The online resource for the historic environment

5.07 Management of works

To assist your understanding of this Unit See BS 7913: 2013:
Section 5: "Using significance as a framework for managing the historic environment."
Section 7: "Maintenance."
Section 8: "Heritage and project management."

"The historic building's significance should be the basis of the management and planning of its continued well-being. Its specific value and attributes, its setting and inter-relationships should be taken into account in management planning.”
BS 7913: 2013 para 5.2 "Heritage management principles."

Interventive work on and within the historic environment imposes a special responsibility on all those who undertake to intervene. The risks of irreplaceable loss is ever present and practitioners and workers involved in the process must be as aware as possible of their responsibilities and the hazards involved. Without commitment to the principles, philosophical understanding and accepted good practice of conservation work the historic environment may be placed at risk.

“These old buildings do not belong to us only; … they have belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not … our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us.”
William Morris (1889)

“What you cannot make
You should not break.”
Anon, cited by Earl, J. Building Conservation Philosophy

Accurate pre-contract definition of works and clearly defined methods, standards and quality of working, along with clarity of understanding of the significance of a site are probably the most important precursor to any works involving intervention on and within the historic environment. The removal of doubt about the content, process and procedure during execution of the works and clear delineation of roles and responsibilities will allow the work force to undertake their appointed tasks with clarity of knowledge of what they are doing and why they are doing it. This removal of doubt is probably the most effective defence against inadvertent damage to the historic environment.

Efficient methods of communication and clearly defined decision processes and controls, together with definitive definition of individual’s responsibilities, are of paramount importance during the contract phase and will assist in reinforcing the strict controls that must be implemented in order to protect significance and authenticity. A system of communicating discoveries made on site during works execution will provide a method of control targeted on ensuring that all persons are as aware as possible that the building and fabric on which they are working must be subject to the closest possible scrutiny and protection. The ability to promote the necessary knowledge relating to significance to those persons undertaking work is an essential skill of the conservation practitioner. This knowledge needs to be transferred through contractual documentation, communication methods, education of site staff and site procedure.

Hazardous site operations must be adequately controlled to reduce risk to vulnerable fabric.

Identify at least 10 site operations that pose risk to sensitive material and fabric and define methods that you might adopt to reduce, control and monitor hazards

The following are suggested as good management targets and strategies when working on and within the historic environment:

  • Understand significance and vulnerabilities
  • Identify the purpose of and need for the work
  • Assess the impact of the work
  • Plan strategy including timing, content and financing
  • Communicate findings and report. Include monitoring and notification procedure for discoveries on site
  • Assess suitable specialists and contractors
  • Define extent of works by very detailed documentation and work definitions, including identification of risks and hazards
  • Appoint suitable contractors/specialist
  • Agree programme of works and assess patterns of disruption and plan for same
  • Agree communication procedure
  • Monitor costs and extras
  • Closely monitor works during execution and compile reports and record findings for archiving. Monitor health and safety
  • Monitor and review works methods and progress and storage for future reference

The RIBA Plan of Work (general project control and management response procedure) and English Heritage suggestions for conservation projects management structure defined in Informed Conservation as CoBRA (English Heritage 2001) are useful sources in this regard.

By reference to Clark, K (2001) Informed Conservation expand the acronym CoBRA.

When working on pre-intervention planning and anticipatory structuring of possible works, the simple option of not undertaking works should always be a considered alternative to intervention. Sometimes, in conservation work, the option of no action may provide the conservation practitioner with best choice!

“When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”
Lucius Cary 1610 – 1643