Is it Time for Your Listed Building to Have Proper Windows?

If you have ever thought of purchasing or own a listed building or one that has building restrictions imposed upon it, then you’ll empathise with the frustration that comes when owners try to find a way of replacing old, draughty windows with new, ultra-efficient ones. It’s something that a number of residents in listed properties have had to come to terms over the years.

Whilst it is not impossible to convince a council to allow you to install double glazing, for Grade II listed buildings it can involve a lot of legal work and arguing to make the case. For the owners of the Orchard Farm in Buckinghamshire there was a long struggle to get their windows replaced. According to owner Robert Groves:

“It took months and we had to argue every step of the way, from the width of the glazing bars, to the reflection of the sky to global warming and noise pollution.”

A significant part of the building regulations relating to listed buildings and issues such as double glazing is that there is an emphasis on maintaining the ‘historic fabric’. There is, however, plenty of variation between different councils, with some being more open to the idea than others. Many home owners are beginning to push a little harder nowadays in order to get their windows changed but there are also some big arguments for allowing more leeway for Grade II listed buildings, particularly when it comes to double glazing.

What are Listed Buildings?

These are buildings that are of special interest and are split into Grade I and Grade II. Grade I are buildings of exceptional interest and include ones such as castles, historic buildings. These account for just a small percentage of listed properties.

By far the biggest chunk is taken up by Grade II listed buildings that are of special interest. In 2015, the number of listed properties was just over 370,000 in the UK.

What Happens if your Building is Listed?

Being a listed building, doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to carry out renovations or home improvements such as installing double glazing. It does, however, mean that you need to apply for special building consent if the changes you are planning could affect that all-important ‘special interest’ status. This can be a pretty grey area, although many councils are coming round to the need to be more energy efficient as well as at the same time protecting historical interest.

The chances are that your council will be open to new improvements such as double glazing as they are also focused on this energy efficiency issue. There are a number of builders and installers who have experience of dealing with Grade II listed buildings and can advise much more fruitfully than before and you should be able to find one in your local area.

Even ten to fifteen years ago, you could see the rationale behind preventing Grade II listed properties from being damaged by poor double glazing – the choice was still fairly limited. The scope of double glazing is much wider today with many fabricators and manufacturing producing tailor made solutions such as wooden and sash frames. With better technology the windows are also less cumbersome with thinner gaps between the double glazed panes.

Switching to double glazing can also help maintain that life of a Grade II listed property which is another consideration that councils need to take into account. Better insulation means that areas such as the walls and other infrastructure are not at the mercy of the weather and damp conditions. A lot depends on the type of Grade II listed building you own and who your council is but prospects for change are much better than they used to be. You may have to be prepared, though, to do a good deal of arguing of your case before the end results are worth it.

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