Any builder will know that a listed building will throw some ‘curveballs’ and these complexities are something that has to be built into schedules and budgets.
In the case of the property at West Street in Ditchling, those curveballs meant a four-year process which involved liaising with conservation officers, planners and Building Control at Lewes District Council. The outcome is a beautiful restoration and rebuild of a home that truly deserved time and care. Something that designer John Smith at Cityzen Design took very seriously for his client.
The property at West Street is an 18th century Grade II-listed building that had been extended in 1929 and where the builder was asked to convert the stable block into a liveable space while maintaining the agricultural nature of the structure. Not an easy task, considering the requirement to bring it up to modern building regulations standards.
Timescales were flexible (pragmatism is required on this type of build!) and the entire project was two years in the planning phase with a further two years to complete the works. This was no small undertaking. The budget reflected this and the commitment of the client was clear as the budget needed to increase as further issues were discovered.
Cityzen Design worked closely with the rest of the design team to show how the project would work on paper before any structural work was completed. However, the historical site soon threw them a few challenges. This included problems with the foundations of the stable block, making it unsafe, unsupported walls under the property, rotten timber throughout that had to be replaced and undersized joists that had to be strengthened or replaced. But throughout it all the client maintained their commitment to the project and never considered giving up.
While this might all sound like a disaster, it was in fact an opportunity. Cityzen Design were able to take advantage of the rebuild process to add in some upgrades that weren’t possible before.
This included additional insulation, floor strengthening, refurbishing dormer windows and wall and ceiling insulation where old crumbling timbers had been removed.
Not only was the team able to make the building more sustainable and liveable in a modern way, the structure itself was given more symmetry and the separate extensions became cohesive.
One of the most rewarding outcomes of the work was how it brought the local community together. The building is situated on the main road into Ditchling and Cityzen Design knew that engagement with the community was important. This really paid off when the stable block had to be demolished and rebuilt. Signs were erected telling the community about what was happening – they weren’t losing the building. It was coming back with the original brickwork and timber structure!
The efforts put into their project by the builder, Planning and Building Control teams, conservation officers and the client really showed, and the client now reports that the house is a real talking point in the community. They are often stopped for a chat about the project.
The work has restored a crumbling building, giving it relevance in the modern world while holding on to its historical charm. It is a family home that will stand the test of time and a worthy winner of the Best Extension or Alteration to an Existing Home category of the 2018 LABC South East Building Excellence Awards.
Nutshell Construction Ltd, Cityzen Ltd