Let’s go the whole hog with heritage

Monday, March 7th, 2011

No, not in any Gerry Brownlee way, but if there’s going to be any strengthening going on why mess with 30%?  Why put all that kind of money into strengthening when to strengthen to 100% won’t cost another 70% but much much less?

These are the sorts of questions we need to ask of our local councils, and then, of course, we need to work out who is going to pay.  Currently the building owners get lumped with the bill – but that’s a bit unreasonable.  Falling architecture affects us all.  How many people were killed on the streets of Christchurch from wayward facades, unhinging from buildings?  How many buildings have caused neighbouring buildings to be uninhabitable? – and why? – because we have not thought about the consequences of not earthquake strengthening to 100% at a community level.

All this is aside from the economic benefits of heritage restoration and earthquake strengthening.  The American Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, for exmaple, claims that “Rehabilitation of historic properties in Georgia during a five-year period created 7,550 jobs and $201 million in earnings.” English Heritage refers to research that estimates that “the indirect economic benefit [of] heritage tourism is responsible for £21bn of UK GDP annually.”  They are also researching other tangible values provided by heritage architecture to those living among and visiting heritage sites.”

Heritage needs to be with us for the long haul.  Let’s give it 100%.


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Posted under: Comment, Heritage, Heritage Buildings | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “Let’s go the whole hog with heritage”

  1. Monday Says:

    Whilst I agree with the sentiment, and 30% seems inordinately low for buildings we are supposed to value highly, I have to fundamentally disagree with the proposition that 100% is not hugely expensive nor hugely invasive to the point of losing the very heritage one is trying to protect.

    In many cases it is not possible to achieve 100% without a great loss of highly valuable heritage fabric. It’s relatively easy to achieve 30% with a few steel braces in clever locations. To get higher it gets harder, sheer walls intersecting spaces, more frames in awkward locations, larger member sizes, larger and larger foundations. All of which adds to the cost and disruption to heritage fabric significantly.

    Lets go as high as we can, without destroying that which we’re trying to protect.

  2. sally Says:

    sounds like a good philosophy Monday

  3. Joan Carbody Says:

    I disagree. The difference in cost between the 30% and the 100% is not so much directly attributable to the amount of strengthening, but the method used. For instance, an external steel frame will be simple and effective, but ugly.

    On the other hand, a thin wrapping of carbon fibre will be a very thin and unobtrusive system to use to strengthen some walls – but it is prohibitively expensive.

    Both could reach near 100%. But the wrapping, while seemly, may cost many times more.

  4. erentz Says:

    I want to see heritage buildings preserved, but if public money goes into strengthening any privately owned buildings, I do hope the public gets and ownership stake in the property — or it’s done as some kind of low cost loan scheme from central government that is eventually paid back.

  5. Den Says:

    Monday’s comments may hold true for complex building types like churches (with their spires and decorative elements) however they hold less true for commercial buildings in our city centre.

    The costs of strengthening on historic buildings is certainly more in the setting up of the project and the carrying out of associated works. The actual strengthening work usually has a high degree of knock-on, architectural work (as part of the building need to be dismantled and reinstated. Joan’s comment regarding a simple metal frame, though, in $ terms is understandable, just doesn’t happen in heritage work for anything other than temporary means of support. Also, the use of carbon-fibre wrapping is easily the most expensive method engineers have come up with yet – but it has great advantages of being reasonably quick and unobtrusive.

    Of the many costs to consider when working with heritage restrengthening are: costs of disruption (if building has sitting occupants they need relocating); lost revenue; loss of rental area (when walls are thickened etc); site set-up; knock-on remediation works; unforeseen works; fees; consent processes.

    Most of these things are constant whether a building is going through a remediation to 33%, 66%, 100% or higher. Put all these in the pot, the cost of the actual structural work is often a small part of the consideration a building owner faces.

    As a community, if we want to keep our heritage, we really have to understand the costs and be prepared to pay for them somehow. We need to encourage the owners of heritage buildings to love what they own and to support them through the process.

  6. richard Says:

    so bulk but carbon-fibre? – or is quite a bit of the cost in the actual wrapping of the building?

  7. richard Says:

    I meant bulk-buy sorry – the “t” is too close to the “y” on my keyboard

  8. Guy Says:

    I’d be quite keen to see low cost, simple, crude attempts at strengthening heritage buildings as a first step, and then that could be gradually replaced with more sophisticated attempts at hidden strengthening later on.

    The sort of thing I have in mind is using large steel girders either side of brick walls – one inside, and one outside, bolted together through the wall. It’ll look bad for a few years, but when tied in, it will stop the building falling down. Doing that sort of thing could be done incredibly quickly, to make buildings safe. Then we can continue the discussion on who pays.

  9. Monday Says:

    Joan Carbody: the difference between 30 and 100 can be in various things, as I noted. What I find slightly strange is the apparent lack of value placed on heritage preservation – the last paragraph of the post indicates that the aim of strengthening is not just saving lives but to maintain heritage fabric through a seismic event. In many cases, 100% strengthening will remove much more heritage fabric from the outset, which I would argue needs to be balanced against the level of risk and so forth.

    Den: The factsheet compiled by the institution of professional engineers indicates that the buildings that failed significantly in the Chch earthquake tended to be ones with more complex plans and structural systems. This suggests that the systems required to strengthen them would be more complex solutions.

  10. m-d Says:

    What if each commercial/public building (so-called heritage or not) had to carry a sign indicating it’s structural assessment (in simplified form), somewhere prominently near the entrance… Visitors could then decide whether or not enter such a building, and workers whether or not to take up employment there. Owners of said buildings would then have an incentive, if they wanted to get the best market rates for rent etc, to strengthen their buildings, using whatever assistance is offered by the council’s. Use the market to help create the desired action – seems simple enough – so simple in fact, that it must have some obvious flaws…?

    (It also has the benefit of meaning that some people won’t be afraid of entering ‘heritage-looking’ buildings that HAVE been strengthened to code – see the Blackboard outside Martha’s Pantry, Cuba Street Wgtn, as an indication of the potential negative impact this eq has had on people’s perceptions of heritage buildings).

  11. m-d Says:

    PS – I think I might have read a similar suggestion elsewhere, so this is not all my own thinking (I’m not really capable of original thought…)

  12. starkive Says:

    There seems to have been little discussion of the prospect of leaving some Christchurch sites as ruins – safe, gothic piles. Quite apart from the obvious cost advantages, they would also provide immediate, unambiguous memorials to what happened there and to those who didn’t survive it.

  13. richard Says:

    good thinking – I think someone on national radio mentioned Conventry Cathedral as a possible example

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