of ad­vanced build­ing tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing lasers and drones, is as­sist­ing a new breed of barn con­ver­sions. It’s al­low­ing com­plex restora­tion projects to be as­sessed more ac­cu­rately, and man­aged more ef­fi­ciently by big­ger devel­op­ers, us­ing build­ing in­for­ma­tion mod­el­ling, a 3D de­sign process for plan­ning. The re­sult for buy­ers is a speed­ier, less stress­ful al­ter­na­tive to tack­ling a sin­gle con­ver­sion them­selves.

De­vel­oper Hill has just com­pleted the restora­tion of An­stey Hall Barns, the re- mains of a Saxon farm on the out­skirts of Cam­bridge. Eight Grade II listed build­ings, in­clud­ing a dove­cote, gra­nary and cart lodge, have been turned into con­tem­po­rary four and five-bed­room fam­ily homes. They sit along­side four new-build court­yard barns with vaulted ceil­ings, ex­posed beams and dou­ble-height en­trance halls, de­signed to re­flect their an­cient coun­ter­parts.

The project has taken three years to com­plete, with tech­nol­ogy be­ing the key to the restora­tion process. “It was the first time that we used lasers to scan the build­ings to see their con­di­tion be­fore work com­menced,” says Mike Beck­ett, the di­rec­tor of Hill. It was also a first for the plan­ning of­fi­cer as­signed to the project to use the tech­no­log­i­cal ev­i­dence to sign off the work. “We were able to show 3D com­puter im­agery and mod­els of what we in­tended to do. We could cut sec­tions into the build­ing at any place and show the plan­ner the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the new build­ing against the ex­ist­ing one, and how we were go­ing to treat it,” adds Beck­ett. “The rot­ten barns were un­pre­dictable, so for us it meant fewer chances to make mis­takes.”

Full plan­ning per­mis­sion and listed build­ing con­sent were re­quired to do the con­ver­sion. Beck­ett also worked closely with the lo­cal con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer to meet their ob­jec­tives of pre­serv­ing the her­itage and chang­ing the use of the now-re­dun­dant farm build­ings.

All the ren­o­va­tions had to be done in situ, so the process in­cluded sup­port­ing some of the more frail build­ings, while the Hill team worked on strength­en­ing the foun­da­tions. Drones were used to give a true pic­ture of the site dur­ing con­struc­tion, and helped to cre­ate ac­cu­rate com­puter-gen­er­ated images of the barns.

Reusing as much of the orig­i­nal ex- ter­nal ma­te­ri­als as pos­si­ble was a re­quire­ment of plan­ning and con­ser­va­tion rules. Clay roof tiles, Welsh slate, red and gault Cam­bridgeshire bricks and weath­er­board­ing have been re­tained. An ar­ti­san crafts­man was com­mis­sioned to ren­o­vate the brick­work us­ing lime ren­der, with much of it now ex­posed as a key fea­ture in the homes.

“No­body in the tech­ni­cal world could help us with the prob­lem of re­tain­ing the ar­rowslit win­dows,” adds Beck­ett. He de­vised his own stan­dard, ex­pos­ing the arrow slits from within, mak­ing them weath­er­tight, and also mak­ing sure they com­plied with the re-

An­stey Hall Barns be­fore its ren­o­va­tion, left; af­ter, main and right

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