Australia has a wealth of restoration projects for its many heritage buildings. While restorations are fairly common in these parts, architects and designers consider many factors before taking on the task of preserving historical treasures. Getting the Go Signal takes a lot more work than most might think. It certainly was more work than expected for firm Caydon after Heritage Victoria banned a $1 billion redevelopment involving the demolition of the Nylex silos in Richmond.
What exactly should be considered when planning for heritage restoration projects?
Deciding What to Restore
The sad truth is, we can’t revive every single heritage building that’s left standing. Some buildings are made of materials that are no longer acceptable in modern construction, such as asbestos. Other buildings may be structurally unable to comply with present building codes, and if restored accurately might be too dangerous to occupy.
The decision to restore a building is made based on certain criteria. Such criteria include:
- The importance of the site to the community, socially and historically. The site has to have significant ties to the community’s past. For example, an old station building that received many train passengers back in its day might hold many memories for the community. An individual house, unless it features iconic architecture during its era, might not.
- The building’s physical condition. Architects need to consider the site’s overall wear and tear. How well can the foundations hold? How much water damage have the walls sustained? The site needs to be strong enough to endure the restoration, and then be structurally sound after that for the building to be suitable for its proposed reuse.
- The building’s ecological condition. The structure needs to be able to withstand its location’s current climate, and it has to be made of materials that are safe by current standards.
Once it’s established that the site is important to the community, you now have to understand why the building is significant. You’ll need to study the history of the site and its fabric – when, why, and how it was built. A heritage architect should know about the procedures the restoration would entail, the kind of paperwork needed, and a budget estimate for the project.
You will also need to consult with the community’s designated building authority on restoration restrictions, especially if the site is heritage-listed. Check if they have the original plans for the building.
After getting an idea of how the restoration will be done, you will need to find experienced builders to carry out the project. Ideally, the architectural firm should be partnered with reputable builders who have done restoration work before.
Architects then have to plan how the restored building can be preserved and maintained. Plans for reviving an old building must include plans on how to prolong its new life.
Planning for restoration projects can take a lot of time. But considering how delicate restoration work is, careful planning is extremely important.
Methods and Documentation
Restoration projects usually entail a large amount of work, but it’s important to remember that work must be kept minimal. You’ll want to leave the building as intact as you possibly can while repairing it to maintain authenticity. So be sure the project entails doing only what is necessary to give the structure new life.
Everything that’s done on the site must be documented, and each procedure has to closely follow approved plans. Both the design and the construction teams need to make note of materials and tools, and how they are to use every item in the list. Teams also have to document what they did to the surrounding landscape, which parts they cleaned, which portions were repaired, and any fixes to the plumbing, among other things.
Architects have to consider the community’s willingness to help maintain the heritage site. The point in restoration projects isn’t for old buildings to relive their past, but for their stories to continue unfolding. No matter how well an old building is restored, it is up to the community to preserve the property and prolong its life for future generations to appreciate.