The online resource for the historic environment

2.06 Conservation strategy

To assist your understanding of this Unit see BS 7913: 2013:
Section 5 "Using significance as a framework for managing the historic environment" paras 5.1 to 5.8 inclusive
Section 6 para 6.1 "Asset management".

“Historic buildings [and areas] should be maintained for the benefit of current and future generations. The historic building's [or area's] significance should be the basis of the management and planning of its continued wellbeing. Its specific value and attributes, its setting and inter-relationships should be taken into account in management planning”
BS 7913: 2013 para 5.2

“Understanding the nature, significance, condition and potential of a heritage asset must be the basis for rational decisions about its management, use, alteration or disposal.”
Managing Local Authority Heritage Assets 2003

“The Cultural Significance of a place and other issues affecting its future are best understood by a sequence of collecting and analysing information before making decisions.”
Article 6.1 of The Burra Charter 1999

“…management plans…provide a framework for discussion, consultation and agreed action, and try to set out what the objectives and priorities are for conservation.”
A Future for Our Past 1996

The establishment, through thorough research, of cultural and historical significance of an SME informs and underpins intervention strategy. It facilitates a structured approach to intervention work and assists in ensuring that conjecture does not influence the process. It will have been established at the investigative stage of the work what is of vital value to the protection of aesthetic significance, what (as a result of detailed analysis and in the absence of subjective response) is less important and what deterioration or decay processes are involved and how these need to be addressed in order to protect architectural and aesthetic significance.

See: Investigative work on historic buildings, English Heritage.

Part of the process of pre-intervention planning will involve assessment of those elements of the historic asset that are vulnerable – either as a result of decay or structural deficiencies, or as a result of other factors of influence on the structure’s pathology that are adversely affecting the longevity of it. See BS 7913: 2013 section 6.3 "Assessment of performance and pathology".

“Pathology is the identification of what needs to be left alone, or what needs to be undone to retain the integrity of a historic building."

BS 7913: 2013 para 6.3.4

It may be necessary as part of the assessment process to call in experts or specialists in the use of materials, patterns or processes of decay etc. It may also be necessary to call upon the services of professionals who have expert knowledge or understanding of the asset form or, who are experts in the history of the asset, its context or development. It is one of the fundamental attributes of a good conservation professional to have a clear knowledge of his or her own limitations in being able to properly assess and formulate a conservation strategy. None of us can be sufficiently expert at all things and we must recognise when more focused, esoteric or even arcane knowledge can provide useful insight into how to respond to an asset’s needs.

The establishment, through thorough research, of aesthetic value, design importance, architectural or structural value informs and underpins intervention strategy

The approach to any works of intervention which might affect aesthetic or architectural value must pay due regard to the fundamental principles of conservation ethics. These might be simply stated as follows:

  • Minimum intervention
  • Minimum loss of authenticity
  • Reversibility of any intervention work
  • Minimum loss of fabric
  • Absence of deceit or, honesty of intervention

Useful websites

www.buildingconservation.com