What they say about buses seems also to be true for residential church conversions! Earl Kendrick have been separately appointed to survey and prepare a Planned Maintenance Programme for two high quality, residential Church conversions within the last month!
And in the process, we have been able to apply our combined knowledge of building pathology, historic building techniques, strategic maintenance planning & managing of major works projects and provide expert advice on a very unique set of maintenance challenges for landlords, leaseholders and managing agents.
Each of the conversions we have inspected has offered incredible architecture – large windows, vast internal room sizes, dramatic ceiling lines and unusual architectural features. The flats are desirable and do not come onto the market very often.
But, it is their ongoing welfare that poses the potential problems.
The vagaries of the English weather, together with day to day wear and tear mean that all buildings deteriorate over time. However, in the case of Churches, which tend to be built with stone and brickwork, often in large expanses with exposed elements, the extent of deterioration (and subsequent requirement for regular maintenance and upkeep) can be significant.
Roofs often comprise of steep pitched roofs, with associated turrets and towers. Their intricate design often required complicated provision for discharge of rainwater, with awkward gutter and downpipe combinations that terminate into gullies and with limited access for routine clearing and maintenance. These present a high likelihood of blockages that can lead to saturation of masonry elements, exacerbating deterioration and causing dampness internally.
External walls are also likely to provide challenges, with a combination of stone and brickwork, often affected by years of rainwater run off. Ornate buttresses, carvings and intricate window details mean that a small quantity of damage can create high costs.
Original Church windows tend to be single-glazed (creating issues minimising drafts and noise) and with coloured glass mounted in lead cames, which can be difficult to replace and costly to repair.
In many cases, historic Church buildings have suffered from poor maintenance and repair methods (both prior to, and even at the time of conversion) and as a result, have borne the consequences of poor or inappropriate repairs, which can exacerbate deterioration and damage. Typical examples include the use of cement pointing, which does not breathe and will cause unnecessary deterioration of surrounding (original) masonry.
There are, of course, specific solutions for all of these issues. However, the key lesson for anyone who is living in, or is involved in the management of a residential Church conversion is to put in place an ongoing Planned Maintenance Programme (or PMP) for the building.
This is not just because of the materials used, but also the size and complexity of the building. A couple of loose roof tiles may require extensive temporary access (scaffolding) to effect repairs. The cost of the access will often dwarf the amount required to work on a specific problem. And so it is vital that all maintenance takes place while scaffolding is in place – and that it includes repairs, preventative work and decoration.
The first step in implementing a PMP is for the surveyor to produce a detailed survey of the building, so that any necessary on the building can be prioritised and the future requirement for maintenance and repairs can be assessed.
The surveyor will provide a category rating for the type of works (e.g Health and Safety, Routine Maintenance, Improvements) and also provide an assessment of the frequency and cycles for repairs, taking into account both the lease requirements and in the context of the building fabric. This would then be presented into a cost plan over the maintenance period.
The key to getting planned maintenance right is to develop a programme of maintenance work that is comprehensive, well organised and affordable. The PMP will be a vital tool to those those responsible for the management of a Church conversion to set reliable levels of service charge/reserve fund expenditure for the cost of future repair and maintenance of a building.
Church conversions create beautiful places to live. A detailed PMP will ensure that leaseholders and landlords can enjoy the benefits, whilst minimising the threat of nasty and costly surprises.
For further information, please contact Julian Davies MRICS email@example.com
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