IHBC Yearbook 2011

r e v i e w 39 working on the conservation of what our constitution termed ‘the historic environment’. These specialists recognised that without a dedicated professional framework for their work – one integrating skills, standards, ethics, regulation and support – the credibility of their advice would be undermined and so the future of what they cared for could be threatened. Before the IHBC established itself as the sector’s professional body, competence in providing conservation advice in the historic environment was primarily represented in one of two ways. Practitioners could hold a specialist skill within a traditional built environment professional body, such as conservation accreditation in architecture or surveying; or they could have their authority underpinned by a statutory framework, and serve as a local government conservation officer. These de facto quality assurance mechanisms overlapped. They provided, as they still do, an opportunity to regulate competence but there was no single professional basis for overseeing the quality of that advice or for regulating professional ethics in line with conservation outcomes. The IHBC was established to address this challenge and charged with the provision of a new professional infrastructure: a challenge that should not be underestimated. Our members have developed skills in an astounding range of professions, but conservation outcomes still depend on changes to and pressures on historic places that we may not be able to control. The historic environment is not a museum; it needs to respond to change, so the starting point was to define the skills of the profession in the context of wider change processes, notably the planning system. Conservation advice should consider a wide range of variables. These are often intangible, local and national cultural traditions, or matters such as usage, ownership, finance, planning, materials, skills and services. The scope of these variables requires skills that span economics, history, legislation, sociology, design and more. Clearly INTERVENTION PROFESSIONAL EVALUATION MANAGEMENT The conservation cycle and the IHBC’s areas of competence practitioners need substantial knowledge and understanding to provide quality advice on how best to conserve valued places. Obviously no-one can master the breadth of knowledge required to fully anticipate the outcomes for our heritage. The strength of the institute was that it established a system for assessing and regulating the balance of skills appropriate to conservation: the Areas of Competence. These consist of an overarching Area of Professional Competence and three Areas of Practical Competence (see diagram below), and they lie at the heart of the quality assurance membership represents. The Areas of Practical Competence – Evaluation, Management and Intervention, as outlined in greater detail on page 10 – encompass the broadranging practical skills that underpin conservation as a ‘cycle’ of activity. This cycle begins with the evaluation of what might be conserved. The evaluation then informs its management and, where appropriate, any intervention. The IHBC’s model of the conservation cycle represents good practice in change management – the World Bank’s environmental project management guidance adopts a similar structure. More importantly, the internationally endorsed training standard for our sector, the ICOMOS ‘Guidelines for Education and Training in the Conservation of Monuments, Ensembles and Sites’ established in 1993 and adopted by the mainstream built environment professional bodies, underpins the competences. Like the IHBC, ICOMOS identifies key areas of skills and knowledge, notably a capacity to operate professionally across or outside traditional disciplines. The IHBC adds its own detail to the ICOMOS standard by specifying more skills attached to planning – the primary tool for managing our traditional and historic places. Both systems are clear on the value of interdisciplinary understanding. At the very least this highlights what you don’t know, which is sometimes the starting point for conservation advice. Members of the IHBC, as well as employers and clients, know that the letters IHBC are the mark of demonstrated competence in conservation; advice shaped by an ethical consideration of the future of historic places; and full professional support from compulsory CPD to disciplinary procedures. We cannot be sure of the future of our built heritage but the IHBC can play its role as a professional body by supporting expertise and making it easier for owners, users, regulators and stakeholders to access appropriate services. Full members identify themselves with the post-nominal badge ‘IHBC’, the mark of the conservation professional, demonstrating that they are fully skilled to engage in the complex process of our ‘Heritage Futurewatch’.