IHBC 2020 Yearbook

40 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 2 0 IHBC as one of three co-chairs of the STBA Board. IHBC has also set up a green panel convened by Crispin Edwards, made up of a group of interested IHBC members who debate specific issues and provide the institute with an informed opinion. The more longstanding IHBC Technical Panel, currently convened by John Edwards, now has a greater focus on sustainability issues. During 2019, IHBC took things further by signing-up to two external initiatives: the Climate Heritage Network (CHN) and Heritage Declares. CHN is an international mutual support network which is committed to aiding their communities in tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The network includes local, regional and national arts, culture and heritage agencies, as well as NGOs, universities, businesses and other organisations. It was set up on a voluntary basis in 2018 in the USA and launched in Edinburgh in 2019. Organisations that join the network endorse the CHN’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The Network takes a very broad view of heritage, embracing all aspects of arts, culture and heritage, while its MOU puts a very positive spin on the contribution that the sector can make to tackling climate change. Heritage Declares is a UK-based grass-roots group of non-affiliated heritage practitioners, who have come together to urge the sector to react more quickly and effectively to the climate and ecological emergency, and to push the environmental crisis to the top of the heritage agenda. Joining the CHN was the catalyst for producing the Position Statement on Sustainability and Conservation of the Historic Built Environment. CHN’s MOU is written in very broad-brush terms and doesn’t drill down to definitive issues, such as the potential for harm to built heritage as a result of retrofit. So it was felt that IHBC should set out its position, with reference to specific issues such as the scope for adapting buildings and places to enhance performance, which could form part of IHBC’s contribution to CHN’s work. It was also deemed important to consider historic buildings alongside historic places, which includes towns, villages, designed landscapes and parks. When formulating the position statement, IHBC was particularly inspired by the Heritage Declares ‘Declaration’, a commitment to ten basic principles. The full text of the position statement can be found online (see below), but in brief, it starts by outlining the IHBC’s belief that the conservation of the historic built environment is an essential component of the response to the threat posed by climate change and long-term planning for sustainable development. The statement then sets out 16 key points that underpin this belief. These draw attention to the fact that re-using historic buildings and re-shaping historic areas to facilitate their long-term use sustains them as non-renewable resources. Although the desirability of re-use is emphasised on the grounds of conserving embodied energy and carbon, the statement does not demand that all old buildings and areas have to be kept. It sets out the principle that judgements on retention should weigh architectural and historic significance against any wider benefits that might arise from replacement and redevelopment. The durability of most traditional building materials is noted, as is the fact that the longer buildings can survive, the greater the contribution made by their embodied energy (the energy used to make the materials). The importance of maintenance and repair is highlighted as a fundamental consideration in improving energy efficiency, but the statement also draws attention to the opportunities for re-using historic materials and the contribution of traditional craftsmanship to sustainability. IHBC’s position statement refers to historic places alongside individual historic buildings, stressing that much can be learned from historic towns, particularly from their mixing of uses, their scale, layout and density, the orientation and variety of their buildings and features, as well as the form of their townscapes in general. It similarly points out that much can be learned from historic adapted and designed landscapes and parks, which invariably support bio-diversity, usually contribute to flood alleviation, and frequently form invaluable local resources that support mental as well as physical health and well-being. Critically, the statement acknowledges that historic buildings and places are not always perfect, so there is often scope to improve their performance through appropriate repairs and adaptations, if conceived with sensitivity and understanding. The statement signals that historic buildings can usually be made more energy efficient provided each one is considered holistically, taking account of functional performance, historic fabric, architectural issues such as character and appearance, and the need to optimise medium to long term performance. The terminology used in the position statement refers to historic buildings and places and traditional construction, which are broad terms that apply to both designated and nondesignated heritage. The statement considers that, in either case where a proposed adaptation to enhance sustainability would result in a degree of harm to architectural and historic value, a balanced judgement should be taken. Both the relative significance of the building and its contribution to environmental quality need to be considered. It also signals that, as the most significant historic buildings form only a small proportion of the overall building stock, it may be justifiable to retain some of them in an unaltered state. Further reading IHBC Position Statement on Sustainability and Conservation of the Historic Built Environment: http://bc-url.com/ihbc-ps20a Climate Heritage Network Memorandum of Understanding, 2019: http://bc-url.com/chn-mou Heritage Declares ‘Declaration’, 2019: https://www.heritagedeclares.org/ Roy Lewis is the IHBC Policy Secretary (policy@ihbc.org.uk) and director of Grover Lewis Associates Ltd. A chartered town planner and member of RTPI, he led an undergraduate architectural conservation programme at the University of Derby between 2002 and 2008.