Axia Valuers

How to Identify the Age of a Building: A Professorial Insight

Understanding the age of a building is akin to piecing together a historical puzzle.
Here's an expanded guide on the methodologies that can be utilized:
1. Architectural Style Analysis: Every architectural style has distinct characteristics:
Gothic Revival (mid-19th century): Pointed arch windows, ornate tracery, and steep gabled roofs.
Art Nouveau (late 19th - early 20th century): Flowing lines, organic forms, and a focus on decorative details.
Brutalism (1950s-1970s): Raw concrete, geometric shapes, and functional design. By recognizing these signatures, one can approximate the building's era.
2. Historical Records: Land Deeds:
They can provide a lineage of property ownership, tracing back to the original construction.
Property Tax Records: Yearly assessments can highlight when a structure was erected or significantly renovated.
Old Maps: Early cartographic records, like Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, detail building footprints, which can assist in dating.
3. Physical Components and Materials:
Foundation: Older buildings might have foundational stones marked with mason's marks, a clue to their age.
Windows: Single pane, wavy glass is indicative of pre-20th-century construction, while double glazing suggests a post-1950s build.
Hardware: Features like skeleton key locks, mortise locks, or coal chutes can suggest the building's age.
4. Scientific Testing:
Dendrochronology: By examining the wood's cellular structure, particularly for structures with exposed beams, experts can date the felling of the tree used, offering a construction timeframe.
Mortar Analysis: As mortar composition has evolved over centuries, analyzing its constituents can hint at the construction period.
5. Geospatial Data Analysis:
Historical Aerial Photographs: These can show development progress. For instance, a building appearing between two dated photographs provides a timeframe for its construction.
GIS Systems: Modern cities might have Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that document changes in infrastructure over time, aiding in dating.
6. Oral Histories:
Local narratives, often passed down generations, can offer anecdotal evidence. While not always accurate, they provide context, associating events or people with the building.
7. Professional Assistance:
Engaging experts is sometimes the most efficient way:
Chartered Surveyors: With a deep understanding of construction and property history, they can provide an informed estimate.
Local Archaeologists: They can interpret artifacts or features found within or around the property, offering chronological cues.

In Conclusion: A building's age isn't a mere number; it's a testament to its journey through time, reflecting cultural, technological, and societal shifts. For property professionals, this knowledge isn't just academic; it's crucial for accurate valuations, informed development decisions, and cultivating trust with clients.