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The repair, conversion and adaptation of existing Barns and other redundant agricultural buildings is an important part of this Practice’s work. Whether it is for the repair and maintenance of these buildings to be retained as part of the historic landscape and maintained as barns or for the adaptation to new uses such as dwellings and commercial premises, we offer a professional service based on our extensive knowledge and experience.

The construction of these buildings is often similar to those of vernacular houses. Barns and similar buildings are often free of external coatings and internal finishes, leaving the underlying construction bare and to be seen while also lacking the maintenance and weather protection that would be applied to a dwelling. As a consequence, the deterioration and defects of barns are often greater than those found in other buildings. An understanding of such buildings and the methods by which they can be repaired is necessary so that they can be stabilised for reuse, allowing new uses and life to be put back into them. This is essential if we are not to lose them from our landscape. In several instances, some very decrepit-looking buildings have been brought back from the brink of dereliction by this Practice, to be provided with a new lease of life. This is because the main elements of the construction of barns are relatively simple materials such as cob and stone which are easily repairable and can be worked on if you have the appropriate knowledge and skills in these traditional building techniques.

We have worked on many barns, some of which have been adapted for use as dwellings. In the first instance, it is usually necessary to carry out a survey and investigation of the existing construction to determine that it is structurally sound and able to withstand its conversion without requiring extensive reconstruction. A report confirming the structural integrity of the building is often required to accompany any Planning application for the change of use of an agricultural building, particularly when it is to be converted into a dwelling. We are often called on to provide these reports. In these reports, not only will we provide assurance as to the long-term stability of the building, we will also provide a résumé of the structural defects that are present and recommendations, in principle, for their repair. This will then provide a guide as to the extent of work that is required to repair and stabilise the existing construction so that it can be used for its intended future purpose. Our reports will therefore include more useful and detailed information than is normally provided in these reports, which not only helps in the planning and design of the conversion but also provides further assurance to the Planning Authorities that the conversion will not lead to extensive loss of the existing historic fabric. This can be particularly important when the building is Listed in itself or by virtue of it being part of a group within the curtilage of a Listed building.

Once planning permission has been obtained for the conversion of the building, a scheme will need to be devised for carrying out the necessary repairs and alterations to the existing construction as well as the design of the new elements. We can provide advice and detailed design for the structural input of the scheme whether it is the stitching and repairing cracks in existing walls, the design of strengthening or repairs of existing roof timbers or its replacement and the design of new elements such as additional floors etc. These can be designed in either traditional materials to match the existing or in some cases a more contemporary feel for the building can be applied so that the new elements are in contrast to the original construction.  Having carried out so many projects on these buildings over the years, we have a very wide experience and can provide suggestions and ideas on how to make best use of them while retaining their character and charm. Some of the projects we have worked on have gone on to win awards for the design.

The most successful conversions are where the original appearance of the building is maintained and is not over domesticated or urbanised. This is difficult to achieve especially when adapting barns to domestic use and there are plenty of examples of badly converted barns. The trick is to know how much of the existing construction can be retained and as far as possible to hide the new elements such as windows and doors which tend to make the building look like a house.

We have also worked on several projects where the existing buildings are retained in their original form. These have often been subject to grant aid under the DEFA land stewardship schemes. These schemes are aimed to maintain these buildings within the setting and the landscape which they are so often an integral part. Where funding is not available and agricultural buildings are to be retained, it is sometimes necessary to provide minimal intervention to allow their survival. For example, providing a weatherproof roof is always essential and the roof structure to support it. Old trusses may be spreading and causing damage to the walls and the simple addition of tie members at a lower level may be all that is required to halt this movement. Our extensive experience of dealing with cob buildings and their maintenance and repair also comes to the fore when dealing with barns and agricultural buildings in the South West as this is a common material throughout the region for the wall construction of these buildings.

Example Projects

Kestle Barton, Manaccan

East Densham, Woolfardisworthy East

River Cottage HQ at Park Farm Musbury

Westacott Barton,North Tawton

Upcott Barton, Drewsteignton

Town Living, Stockleigh English

Poughill Barton