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Care of Historic Buildings

Scotland’s historic buildings and structures are an integral part of our everyday lives; they shape many of the iconic images of Scotland, providing physical context to our history and heritage, whilst providing very special environments to work and live in.

The repair, restoration and/or alteration of these structures require careful consideration of many factors, including physical and historical context plus a knowledge of traditional building methods and materials.

Alexander Scott Design Ltd has experience in the issues surrounding historic and listed structures.  We assist our clients with planning limitations recommend suitable building materials and appropriate methods of repairs and maintenance along with sympathetic solutions to the particular problems associated with old buildings, such as wet/dry rot, structural movement plus the preservation of unique or historic features.

If you have a project involving a listed or historic building and require any assistance then please contact us by e-mail at: lesley@alexanderscott.co.uk or by telephone on 01738 563 231.

Alexander Scott Design ltd Conservation Philosophy

1. Structure and Hierarchy

This design philosophy has three components; these are best understood in a hierarchical arrangement with the most important being the guiding concept. This forms the basis for all design involvement with any existing structure. Expanding on this concept is a series of design principles that apply in all cases where the structure is considered to have merit worthy of conserving. Each principle will apply to a greater or lesser extent to an individual case depending upon the specific merits and problems of the structure or artefact. The relative importance of the various design principles must be judged based on the guiding concept. Finally, a range of alternative conservation approaches are available, the selection of the appropriate one for a particular case is governed by the overall concept and design principles. Thus in determining the approach best suited to a specific project, it is vital that a careful, methodical process be undertaken to build from a broad overview of priorities down to determining specific problem solving approaches.

2. Guiding Concept
The overall guiding concept that informs and directs the application of all of our work with existing buildings is one of “Cultural significance”. In this structures and artefacts plus any features and components within them, are understood firstly in terms of their significance for human culture. This includes an assessment of architectural merit, and historic significance, noting local, national and international significance where relevant. It also includes identifying items possessing rarity or uniqueness that adds to the richness of the culture and interest in the built environment.

3. Design Principles
The following design principles are applied to buildings, structures and other artefacts considered worthy of a conservative approach to repair or alteration.
a. Wherever possible, adopt an approach of conservative repair, maintaining as much of the existing fabric as possible and maintaining the platina of age.
b. Where intervention is required it should be minimal in extent.
c. To maintain a structure in the longer term, it must have an economic use. Thus, outwith historic monuments, preserved solely for their cultural significance, it is vital that viable, practical use can be made of the structure, so that ongoing maintenance and continued preservation remains in the best interests of the owners and the wider community.
d. Where new work is to be added, it should be of the highest possible design quality, as items of quality tend to be valued and preserved by future generations. Quality is the best preservative.
e. Due priority and emphasis should be given to structures and components of high cultural importance
These five principles (conservative repair-minimum intervention-economic use-design quality-due emphasis) can sometimes be seen as competing rather than complimentary interests. It is the role of conservation to harmonise these requirements to form a single, coherent strategy for the conservation of a building or structure. Generally all five principles must be satisfied for a successful project to result. Any apparent conflict between principles should be resolved by reference to the guiding concept. For example repairs exceeding the minimal possible work may be appropriate where they address problems of existing design quality or practical use providing the works do not involve damage to any item of cultural significance but could not be justified where significant or unique features are destroyed.

4. Alternative repair methods
The following repair methods are arranged in order from least to most disruptive. As one of the design principles is minimum intervention, the least intrusive method that satisfies all five design principles should be employed.
a. Conserve as found
Least disruptive is the approach of conservative repair, championed by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings for good reason.
b. Like for like repair
Repair using original materials, methods and forms minimises the impact of essential works
c. Sympathetic repair
Where a strict like for like substitution is impractical, repairs using new materials that are in sympathy with the existing structure should be adopted. A simple example is the use of tension control bolts to replace rivets as the domed shape of the head of this type of bolt is similar in appearance to the original rivet head.
d. Reversible repairs
Where more obvious repairs are unavoidable, they should be reversible wherever possible as this allows future developments of new repair methods to be employed when they become available, or like for like repairs to be made when this becomes economically viable.
e. Replacement of defective work.
Where defects in the original construction of existing structures are causing distress or danger, or where such defects are in conflict with the design principles outlined above, defective work should be replaced using new construction that does not suffer from a similar fault. Common examples include the use of breathable underslating membranes in roofs to replace impermeable bitumen felt that promotes condensation, and the reconstruction of valley and abutment gutters using wider deeper gutters and increased falls to prevent water ingress.
f. Removal of inappropriate previous additions
In cases where ill-conceived additions of low quality encrust a building or structure and conceal cultural gems from earlier times, removal of the alterations to reveal the original or earlier work can be appropriate.

Specialist Services
Dorran Bungalows
Care of Historic Buildings
Related Links

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T: 01738 563231

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United Kingdom

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Design Process