Thinking of extending your old building ?

Standard Heritage is currently involved in helping  some of its clients with alterations and extensions to their old buildings.

There is a general misconception that you have to match an existing  buildings style when building an extension, particularly when dealing with a listed building. This is far from the truth !

When adding to an old/ existing building, it is good conservation practice to construct an extension in a different style, this is to strike a clear line between the periods of the property’s evolution, giving It a clear architectural time line that can be read by future generations.

Standard Heritage uses some really creative architects to draw up extensions and alterations and can manage any such project, for more information see; Project Management.

The firms view on this conservation philosophy was developed some years ago when Michael Foley wrote about the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright for an architectural appraisal for the University of Greenwich.

Here is an edited version of the paper;

Architectural Appraisal – Frank Lloyd Wright     by Michael Foley  01.05.2013

The American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was born during the American civil war on the 8th of June 1867. He started his working life at 20 year when Queen Victoria still had 19 years of her reign to go and lived to see the start of the space age at nearly 92 years old. He was involved with architecture for 72 years.

Wright studied engineering at university but never completed a degree. He was offered a six year classical architectural scholarship in Rome and Paris which he turned down, he was interested in the future not the past, believing that a building should be designed for the era that it represented.

His architectural ideas were made possible by the materials that became readily available at the turn of the 20th century: concrete, re-enforced concrete,steel, sheet metal, glass and plastics. From these new materials he could design buildings with spaces and forms that reflected the time that they were built, anticipating the future at the same time rather than imitating styles of the past. Believing that buildings of the past addressed the life styles, social patterns and conditions that are no longer applicable in modern times.

He believed in using natural materials to their best characteristics and that new materials were to be used intuitively. His buildings sympathised with their surroundings and he called this new style of building ‘organic architecture’. He defined organic architecture as an architecture that is appropriate to time, appropriate to place and appropriate to man, a building should belong to the time the era that it was built.

At the turn of the 20th century he was at the forefront of construction technology and environmental design. He understood that a building was made to serve its users and he planned his designs around the human as a unit of measurement and that the reality of a building is in the space within and not its walls and ceilings. The buildings covered in this paper have had far reaching influence and impact on todays built environment.

Case Study

The “Solar Hemicycle” ( Herbert Jacobs house II) 1944 -1948

The Solar Hemicycle was built for Herbert and Katherine Jacobs; it was the second house that Wright was to build for them. In 1936 Wright built the Herbert  Jacobs House I. It was designed for low cost construction and living. Built with native materials, little ornamentation, mono-pitch roofs with no attics, large cantilevered over-hangs designed for passive heating and natural cooling, it had large clerestory windows for natural lighting and passive solar collection in a radiant-floor climate control system which introduced a new standard of form aesthetically and structurally.

The Jacob’s rejected the original plans for the Solar Hemicycle out of concerns of high energy bills due to the extensive usage of glass, high ceilings (13ft) and the buildings exposed countryside setting. His response was to adapt the principles used in the first Jacob’s House but this time he used the orientation of the building (south facing) to achieve an efficient passive solar heated and naturally cooled building, which he called the “Solar Hemicycle”.

The buildings two key features are a curved wall of glass orientated towards the sun and a protective earth bank called a berm, which sheltered the building from the prevailing cold northerly winds.

The building has a mono-pitch roof and is set out on a semicircle; the interior lay out is simple. The south facing glass of the building makes use of solar radiation, thermal mass and there is a radiant boiler-heated system embedded in the floor. There is a five-bedroom mezzanine floor that is suspended from the roof joists by metal rods so as to keep the ground floor free of pillars or load bearing partitions. The front edge of the mezzanine has been set back from the glass wall by several feet to enable solar heated air from below to rise up to the upper floor which when the air cools down it returns back to the ground floor via a large circular stair well which connects the two floors completing a convective loop. In the summer natural cooling is aided by adequate shading from large over hangs of the roof. Stack effect daytime ventilation and night time cooling is designed in to the building via the south facing glass and clerestory windows along the entire upper portion of the bedroom walls on the north side of the building. The buildings thermal mass is used to store heat and regulate the buildings temperature by helping it stay warm in the winter and keeping it cool in the summers. The north, west and east sides of the building are bermed up to the second floor windows, which also helps regulate the interior environment.

Wright added a pool, which is divided by the glass walling, half in and half out of the house for the Jacobs family to cool off in if they wanted to in the summer. The house was built during the second world war, when labour and materials were short, so it was built with simple materials where possible: timber, local earth and stone. The Jacobs did much of the work themselves.

The building has been in constant use since it was built and its current owner keeps detailed energy use records that show that the climate responsive passive energy design provides on average a 53% energy savings.


 Frank Lloyd Wright had the ability to interpret a clients needs and develop and idea beyond their expectations. He would think an idea out from start to finish, considering the basic requirements of the building, its users the nature of the site and the building materials to be used. Wright transformed the way buildings were built in America with his ‘organic architecture’ by embodying a range of ideas from the use of natural materials to the integration of a building into its local environment. His ideas on energy conservation in the Solar Hemicycle seem common place today. The use of passive solar energy, aspect, thermal mass, natural ventilation, natural lighting and using the ground to protect a building from the elements are all keys to the success of environmentally sustainable buildings.

If you would like to build a creative extension and have some really creative people do it for you, just drop us a line and we will see what can be done for you;


Image of Solar hemicycle courtesy of;