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Oldie but goldie – Giving heritage buildings a smart new lease of life

The UK boasts an impressive array of heritage buildings — the well-built, architecturally beautiful, and many-storied structures that offer us a glimpse into the grandeur of the past.

In many cases, the original use for these buildings has run its course – the Old War Office, for example. Herein lies a significant opportunity to breathe new life into these beautiful premises, transforming them for modern purposes while preserving their priceless historical features. This challenge is being taken up by many businesses, transforming grand old buildings into hotels, educational establishments and healthcare facilities.

To allow these buildings to really perform for their new audiences, the technology needs to be of the highest quality. While their historic nature is what makes them so attractive, it also means they are less likely to be set up for the high-tech experiences that users and visitors will expect.

By installing the right infrastructure and connectivity, these buildings can not only be a uniquely picture-perfect setting but also deliver an added layer of user experience: offering customised features, personalised access and interactive features throughout. 

Modernising the heritage building

Significant respect, technical skill, and thorough planning is called for when dealing with historic buildings. In many of these projects, it is often the case that any required modifications to the building must be as limited and conservative as possible. This challenge scales up along with the complexity and specification of the technology being fitted.

The focus for LMG has always been to proactively grasp the limitations of heritage spaces, by considering every technical solution available before diving in. This means taking intelligent decisions that maximise the value of the space while minimising structural impact. Therefore, it’s also important to think in the long term — ensuring that the technology infrastructure is upgradeable, dispensing with the need for short term retrofits that could damage the building.

If you’re going to provide a heritage building with a new lease of life, you want that lease to last for decades, not just a handful of years. You do this by building a future-proof technology network that anticipates the obsolescence of some components as the tech inevitably evolves.

Heritage work in practice

One example of our work with heritage buildings that we are particularly proud of is on show at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square — a century-old, grade II listed building, famous as the former Port of London Authority building, and for hosting the inaugural United Nations General Assembly in 1946.

LMG was selected as specialist contractor for ICT, AV, BMS, lighting control and electronic security services, constituting an integrated £11m smart building services project for the building. This project included servicing a vast number of spaces within the hotel, including lobbies, guestrooms, private residences, meeting rooms, spa, restaurants, bars and conference facilities.

A stand-out feature of the hotel is the extravagant Rotunda lounge, which sits beneath a grand domed ceiling. LMG was tasked with installing audio speakers without compromising on the look and feel of the room. In order to deliver a crystal-clear audio experience while preserving the room’s façade, our team sourced bespoke speakers that could be embedded into the dome’s pelmet.

Ever-present throughout the project was the challenge of plotting and laying cable routes through the building, as certain significant areas of the hotel are completely off-limits. The team navigated these no-go zones as well as two-metre thick walls by tunnelling down as deep as ten stories, then back up again. This uncompromising connectivity creates an experience that is as seamless as it is impressive, across all areas of the hotel.

Of course, Ten Trinity Square and the Old War Office represent just two of our many heritage projects successfully delivered over the years. We’ve also been fortunate enough to digitise noteworthy buildings such as the Old American Embassy at Grosvenor Square, the former headquarters of the BBC World Service at Bush House, and the former Metropolitan Police Service HQ at Great Scotland Yard — to name but a few. Take a look at our case studies to learn more about our work.