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What to Consider When Renovating or Upgrading a Listed Building

Working on a listed building can bring several challenges with it, be it a renovation or upgrading project, or even just adding new extensions to the structure. These challenges stem from the fact that listed buildings are considered historically and architecturally significant, and preserving them is of the utmost importance.

It’s possible to circumvent those issues, but from the beginning it’s vital to plan and prepare for the restrictions placed on the building, since they will determine everything from the materials used throughout the project to the changes that can actually be made.


Listed buildings fit into three different categories. Grade I buildings are considered to be of exceptional interest, and only a small portion of the list fits into this group (2.5%). We installed a lift at Durham Cathedral, a Grade I building, which meant we had to make special considerations throughout the entire process.

Grade II* buildings make up 5.5% of the list and are particularly important buildings of more than special interest, while Grade II are buildings of special interest. In this last category are most of the buildings on the list (92%).

This classification is important because it determines the amount and type of alterations that can be performed on the building.

Conserving Original Design and Architecture

There are many reasons why you’d want to make alterations to a listed building, and one of the most important is that a contemporary extension or renovation can help maintain the integrity of the original structure. No matter the reason, doing a project on a listed building comes with certain restrictions attached.

Our project with Durham Cathedral revolved around making the lift as invisible as possible and ensuring there was no damage to the structure during installation. This meant that it had to be custom-built to fit into the original structural design of the building. This is especially important, because if damage does indeed occur, and the features which merit listing are irreparably damaged, the building might be removed from the list.

All such projects need to be tailored specifically to the building in question, as they have different characteristics that make them unique so, to meet all the necessary requirements, you need bespoke solutions. This customisation will assure that the alterations are not disruptive of their surroundings and that they perfectly fit the building. This includes the need to make design choices that blend in with the original architecture, such as choosing bronze stainless steel for the finishes of the Cathedral’s lift, a decision that allowed it to match the overall design of the building.

Renovating or upgrading a listed building with historical and architectural importance is a rewarding experience, as well as challenging, because of the restrictions placed upon them. It’s a pleasure to be able to improve access to a building, so that more people can enjoy it, as well as an honour to be trusted with such important work. At Axess2 we understand this and will work together with all of our customers to provide high quality bespoke solutions to any project.

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