Why Don’t We Build Houses Like The Old Days Anymore?

Well – we actually do. There are plenty of new build properties out there, built with traditional methods and materials. Shakespeare’s Globe is just one western example. And elsewhere, ancient building methods using mud and wood are still used to this day.

But the question is mostly aimed at houses, specifically the ones we’re used to seeing in suburbs and cities. There’s a stark contrast between the old, established Victorian and Georgian homes, the brutal yet functional homes of the mid 1900s, and the “uncanny valleys” of seemingly copied and pasted new build estates.

To some of us, older means better. To others, it means damp, and built without fire regulations considered. The truth is, all kinds of homes are perfectly fine – and we can choose for ourselves what we love. It’s okay to like new builds, and to live in them without having to do much maintenance. It’s okay to like older houses, and to enjoy fixing them up.

Nobody’s wrong. But.. yes, there’s a but – historical preservation matters. And design matters. 

And design extends beyond the way something looks, into how it works.

So, this brings us to the reasons why modern buildings often win out over old fashioned ones. Number one – cost.

Old methods are expensive

Before World War II, the cost to build a home could be broken down into something like 80% spent on materials and 20% labour (not exactly; this is just a rough idea to illustrate a point).

That figure has now all but flipped on its head. Rising labour costs brought better living standards – but to make buildings affordable, engineers, architects and builders looked for cheaper, faster ways to make homes.

Modern materials and techniques are far cheaper, and sometimes far better than the old ways of building. However, there seems to have been a runaway effect of mass-produced boxes masquerading as homes, which have cheapened the craft in more ways than one – and left property developers and builders with a less than stellar reputation…

This is because, no matter what materials and techniques are used, it is design that matters the most.

Design still matters

We’ve seen some beautiful modern new builds, built in a sympathetic style to their surroundings. We’ve even seen whole estates that look like old streets – with meandering lanes and cobblestones, open green spaces, and materials that match the local area.

Some developers really do try.

The issue is the ones that have clearly put profit above all else, converting a tiny bit of land into as many homes as is possible within the limits of the law. Near-windowless properties, gardens that back onto each other – not a hint of privacy, nor the freedom to make a sound for fear of it travelling through the paper-thin walls.

This isn’t simply a materials problem. It’s design. It’s planning.

It’s shameful.

But the principles of old design can live with new materials. They can live with old materials, too..

Can period roofing really be integrated into new builds or modern extensions?

Yes! Integrating the best of modern buildings with the best of old is probably one of the clearest ways forward when it comes to solving the “cookie cutter housing” issue.

There’s no doubt that modern homes are faster to build, cheaper, more energy efficient – and even safer – than older homes. But they can lack heart and charm, and can destroy the whole look and feel of the area they’re built in.

Merging the two is a Goldilocks situation. We’ve had the privilege of extending old homes with old period roofing – built upon a structure that superficially matches the old home, but has all the benefits of modern wiring, plumbing and insulation.

And on the flip side, it’s posse to start from scratch, with a period roof built upon modern materials and designs – for the best of both.

It’s all about balancing tradition, heritage, longevity, economics, safety and privacy. But when it comes to period roofing, it can be a major win for an area facing development.

Period roofing on modern builds

Period roofing on modern properties can help preserve the surrounding area’s history and charm. It pays homage to the historical aesthetics that make an area attractive – but also serves as a bridge between the past and the future.

And the future is unstoppable. We face a growing population, and a seemingly never ending shortage of homes for us all.

Finding a balance between the charm of the old days and the practicality of modern building practices might just be the key to creating better homes and shared spaces, as we push ahead into the decades to come.

Period Roofing Specialist since 1984

Hire an experienced period roofing specialist with the necessary tools, techniques and training to get an exceptional result. To get a quote, contact us at [email protected]