Member stories: Alan Brownlee
Alan Brownlee’s property in Snowdon Place is in a large villa built in the 1850s, which now divided into multiple flats. Alan is the resident who has lived there the longest.
Alan says throughout his life he has mostly lived in ‘buildings of character’ as he calls them. While he talks happily about the benefits of older buildings, he is realistic about the extra care they need. “They can be draughty,” he smiles, “and they do need regular repair.”
Alan was motivated to join the Traditional Buildings Health Check by a visit to the Engine Shed. “They said I should go and see these nice people at Traditional Buildings Health Check.”
The building inspection and report
Alan became a member within half an hour of speaking to the team. “The team were all very helpful from the start.” Alan immediately booked an inspection, and the Traditional Buildings Health Check team came out to look at his building. The inspection was “Very impressive,” says Alan, “, but the key thing that we all really appreciated was the inspection report. It was in depth, with colour photos – really, very good. It was important for us to understand what needed done to the building.”
“the key thing that we all really appreciated was the inspection report.”
The inspectors had highlighted two areas for urgent attention – two chimneys and the gable wall. The report helped convince the other property owners that work needed to be done, and where to concentrate their efforts. “I believe we all care for the building,” Alan says. “I’m very fortunate with the co-owners here. It was easy to get it done once we had all the facts in hand with the report.”
The repair grant
Facing fairly sizeable repairs, Alan decided to make use of the repairs grant available to Traditional Buildings Health Check members. He began by persuading all the other owners to join the scheme. This helped increase the amount of grant money available for the whole building. “The grant application process wasn’t at all difficult. The team were so helpful.”
“The team were so helpful.”
After completing the grant application process and choosing the contractor he wanted to work with, within months the repair work had been completed. Has he noticed a difference in the building since the work was done? “I look at the work that’s been done and I think ‘that looks marvellous – I’ve got to do the rest now’, he says, before adding, “so this was project one! We’re now moving on to project two. We’re planning ahead for the next few years’ repair works as well”.
Alan is realistic about the need for regular maintenance and repair when it comes to traditional buildings, as well as the importance of working with other owners.
“It’s an old building, and we do realise it needs a lot of upkeep and that it costs money”, he says. “We can’t do all the repairs needed at the same time, but it’s important to keep on top of it. If it’s a repair that affects us all, for the good of the building we try to do it on a regular basis.”
What difference has the service made?
So, how would Alan have approached looking after his building if Traditional Buildings Health Check didn’t exist? “I knew absolutely nothing at all about traditional buildings,” he admits. “If they weren’t there it would be much more difficult. The great blessing was the report.” Without that, Alan says the residents would’ve concentrated on more obvious, but less urgent repairs. “And, who knows” he says “perhaps the chimney would’ve fallen down!”