The online resource for the historic environment

2.08 Determining appropriate levels of intervention

To assist your understanding of this Unit see BS 7913: 2013:
Section 6: "Significance as part of operational care and other interventions".


“The object of conservation is to prolong the life of cultural heritage and, if possible, to clarify the artistic and historical messages therein without loss of authenticity and meaning…Conservation requires the ability to observe, analyse and synthesise. The conservationist should have a flexible yet pragmatic approach based on cultural consciousness which should penetrate all practical work… [also] sound judgement and a sense of proportion with an understanding of the community’s needs.” Guidelines for Education and Training. ICOMOS

Any historical asset makes an important contribution to the context in which it is sited, its street scene, its townscape its landscape, its environment. This contribution will have become established over time by its continuing presence, especially to its local population who daily, or occasionally, pass by and, in so doing, use it as a reference source about their society. To enable such reference the asset should, ideally, retain its time honoured appearance if it is to maintain its status and importance to its society. Any proposals to amend appearance must be considered in clear knowledge of what is important, why it is important and how it is important. It is nonetheless essential to understand that, to remain on its site, an asset may need to change, but that it is the management of change and the appropriateness of change that underpins the philosophy of conservation.

“Significance should be understood to reduce the risk of loosing or compromising components of the site which are of value. A holistic approach should be undertaken to ensure that the sense of place and local identity is maintained."BS 7913: 2013 para 5.8 "The role of significance within place shaping and utilisation of local distinctiveness

By such knowledge and understanding the process of appropriateness and quality of intervention, its planning, control and strategy is informed.

In the light of what you may have learned since reading Introduction and Overview of this unit, re-evaluate your response to the question about a Sir Giles Gilbert Scott red telephone kiosk.

See 2.03 "Introduction" of this Unit.

It has been established in the preceding sections of this unit the importance of establishing a clear understanding of the aesthetic worth of an historic asset. You should have lodged in your mind the need for full evaluation of all factors affecting the assessment of significance, particularly in respect of those factors that are instrumental in establishing aesthetic worth. You should have sufficient knowledge to enable you to formulate a response to reporting on aesthetic value and be able to put together documentation in support of and detailing your understanding.

Structuring your response to the need to intervene will also be informed by a range of possible alternative solutions to the method and manner of intervention. The evaluation of each alternative must use as its primary driver the need to minimally intervene in order to achieve the desired result. Materials’ technology, use and incorporation are constantly being advanced and improved. It is the responsibility of you, the conservation practitioner, to ensure that you are constantly updating your knowledge in respect of materials’ technology. You must be prepared to undertake continuing CPD and research to ensure you are as aware as possible of advances in technology.

One of the fundamental principles of conservation is that of reversibility; this to ensure, where possible, (as indeed, some repairs may not be reversible) that future improvements in material availability and use and incorporation of materials which will improve upon previous interventions may be incorporated without loss, or at least minimum damage, to original fabric.

You should not only address the effects of intervention upon the subject structure but also those of its immediate neighbours and within the context or setting of the building or structure.