It was not long ago that buildings were very simple. Four walls and a roof would contain the requirements of every day life from a cooking area to bathroom, a living room to the dining room. The great majority of British citizens lived in the modest sized properties, which were built for purpose and functionality.
Larger properties, built for the wealthy and the aristocracy, were however different: not only were they built for functionality but they were also built on a scale and in a style to impress. These magnificent properties, which still can be seen across the United Kingdom in some numbers, are a wonderful legacy for the nation but of course pose their own problems. Not the least of these problems lies in their future use and upkeep – just how can a magnificent country house, built to house an aristocratic family, their guests and servants, then be efficiently utilized to serve a purpose when that family no longer owns the property?
A number of these properties have been left to the nation and are operated by the National Trust – whilst the properties may generate income from visitors, letting’s and other commercial ventures, most of them have to be heavily subsidized by the Trust. Most people would agree that this is a price, which is certainly worth paying for the privilege of having these properties maintained to their former glory for the citizens of today and tomorrow.
However the great majority of larger, older British properties do not have the support of the National Trust and the organizations and families that own them usually have to make them pay commercially. One proven route is to turn them into luxury high quality hotels – an ideal way to exploit their site, history and undoubted if varying charms.
There are often strict regulations associated with such conversions and numerous additions, essential to the modern public building, have to be incorporated into buildings, which were not built with such changes in mind.
Fire regulations are a case in point. Strict regulations are in place to safeguard public safety but the unsympathetic placement of hoses and extinguishers, emergency lighting and alarm points can dramatically affect the historic nature and character of a beautiful old building. Another modern day feature is air conditioning, which by its nature requires ducting and pipes to be run to and from each unit. Exactly where the unit is to be placed and how and where the ducting and pipe work must run offers a real challenge to the historically minded architect.