Building Services

Building services include pipes (for gas, heating or plumbing), electric wiring and specialist items like smoke, fire or burglar alarms. If you are planning to add long-term facilities such as a café, new toilets or a shop, these are likely to have a big impact on building services and the cost of running them.

Introducing more comprehensive building services for your new facilities can also have a large effect on your building – both how it looks and on the building fabric. Our New Facilities page also covers the basic principles of considering new services and how to house them.

You will also need to find out whether you require permission to make changes, either from your denominational advisory body and/or the local authority.

Image of a small kitchen area within a place of worship built into a cabinet to conceal it when not in use.
Where there are no discrete spaces into which partitioned facilities can be fitted, facilities such as tea-points can be housed in specially designed pieces of furniture. © Historic England Archive
Image of a small kitchen area within a place of worship built into a cabinet to conceal it when not in use.
Where there are no discrete spaces into which partitioned facilities can be fitted, facilities such as tea-points can be housed in specially designed pieces of furniture. © Historic England Archive

Issues to consider

Given that any new services are unlikely to last the lifespan of your place of worship, we recommend that you consider the following when planning them:

  • How to plan works so that new services have a minimal impact on building fabric. Works should minimise the loss of and damage to historic fabric
  • What the new services will look like and the best place to locate them so that the impact on the character of your building is as low as possible. For example, locating new speakers or smoke alarms where they are not immediately visible, or painting the exteriors to blend in with the surrounding fabric
  • Ensuring that you have easy access to the finished services like pipes or wires in order to make future maintenance or renewal as easy as possible
  • Whether you need specialist technical advice in order to create the best design. We recommend seeking advice from an independent source rather than a supplier or contractor
  • Whether you need to involve your Inspecting Architect in the design and implementation of any services

Building surveys

It is a good idea to get a detailed building survey when you're planning works which will impact your building services. This will give you a clear picture of what services are already there and the routes they take.

This should also let you know whether your building has any historic building services which were an important part of its design. Some places of worship contain early examples of light fittings or radiators which contribute to their significance. We would encourage you to keep items like this in their original places where possible.

When you are designing new services, take into account current codes of practice and standards, including British Standards. If you are using specialists to help you, it may be appropriate to modify non-statutory codes to meet the particular needs of historic buildings without compromising health and safety.

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