Thought Leadership

Converting Commercial Properties into Residential Use – Let’s Discuss

The British government introduced new measures as a result of the Credit Crunch of 2008, aimed at stimulating construction and in particular new housing development, by making change of use from office space to residential use a permitted development. Whilst not every local authority had been keen to adopt this policy in their area, there was some take up, which then faltered as the demand for offices began to rise.

The economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was bound to give call to further thought in this regard and in particular to address the accelerated loss of demand for retail and leisure premises, coupled with growth in home working. So it was good to see that the Government is creating more flexibility in the planning system to allow change of use/conversion of commercial properties into residential use.

We wanted to share our thoughts on this matter and invite clients and industry collaborators to participate in some discussion.

Rethinking Town Centre Strategies

Rethinking Town Centre Strategies

Our first thought was that there is a great opportunity for a rethink on Town Centre strategies whereby new vibrancy could be created by altering the mix of retail, leisure, living and other social activity. See our piece “Is it Time to Rewrite or even Scrap the Building Bulletins?” where we suggest commercial change of use might be extended to inside other types of building or venue including Educational establishments.

With residential demand in mind, it is critical we avoid substandard housing as a result of any new fast track measures of course.  It is undeniable that there is a desperate need for housing, but we must maintain the highest standards in the delivery of new housing to avoid future social and community issues.

Design Challenges

Design Challenges

The conversion of retail premises offers some interesting design challenges due to the differing requirements of the two building types. For example many retail premises feature deep plans, making the daylight and views out essential for residential properties difficult to achieve except around the perimeter. Many retail premises also feature single storey steel portal frames with eaves heights above 5 metres but deep beams, reducing the efficiency of the spaces for residential use. In addition to provision of daylight and views, residential conversions often need to incorporate substantial alterations in order to provide adequate acoustic separation and fire safety

Opportunities

Opportunities

However, despite these challenges, there are many commercial properties that have excellent potential for residential use, with the right level of creative input and experience. One of the interesting effects of the Covid-19 lockdown is the realisation for many that working at home offers a more sustainable alternative to the daily commute, and live / work units located in suburban high streets are likely to prove an attractive option. Residential conversions have the ability not only to revitalise tired high streets but also to contribute to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.

It will be interesting to see how things develop in this regard.

Opportunities

Opportunities

However, despite these challenges, there are many commercial properties that have excellent potential for residential use, with the right level of creative input and experience. One of the interesting effects of the Covid-19 lockdown is the realisation for many that working at home offers a more sustainable alternative to the daily commute, and live / work units located in suburban high streets are likely to prove an attractive option. Residential conversions have the ability not only to revitalise tired high streets but also to contribute to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.

It will be interesting to see how things develop in this regard.

Case study - Holgate Villas Remodelling

Case study - Holgate Villas Remodelling

DB3 developed a concept design for the internal remodelling and façade treatment of a vacant 1960’s British Railway offices into 50 two bedroom luxury flats. We achieved planning approval for this landmark building and provided visualisations to show how the tired external facade will be transformed into a contemporary residential development in the heart of York City Centre. The design team’s philosophy was to provide a positive response to the surrounding influences of a Conservation Area with the use of a restrained palette of modern materials in order to create a ‘wow’ factor.

Authors:

Date Published: 20 July 2020

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