Last edited 14 Jun 2019


The term ‘conversion is usually applied to a change of use or a change in function from a building’s existing usage – whatever that may be – to a new use. For example, a church may be converted into apartments, a dairy may be converted into an office and a lighthouse may be converted into a home.

To convert buildings may require quite drastic interventions not only in terms of layout, materials and possibly openings created or closed in the building fabric, but also structural alterations which may be significant and require an engineer’s input.

All this will require a thorough understanding of how buildings work and how they can be altered in the most cost-effective way to achieve the desired aesthetic and functional criteria.

Many of these instances will require planning consent: the local authority will need to be satisfied that what is proposed complies with the building regulations, particularly regarding thermal insulation, sound insulation, fire protection, means of escape, ventilation and access. Any new usage will also be required not to adversely impact any neighbouring buildings (e.g noise, right of light etc) and the environment (e.g cooking fumes from a new restaurant).

Legal matters must also be considered and if necessary, the expert advice of a construction lawyer be sought. For example, some works may require a party wall agreement or come under CDM regulations or the Equality Act (replaces former Disability Discrimination Act).

It is crucial that prior to embarking on a conversion or adaptation of a building, all parties are fully conversant with the fabric and structure of the building and the implications of the works. This usually leads to correct decision making and a better outcome.

The term ‘conversion’ may also be applied to a loft conversion or attic conversion where the attic of a house (i.e the roof space) is converted from being dead storage space to liveable accommodation. This does not normally entail a change of use.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki