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How do architects set out to design a listed building?

Listings, some may say, are the ultimate accolade in the architecture world. Most importantly, these designations celebrate and protect some of Englands most treasured properties, helping to preserve the diverse range of architecture we boast today.

The recent tranche of Historic England listings has focused on post-modernist and brutalist architecture – but what does the future have in store? And how will future choices be affected by the major changes influencing the real estate sector today? Architecture plays an instrumental role in cities and towns across England. It marks periods of history, reflects cultural shifts and is heavily influenced by fashion, politics and economic measures – which inevitably impact upon our countrys built environment.

One of the developing trends in England right now is the reintroduction of prefabrication. Modular housing is of major interest to the current generation of developers and architects and is shaping designs across the hospitality and residential sectors, given the quick on-site build time and potential cost benefits once design solutions can be multiplied. A common method of construction in the 60s/70s, post-modernist architecture was in part a response to the banality of the system-built prefab. Although prefabrication has come a long way since then, with design higher on the agenda, architects are conscious of its potential effect and are wary of history repeating itself. It is encouraging to see developers and architects keeping this in mind already, however, it will be the mass housing solutions where the biggest impact will be made.

Judge Institute of Management Studies (Source: Historic England)

Another major influence on the built environment is the tightening of building regulations and our planning system, which is the most restrictive it has ever been, with myriad design guides, regulations and regulatory bodies to satisfy. Whilst the housing shortage is an undeniable challenge for all property professionals, away from the prime central areas a lot of London housing is becoming very generic as a result. Recognising those buildings that stand out will be Historic Englands issue when seeking to define the listed buildings being built today.

Digital technology continues to develop at an incredible pace and is increasingly proving its worth in terms of the efficient process of design, sustainability and cost planning. It also allows everybody, not just the experts, to understand and, with the aid of virtual reality, to experience design proposals. Our recent designs for Southern Housing Group at Free Wharf, Shoreham, were developed using the latest digital construction tools and proved invaluable during negotiations with planners and local authorities.

But for all these advancements in construction, whether digital, manufacturing or even regulatory, there remains the need for the vision an architect can bring. To maintain the quality of architecture in our country, the value a personal touch brings will remain essential and central to Historic Englands evaluation process when considering Listings. In Historic England view, what made the architecture important in its recent listings of CZWG buildings was the combination of pioneering fast track construction methods, innovative detailing and quality of craftsmanship with imagination, ambition, ingenuity and relationship to setting and engagement with urban context. What is crucial in todays challenging property landscape is maintaining this balance.

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