Buy and Convert a Unique Structure Into an Energy Efficient Home

convert building into house

If you’re thinking about buying a new or resale home, don’t forget that there are plenty of options other than buying a run of the mill house. How about converting a unique structure into a modern, energy efficient home, like this amazing mid-century grain silo by architect Christoph Kaiser.

There are, of course, some things to consider when getting a mortgage for a project like this, such as the planning permissions involved. In most cases, property conversions involve transforming a once commercial building or other structure into a residential one.

A commercial structure is any building that is used to turn a profit. Some examples would be a gym, a warehouse, a pub, office space, among a long list of others.

Amendment to the General Permitted Development Order

In 2013, “Class J” development was introduced by the Town and Country Planning Act. It was an amendment to the General Permitted Development Order of 1995 and lifted a lot of restraints off these types of developments.

The amendment introduced an “implied permission” for structures being used within Class B1(a) or office buildings, which means they can be converted into Class 3 buildings or dwelling houses, and with no need for full planning applications.

Which means that under the Permitted Development Rights (PDRs), but only counts depending on which “use of class” the commercial property in question falls under.

energy efficient home 

Different Kinds of Use of Class

In the UK, the following planning use classes are the legal regulations that determine what the owners of a property can use it for. They are:

  • Class A: Shops
    • Class A1: Retail shops and/or outlets
    • Class A2: Professional Services
    • Class A3: Food and Drink
    • Class A4: Drinking establishments
    • Class A5: Hot food and takeaway
  • Class B: Common Business Activities
    • Class B1: Offices, premises used for research and development, or premises used for industrial processes
    • Class B2: General industrial use
    • Class B3: Special industrial group A
    • Classes B4 through B7: Special industrial groups B, C, D, and E
  • Class C: Hotels and Hostels
    • Class C1: Guest houses, boarding houses, and hotels
    • Class C2: Hospitals, nursing homes, care homes, training centres, colleges, and schools
    • Class C3: “Dwelling Houses”
    • Class C4: Houses in multiple occupations
  • Class D: Non-Residential Institutions
    • Class D1: Covers many ‘public’ services not listed under Class A
    • Class D2: Premises for entertainment and leisure purposes

How Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) Works

In May 2017, the latest legislation covering PDRs was introduced. For example, applications received since October 1, 2017, building owners can convert B1c (light industrial buildings) to C3 (residential dwellings) without the need for full planning permission.

B1c planning permissions are the top commercial-to-residential conversions due to the fact they’re mostly done in residential neighbourhoods.  

Other popular commercial-to-residential conversions are A1 and A2 and may be done without full planning permission, as long as the building’s size doesn’t exceed 150 square metres.

However, you still must seek “prior approval” from your local authority even if planning permission isn’t required. As of the date of this article, it shouldn’t set you back any more than £200. Keep in mind that there could be other restrictions as well.

How Can I Find Commercial Properties for Sale?

The best way to get started is by conducting a search for estate agents who specialise in the sale of commercial properties and know about PDRs.

Are Commercial Properties Cheap to Buy?

Generally speaking, commercial properties are more expensive than residential homes. But you should keep in mind that most of higher priced properties are large warehouses and office buildings.

Furthermore, the price of a single commercial premise depends on factors such as locations, state of condition, and potential for conversion. If a property already has the appropriate planning permissions, this can raise its price.

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