Focus on authenticity

A recent survey by the Rooflight Company reveals 52 percent of architects believe achieving an authentic appearance is the priority when specifying for heritage projects. Meanwhile, budgetary constraints are the biggest threat to the preservation

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The results from this year's The Rooflight Company Survey are in. Contained within the new Rooflight Company Conservation Report 2015, the results reveal many interesting findings into architecture's current attitude on authenticity and the use of traditional versus modern alternatives in period buildings. Above all, the 2015 report demonstrates the architectural community’s self-appointed role as the guardian of the UK’s built heritage. It also highlights the importance of ‘specified’ products and materials in ensuring design aspirations are followed through and buildings are preserved using the most authentic materials for the project.

Around 20 percent of the UK’s current housing stock consists of period properties. These are buildings that pre-date the First World War. Legally it is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure such buildings are maintained and restored in an appropriate manner. Interestingly though, 46 percent of architects responding to this survey felt they should have ultimate responsibility for this, demonstrating the passion many in the profession have for preserving important structures.

However, the report also found that specifications are regularly broken, with 38 percent of respondents believing their specifications are not held. Sixty percent reported that the contractor is the main culprit in making the switch to cheaper or alternative materials, while over a quarter feel that property owners are the reason their specifications are overridden. Considering the reasons specifications might be broken, most architects feel that their clients are driven by the need to gain planning permission, over and above that of retaining an authentic appearance.

Yet 40 percent of the architects questioned felt that authentic materials were 'essential' to retaining building integrity, with the cost of products coming third in the list after the importance of planning approval. On the other hand 30 percent of respondents agreed that products can be ‘replaced with non-authentic materials in certain circumstances’, with 55 percent agreeing that planners are more open to using modern alternatives.


With so many materials, traditional and modern, available to specifiers today, The Rooflight Company Conservation Report 2015 also provides some interesting insight into how architects research materials. With 43 percent turning to a handful of suppliers they know and trust, alongside 15 percent researching new and specialised products for their designs, it is clear that the ‘tried and trusted’ approach is the norm, while there is also an emerging desire to explore new innovations.

'We put it to architects that there has been a more relaxed approach to planning in recent years,' explains The Rooflight Company’s commercial director, Kester Harvey. 'However this research proves quite the opposite – overwhelmingly 75 percent disagreed that planners are "less strict" than they used to be when it comes to conserving our built heritage. Equally it is clear from our findings that the architectural community has a strong sense of responsibility for the preservation of our historic buildings. This report features some compelling insights into architects’ experiences with the specification and planning process, including the need to balance modern performance requirements with an authentic appearance when working on projects that incorporate period buildings,' he continued.

To see the findings, download the full report, The Rooflight Company Conservation Report 2015 and follow us @RooflightCo



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