Fixing Buildings – it’s a very visual thing

Fixing Buildings – it’s a very visual thingVisual Design

This might sound an odd statement to make, but take a look at some renovations or heritage building restorations around Melbourne and you will see what I mean.  The devil is very often in the detail.

The issue for building owners planning a renovation or restoration is while they might end up with a shortlist of contractors with the technical skills to complete their project, there is no real way to tell whether they have the required ‘eye for design’ or what I like to call building empathy.

Taking on a renovation or restoration project is always a big task, but it can also be an emotional journey.  Here are a few pointers that should ensure that your journey has a happy ending.

Building Empathy

To make sure you’ve got the right contractor for your job, you need more than references.  You need to take a look (ideally in-person) at previous similar projects they have undertaken.  And what you are looking for is building empathy…

With heritage building projects, is the renovation sympathetic to the original building?  Does it add to its appeal rather than detract in any way from the existing building?  Has there been enough attention to detail in sourcing old bricks and matching the new mortar so the new work is seamless with the original work, for example.

The basic rule of thumb, particularly with heritage restorations, is that the building should look as good or better than when the project started.  For example, how often have you seen a beautiful heritage building, the façade of which is ruined by unsympathetic placement of a split air conditioning system?

The same rule applies to modern buildings, particularly the matching of materials and finishes.  With many modern Melbourne homes having clean, clear cut lines, a misjudgement of only a few centimetres in the size of a new window or doorway can have a very jarring effect.  Recognising this takes not only skill, but also…building empathy…

Visual Design

The simple steps you can take to ensure that you employ the right people for your project are:

  • Look for firms with a wide range of building experience who either specialise in your type of building or have a good track record across all building types.
  • Talk with and get to know the person who will be running your project.  Is the feel right?  Do they feel the same way about your building as you do?  Are you learning things from them about your building as you talk?  If so, that is a very good sign.
  • Where you can, see if you can visit a previous project they have completed.  If it all stacks up on paper, what does your gut or your heart tell you when you look at this building?  If you can’t visit a previous project, does the contractor have a before and after photographic record of a recent project?

Obviously the financials have to stack up, but the decision on who to employ for a renovation project on a building that really means something to you will always be one taken with both the head and the heart.

All the best, Martin

Categories: Home Repairs and Maintenance

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