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Monday Apr 14, 2014

Taking care of heritage properties

When owners of historical properties undertake any sort of improvements, they must be sure that these comply with the requirements of the National Heritage Resources Act, says Lanice Steward, managing director of Knight Frank Residential SA.

A good example of a sensitively restored and well maintained Victorian building in Wynberg Chelsea.

Because historic buildings are part of South Africa's national heritage, any change to, or even the demolition of a building must have the necessary permissions to do so and owners can contact the Heritage Resources Section at their local Council offices to find out what is required and how to make their application.

'The reasons for being so strict is understandable,' says Steward, 'certain buildings might be historically important or have architectural value that needs to be protected. Apart from these aspects there might be buildings that epitomise the whole character of an area, and if this is not protected then certain elements of some historic areas are lost.'

Historic buildings have gradings, where some are considered more historically important than others, and these are determined by the City of Cape Town in accordance with the criteria set by Heritage Resources.

Examples of these are nationally important sites which are classified Grade 1, whilst sites of provincial importance which are Grade 2 and locally important sites are classified as Grade 3 buildings. At the same time, the City Council has produced a comprehensive set of Heritage guidelines to assist owners, covering aspects such as roof materials, windows, doors, parking areas/garages and even walls and fencing to ensure that the overall streetscape is in keeping with the criteria.

Older buildings were built with materials that differ greatly from those used today, and some are softer and more brittle or pliable, says Steward, and this needs to be taken into account before any applications are made to renovate or alter an historical building.

'To take one example we have come across recently,' said Steward, 'an old house in Wynberg Chelsea which dates back to the 1800s needed a new roof and only once the old roof had been removed did the roofing company discover that the wall tops were uneven and not squared off, and the roof pitch would have to change in order to stabilise the structure. Where a simple roof replacement would not necessarily require planning permission, with this home, the appearance of the completed roof and gables would be different to that of the original. As a result, as soon as it became apparent that the building would not assimilate its original look, and the necessary permissions should have been sought,' she said.

Most older buildings would have been built with softer materials such as lime plaster and dagha, so the concrete and strong mixes of cement used today will not be compatible with homes that were built in the 19thcentury and if these strong bonds are used it can lead to cracking. The correct plaster mix must, therefore, be used for older walls.

'All older buildings are best looked after by being lived in, and active use coupled with restoration or sensitive renovation will be preferable to leaving an old building standing empty - the all-important thing to remember, however, is to consult a specialist before undertaking any changes to a listed building,' said Steward.

Knight Frank Press Release

    
 

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