Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A window on the world in Georgina Road, NW1

Last Sunday we had the unfortunate event of joining some Spanish friends who wanted to go to Camden Town. Not that being with my friends was unfortunate, but Camden is a force to be reckoned with. On exiting Camden Town one is confronted with exhausting pedestrian foot traffic versus rumbling vehicles. Away from the main thoroughfares leading down to Euston and King’s Cross or up to Holloway or Kentish Town where seemingly endless retailers rub shoulders with fragments of housing - a clue to the residential areas that lie behind the commercial landscape – there is a sense of a quieter areas and the Camden takes on a completely different character.

We have a project just across the road from the Camden Town Tube Station – away from the main thoroughfare – which we visited last week. Not somewhere we would have considered desirable, off the beaten track Camden is full of suprises! The house is a delightful late 18th /early 19th century terraced stucco house formerly owned by London Borough of Camden. Like many neighbouring houses the property is now under private ownership. Putting aside the debates about councils selling off their housing stock and the subsequent shortage of affordable housing - the fact that the house is now subdivided into two flats is typical of the decadency in many parts of London, with Camden by no means an exception.

Georgina Road is typical of houses of this period. Elegant features in the form of wrought iron railings
and sash windows stand the test of time when behind the facade the houses are subdivided into flats

Although the culture of subdivision can be good as it satisfies a market for occupiers who are unable to afford whole desirable and sought after properties, or need only a fraction of a sizable property, the process can develop into a can of worms when occupiers who think their builders are doing work by the book are instead breaking all the rules and do not comply with Building Control. These unscrupulous working methodologies tend to go unnoticed except when the owner decides to sell up a property and a solicitor is needed in the process. As a consequence the impact of unregulated development can be costly, with solicitors potentially shaving off the value of a property because of an unregulated alteration.

A case in point is at Georgina Road, where our Clients, an elderly retired couple who have been Camden residents for many decades are in the process of selling their ground floor and basement 2-bedroom flat on a Grade 2 Listed Building with the intention of moving to the country side.

One front door concealing two further front doors leading to two flats

To improve circulation the owners commissioned a builder to close up a door between the hallway and the living room and open up a new doorway between the kitchen and the living room. Here they inserted a marvellous double solid wood antique door.

At the same time the existing door between the hallway and the kitchen was replaced with a beautiful Monastic glazed door with fine detailing.

Isometric view of the house showing ground floor flat

However neither the double doors between the kitchen and living room and the monastic new door between the hallway and kitchen were fire rated 30 minutes or comply with Building Regulations. These are requirements that the builder should have known and implemented accordingly without necessarily compromising the appearance of the antique and Monastic doors in question.

Much to our clients distraught when she came to sell up she was instructed by her buyer’s solicitor that all work undertaken must be upgraded to comply with the current Building Regulations. This included alterations to the fabric of the Monastic and antique doors that would considerably alter their appearance and strip them of their aesthetic value.

Our role is to find a solution to pass Building Control and we obtained a Certificate of Completed Works that is only issued when the District Surveyor can verify that the works in question meet satisfactory requirements. We like the role of this type of Surveyor. Though first and foremost their role is to protect us, they are willing to work with us in finding a solution to meet our client’s needs or the retention of various elements, such as the pair of antique doors.

Detail of the new door specified by us completed with 30 minutes fire rating
to replace the Monastic glazed door that was carefully removed and set aside

Our solution was to survey the property and produce a set of plans that show where new fire rated doors and a new system of smoke and fire detectors are to be installed. Whilst the panelled antique double door was retained in-situ, the Monastic glazed door didn’t comply (the antique glazing didn’t meet the minimum 30 minutes fire rating), so was removed and set aside, and replaced with a fire rated door. In addition we opened up a dialogue with the District Surveyor and offer the possibility of using an existing sash timber framed window as a means of escape from the living room. However the means of escape is to a hard surface lightwell at basement level! Better to jump and break a leg than stay inside when the smoke is all around.

Amela trying out the Building Control approved means of escape. Note the antique doors saved by us

A testimony to our client's satisfaction

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great option. They look perfect for your space, and now my mind is turning. This might be something that would work great in my living room....