Skills at the heart of heritage plan

Conference highlights need for ‘urgent’ repairs

Graeme Ogilvy
Skills chief: Graeme Ogilvy

A drive is under way to encourage people to take better care of the nation’s built heritage.
The move comes as statistics reveal that three quarters of the country’s traditional buildings need urgent repairs.
Historic Scotland (HS) is piloting a building ‘health check’ scheme to help owners identify problems and suggest how they can be tackled.
The plan was unveiled to construction industry representatives by culture secretary Fiona Hyslop at a conference focusing on the value of traditional skills.
The summit was held at Forth Valley College in Stirling and was organised by HS as part of a wider strategy to position the agency as a world leader in traditional craft training.
Delegates came from professional and employer organisations and companies including The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, the Federation of Master Builders, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Built Environment Forum Scotland, Balfour Beatty, The National Federation of Roofing Contractors, COSLA, and the Scottish Building Federation.
Research carried out by HS has found that the majority of pre-1919 traditional properties in Scotland are in need of urgent repair.
According to the government agency, 75% of the nation’s 455,000 traditional dwellings show disrepair to critical elements such as roofing and external walls, with 53% needing urgent repairs.
Those properties, around a fifth of the national total, comprise the bulk of the country’s vernacular architecture, from the sandstone tenements of Edinburgh and Glasgow to the granite housing of Aberdeen and the north-east.
“Scotland’s built heritage is central to our understanding of who we are, and where we come from,” said Hyslop. “It defines our character and reveals much about our interaction with the natural world. Traditional dwellings are a hallmark of our creativity, ingenuity and practical prowess, yet few people realise that much of this irreplaceable resource is in serious decline.”
It is hoped the pilot scheme will complement the agency’s wider partnership with others in the sector to ensure that steps are taken now to reverse the trend.
Research has shown that attitudes towards repair generally tend to be reactive rather than proactive, and HS hopes the new scheme and wider strategy will encourage people to take a more active role in the maintenance of their properties.
Cliff Hague, chairman of BEFS, said: “Scotland’s stock of traditional buildings needs care and attention. It makes economic sense to keep older buildings in a good state of repair – investment in regular maintenance saves on larger scale repair later. It supports local jobs and helps carbon reduction.
“This initiative should put repair and maintenance up the ‘to do list’ of everyone that has responsibility for, or a stake in, Scotland’s built heritage.”
Graeme Ogilvy, director of ConstructionSkills Scotland, hopes the project will create more work for construction companies by enabling them to understand the criteria for becoming an approved contractor and open up new work opportunities. In addition, he said he hoped it would drive up demand for repair and maintenance activities and increase demand for training and skills.
“The aim of the scheme from a construction point of view will be to stimulate the repair and maintenance market,” said Ogilvy. “The inspections will be independent, and contractors with the appropriate skills and qualifications will be appointed to undertake any work identified.”
And Grahame Barn, director of the FMB Scotland, added: “The scheme is an excellent way to raise awareness of the repair and maintenance of traditional buildings, as well as sustaining small local construction companies, who provide jobs and train apprentices in traditional building skills.”