Why Architects?

To help in planning of course!

In an earlier post, I talked about the importance of proper planning before undertaking work on a designated historic resource. Throughout my career, I have discussed, planned and observed many different types of projects involving modern and historic buildings. I have worked on simple maintenance projects, such as roof replacements or re-painting, and more elaborate ones, such as restorations and additions.

Providing advice to heritage building owners is the most enjoyable part of my work as a conservation adviser. Nevertheless, the size and scope of some projects are quite large. Buildings are made of a variety of materials, like stone, brick and wood. Skilled tradespeople, such as masons, carpenters and electricians know how to care for each material (or building system). Historic building conservation usually draws on the expertise of an exceptionally wide variety of skilled tradespeople. Making a plan to address problems with any major component requires a group of skills that only architects possess. This is why architects can be so helpful.

A project’s size or complexity should not discourage you. I recommend hiring an architect to help identify, prioritise, and cost the required conservation work on any large project. The architect’s report, often called a “conservation plan,” is invaluable. The plan will explain the problem, propose possible solutions and is a useful reference should the work need to be phased out over time.

Hiring an architect is just like hiring any other professional: just as some contractors are not familiar with the principles of heritage conservation (described in The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada), some architects are not skilled in this area either. Fortunately, my fellow Heritage Conservation Advisers and I can help you plan a heritage conservation project (call us), which can include advice on how to hire the right architect.

Although hiring architects cost money, the benefits make it worthwhile. Architects know how to analyse a building for problems, they can propose creative solutions and help you select and supervise the right tradespeople. This is why architectural and engineering services have their own grant category within the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation’s Historic Resource Conservation program.

Not all projects or interventions require the services of an architect, but having the planning and scope of work established by contractors alone on large projects can lead to a bad outcome. Having a uniform and properly outlined conservation plan developed by an architect (or engineer, depending on the problem) makes it easier for conservation advisers to approve projects and for contractors to provide accurate cost estimates.

Don’t feel overwhelmed by large conservation projects. It’s true what Steve Smith said at the end of every episode of his Red Green Show.

Written by: Carlo Laforge, Heritage Conservation Adviser.

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