Leeds is one of the major conurbations of Yorkshire. The metropolitan borough incorporates the city of Leeds, and the towns of Farsley, Garforth, Guiseley, Horsforth, Morley, Otley, Pudsey, Rothwell, Wetherby and Yeadon. The borough of Leeds was founded in 1207, and Leeds gained city status in 1893.

Located in the county of West Yorkshire, still referred to as the West Riding by some people, the metropolitan borough is spread over 213 square miles and has a population of over 750,000 people. Despite having a population density of 3,574 people per square mile, 65% of the borough is designated green belt. Leeds is a major railway hub, has good transport connections to the M1 and M62 motorways and has an international airport nearby.

Sited on the banks of the River Aire and surrounded by the moors and foothills of the Pennines to the West and the Vale of York to the East, Leeds has more recently become a centre of excellence for the service sector and boasts one of the largest financial sectors outside London. The decline of traditional industries such as textiles and heavy engineering has seen the housing needs of the population change and evolve.

Traditional worker’s houses were two and three storey Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses like those in Beeston, Kirkstall, Harehills, and Armley. Solid, brick built and now often modernised with double glazing and central heating, they continue to be the first rung of the housing ladder for many families. The same building period also saw the rise of back to back houses. These look like a three storey terraced house, often with a cellar, but one house is built against the back of another, hence the name. There are often issues with noise transfer through the party walls and they can be difficult to heat. Despite the age and styles of terraced and back to back properties, the main components used in construction can often be accessed and examined by a surveyor and any defects noted.

Typical “Back to Back” housing in Harehills

Leeds City Council, like many other local authorities across the country was keen to ensure its citizens had decent, affordable housing. It embraced the concept of non-traditional building methods that emerged after the First World War, and continued accepting the plethora of new, non- traditional building methods after the Second World War.

Non-traditional building methods often involves hanging a building envelope off a steel, concrete or timber frame, or using precast concrete sections connected together to form the building structure. They were quick to build, cheap to produce and used the latest methods of industrialised construction. Most of these systems were developed from the 1950’s to the 1970’s to provide long term housing solutions, with a few being classed as temporary accommodation. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) lists over 500 different types of non-traditional building types developed between 1919 and 1976, with some being specific to particular areas. Identifying and undertaking a survey on this type of building can be difficult, especially as many of the types have been re-cladded, upgraded or modernised which disguises the original construction method. Modernisation and recladding can often hide latent defects in the frame and original structure. Some of the types identified in Leeds include Airey’s, British Iron and Steel Federation houses, Wimpey No Fines, Orlit and Livett-Cartwright.

Examples of thermal cladding disguising the original structure

Some of the latent defects in non-traditional buildings that have been identified by the BRE include corrosion in the steel stanchions in some steel framed houses, failure of the sealant/baffles in large panel systems, carbonation of concrete cladding resulting in cracking, spalling and exposure of steel reinforcement, excessive condensation and cold bridging and components no longer being manufactured for particular house types leading to inappropriate repairs, (e.g. cladding panels being out of production). Whilst some of these would be obvious to a surveyor, frame defects cannot be identified without destructive testing.

To keep this in perspective, non-traditional construction methods have generally performed well over the years. It is worth bearing in mind that the much vaunted traditional method of brick cavity construction has only been widely used since the 1930’s and that some of the non-traditional methods are older. This reassurance by the BRE that non-traditional construction methods are actually OK has not prevented mortgage lenders from being reluctant to lend on these property types, even though a traditional built house may have structural movement.

Housing estates continue to be built today. Whilst they may not be the size of the Seacroft estate, once England’s largest social housing development, they are facing the same resistance from those who wish to preserve the green areas near their homes. For example, the Grimes Dyke development on the North Eastern side of Leeds is currently being constructed by Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey. A range of town houses, terraced and semi-detached houses have been built after a protracted legal battle between the council and the developer resulting in the council having to allow green belt land to be developed. As the demand for housing shows no sign of slowing down, more new developments should be expected.

In addition to new developments, older estates are being regenerated, for example, several concrete panel tower blocks have been demolished in the Swarcliffe and Seacroft area of the city and replaced with modern low rise housing. This is aimed at regenerating the estate and its communities.

Out with the old, in with the new?

So, what to do if you are unsure about what you are buying?

Charters Reid Surveyors have a wealth of experience in surveying all building types including non-traditional building methods. We can offer peace of mind Home Movers Reports, more detailed Building Surveys, investigate specific defects, provide Fire Risk Assessments, provide house in multiple occupation surveys, and much more. We will always provide a comprehensive and professional service and after sales service. More details about surveys and how to contact us can be found at www.surveys4you.co.uk or by giving the friendly team a call on 01904 468881, or 01133 229986.