Executive Summary and Overarching Themes
Best Practice Maintenance Management for Listed Buildings
Individual Owners’ Approaches to the Maintenance of their Listed
The Provision of Commercial Maintenance Services for Listed Buildings
Report Submitted to Maintain our Heritage by The University of the West
of England, Bristol
In 2002, Maintain our Heritage (Maintain), together with a number of project
partners won funding under the Department of Trade and Industry’s
Partners in Innovation Programme to undertake the first-ever major research
programme on the maintenance of historic buildings, entitled Maintaining
Value. The research programme was predicated on the idea that systematic
maintenance is fundamental to the conservation of historic buildings.
For the purposes of this research the term historic buildings has been
taken to mean listed buildings. It is acknowledged that this is a narrow
definition of the term. It was decided, however, that this group of buildings
as the most challenging and precious part of the sector, represented an
ideal group for learning lessons applicable to the wider built cultural
heritage. This term also gave a clarity and focus to the research.
The overall aim of the research programme is to support and build on
the developing agenda both in government and the heritage sector that
prevention is better than cure.
Maintaining Value has a number of objectives:
- to test the hypothesis that systematic maintenance is the most sustainable
and cost-effective maintenance regime for listed buildings;
- to identify and evaluate examples of good practice in relation to
the systematic maintenance of listed buildings and to find examples
of good practice in general maintenance management which might be adapted
or applied to the maintenance management of listed buildings;
- to examine the way in which individuals and organisations currently
approach the maintenance of the listed buildings in their care;
- to investigate the potential for systematic maintenance management
to create opportunities for the construction industry to develop new
products and services.
The programme of work was divided into nine modules. The University of
the West of England, Bristol (UWE), who were among the project partners,
were nominated subcontractors for three of these modules:
- Module 1: Best Practice Maintenance Management for Listed Buildings;
- Module 2: Individual Owners’ Approaches to the Maintenance of
their Listed Buildings;
- Module 3: The Provision of Commercial Maintenance Services for Listed
The remainder of this summary outlines the aims, methods adopted and
key findings from each of these research modules.
2. Module 1: Best Practice Maintenance Management for Listed Buildings
2.1 Context and aims
Since William Morris’ call to establish the Society for the Protection
of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), in 1877, maintenance has been highlighted
as a key intervention in protecting the built cultural heritage. Despite
the rhetoric of the importance of maintenance there has been no systematic
- the case for maintenance;
- what might constitute best practice in relation to the maintenance
management of historic buildings;
- how individuals and organisations currently approach the maintenance
of the historic buildings in their care.
The aim of this research module was to begin to redress these knowledge
shortfalls. Specifically the objectives were to examine:
- the existing and developing statutory and policy context within which
maintenance of listed buildings is undertaken in the UK;
- what constitutes a best practice approach to the maintenance of listed
buildings, based on the literature and from current practice;
- current approaches to maintenance of organisations whose property
portfolio contains a proportion of listed buildings;
- the financial and non-financial case for maintenance.
The methods and key findings from each of these tasks are summarised
in turn below.
2.2 The statutory context for maintenance
Aims and methods
This was a desk-based study, which reviewed the principal statutory and
other official documents that are of relevance to maintenance.
Lack of coherence
The statutory and policy situation is not coherent with regard to maintenance,
particularly in regard to co-ordination between statutory instruments,
acts and fiscal measures. Indeed some aspects, such as the VAT situation,
seem to actively discourage preventative maintenance and there is little
that supports the development of pro-active approaches.
Lack of leadership
Until recently there has been no clear leadership on maintenance for listed
buildings at policy level. However, within the context of increasing attention
by policy makers to the strategic issue of understanding cultural significance,
its vulnerability and the development of appropriate policies and action,
there has been increasing emphasis on the importance of maintenance as
a critical conservation activity.
2.3 European maintenance initiatives
Aims and methods
This was a desk study and series of interviews with representatives of
3 European initiatives which either adopt or help to support a systematic
approach to the maintenance of listed/historic buildings. The section
also describes the statutory context in which these initiatives operate.
National policies that are supportive of maintenance
In the Dutch case, the state’s involvement in financing conservation,
in particular through a system of fiscal incentives means that the state
has a long term financial interest in reducing the level of tax breaks
for repairs to listed buildings: it is in the states own interest to reduce
this need by encouraging maintenance in order to reduce the amount of
subsidy provided. Equally if the state is financing repair subsidy there
is a ‘best value’ reason for it to ensure that the investment
made is secured into the future via maintenance activity. In the Netherlands,
the state’s support and validation of the Monumentenwacht initiative
sends a clear message to listed building owners about the importance of
maintenance. Enshrining a duty of care in statute and the provision of
state financial support for maintenance are key factors which have encouraged
the success of the Danish initiative Raadvad Bygningssyn.
Co-operation and coordination
Cooperation between government, non-governmental organisations and the
heritage sector is clearly a key feature which underpins the success of
the maintenance initiative and the promotion of preventative maintenance
in general in the Netherlands. This is reflected in the amount of multi-partner
working and in the integration of policies at different levels.
Nationally coordinated database and monitoring system
Although maintenance has not been a significant part of the philosophical
or practical approach to conservation in Italy, the national Risk Map
data base has been a key factor in being able to provide evidence which
supports the case for maintenance. Moreover, there is clearly enormous
potential for such a national data base to play a key role in a nationally
coordinated maintenance strategy, both in terms of identifying suitable
frequencies for inspections, and other forms of maintenance, and in monitoring
the effectiveness of such strategies and adapting them accordingly.
Comprehensive maintenance services
The ‘one-stop-shop’ approach of the Dutch and Danish initiatives
provides owners with a range of maintenance advice related services which
are comprehensive, convenient to use, and which provide access to a range
of maintenance activity related services. Support in terms of advice and
complementary services also plays an important role in encouraging listed
building owners to maintain their properties.
In Denmark, the setting up a new service within an existing and trusted
organisation has provided a range of services that support the core inspection
and maintenance planning service and provide a more rounded and integrated
2.4 Best practice maintenance management for listed buildings
Aims and methods
Two methods were employed in this research in order to try and identify
the elements of a best practice approach to the maintenance management
of listed buildings. The first was a review of the conservation and general
maintenance management literature. The second was an empirical study of
three non-heritage sector organisations: a housing association; an NHS
hospital trust; a commercial financial institution. These were studied
through interviews with a senior maintenance manager in each organisation
and through an examination of their maintenance documentation including
handbooks and published policy. The aim of this study was to try and identify
possible areas of good practice.
Cultural significance and minimal intervention
In addition to retaining functionality an over-riding objective of the
approach to listed building maintenance should be to retain and enhance
cultural significance. This should be achieved by avoiding unnecessary
intervention through a process of preventative maintenance based on careful
consideration of the nature and possible consequences of the defect. Where
intervention has to occur this should be on the basis of doing the minimum
necessary. The implication for organisations with responsibility for the
care of listed buildings is that maintenance should have a greater centrality
and importance, and that, where there is a mixed stock of buildings, the
maintenance management service should distinguish between listed and non-listed
Integration with corporate strategy
Maintenance management decisions should be integrated with the corporate
objectives. Given the importance of maintenance for listed buildings,
an overarching strategic plan for heritage organisations should have a
clear indication of how maintenance is to be managed and where this function
resides in the organisational structure. Indeed, for heritage organisations
it should be considered one of the key issues that should help drive any
strategic plan. Best practice for the maintenance management of listed
buildings requires the development of a plan for maintenance which integrates
this activity with a wider strategy for the management of the built assets,
and which recognises cultural significance and its vulnerability.
Explicit policies should provide the framework for decision making and
practice, and should include a clear statement of objectives and methods
to be employed to meet those objectives. Conserving cultural significance
and minimal intervention in the fabric of the building should be the primary
principles which inform the maintenance policy and its implementation
for listed buildings.
A planned, (that is, predictive rather than responsive) approach to the
maintenance programming for listed buildings is essential. General best
practice guidance suggests that the prioritisation of maintenance activity
should take account of the condition of the fabric. It emphasises, however,
the importance of prioritisation in the context of other factors, such
as the effect of the condition on, for example, overall performance of
the particular asset or the overall property strategy of the organisation.
For listed buildings this context should include the relative cultural
significance and vulnerability.
Regular inspections are a fundamental part of a preventative maintenance
programme. Clarity about the purpose and uses of condition surveys is
essential. A condition survey should provide an assessment of condition,
identify the optimum moment for intervention, and aid the prioritisation
of actions and planning for the future. It is also seen as a useful opportunity
for a strategic review of the management of maintenance. Best practice
also suggests that there should be interim surveys between the more formal
condition surveys. The literature says that condition surveys for listed
buildings should be informed by an assessment of cultural significance
and that the frequency of inspection should relate to this assessment
of significance and the vulnerability of the element/component. Best practice
suggests that for listed buildings there should be an emphasis on greater
incidence of inspections of the fabric with the aims of reducing physical
intervention, ‘As much as necessary and as little as possible’.
This ‘just-in-time’ approach implies frequent inspections
which are tailored to the significance and vulnerability of the element
Dealing effectively with condition information from building users other
than those directly related to the maintenance department is an important
part of recommended good practice. The presence of non-technical staff
and other users and visitors on a daily basis can provide the maintenance
function with vital information regarding condition which would otherwise
wait until a subsequent inspection cycle, or until failure becomes impossible
Good information and records are vital for the effective maintenance management
of listed buildings. This is because, in addition to enabling good management
practice, effective records detailing the historical development of the
building, are an integral part of the cultural history of the building
and they also help explain how and why the building is significant. A
major responsibility for a maintenance manager is to manage the collection,
storage, and retrieval of suitable information to ensure efficient and
effective maintenance management. Because the nature and form of information
produced and required by maintenance activity is extremely diverse, maintenance
information should be stored on an integrated database. The information
stored should be easily retrievable and amenable to manipulation in order
to inform both tactical and strategic processes.
Financial planning and budgets
Monitoring and review of the maintenance function with regard to the principal
aim of protecting cultural significances is essential. Long term financial
planning and ring-fenced budgets for maintenance are also essential if
coherent and comprehensive maintenance management systems are to be implemented
2.5 Organisational approaches to the maintenance of listed buildings
Aims and methods
A key aim of module 1 was to develop an understanding of the way organisations
approach the maintenance management of the listed buildings in their care,
and to identify the key factors which constrain or support a best practice
approach. These issues were investigated using two methods. First, a questionnaire
to a sample of heritage organisations (defined for the purposes of this
research as organisations that included the care of listed buildings as
one of their primary purposes) and non-heritage organisations (defined
as organisations whose primary purpose did not specifically include the
care of listed buildings, but that had responsibility for the care of
listed buildings within their portfolio). Second, semi-structured interviews
were conducted with maintenance mangers from 11 of the organisations that
had returned the questionnaire. Organisations’ practice was assessed
in relation to the best practice criteria established through the literature
review and case study work of good practice maintenance management in
a non-heritage context.
Key findings about current practice
The results of this research suggest that at present both heritage and
non-heritage organisations are falling short of a best practice approach
to maintenance, when measured against all of the criteria identified in
the literature search. The areas for potential improvement differ both
between heritage and non-heritage organisations and between the commercial
and non-commercial non-heritage organisations.
Heritage organisations, as would be expected, were generally better informed
about what constitutes good conservation and there is encouraging evidence
of increasing awareness about the relationship between maintenance and
retaining cultural significance. There is some evidence that this is being
translated into management action in some organisations.
Conservation principles did not guide the approach of all the public sector
organisations. Only the governmental organisations and one of the universities
had these as part of written guidance. There is a worrying absence of
conservation consciousness among the commercial non-heritage organisations.
For these organisations the primary value that ownership of a listed building
contributed to the organisation was related to image. The priority for
maintenance activity was, therefore, focused more on retaining the aesthetic
appearance of the building and less on a sophisticated assessment of their
Whilst many non-heritage organisations said that despite the absence of
formal policies, in practice they would treat their listed and non-listed
stock differently, such reliance on informality is clearly of concern.
At best it encourages an ad hoc approach to maintenance and makes a formal
monitoring and evaluation process difficult if not impossible to implement.
At worst it allows a disregard of the particular maintenance requirements
of listed buildings. Even some heritage organisations lacked of formal
written policies in regard to maintenance. Whilst many heritage organisations
had written conservation principles, none we interviewed or surveyed were
able to provide us with hard copies of their maintenance policies. In
general there was great reliance on getting on with things the way they
were, with a ‘we know what is significant’ ‘we know
the stock’ ‘we know what we do and how we do it’ attitude
prevalent. Potentially dangerous assumptions were made about what maintenance
teams know, for example, about cultural significance. This was illustrated
by the comments of the maintenance manager of a large national heritage
organisation who said that cultural significance was ‘well known’
to site teams and would thus be used in identifying site management proposals.
In the organisations studied the approach to maintenance management tends
to be driven by process (that is optimising the efficiency of the process)
rather than by a clear strategy about what that process is serving. This
tends to be the same whatever the sector. Aspects of maintenance management
are imported from elsewhere without re-contextualising them for the needs
of historic buildings. This may cause problems because, for example, whilst
planned maintenance programmes can provide cost savings, they may work
against the principle of minimal intervention, where they develop a logic
and momentum of their own. This is particularly significant for non-heritage
organisations, many of which do not have conservation ideals as an anchor.
Even heritage organisations, however, do not seem to have made best use
of the idea of cultural significance as a driver that gives clarity to
their maintenance objectives.
Minimal intervention at times was at odds with the ‘lets do something’
attitude of the non-heritage organisations. For some there was a fit between
minimal intervention and the notion of generally reducing costs, but there
was little evidence to suggest that such a form of prioritisation acknowledged
Maintenance programmes should be set within the context of rigorous policies
such as the need to retain cultural significance and minimal intervention.
Even heritage organisations, however, do not seem to have made best use
of the idea of cultural significance as a driver that gives clarity to
their maintenance objectives. The findings suggest that there is a clear
need for a step-change to ensure that the retention of cultural significance
and minimal intervention, set the context for the maintenance strategies
of both heritage and non-heritage organisations.
The non-heritage organisations often have relatively sophisticated information
systems. However use of these has not been developed to specifically identify,
and therefore address, the particular maintenance management requirements
of listed buildings.
The lack of crossover of best practice maintenance management from sectors
such as Housing Associations to the heritage sector is illustrated by
conditions surveys. Whilst the former have developed a condition survey
technology and format (particularly in relation to the development of
digital data on spreadsheets) which enable ‘what if?’ enquiries,
the heritage sector has continued to use textual documentation which is
hard to interpret and impossible to manipulate. Although the current condition
survey format used by many heritage organisations does have value as an
historic record of the building and its condition, the format is not useful
as a management tool.
The level of understanding of the importance of records from a cultural
heritage point of view was poor.
Within heritage organisations there is also a sense that records of contemporary
decisions regarding the fabric are not as important as past decisions.
Lack of status of the property management function within organisations
has traditionally been a problem and within property departments the maintenance
role lacks kudos. It might be expected that this would be different in
heritage organisations, but the findings suggest that this is not necessarily
so. For the larger heritage organisations, however, there does seem to
be evidence of an increasing emphasis on the importance of maintenance.
This is reflected in the fact that the maintenance service appears to
have an increasingly strong voice within these organisations and there
is evidence of increased resources being allocated. It is not enough,
however, to have representation of the maintenance function at board level,
there also needs to be someone who is able to fight the case.
Finance and budgeting
It is clear that some aspects of the financing and budgetary processes
conflict with, rather than support, the stated policies of minimal intervention
and the protection and enhancement of cultural heritage. Whilst annual
budgets are the norm, the failure to consider and provide for the longer-term
militates against an effective strategic approach to maintenance. There
is a dual problem with annual budgets; they are easy targets for cuts
(justified by promises to reinstate them in the following year); conversely,
they encourage those managing them to ensure that they are spent. In heritage
terms this motivation to spend a budget allocation might result in works
being undertaken which are unnecessary. The counter argument to this is
that the frequent re-prioritisation of planned maintenance may have the
effect of producing a minimal intervention approach by default.
Key findings about factors influencing a best practice approach
For all types of organisations it is clear that a change in mindset is
required. Commercial non-heritage organisations in particular, and to
a lesser extent the non-commercial organisations, need a much greater
awareness and understanding of the cultural significance of the listed
buildings within their care. Such an understanding needs to be organisation
wide. For heritage organisations the trend towards a greater understanding
of the significance of retaining cultural heritage and the important role
of maintenance for this needs to be consolidated and developed. Best value
from programmes of awareness raising and education to bring about greater
understanding of these issues in organisations that have responsibility
for listed buildings is more likely to be achieved if these are accompanied
by ‘carrot and stick’ initiatives at statutory level. These
initiatives will be particularly important for non-heritage (particularly
commercial) organisations, which have no organisational rationale for
maintaining in order to retain cultural significance.
Know how; process
Rather than a series of individual elements, best practice should be thought
of as a coherent system that integrates the components of best practice
(identified in the literature and case studies) from conception (that
is, driven fundamentally by the concepts of cultural significance and
minimal intervention) to inception (that is, the policies, programmes,
management and practices of the maintenance function). It is perhaps not
surprising that the lack of such a comprehensive and integrated model
in the literature was also mirrored in the attitudes and practice to maintenance
management in the organisations studied for this research. A clear implication
of this research is that there is an urgent need to start developing a
coherent system of maintenance management appropriate to the needs of
listed buildings. The system will need to be such that it provides an
effective means for highlighting cultural significance concerns when decisions
relating to potentially competing organisational interests are being taken.
Best practice will to some extent be dependent upon the structure and
culture of the organisation concerned. Whilst a universal maintenance
management model for listed buildings may not be appropriate, the development
of a loose system of processes, which could be adapted to suit different
organisational contexts, may be a realistic goal.
Know how; prioritisation
For all organisations there are issues beyond the identified needs of
the fabric that affect the priorities for maintenance, that is, statutory
and regulatory issues, users and organisational concerns etc. The conservation
literature suggests that for listed buildings, the overriding priority
should be the cultural significance, but it provides little discussion
or guidance on managing relative priorities.
Conservation plans, which are the current benchmark for assessing cultural
significance, have generally not been developed by organisations into
coherent management plans to inform and develop maintenance policy. There
may be an issue with the way conservation plans are commissioned primarily
to attain funding. They may not always be briefed-for and drafted in a
way that enables useful strategies, policies and procedures to flow easily
from them. For example, one heritage organisation did not see how conservation
plans could be used for maintenance. There needs to be some development
of the conservation plan or statement of significance, and its application
in order for it to act as information for, and a driver of, maintenance
policies and strategies. There is also a need for awareness raising, guidance
and a suitable methodological framework for non-heritage organisations
to be able to have a mini conservation plan/statement for their stock.
Know how; risk management
Risk management as a maintenance management tool is being used increasingly
in non-heritage sectors. Conservation plan’s can be seen as a risk
management exercise, that is, they assess the consequences of not taking
a particular actions. The danger of using risk management for the maintenance
of listed buildings is that it could focus maintenance attention onto
risks other than cultural significance, a particular problem which is
perhaps increased when organisations do not undertake assessments of significance.
Where risk management techniques are applied more strategically, that
is, to the whole property management side of an organisation, there could
be less investment and concern to carry out maintenance generally. In
order for risk management to be translated into a useful management tool
for the maintenance of listed buildings, the development and use of assessments
of cultural significance within such a framework becomes critical.
Long term financial planning and ring-fenced budgets for maintenance are
essential if coherent and comprehensive maintenance management systems
are to be implemented successfully.
Organisational culture and structure
The maintenance function needs to have greater centrality and input into
the strategic decision making processes affecting historic buildings.
2.6 Examining the financial and non-financial case for maintenance
Aims and methods
The fifth research task in Module 1 was to examine the financial and
non-financial case for maintenance. Rather than taking a hypothetical
approach, it was decided to explore the issue by developing maintenance
plans for 6 historic buildings. The technique used was to develop a survey
pro-forma which could be used to assess the costs of maintenance over
time and the potential repairs should maintenance not be pursued. The
survey pro-forma was adapted from a stock condition survey approach. The
buildings inspected were chosen to reflect a spectrum of the UK’s
historic buildings. Examining the non-financial case for maintenance involved
a more discursive examination of how we can place value on cultural heritage.
The development of the survey pro forma and using this to carry out inspections
highlighted the difficulty of assessing maintenance costs over time and
of the potential repairs should maintenance not be pursued. Whilst element
and component costs are relatively easy to assess, assessing component
life is more difficult. This is because there is little data on proven
life cycles and in practice multiple factors may affect component life.
There is some evidence to show that regular inspection and preventative
maintenance will help to extend the life of many building components but
this depends on the nature of individual building elements. There is little
evidence to suggest that regular inspections and preventative maintenance
will always be a cost effective use of resources. Nevertheless, it is
clear from the property surveys and associated research that regular (and
possible targeted) inspections and preventative maintenance will probably
||cost effective for those elements near
the end of their lives;
||cost effective for those elements whose premature failure or inadequate
functional performance might affect other building components;
||cost effective for those elements of cultural value;
||effective for the organisation in terms of minimising
risk and uncertainty.
The section of the report addressing the non-financial case for maintenance
centred on an examination of a possible methodology for incorporating
the principles of risk management and resource accounting into the maintenance
decision process in order to take account of an historic building’s
cultural value. The provisional model suggested assessing the building’s
intangible cultural value (ICV). This is the addition to total value resulting
from the building’s historic significance. The ICV might then be
expressed as a percentage of its total functional value allowing building
managers to determine what proportion of the building’s value is
determined by its cultural significance. Maintenance strategy would then
need to respond to protect this cultural increment.
3. Module 2: Individual Owners’ Approaches to the Maintenance
of their Listed Buildings
Aims and methods
Domestic buildings represent 37.9 per cent of listed building entries
(Department for Culture Media and Sport, 2002). Individual owners, therefore,
comprise a significant proportion of those caring for listed buildings.
The aim of this module was to develop an understanding of individual owners’
attitudes and approaches to the maintenance of their listed buildings.
A multiple method approach was adopted. An initial focus group of owners
in the Bristol/Bath area was used to identify some of the key issues for
individual owners in relation to maintenance. The results of this informed
a postal questionnaire which was sent to over 1000 owners across the UK.
Key issues to emerge from the questionnaires were explored in more depth
through semi-structured telephone interviews which were conducted with
20 of the 270 owners who returned questionnaires. Interviewees were selected
from Bristol/Bath and north east England (in order to reinforce data from
these areas obtained in module 3), Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The sample was also chosen to reflect a range of settlement and building
Obligation and motivation
The majority of owners prioritised work on their building from a functional
rather than from a cultural perspective. The majority do not translate
a sense of obligation to protect the historic nature, listing status,
nor indeed the ‘functional or financial asset’ into undertaking
maintenance, in the sense of taking preventative action. Whether or not
preventative maintenance is undertaken is influenced by whatever factors
would influence their approach to maintenance on any house, rather than
by listed status.
The interviews reinforced a sense that owners associated cultural value
with aesthetics rather than historic significance. They believe that character
can be maintained by being reproduced by (extensive) repairs or replacement.
Where they are concerned about a need to prevent fabric loss, this is
mainly driven by functional and cost considerations.
The majority of interviewees saw maintenance and repair as interchangeable
concepts and, whilst the majority of survey respondents said that they
tried to anticipate the maintenance needs of their building, the interviews
suggested that in reality this was more of a vague good intent. Moreover,
it applied mainly to anticipating when something will need repair or replacement,
rather than maintaining it in order to delay failure and the need for
The majority of interviewees did not put aside funds for future maintenance.
Although the majority of survey respondents said that they undertook some
kind of regular inspection of their building, the interviews suggested
that this was rather informal in nature, and was often carried out either
by the interviewees themselves, or by a family member or friend. Again,
the decision to carry out inspections, or not, seemed to be independent
of the building’s listed status.
Advice available to owners about both legal obligations and maintenance
and repair was perceived to be poor. Builders are the group from whom
advice was most likely to be sought (and who would be used for inspections).
Advice on maintenance work was not highly valued or sought after, mainly
because such work is regarded as consisting of simple and obvious jobs,
that do not usually require independent advice or particular expertise.
The large majority of respondents carried out maintenance activities such
as external painting, minor joinery repairs and minor roof covering repairs.
A lesser, but still significant, majority had undertaken gutter clearance.
The interviews suggested that the decision as to whether or not the owners
did this maintenance themselves, or employed somebody to do it, was not
related to listing status. This was again something that the owners would
either do, or not do, whatever the status of the house/building. This
would generally depend on inclination, ability and skills (but not heritage
Need for specialist builders
The majority of owners do not think it necessary to employ an ‘historic
buildings specialist’ as a builder. This was partly due to the nature
of the work (reinforcing the sense that general maintenance and repair
work is seen as straightforward and not requiring specialist skills or
knowledge), and partly due to the sense that it is more important to have
a builder who is known to be trustworthy.
A significant majority of the interviewees had not tried to find a specialist
builder. Of those who had, a significant majority found this process difficult.
A significant number also thought that the prices quoted were too high.
Many of those who had not contacted specialists, gave as a reason for
not using them, an assumption, or indeed knowledge, of the high cost of
work by specialists. Other reasons included that they were not available
in the area, or that, even if available, the specialist was uninterested
in small jobs and/or too busy to undertake them.
Potential use of a Monumentenwacht type service
A majority of respondents expressed either a high or a medium level of
interest in an independent inspection service, similar to Monumentenwacht.
Of those who expressed a high or medium interest, however, a majority
were either not prepared to pay anything or would only be willing to pay
unrealistically low amounts. The discussion with the interviewees on the
sum that they would be prepared to pay for a Monumentenwacht type service
shed some light on the relatively low figure that many of the respondents
to the questionnaire seemed to be prepared to pay. The sense from the
interviewees was that the amount that people were prepared to pay was
associated not with the value of the service in terms of its effect (protecting
the asset as cultural heritage or as a house) but rather with the notion
- such a service would not be carried out by people with high level
professional skills - one interviewee for example related it to Rentokil
- such a service needs to prove itself and that they would have to have
experience of the service before they could put a value on it;
- the provision of such an advisory service should be available free,
or at least subsidised. As one put it ‘as the State’s part
of the bargain where listing imposes duties and costs’;
- the advice was available from builders already, and;
- maintenance (but not necessarily repair) was common sense and/or they
felt they knew what they were doing and advice was not necessary.
4. Module 3: The Provision of Commercial Maintenance Services
for Listed Buildings
Aims and methods
The aim of Module 3 was to provide a preliminary understanding of current
existing heritage maintenance services. It contributes to one of the key
aims of the Maintaining Value research programme: to investigate the potential
for systematic maintenance management to create opportunities for the
construction industry to develop new products and services.
The research targeted contractors, consultants and clients of maintenance
services. The regions chosen were Northumbria, London and Bristol/Bath.
A number of methods were used to carry out the research. A survey of internet
and other secondary sources was conducted in order to provide an initial
database of contractors and consultants offering conservation among, or
as their primary specialism. This was followed up by 51 short and six
in-depth semi-structured telephone interviews with personnel from companies
identified by the search of secondary sources. Interviews were conducted
with companies in all three of the target regions. A questionnaire regarding
the outsourcing of maintenance was sent to 76 client organisations in
the three regions. Responses to this were poor, however. Hence the main
data from client organisations was derived from 10 semi-structured telephone
interviews with non-heritage organisations (the sector which the interviews
with suppliers had identified as the largest potential market). Professional
and trade organisation websites were also analysed to ascertain whether
and the extent to which these organisations were currently giving attention
to the issue of historic building maintenance.
An under-developed market
Commercial preventative maintenance services for listed buildings are
clearly an underdeveloped market at present. This is both a demand and
supply side problem. Lack of demand was a key factor cited by contractors
and consultants. However, the underplaying and lack of proactive promotion
of maintenance on the part of contractors and consultants is a potential
contributory factor to a vicious circle where low demand leads to low
(or under-emphasised, under-marketed) supply and where the latter at best
does not stimulate, and, at worst, suppresses demand.
In general, preventative maintenance does not seem currently to be embedded
in service providers’ mindsets. Moreover, service providers tend
not to distinguish between planned repair action (following inspection)
and ‘maintenance’ (action following inspection and preventative
maintenance as defined in this research. The types of service being provided
reflects the mindset that clients and providers tend to focus on particular
maintenance needs rather than on preventative maintenance in general.
There was little evidence that skills shortages were a barrier in client
organisations using commercial maintenance services for their listed buildings.
Furthermore, initiatives that emerged from the research of using a mixture
of in-house (often multi-skilled) staff and specialist craftsmen employed
direct by the client, of setting up alliances with groups of contractors/sub-contractors
to obtain a range of skills, and the sharing of skilled personnel between
organisations, indicate a flexible approach by some clients in procuring
maintenance, particularly for listed buildings.
Cultural differences between professional, client, conservation, and contracting
groups, which contribute to the barriers to successful outsourcing were
underlined in the client interviews by the ‘value’ attached
to different actions, the length of the view taken, and by the language
used such as ‘rationalising the supply chain’ and ‘Best
Value’. In this context it was interesting that the terms ‘sensitive’
and ‘vulnerable’ were used by the interviewees, but nobody
referred to ‘cultural significance’. Hence, there is some
evidence that conservation terminology is not used by maintenance professionals
in organisations with ‘mixed’ estates. This has potential
consequences when such organisations are applying for permissions and/or
Developing the market
The findings of this study indicate that the first stage in stimulating
further demand for commercial services will be to promote the importance
and benefits of preventative maintenance per se. This is likely to require
a ‘carrot and stick’ approach: a campaign of information and
consciousness-raising, combined with a change in the law to a statutory
duty of care, and the offer of financial and other support. In particular,
there is a need to imbed the perception that regular checking and inspection
of listed buildings is a legitimate commercial service just like the annual
service given to a car or a boiler.
The following overarching themes have emerged from this research:
1. Lack of coherence and leadership at national level
- The statutory and policy situation is not coherent with regard to
maintenance particularly in regard to co-ordination between statutory
instruments, acts and fiscal measures. Indeed some aspects, such as
the VAT situation, seem to actively discourage preventative maintenance
and there is little that supports the development of pro-active approaches.
- Until recently there has been no clear leadership on maintenance for
listed buildings at policy level. However, within the context of increasing
attention by policy makers to the strategic issue of understanding cultural
significance, its vulnerability and the development of appropriate policies
and action for mitigation, there has been increasing emphasis on the
importance of maintenance as a critical conservation activity.
2. The lack of coherent maintenance management systems based
on cultural significance and minimal intervention
Clear implications of this research are that:
- There is a need for coherent systems of maintenance management (rather
than a series of individual activities) appropriate to the needs of
listed buildings. Such systems could be developed from a loose framework
of processes to suit different organisational contexts, and could integrate
the components of best practice identified in the literature and case
studies. Crucially such systems must enable cultural significance to
be taken into account when strategic decisions are being taken at organisational
- Conservation plans, which are the current benchmark for assessing
cultural significance, have generally not been developed by organisations
into coherent management plans, which would inform and direct maintenance
policy. In this context there is a need for education and guidance,
including a suitable methodological framework, for non-heritage organisations,
in order that they may develop mini conservation plans/statements of
significance for their listed buildings (likewise some heritage organisations
also fail to use cultural significance effectively as a driver for maintenance
- The principle of minimal intervention is linked to that of cultural
significance. Planned maintenance programmes may work against the principle
of minimal intervention, and this was found to be particularly significant
for non-heritage organisations with mixed stock, where differentiation
was not made between listed and non-listed buildings.
- For coherent and comprehensive maintenance management systems to
be implemented successfully, long term financial planning and ring-fenced
budgets for maintenance are essential.
- Risk management techniques, which are becoming more common as part
of general maintenance management, have not been widely adopted in relation
to listed buildings, but such techniques could usefully be linked to
conservation plans and the development of assessments of cultural significance.
- A planned (that is, predictive rather than responsive) approach
to the maintenance programming for listed buildings is essential.
- The prioritisation of maintenance should take account of the effect
of condition on the performance of the particular property. Performance
needs to be set within the context of the property management strategy
and corporate goals of the organisation. For listed buildings it is
important that the property management strategy acknowledges the cultural
significance and vulnerability. In organisations with a 'mixed' stock,
therefore, the maintenance management service should develop policies
and processes which recognise this additional objective.
3. The different attitudes to maintenance management held by
This research encompassed maintenance service providers and different
types of client for maintenance services, namely, heritage organisations,
organisations with 'mixed' estates of historic and non-historic stock,
individual owners of historic buildings and (for comparative purposes)
organisations with no historic properties.
The results suggest that:
- There is a need to balance a range of factors (primarily statutory
requirements and the functional and economic needs of the building's
owners and users) with those of cultural significance. It follows that
organisations with 'mixed' estates, experience greater tensions in this
equation than heritage organisations, where the 'core business' is concerned
with issues of conservation and cultural significance.
- Both heritage and non-heritage organisations are falling short of
a best practice approach to maintenance when measured against all of
the criteria identified in the literature search. Heritage organisations,
although better informed about what constitutes good conservation, rarely
had formal written guidance for maintenance which incorporated conservation
- Non-heritage organisations generally lack formal maintenance policies
that differentiate between listed and non-listed buildings, and the
importance of listed buildings for commercial organisations with mixed
stock relate primarily to image.
- There is a lack of national strategic frameworks for maintenance
in the national heritage organisations.
- The majority of individual owners are aware of their statutory duty
to protect their building, but whether preventative maintenance is undertaken
is determined by the same factors that would have influenced their approach
to maintenance on any house, not by its listed status. For them aesthetics,
rather than historic significance, are of over-riding importance, and
they tend to see maintenance and repair as interchangeable concepts.
- Commercial maintenance services for listed buildings do not perceive
preventative maintenance as a major part of their work. As with individual
owners, they tend to think of planned repair action (following inspection)
and 'maintenance' (as defined in this research) as one activity.
- The use of the same words to mean different things and the different
'jargons' of different groups, has implications for communication. There
is some evidence that conservation terminology is not used by maintenance
professionals in organisations with ‘mixed’ estates. This
has potential consequences not just for understanding, but also for
permissions and/or grant applications.
4. The importance of information management
- The management of information is a key facet of maintenance management.
Best practice suggests that information should also be easily retrievable
and amenable to manipulation in order that it may inform both tactical
and strategic processes (including the possibility of 'what if' reporting).
- Advances towards best practice in general maintenance terms appear
to be having little impact on improving the particular maintenance management
requirements of listed buildings. Hence, databases in non-heritage organisations
are often more technically advanced than in heritage organisations,
but the appreciation of the importance of records from a cultural significance
viewpoint is lower.
- Monitoring and review are essential elements of the maintenance
management process that are accorded insufficient importance currently.
- Regular inspection and data collection are a fundamental part of
a preventative maintenance programme. ‘Just-in-time’ approaches,
linked to minimal intervention, suggest a way forward which would involve
frequent inspections tailored to the significance and vulnerability
of the element or material, and could involve users.
5. The case for maintenance
- This research was predicated on the idea that systematic maintenance
is the most sustainable and cost-effective way of protecting the fabric
of historic buildings - a view increasingly advanced by the heritage
sector. Our research highlights the fact that the relationship between
systematic maintenance and sustainability and cost-effectiveness are
more complex than this.
- Systematic preventative maintenance is not necessarily the most
financially efficient (i.e. the cheapest) means to protect the functional
performance of buildings. However for most organisations there are a
number of other objectives which influence their approach to maintenance.
For listed buildings the primary aim should be to protect cultural significance.
Given this aim, systematic preventative maintenance and regular targeted
inspections will probably be the most cost effective approach.