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Welcome to week 3 of Progressive Heritage’s Working with Heritage series. The series asks the same 5 questions of different industry experts to reveal a more rounded picture of the wider team typically involved in the re-use of historic buildings.

This week we hear the viewpoint from a Structural Engineer for historic buildings, Jeremy Foster, Project Director for Ramboll’s Heritage and Archaeology team – click here for more information.


1       In the context of the re-use of heritage buildings has your work changed since the 2007-08 recession, and if so how?

There has been more work since coming out of the recession, whereas previously clients were ‘sitting’ on projects. There seems to be more of an appetite now for conservation rather than simply refurbishment.

2       What challenges to you commonly find when working on a re-use project?

There is typically a lack of understanding in the general construction industry of the complexities in the processes and legislation surrounding heritage and necessary engagement with Historic England.
We often find clients with an emotional connection to their heritage asset lack funds for schemes, and those with funds value the prestige of the heritage facades, but may overlook the heritage value of a building’s interior.

3       What do you believe are the positives in the re-use of buildings?

  • The contribution heritage makes to a sustainable society and future
  • The impact of the embodied energy, in particular of masonry and concrete, compared to making these materials new
  • Heritage on the macro scale is the spiritual heart and personality of a city – an echo of our past. Heritage is fundamental to a society’s collective identity.
  • Heritage fabric has a degree of permanency compared to new buildings which typically have a transient nature to them.

4       What would you advise the owner of a heritage building poised for development to consider before starting a project?

  • To consider heritage as a long-term financial asset: the loss of heritage will ultimately  de-value a building.
  • Similarly invest in the maintenance of a building’s heritage to retain its intrinsic value – associated with capital investment.

5       With the benefit of a crystal ball what will be the main impact(s) upon your work on heritage buildings in the next 5-10 years?

  • Energy use will become more important and in particular embodied energy will require to be understood better to realise its true value and cost. I believe this will only be driven by legislation and finance.
    Having visited Katmandu in Nepal recently to assess the structural impact of the recent earthquakes my lasting impression is the impact of the loss of heritage on the people – a tangible effect, like a scar. Their spiritual heritage has been destroyed and this deeply impacts the society’s quality of life. It would be terrible if only a large scale loss of our built heritage occurred, for wider society to drive through change to protect its inherent value.
  • Another significant impact will be ‘Heritage BIM’. The 3D models are now sufficiently sophisticated to reveal the impact of weather and associated heat influence on structures – the benefits of which we were able to work with recently on Ironbridge.

Many thanks to Jeremy for his time and energy for this contribution to the Working with Heritage series. We had a great conversation on the subject and had a lot of material to chose from for inclusion to share with you.

I do hope you have found the series of interviews interesting. If you are a professional Working with Heritage in a field not covered in the last three weeks do get in touch to expand the conversation. Contact Progressive Heritage on hello@progressiveheritage.co.uk.

Click here for last week’s interview with the Building Surveyor, and here for the first interview with the Sole Practitioner Architect.