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Electrical work in listed buildings and period properties

Electrical work in listed buildings is one of the specialisms offered by our team here at DRF Electrical. Many listed buildings are period properties with a long history, so working on them can be challenging and time consuming, requiring a different approach and additional expertise. However, it can also be interesting and rewarding to be part of a project that breathes new life into tired or dilapidated buildings.

Because of constraints around listed buildings, there are some key considerations to bear in mind regarding electrical work. Here we give a brief overview of the key points.

Consent and inspections

Not all electrical work in listed buildings is subject to the same constraints. It can depend on whether you are installing for the first time, repairing or replacing an existing electrical installation. However, it’s imperative to ensure as little damage as possible occurs to the architectural and historic integrity of the building. This can sometimes present a challenge because of the intrusive nature of electrical installation work.

As well as adhering to building regulations, there may be a statutory requirement for listed building consent, which is granted by the local planning authority. Even if you are replacing like-for-like materials, consent may still be required. Essential repairs that are necessary to maintain a listed building’s heritage are usually acceptable.

The work should be registered with, and inspected by, a building control organisation. For larger projects, a qualified mechanical and electrical (M&E) engineer should be consulted, and the work will also most likely need to be inspected by a Preservation Officer.

Our team are well versed in providing planning authorities and conservation officers with electrical details for projects involving listed buildings and period properties.

Repairing existing electrical installations in a listed building

Essential repairs will need to be carried out from time to time to the electrics in listed buildings, to ensure their function and heritage is maintained. Consideration may need to be given to electrical fixtures and fittings that are deemed significant and should be retained. This kind of electrical work is usually subject to an official application and a list of requirements.

New electrical installations in a listed building

Installing electrical elements for the first time in an old building can present many challenges. This is because it involves working out how to fit an electrical system into a building that was not originally designed to accommodate it. Electricity was first introduced widely in homes in the late Victorian period, so many buildings pre-date this or were built before electricity was even discovered. Specific expertise and experience is needed to ensure the work not only fulfils the purpose of the installation and meets legal and safety standards but also respects the building’s historic integrity.

Use a professional

Most electrical work should ideally be undertaken by a certified electrician who is NICEIC registered. Any electrical work in listed buildings requires additional specialist skills, expertise and experience to ensure the work is carried out correctly to preserve and enhance the original architectural and historic features as much as possible.

Collaboration with other contractors on a listed building project will also be needed to ensure the electrical work is carried out in the most sensitive and safe way possible.

A different approach

All electrical work in listed buildings should be approached sensitively, with care taken to ensure minimal disturbance and to preserve the architectural and historic features of the structure.

And there are also more practical considerations to take into account. Many listed buildings are no longer used for their original purpose, so any electrical work will require a different approach from that used for modern, purpose-built buildings.

It may be necessary to find creative solutions that minimise the visual and physical impact of the work. This could include using alternative, concealed or disguised fittings and switches, or using modern technology such as remote or smart systems to reduce the amount of cabling.

Electricians may need to access or work in awkward or tight spaces. They may often find themselves in cellars, roof spaces, chimneys, panelling, floor cavities and other non-sensitive areas of a building that are ideal for concealing electrical components and cabling.

Fixtures and fittings

Original electrical fittings should be retained if they are of historic value. These can either be disconnected entirely or connected to the newly installed system.

Alternatively, new fittings can be used that complement the aesthetics and history of the building. Fittings for older forms of lighting can be converted for use as electrical lights, while old fuse boards can sometimes be fitted with modern elements.

It’s important to consider the durability of components to ensure there will be a minimal amount of maintenance, replacement or repair in sensitive areas of the building.

Ongoing maintenance

It’s recommended that most new electrical installations should be inspected and tested by a qualified electrician at least every five years. However, older installations, such as those often found in listed buildings, should be checked once a year for wear and tear, damage and loose or broken connections which could cause a fire or pose other health and safety risks.

Contact our team on 0113 257 8212 to discuss electrical work in listed buildings.

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