The IHBC has offered it’s own expert commentary on recent research by the ‘Rooflight Company’, in which the company asked architects for views on topics from planning and authenticity to working with planners and clients, with the IHBC stressing the importance of basic tools such BS 7913, the conservation standard, and key resources, such as skilled conservation practitioners.
Kate Kendall, IHBC’s LETS Liaison Officer who co-ordinated the IHBC’s input, said: ‘We welcome the opportunity to made an independent and objective review of the research carried out by the TRC. The research is an interesting snapshot into one very specific area and the different roles that are involved within historic building conservation’
IHBC Director Seán O’Reilly, offered the following comments on the work: ‘With regard to the findings, naturally they lean towards an architect’s point of view, which is quite specific. Architects do provide an important element of historic building conservation but conservation of the historic environment is a collective effort.’
‘We welcome that many respondents thought that preserving the historic environment was important and a team effort. We also recognise that the main threats to the historic environment among other things are lack of skills, uninformed owners, followed by capacity in the planning system and in many circumstances costs.’
‘In our experience, owners of historic and traditional buildings are usually happy to do the right thing, once they are given the right advice and the reasons for it. To help in that, we would very much like to see the introduction of more heritage-specific content within the mainstream of construction related training, for all relevant disciplines and trades, as that would help tackle the lack of skills at the root of the problem. The British Standard on conservation, BS 7913, should be a foundation document for any such training.’
‘In addition, our own research makes it clear that the planning system would benefit hugely – in speed and quality – from increased conservation capacity in local authorities, as that would help dramatically in improving local knowledge and awareness of the key issues of care and maintenance.’
‘And though cost can be a factor in the short term, the long term effects of a lack of investment in care, maintenance and improvement always means that the bills only increase, as we see in the huge charges attached to refurbishing many private and public buildings.’
The Rooflight Company writes:
‘The Rooflight Company put it to architects that there has been a more relaxed approach to planning in the UK, in recent years. Our research showed however, that the experiences of architects with planning is anything but relaxed. In fact 75% of respondents disagreed that ‘planners are less strict than they used to be’. There are some strong feelings out there and The Conservation Report revealed some fascinating insights into the world of conserving our built heritage….
We asked architects who they believed should have ultimate responsibility for period properties being restored in an appropriate way. Though legally it is the property owner’s responsibility, nearly half (46%) the architects who responded believed that they themselves should be the main custodians. Surprisingly, less than a quarter (24%) suggested that Conservation Officers shoulder the responsibility, though some architects commented that it is a joint effort between all parties; Architect, Contractor, Property Owner and Planning/Conservation Officer.
‘It’s worth noting that there was a marked difference in attitudes of some architects. Of those who reported mostly choosing ‘Specified Equal or Approved’ for products in their schemes, only 37% felt architects are responsible for ensuring period properties are restored appropriately, 29% thought that the buck stops with the property owner and another 29% believed Conservation Officers have the main duty of care. Whilst legally the property owner is ultimately responsible, some of these architects could be missing out on their vital role in building conservation by not selecting ‘Specified’ more often.’