The Heritage Council’s role in supporting the protection, conservation and management of the historic built environment includes improving conservation good practice through its management of grants to conserve heritage buildings, policy advice for government and practitioners, and ensuring that the infrastructure is in place to take care of our inheritance of old buildings.
- Encourage awareness and appreciation of our built heritage by promoting good conservation practice across the range of vernacular, artisanal and ‘polite’ architecture.
- Promote a values-led approach to the conservation of historic buildings, integrated with other aspects of our common inheritance, and with broader societal concerns (such as sustainability and equality of access).
- Support the dissemination of information on architectural heritage, and the discussion of values associated with protecting it.
- Consider the cumulative value of buildings and their historic environment contexts, be it landscape or streetscape.
Why Value Architecture?
Re-using old buildings is also an important part of a strategy to use resources wisely, and a contribution to sustainable development: ‘The most environmentally benign building is the one that does not have to be built (because it already exists)’. Buildings define and give character to spaces both urban and rural, and play a role in defining and accenting the cultural landscapes in which we live.
The historic built environment is more than just individual buildings. The spaces in towns and cities, and the designed landscapes of parks and demesnes, are also a part of the architectural heritage. Collectively, they contribute concrete economic value to Ireland's economy. Download The Economic Value of Ireland's Historic Environment (Ecorys, 2012) [PDF 1.1MB]. Fáilte Ireland’s market research provides evidence that visitors value the historic ambience that they encounter in Ireland as an important part of the reason for coming here. Download Historic Towns in Ireland: Maximising Your Tourism Potential (Fáilte Ireland, 2010) [PDF 4MB].
From street buildings to country houses, our predecessors made their presence felt by the many and varied ways they built enduring structures, regardless of whether those structures are ordinary or grand and luxurious! Whether a cathedral or corn mill, old buildings document the finer aspirations and the most utilitarian solutions of those who preceded us. The buildings that have been passed down to us have, by their longevity, proven one aspect of their worth – durability. Our built inheritance also makes a contribution to sustainable development. Download Built Heritage Conservation & Ecological Sustainable Development (Heritage Council, 2012) [PDF 2.2MB].
Different people have different perceptions of the value of old buildings. For some they are a nuisance, and they get in the way of modern life. Relevancy to modern needs is one of the challenges that faces admirers of old buildings. Redundancy is a major issue for many building types, for example, small houses in towns and countryside, or, for some communities, churches. Fine banks built in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries also represent a building type whose social function is changing. Finding functions that match the spaces and internal arrangements of old buildings continues to challenge owners and their architects. Careful planning for buildings that are becoming less useful, and consultation with its ‘community-of-interest’ – usually people who live near it - can engage more creative thinking about viable future usages.
Other people who are very attached to the buildings that they use may nonetheless be concerned about their condition, and how they perform to keep out the rain and the cold. Maintenance, including preventative maintenance, costs money, even if ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. The Heritage Council provides funding, and information about sources of funding, for the conservation and continued weatherproofing of old structures. (link to follow)
The Building Energy Rating programme is creating a demand to alter the fabric of heritage buildings. Equality legislation encourages the managers of public buildings and places to make them more accessible to people of all abilities. Achieving conformity with the Building Regulations when old buildings are altered can sometimes conflict with their heritage value. (link to follow)