Purpose of this paper
The research set out to examine whether, among heritage practitioners, there is unanimity as well as
notable discrepancies in what they perceive as the barriers and threats to the successful and
sustainable restoration of heritage buildings.
The study collected data from 87 practitioners. These included professional building surveyors,
conservation officers, designers, main heritage as well as specialist heritage subcontractors. This
heterogeneous sample was subject to the same research instrument. The data generated was chiefly
Principally, the notable barriers explored are ‘Prognosis–intervention barriers’. These are represented
by a lack of knowledge about the principles of conservation and repair; followed by inconsistent repair
standards. Even among the most dexterous heritage practitioners, the study noted a marked variation
in the prognosis of structural failure as well as routine inconsistencies in the defects diagnosis
methods. These challenges are contemporaneous within the sector as the likes of Historical England,
(as custodians of Ancient Monuments) are continually seeking long term, and in some cases imminent
interventional solutions. It is worrisome, however, to note that the custodians themselves are trapped
in paralysis as the cycle between episodes of intervention become longer. The corollary is that,
throughout the UK, most grade 1, grade II* and Ancient Monument structures are making the ‘risk
register’: too many buildings, face the threat of being lost foreover.
The study concludes that a wider UK sample will be needed. This is because some of the applied
technologies, preferred by practictioners, are not widely practised, especially in a sector where
planning consent and wholesome depature from established principles, the local siginifcance attached
to buildings are not only inimitable but demand solutions which are intagible and incomparable.
Within the heritage sector, the ongoing concerns about the slow rate of sustainable restoration merits
considerable attention. Likewise, the challenges intrisic in the technical heritage doctrines such as
‘reversibility’ should in turn, be embraced as offering sustainable low carbon retrofit solutions. Indeed,
by putting emphasis on the ‘reversibility’ ethos, a multi-perspective analysis unveils the fact that
among practitioners, a sense of optimism is generally lacking. The study concludes that the sector
lacks ‘can-do’ attitudes. As a result, it is diffuclt to innovate and to find solutions to the inexorable cycle
of disrepair and the enormous restoration bill, currently estimated to run into several billions of Pound
sterling. Sadly, locked-in with this, is the enormous high carbon foot print due to the ensuing
restoration and repair activity.