Keeping an income while completing maintenance work

05 December 2018

Maintaining heritage buildings is a must to future proof the properties but can be costly. In this article we look at the key considerations, challenges and opportunities when completing maintenance.

Restoring tiles
One of the first things to be de-prioritised when funds are low is maintenance, which can mean needing to spend more in the future. How important is it that ongoing maintenance in a heritage property is managed? Can it be done efficiently and in a cost effective manner? And what steps can be taken to close the funding gap?

Why is routine maintenance of heritage properties important?

Planned routine maintenance will help to minimise or even eradicate decay, and the potential for more serious remedial work later and hence is cost effective.
The fabric of a building can deteriorate quickly if it is not maintained. Minor issues can grow into larger, more complex problems if not addressed and corrective maintenance later on is often more expensive and can be very disruptive.
Major restoration projects are very disruptive and progress can be delayed for a multitude of reasons such as:
  • listed building consent
  • planning permission
  • availability of materials and specialist labour skills associated with the work being undertaken.
Building works can result in temporary closure of areas of the property or the whole estate. If the building is open to paying visitors, and used for events and outside hire, the loss of income due to closure can be significant.

What challenges do heritage owners face when contemplating maintenance?

There are a number of challenges when considering maintenance, mostly around:
  • funding
  • access to skilled resources
  • fire
  • security
  • environmental implications.
and retaining income streams whilst the work is being completed.
70% of our heritage customers are concerned about the cost of maintenance and repairs

Based on 155 respondents in the FWD Ecclesiastical annual Heritage tracking survey 2017

How can heritage owners close any funding gaps to cover ongoing maintenance?

One-off funding can be useful for specific projects but finding sustainable methods of funding is a key priority.
For individual projects such as a restoration, there are grants from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic England and other conservation bodies. The Heritage Funding Directory1 provides a number of sources.
For longer term and consistent funding, there are a number of options including:
  • diversification
  • offering annual memberships
  • heritage open days
  • hiring for events
  • renting space for commercial or residential uses. 
Some of these options can help sustain revenue during major maintenance programmes, drawing revenue from the use of other parts of the estate.

What are the key considerations when undertaking building maintenance works?

It is particularly important to use traditional materials and employ skilled contractors with experience and understanding of heritage buildings and who have relevant third party accreditation.
87% of general construction companies do not hold formal qualifications relating to traditional buildings

Heritage Counts 2017 report, Historic England

Other considerations include:
  • Ensure you have suitable method statements and Risk Assessments from contractors ensuring safe systems of work are agreed and adopted for the duration of planned works. Where applicable, contractors should follow the Joint Code of Practice on Fire Safety on Construction Sites and contractors should be carefully supervised for their own safety as well as that of employees, visitors and other users.
  • Any impact on the effective performance of existing fire detection and compartmentation, how waste from the works will be safely managed and how any hot works will be managed.
  • Changes to existing security arrangements to reflect additional risks introduced by building and maintenance works such as scaffolding and ladders. Are they erected and secured correctly, using robust hoarding to a suitable height to restrict access? Agree how any ladders will be secured when not in use to prevent them being used to gain unauthorised access to the property. Ensure access of third party contractors working onsite is controlled, restricting them to defined work areas to reduce the risk of damage or loss to any collections located elsewhere in the property.
  • Is your existing building sum insured for insurance purposes adequate? Will it support repair/reinstatement in event of insured losses and does your insurance cover things like lengthy delays caused by planning applications or legal dispute. Also ensure that contractors have adequate and relevant insurance arrangements in place.
  • Develop a Disaster Recovery Plan for your business to support a swift recovery should the worse happen, including a snatch list for valuable/key art/antiques or important artefacts.
  • Finally, consider how processes are shared with your staff and volunteers and that someone with full knowledge and access to plans is on duty at all times. You may like to consider additional training.