Giving homes a new lease of life

July 3, 2023

Giving old buildings a new lease of life is our forte at Acorn and has become our USP in the housebuilding industry – it is this uniqueness that makes us true to our ethos of ‘different by design.’ Julian Hampson, our Group Design Director, talks about our individual approach to design, sustainability and creating a sense of place.

At Acorn, we sit in a unique position between mainstream housebuilders and smaller scale developers in our approach to re-using existing buildings. It’s easy to see these buildings as a hindrance to development; the unknown condition of the structure, the non-standard works that have been done to comply with building regulations, but at the same time it’s important to recognise the positives that they can bring: character, texture, and a thread of history which brings a particular quality to the living environment.  This means we always start our projects by looking carefully at what old buildings can bring to the design agenda and how they can be complemented by contemporary design. Additionally, it’s now more important than ever to recognise how retaining existing buildings can reduce construction-based carbon emissions.

Studies have suggested that it takes between 10 and 80 years for a new building that is 30 per cent more efficient than an average-performing existing building to overcome the negative impacts of construction based carbon emissions. So as our buildings become more efficient in use and we move closer to the point where that energy in use can be offset by the use of renewables, it has become more important to turn our focus to re-using existing buildings to reduce emissions.

A prime example among our recent projects is The Links at Rest Bay in Porthcawl, South Wales. Originally built as a specialist convalescent hotel, “The Rest” as it was known back then, first opened its doors over 150 years ago. It’s heartening to be able to bring this impressive building back from a sad state of decay, just as it had nursed hundreds of miners back to good health through the 20th century. It has now been given a new lease of life as contemporary coastal apartments. Carefully and sympathetically blending old with new – careful attention has been paid to preserving its unique charm with many original features such as exposed brickwork, beams and tiling. The Victorian Grade II conversion has benefited from a replacement roof and new double glazed windows to maximize thermal efficiency and meet present day building regulations. Generous glazing and large sliding doors allow residents to enjoy the magnificent views over Rest Bay and a flow of space from inside on to spacious terraces. Energy-efficient appliances come as standard and the highly efficient heating system coupled with heat recovery ventilation keeps energy use low. There are also communal car charging ports in situ for residents with electric vehicles. The Links is the perfect example of bringing a historic building back to life with modern sustainable technology.

The design process at the Links was a joy to work on; starting with a core of such abundant architectural heritage then layering over with contemporary design, flowing space and sustainable strategies. The fabric first approach to thermal envelope, the bio-diverse solutions to landscape and the courtyard, plus the tailored engineering solutions to reduce carbon emissions, all came together to enhance the design process and creates a rich mix of places and spaces that will allow the community to thrive for years to come.

Our passion at Acorn Property Group is to create positive change to meet the needs of our communities through innovative regeneration, exciting new sustainable architecture and to design buildings and spaces where people want to live, work and spend time. Whether an urban apartment, rural retreat, coastal or riverside residence, a new build or conversion within an existing building, our homes are intended to be a sanctuary, a design for life.

Find out more about The Links here.


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