Working with an Older Building

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Old House New Home – What the Buildings Told Us

Five of the case studies in Old House New Home feature in a short film commissioned by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Creative Ireland and the RIAI. The film is by architectural photographer and filmmaker Ros Kavanagh. The film tells the remarkable stories of five different buildings and their reimagining as 21st century homes.

Old House New Home

Old House New Home is an important new online resource for the owners of existing properties, including protected structures.

It provides best-practice architectural advice and beautifully illustrated case studies to support and inspire homeowners in reimagining these buildings. The adaptation of derelict or vacated buildings offer distinct and unique opportunities but can be daunting, where their original qualities are masked by poor condition or previous alterations. Conserving or adapting an existing building is a complex process that requires architectural advice from the outset. A Registered Architect has the necessary skill-set to unlock the potential of your project.

With protected structures, architects with expertise in conservation can provide the advice and guidance needed. These buildings provide exciting opportunities and with the right advice and guidance can provide beautiful homes for generations to come. The publication was funded by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the Government Policy of Architecture and by Creative Ireland.

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What is a ‘Protected Structure’ and what does it mean?

A ‘Protected Structure’ is a structure that a planning authority considers to be of special interest from an architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social, or technical point of view and is included in its Record of Protected Structures (RPS). It may be a building or part of a building which is of significance because of its architectural or artistic quality, or its setting, or because of its association with commercial, cultural, economic, industrial, military, political, social, or religious history.

Every planning authority is obliged to have an RPS that includes structures of special interest in its area. The RPS forms part of the county or city development plan. The legislation pertaining to Protected Structures is contained in the Planning and Development Act 2000. Part IV of the Act deals with architectural heritage.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) is a state initiative established on a statutory basis, to identify, record, and evaluate the post-1700 architectural heritage of Ireland, uniformly and consistently as an aid in the protection and conservation of the built heritage. NIAH surveys provide the basis for the recommendations of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to the planning authorities for the inclusion of particular structures in their Record of Protected Structures (RPS).

(Architects: Carson and Crushell Architects, Photo: David Grandorge)

Responsibility for a Protected Structure

Every owner and/or occupier of a Protected Structure must ensure that the building, or any element that contributes to its special interest, is not endangered.The protection applies to all parts of the structure that contribute to its character and special interest, including its interior, boundary walls, gates and railings, surrounding land, any other structures on that land, their interiors, and all fixtures and features of these structures. In general, if a structure is maintained in a secure and habitable condition and routine maintenance is carried out (e.g. gutters cleaned, slates repaired, etc.) it should not become endangered. 
(Architects: David Flynn Architect, Photo: Photography: Barbara Corsica)



Permission to carry out work on a Protected Structure

Generally, any works to a Protected Structure require planning permission. Even a small extension or minor alterations, that in a normal building would be considered ‘exempted development’, may need planning permission. The definition of ‘works’ includes construction, excavation, demolition, extension, alteration, repair or renewal but also ‘any act or operation involving the application or removal of plaster, paint, wallpaper, tiles or other material to or from the surfaces of the interior or exterior of a structure’. It is important for you and/or your Architect to make contact with the planning authority at an early stage and discuss what works are likely to be permissable. The conservation officer, in particular, will be able to give advice before you submit your application. You can also request that the Planning Authority issue a ‘Section 57 Declaration’ defining the kind of works to your building which would not affect its character or anything that contributes to its special interest and for which planning permission would not be necessary.

A planning application for work to a Protected Structure is made in the normal way. As it must show how the work would affect the character of the building, it will need to be more detailed than an ordinary application and include extra reports, drawings, photographs, and other material to explain the proposals. 

RIAI Conservation Accreditation System

The objectives of the RIAI Conservation Accreditation System are the creation and maintenance of best practice in conservation and protection of Architectural heritage. The RIAI Conservation Accreditation System recognises differing levels of Architectural expertise and assists those seeking to commission works in finding Architects with appropriate skills.

There are three grades of accreditation within the RIAI Conservation Accreditation System with Grade 1 being the highest:

•    RIAI Grade 1 Conservation Architect
•    RIAI Grade 2 Conservation Architect
•    RIAI Architect Accredited in Conservation at Grade 3 

The RIAI Skills Matrix for Conservation Projects is intended to assist practitioners, clients and the general public in understanding the different levels of skill of RIAI Conservation Accredited Architects and in assigning projects accordingly. 

Lists of Architects holding each grade of Conservation Accreditation can be downloaded below. These lists are non-exhaustive as not all Architects who hold RIAI Conservation Accreditation have opted to be listed.

Architects who wish to be listed should complete the on-line RIAI Conservation Accreditation Website Listing application form.

Other sources of information and assistance

Sources of information and of financial support for work on historic buildings are listed below.

Financial Assistance for Owners and Occupiers of Protected Structures
Planning authorities may operate an ‘Architectural Conservation Grant Scheme’ which can assist the owner or occupier of a Protected Structure to undertake necessary works to secure the existing building fabric. Each planning authority has a ‘Scheme of Priorities’ to assist them in assessing applications. Full details of available grants may be provided by the local planning authority.

Certain buildings may also qualify for grant assistance from other bodies, such as the Heritage Council; the Irish Georgian Society; or the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, for example.

Sources of Information
Further guidance with regard to Protected Structures may be sought directly via the planning counter at the relevant local authority, as well as advice notes issued by such planning authorities, listing the documentation required for a planning application involving a Protected Structure.

Advice may also be requested from local authority conservation officers and heritage officers.