Fire in heritage buildings

27 August 2021

The causes of fire in heritage buildings are wide. The most common causes of damage are accidental, arson, blocked or damaged chimneys, cooking, electrical faults, hot works and lightning strikes.

Kenwood House exterior

Heritage properties can provide unique challenges when protecting from possible damage by fire or other events. These buildings vary in age, layout, architectural styles and construction type. Compared with modern structures, heritage buildings were generally built to differing standards (if any at all) and designed for very different purposes than they are currently used for. They often contain high levels of combustible materials and modifications over the years to accommodate plumbing, electricity cables, lifts and other modern conveniences have created voids that can help the spread of fire.

It’s, therefore, vital that heritage buildings are protected against the risk and consequences of fire and due to their varying nature that an individual approach to best practice protection is applied. However, there also needs to be a careful balance when developing fire protection arrangements to help ensure any heritage features that make a building unique remain unaltered. Listed buildings especially require special consent when conservation or improvement works are undertaken.

As a leading insurer of heritage properties we have developed the following series of guides to help you best manage the risks from fire.