David Wolff on the advantages of refurbishment over outright renovation

UPGRADED LIVING

David Wolff, founder of Wolff Architects speaks to Architects Choice about the pros and cons of refurbishment
David-Wolff-

David Wolff argues that architects can more effectively realise the needs of clients and minimise  disruption to communities through refurbishment, rather than complete renovation.

‘There are obvious benefits to the community [in refurbishing over renovating].’

Refurbishment projects tend to be far shorter than redevelopment ones, relieving neighbourhoods of disruptive demolition work, while the environmental impact on the community around the development is also minimised, since even fairly extensive luxury refurbishments produce far less noise and air pollution than redevelopment works do.

‘Perhaps the biggest boon for local residents is that refurbishment saves the original appearance of the house and, as such, presents far less risk to the area’s architectural cohesion. Even within this straightjacketed framework of London borough planning rules, a rebuilt home can still upset a neighbourhood, but a refurbishment, if done properly, is a complement to its surroundings, rather than a curse.’

It’s also much easier for architects to gain planning permission where the original structure of a building is being maintained. Permissions are particularly difficult to obtain in high-end residential project that include features like basement aquariums and second floor winter gardens, so if the development is a refurbishment rather than complete overhaul, there is an administrative benefit to the architect.

However, these luxury additions to residential property developments are more difficult to execute within the perameters of a Georgian or Victorian home, for instance, which is what Wolff work primarily with.

‘The age and delicacy of our projects means that inserting high-grade features into them is more expensive and technically difficult than it would be for a new-build.’

Read more about the challenges met by Wolff architects and their developments in the Refurbishment Report.

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