What we aim

Public organisations as well as private owners of historic buildings nowadays need to meet the growing requirements of citizens in regards to accessibility, availability and usability. Many municipalities and towns with a historic centre or city block have already looked at those requirements and (pre)calculated the costs for conservation versus adaptation of historic buildings to the climate change and energy policy needs. Being owned by the State or Municipality these historic sites are usually managed and maintained by Public Servants and/or Bodies like the BHOe and utilised for several things, e.g. museums, galleries, cafés and even offices and flats. Some of these buildings are under protection or even listed as UNESCO, EHL or monument sites. For instance the BHOe has committed itself to the general Austrian goals (increasing energy efficiency by 20% and the share of renewables to 34%).
In all cases energy efficiency is not necessarily on top of the list in regards to conservation, restoration or renovation costs, however it needs to move up on those lists as the climate change and energy policy goals for historic buildings can and will play quite an important role in the future.
At the same time private owners of historic buildings are constantly looking for the best ways to maintain their properties in regards to costs and conservation. Especially the NTUK has developed sophisticated strategies for “soft” maintenance of their historic buildings, relying on traditional skills ofcraftsmen and still reducing their energy consumption by 20 % and increase the share of renewables to 50 %.
However, the loss of traditional building skills and craftsmen having appropriate competences is eminent in all European countries and will create huge problems for historic buildings owners in the near future, unless no measures are taken beforehand.
Situation in the UK (source: NTUK):
The loss of traditional building skills has been rued for many years now, but the extent and impact of this loss was confirmed in a 2005 National Heritage Training Group (NHTG) report commissioned by the government.
The report highlighted shortfalls in traditional skills and an ageing workforce in these areas throughout England. Subsequent investigations covering Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show a similar trend across the UK.
Although NTUK has 150 staff with traditional expertise including stonemasons, carpenters, joiners, plumbers, bricklayers and lime plasterers, this workforce is following the same worrying trend that the report highlighted.
Situation in AT (source: UNESCO study on the importance of traditional crafts in Austria):
In the construction sector and buildings construction, the materials and tools have changed fundamentally over the decades and so has the way they are built.
For new buildings the use of new materials and the necessary techniques (formwork construction, prefabricated house construction, etc.) is a logical consequence of a dynamic change. The traditional crafts have adapted itself in many areas and further developed with innovative ideas. With the new materials in combination with new technology and machines, a change in the construction industry has taken place, which is visible through adistinctive specialization. Even in the 1970s and 1980s, the skilled craftsmen of masons/bricklayers excel themselves through the construction of foundations of a building over vaulted walls, plastering and chimney construction. Due to the technological change in materials and tools, on the majority of building sites specialists are required, who carry out a clearly defined area in their day-to-day work – for example, only formwork or only iron bends or only machine plastering or just concreting. The distinctive specialisation of large parts of the construction sector makes a transition from traditional crafts to non-crafts visible.
Due to the increased focus on new building materials, modern construction machinery and techniques, it is now no longer guaranteed that the numerous, partially traditional, old-established construction techniques using well-tried materials (e.g. a loam plaster) can still be adequately handed down within building companies. An equation is attempted through building academies (Bauakademien), which are anchored in every federal state, offering training courses in a wide variety of construction areas.
For the restoration of old buildings, and especially for the preservation of monuments, the use of tried and tested materials and the appropriate technique is necessary.
In order to bundle practical traditional know-how and allow the personal knowledge transfer, the Restoration Workshops of the Federal Republic were founded in the Kartause Mauerbach in 1984. This way, the experience gained by many traditional handicraft activities, such as brickworks,masonry, lock- and blacksmithing, carpentry etc., is closely linked to theory and practice (source: Federal Office for Monument Care, 2015).
Examples like the Imperial Palace Vienna support the importance historic buildings can have in regards to energy savings and future climate change issues. In the last 10 years BHOe applied small and historically proven procedures and tasks to dramatically reduce energy levels form above 200kWh/m² p.a. down to 80kWh/m² p.a., which resembles a zero-energy building.
Based on these results, and the Best Practice examples collected within the consortium as well as from associate partners, the project partners of PRO-Heritage aim to develop a sophisticated training for relevant craftsmen, being involved in refurbishing, adapting and conserving historic buildings. Having already developed an education for maintenance managers of (built) heritage – in the project MODI-FY 2014-2017 2014-1-AT-01-KA200-001034 – the consortium discovered the rather urgent need to also train craftsmen being involved in the activities these maintenance managers look after. Being forced to contribute to the ambitious goals of the national energy efficiency policies e.g. BHOe, looking after about 0.33% of historic buildings in Austria, agreed to reduce their energy consumption by 20% by 2020. Altogether Austria has around 38.000 historic monuments to be cared for and this includes for example buildings erected between 1848 and 1920, so called “Guenderzeithaeuser”.
PRO-Heritage aims to analyse and document options for “soft” intervention and difficulties craftsmen may encounter when working on/in and with historic buildings. This way the project will build up a broad database for future craftsmen and other responsible bodies and owners across Europe,offering them a solid and certified education for professionals working in the field:
  • Built Cultural Heritage very often lacks financial resources for “extras”. The main focus is on maintenance of the buildings, incl. refurbishment, renovation and conservation. By applying those “soft” ways they can even save money and ensure a constant adaption to the current needs (examples identified in our Project MODI-FY shows that the cost could be three times higher if this expertise is not available!)
  • Built Cultural Heritage is often managed by a Public Body or NPOs, but parts of the buildings, the complex are rented out to museums, galleries and else, which have specific needs in regards to heating, cooling and room climate
  • Built Cultural Heritage often lacks a holistic view on the requirements of tenants, residents, visitors as well as tourists
  • Built Cultural Heritage faces legal and logistic problems when it comes to refurbishment, renovation and conservation e.g. Conservation Law, thick walls consisting of various materials, agreements with tenants
  • Built Cultural Heritage requires much more consideration when implementing energy relevant tasks e.g. high implementation level of conservation standards, technical limitations, historically used materials, and sometimes specific procurement issues).
Nevertheless, especially publicly owned built Cultural Heritage has to fulfil several assignments, which is usually stated in a principle enactment or provincial/national law, and an important part of these assignments is to keep the historic buildings in shape for future generations; A task that is only to be achieved when the requirements of visitors, tourists and users are met. Specifically educated craftsmen are one important way of guaranteeing longevity of historic buildings and owners of built Cultural Heritage have to do their utmost in order to meet the requirements of the future.