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Imitate or emulate

When hiring an architect to draw up plans, whether it’s for an extension or a new building, many people have an idea of how want the finished product to look. One of the biggest issues is how to make sure the new build incorporates aesthetic demands. Sometimes a building will be a testament to innovation and forward thinking, one that makes a dramatic and futuristic statement.

However, it’s much more common that a building needs to fit in with the existing buildings around it – particularly if it’s a residential area or an older building. Any changes to listed buildings need to be ratified by the local authority. You usually wouldn’t be able to add a very modern extension to a listed building, for instance. This raises the question – should your extension be a perfect imitation of the existing structure, or should it merely emulate it?

Key considerations

Speaking to the @MailOnline, conservation expert Peter Bell explains:

“The key to success is to first understand what is special or significant about the building and then find a design solution that compliments and adds to its character rather than detracts from it. Be aware that a large extension on a small cottage is unlikely to be acceptable. If that is what you need for the cottage to accommodate your family then this is probably not the one for you. Before going ahead with the purchase of any listed building make sure you check that previous owners have not made alterations without listed building consent. In some circumstances you can be required to reverse alterations made without consent so ask your surveyor and solicitor to look out for anything untoward.”

However, to build an extension in an acceptable fashion, you may need to use the same or similar types of materials. Imitation will necessitate a long and potentially expensive search for the right kinds of stone for the roofing or bricks for the walls. Even items as simple as windows will need the right kind of wood to make the frames. All of these costs can add up to a hefty fee. If this isn’t an issue and your architect is able to draw-up plans for a seamless extension, you then need to hope that your builder is able to effectively carry out these instructions.

Emulation as a solution

It may be worthwhile thinking of a less rigid solution to your issue. In many cases, an extension doesn’t need to look as if it were built at the same time as the original building, only that it is sympathetic to the original. There are numerous examples of this being achieved, with an extension acting as a modern and acceptable nod to the existing structure. Your architect will be able to identify the most visually appealing and identifying features of a building and make them part of a newer, fresh design.

If you’re trying to extend a property and don’t know where to begin, consider getting in touch with a member of our friendly team today. We’ll be able to walk you through the pros and cons of imitation versus emulation.



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Studio 2 4 The Highlands Exning Newmarket Suffolk CB8 7NT
T: 01638 662393
Imitate or emulate