The principle of honouring the past while looking to the future underpins much of the work on the historic buildings on the Englefield Estate.
And nowhere is that more obvious than at the Estate Yard, where work to convert the former sawmill building to the new Estate Office is progressing towards a planned completion date in 2024.
From the outset, the project to breathe new life into the building and bring the management and maintenance teams together into the heart of the village in a well-appointed modern office has been a balancing act. The challenge was to retain the beauty and heritage of the listed building while converting it to 21st century use.
The Estate and its partners including ADAM Architecture, Stonewood Builders, Kitesgrove and others are working together to bring the project to completion, facing a number of interesting challenges along the way but always staying true to the history of the building.
Katie Pottrill, Associate Architect with ADAM Architecture, said: "It's been incredibly important to incorporate all of the existing features of the sawmill as part of the redevelopment plan. The building has got such a rich industrial heritage that we didn't only want to preserve but enhance and seamlessly integrate this as part of the design."
An example of this is the Victorian-era steam boiler that powered the sawmill, which has been retained and conserved and will be seen from the boardroom through a newly created viewing window.
The massive flywheel that carried the belts which once drove the huge saws, turning whole trees grown on the Estate into usable timber, has also been retained and provides a central feature.
And the spectacular internal dimensions of the building, a long open space where raw timber was once turned into planks, will be retained through the use of Crittall-style windows and partitions - large panels of acoustic glass with fine steel glazing - providing privacy when needed without compromising the look and feel of the building.
Other pieces of industrial equipment have been retained and will be displayed, to ensure the history of the building is never lost, despite its new use. These include the overhead wheels, pulleys and steel gantry system.
Once complete the Estate Office will be the hub of Englefield and the place where visitors first arrive. They will be given a unique glimpse into the history of this repurposed building. Katie said: "Down in the reception area the overhead wheels that run along the length of the building are being reinstated in their existing positions and the stair is sensitively brought forward to allow these wheels a space to be celebrated."
The work has not been without its challenges. This has included the discovery of a disused borehole near the entrance to the building. Two large brick-built and rubbish-filled gasometers were also found underground on the site of the planned extension earlier this year, which delayed work for a time but provide yet another insight into the building's former use as a gas works. In addition, Luke Wade, Maintenance Manager and his team, who are based in the Yard, have not only very patiently worked around the disruption of this huge project but have stepped in to help with unforeseen conundrums, such as the large and very deep Victorian private water supply pipes not running where shown on plans.
Looking after the buildings and infrastructure across the Englefield Estate is a never-ending task that requires year-round maintenance and constant vigilance. Examples of this include the brick and flintpark wall where Robin White has carefully taken down and rebuilt unstable sections this year using skills honed over many years working with his father Danny, including 15 years directly employed in the Yard team.
Englefield Estate's journey to become net zero carbon has been a central element of the Estate Yard redevelopment. Building Manager Duncan Rands said installing green energy systems combined with high levels of insulation were essential to the plan - combined with the use of natural UK sourced materials.
Solar photovoltaic panels and air source heat pumps produce the energy for the building and electric vehicle charging points, while insulation using sheep's wool, wood-fibre and cork have all been incorporated into the build. "We are going as far as looking at the provenance of the materials we are sourcing to ensure, whenever possible, we are reducing our carbon footprint and our reliance on imported resources." Duncan said.
Those measures include installing a rainwater harvesting tank to hold a 21,500 litres of rainwater for watering plants, washing vehicles and other uses around the Yard.
The redevelopment incorporates the whole of the Estate Yard and the outside spaces have been subjected _to the same rigorous approach to the green agenda. Duncan explained: "The soft landscape areas provide an important habitat for insects. We've also got bee bricks, swallow bricks and swift boxes. And we have incorporated a bat loft in the design of the office building."
Robbie Kerr, architect with ADAM Architecture, has been involved with the Estate Yard project from the beginning. He said: "From the start this project has been a fine balancing act between the heritage and the change of use, creating a functional space that delivers all you require of an office environment. I think we have got it right."