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3RD EDITION © RIAI December 2010

These Guidelines represent the second revision of the RIAI Guidelines for the Conservation
of Buildings, first published as RIAI Practice Note 1995/01, and revised in 2001.

The Guidelines have been prepared by the Historic Buildings Committee of the RIAI
in order to set out and to encourage the implementation of the Institute’s Conservation
Policy. Institute policy is directed primarily at RIAl members, with the aim of achieving a
high standard of architectural practice in conservation. An additional objective is to make
the practice of conservation a mainstream architectural activity which also embraces the
sustainability agenda.

The Guidelines are not intended to provide comprehensive information on building

conservation practice, but rather to help develop a working approach to old buildings. The
intention is to help the practising architect to develop skills relevant to the appreciation
and conservation of buildings, and relevant also to making appropriate contemporary
interventions in them so that they may survive and be appreciated by future generations.
The principles outlined in these Guidelines may be applied to the conservation of all
important buildings, including those of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Many of the tasks outlined in the Guidelines place significant demands on the resources
of architects and their clients. The degree to which the more onerous tasks of research
and recording are applicable is proportional to the importance of the structure to be
conserved, and to the immediate task in hand, be it a pre-purchase assessment or a
major conversion project.

Practitioners should be aware of, and make use of, the significant resources available
to them from fellow architects who have particular skills in applied conservation. When
considering works to a historic building they should consult with the local authority
Conservation Officer, where there is one. Conservation bodies and agencies can also be
very helpful.

SECTION 1 Legislative Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

SECTION 2 The Client/Architect Relationship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

SECTION 3 The RIAI Conservation Accreditation System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

SECTION 4 Making a Building Record . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

SECTION 5 Survey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

SECTION 6 Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

SECTION 7 Condition Report . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

SECTION 8 Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

SECTION 9 The Building Dossier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

SECTION 10 Archive Policies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

SECTION 11 Conservation Reports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

SECTION 12 Interventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19

SECTION 13 Sources of Funding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

SECTION 14: Health and Safety . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

APPENDIX 1 Building Regulations - Part L: Energy Conservation and Sustainability 23

APPENDIX 2 Building Regulations - Part B: Fire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

APPENDIX 3 Building Regulations - Part M: Access . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

APPENDIX 4 Historical Source Material . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

APPENDIX 5 Statutory, Professional and Heritage Bodies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

APPENDIX 6 Legislation, Conventions and Charters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

NOTE: The Building Regulations are being reviewed. The current status of each
section can be obtained from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local

At the time of writing there is a considerable body of new and amended legislation at
various stages of introduction and/or enactment. It is therefore not possible to give more
than an outline of the legislative context here. Members are advised to ensure that they
are familiar with the current legislation and regulation when they are advising their clients.
Members are also reminded that this applies not only to Planning and National Monument
legislation, but also to many other provisions, which may have implications for historic
buildings. A selection of the main provisions is contained in Appendix 6.

The Planning and Development Act 2000

Part IV of the Planning and Development Act 2000 is the primary legislation governing the
conservation principles of care and protection of the architectural heritage. It incorporates
and supersedes previous legislation.

The main features of the 2000 Act are:

Planning Authorities have an obligation to create a Record of Protected Structures

(RPS) that is to include every structure in their remit that is of special architectural,
historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest.
This record forms part of a planning authority’s Development Plan. There is also
a procedure for making additions to or deletions from the record between routine
Development Plan reviews. The mechanism to do this is laid down in the Act and
involves notices and time periods for submissions.

Protection of a structure extends from the time a notice proposing a structure under
this provision is served to the point when the structure becomes a Protected Structure.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government may make
recommendations to Planning Authorities relating to structures that should be included
on the RPS. These recommendations generally, but not always, derive from the
Inventory being compiled by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Making
additions to or deletions from an RPS is a reserved function of a planning authority.

Planning Authorities are also obliged to preserve the character of places and townscapes
which are of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific,
social or technical interest or that contribute to the appreciation of Protected Structures
by designating them Architectural Conservation Areas (ACAs) in their Development

Plan. Development Plans must include objectives for the protection of such areas
and the preservation of their character and to ensure proper planning and sustainable

Financial assistance in the form of conservation grants is available from planning

authorities to assist owners and occupiers to carry out works to structures on the RPS.
Alternatively, tax relief is available under S.482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 for
expenditure incurred on the repair, maintenance or restoration of certain buildings and
gardens determined by the Revenue Commissioners to be of significant horticultural,
scientific, historical, architectural or aesthetic interest and to which there is reasonable
public access.

When a structure is protected the protection includes the structure, its interior, the
land within its curtilage and other structures within that curtilage (including their
interiors), and all fixtures and features that form part of the interior or exterior of all
these structures. All works which would materially affect the character of the Protected
Structure, or a proposed protected structure, will require planning permission even
when those works would otherwise be exempt. There is provision under Section 57
of the Act for the owner or occupier of a Protected Structure to seek a Declaration
from the relevant planning authority to determine works to the structure that would
materially affect its character and therefore require planning permission, and those
works that may be carried out as exempted development. A Section 57 Declaration
cannot exempt works which would not otherwise be exempt from a requirement to
obtain planning permission. The provision of such a Declaration is a free service
provided by the planning authority. Under Section 5 of the Planning and Development
Act 2000, a person can seek a formal declaration from the planning authority to
establish if there is a requirement for planning permission for a specific proposal. A
decision will generally issue in four weeks, and the applicant may appeal the decision
to An Bord Pleanala.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has issued
statutory guidelines to planning authorities concerning the protection of the
architectural heritage. Planning authorities are required to have regard to them in the
performance of their functions.

The owner and occupiers of a Protected Structure owe a duty of care to protect the
structure from endangerment, whether by direct action or neglect. Any person who
deliberately damages a Protected Structure will be guilty of an offence. Planning
authorities may compel owners and occupiers to carry out works to prevent
endangerment. In the event of default, the planning authority may carry out the works and
recoup the costs, or it can acquire the structure by compulsory purchase order. Substantial
fines or imprisonment can be imposed on conviction for an indictable offence.

Neither the planning authority nor An Bórd Pleanála on appeal may grant permission
to demolish a Protected Structure save in exceptional circumstances. Refusal of
permission for development that would materially affect a Protected Structure will not
attract compensation under the Planning Acts.

The Planning and Development Regulations have expanded the requirements

for planning applications relating to Protected Structures, Proposed Protected
Structures and the exterior of buildings in Architectural Conservation Areas to include
such photographs, plans and other particulars as are necessary to show how the
development would affect the character of the structure or area.

National Monuments Acts 1930 – 2004

Structures and/or sites may be protected under the National Monuments Acts 1930-
2004. This can be in addition, or as an alternative, to protection under the Planning and
Development Acts. The protection of structures under the National Monuments Acts
takes place at national level within the Department of the Environment, Heritage and
Local Government. Where both forms of legislation apply to a structure or site, there are
separate requirements for notification regarding proposed works. When dealing with a
structure that is both a monument and a Protected Structure, the requirements of the
National Monuments Act will take precedence.

Structures and sites protected under National Monuments legislation will generally, but
by no means exclusively, date to pre-1700 AD. The scope of the Acts is not restricted to
monuments of archaeological interest. A great variety of structures and places may be
protected, including habitable buildings. For example, many country houses are built on
the site of, or incorporate fabric from, earlier buildings and may therefore be recorded
monuments. The cores of many towns and cities are zones of archaeological potential
wherein buildings or parts of buildings of an early date may survive behind later façades.
Some bridges, mill buildings and other structures may also be considered monuments.

Categories of Protection
There are different levels and categories of protection afforded by the National
Monuments Acts.

Ownership or guardianship by the state or a local authority. This is the highest level
of protection

A structure or site may be subject to a preservation order or temporary

preservation order

A structure or site may be a registered historic monument.


Many of the structures and sites protected under these provisions are in private
ownership, and in such cases the owner will have been notified in writing of the protection
applying to their property.

Recorded monuments. The majority of monuments are recorded monuments,

and there is no legal requirement for notification to be given to owners of these
monuments. It is the obligation of the owner, or their architect, to inform themselves of
the status of the site or structure.

Record of Monuments and Places (RMP)

Sites protected under the National Monuments Acts are contained in the Record
of Monuments and Places (RMP). The RMP is established and maintained by the
National Monuments Section of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local
Government. Maps and lists comprising the RMP are available to view at the offices of
the relevant planning authority, county libraries, Teagasc offices and (by appointment) at
the offices of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government at 7
Upper Ely Place, Dublin 2.

Requirements for Recorded Monuments

Section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994 requires any person
proposing to carry out works at, or in relation to, a recorded monument to give notice in
writing to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government at least
two months prior to commencing work. Where a planning application is submitted for
works that would impact upon a recorded monument, the planning authority is obliged to
refer that application to the Department. The referral of this information to the Heritage
Service is regarded by the Department as fulfilling the obligations for notification.
However, the requirement for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and
Local Government to be formally notified of the proposals still applies in the following

Where works to a recorded monument are proposed for which planning permission may
not normally be required, (such as repairs, removal of vegetation and the like);

Where the works are exempted by a Section 57 Declaration or a Section 5 Declaration

under the Planning and Development Act 2000 or

Where the works are grant-aided by the planning authority, the Department or the
Heritage Council,

The person proposing to carry out the works has an obligation to notify the
Department in writing including such detailed drawings, specifications and method
statements as necessary to describe the proposals.

Requirements for National Monuments

National Monuments are defined as those structures or sites for which the Minister for
the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or a local authority has ownership or
guardianship, and those structures or sites which are subject to a preservation order.
The definition of a National Monument includes the land adjacent to the site or structure,
which is necessary to preserve the amenities of that monument.
Section 14 of the 1930 National Monuments Act as amended by Section 5 of the 2004
National Monuments (Amendment) Act requires that anyone wishing to demolish,
remove, or disfigure, deface or alter a National Monument must obtain consent from
the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in advance. It is also
unlawful to excavate, dig, plough or otherwise disturb the ground within, around or, most
importantly, in proximity to a National Monument, again without ministerial consent.

The 2004 Act requires that the Minister consult, in writing, with the Director of the National
Museum of Ireland before granting consent. A period of not more than fourteen days is
specified for such consultation unless some other period is agreed between the Minister
and the Director. In practice, the process of applying for consent takes approximately
6 weeks. Guidelines on obtaining Ministerial consents and application forms can be
obtained from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
Unless consent has been granted, it is an offence to interfere with a National Monument.

Compliance with Building Regulations

It should be noted that all buildings subject to the National Monuments Acts are exempt
from compliance with the Building Regulations (Third Schedule, Class 8). However
this does not preclude the necessity for these buildings to comply with other forms of

Wildlife Acts
The Wildlife Acts 1976 - 2000 are the principal statutory provisions providing for the
protection of wildlife (both flora and fauna) and the control of activities which may
impact adversely on the conservation of wildlife and their habitats. The Minister for the
Environment, Heritage and Local Government is the Competent Authority for the servicing
of a number of wildlife-related international agreements and implements a number of EU
Regulations, Directives and International Conventions.

Competing conservation requirements of the natural and the built heritage may give rise
to dilemmas. Conservation Rangers from the Department of the Environment, Heritage
and Local Government can be consulted and may be able to suggest measures to avoid
damage to the habitats of fauna. It is normally possible to modify proposals to ensure that
rare or endangered species (for example, certain species of bats) can be accommodated.

All bats and their roosts are protected by law and a licence is needed to disturb them
in the wild. Currently, we have nine known species in Ireland and a further two species
recorded on bat detector only, bringing our total to a possible eleven species. Our
population of Leisler’s bats is also of international importance. Because of this, Ireland
has ratified two European conventions on bat conservation and is obligated under a third,
the European Habitats Directive, to ensure that lesser horseshoe bat foraging areas
are protected. Prior to carrying out work on a protected structure a survey should be
undertaken to ascertain if there is any evidence of a bat population in the building. Advice
can be obtained from Bat Conservation Ireland, Ulex House, Drumheel, Lisduff, Virginia,
Co. Cavan, tel: 046-924882.

Useful reference material on the subject includes Bat Mitigation Guidelines for Ireland by
Conor Kelleher and Ferdia Marnell, NPWS, 2006, and Knowing, Studying and Conserving
the Bats of Ireland by Conor Kelleher and Jim Wilson, published by NHBS.

National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is a unit within the Department of the
Environment, Heritage and Local Government engaged in compiling an evaluated record
of the architectural heritage of Ireland. The NIAH survey was established on a statutory
basis by the enactment of the Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic
Monuments (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1999.

The NIAH is currently engaged in the survey and publication of Interim County Surveys.
These surveys include a representative sample of the architectural heritage of a particular
county. The results of each survey are published on the NIAH website, where images and written descriptions of individual structures
can be viewed and downloaded. Each survey is accompanied by the publication of a
book introducing the architectural heritage of that county. The findings of an NIAH survey
may be the basis for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
making recommendations to a planning authority on structures to add to its Record of
Protected Structures.


The RIAI Conservation Accreditation System is described briefly in Section 3. When
dealing with historic buildings, members are reminded that they must not undertake
work which is beyond their level of expertise. They should advise their clients to obtain
specialist conservation expertise where appropriate.

When appointed, or being considered for appointment, as architect for a historic

building, a member should clearly outline to the client the tasks involved. These
may include tasks which may be outside the normal scope of work, or may require
specialist input.

It should be noted that planning authorities may require conservation reports,

specialist drawings, or investigations prior to making a decision. These requirements
should be clarified to the client at the earliest possible stage.

If specialist expertise is identified as being required, this should be done at the earliest

It is possible that specialist conservation advice may indicate that certain proposals
to a particular building are not appropriate, and would have an adverse impact on the
character of the building; the client should be advised of this at the outset.

If an architect advises that specialist conservation expertise is required, the role of the
consultant and the terms of engagement should be clarified from the beginning.


To help clients and consumers select an architect or practice to provide them with
professional services in architectural conservation, the RIAl developed a Conservation
Accreditation System to signal differing levels of specialist expertise. The Accreditation
System was introduced in 2002. Some RIAI members and practices with demonstrated
expertise in conservation work have not sought accreditation and the system does not
claim to be the sole means of identifying conservation expertise within the profession.

There are three Grades of Accreditation, each of which signifies a different level of
expertise, Grade I being the highest and Grade III the basic entry level to the system.
An RIAI Member or Practice can progress up through the Grades by acquiring
additional qualifications, staff and/or experience and applying for Accreditation at the
higher Grade. Members are reminded that architects accredited at Grade III must
describe themselves as such, and may not describe themselves as ‘Conservation
Architects’. Further information about the Conservation Accreditation System can be
obtained from the members’ section of the RIAI website.


In general the architect, in consultation with the planning authority, will assess the level
of detail about a structure that will be required. The critical measure of adequacy of the
record should be gauged as follows: were the structure and its details to be destroyed,
the record made should be sufficient to reinstate significant elements of the structure and
its details if this course of action is deemed appropriate. The Planning Regulations set out
the basic information requirements for a planning application, and this should be taken as
the starting point.

The architect should also recognise the importance of historic buildings which do not
appear on the Record of Protected Structures or in the National Inventory of Architectural
Heritage, but nonetheless have characteristics which render them worthy of special care.

The purpose of producing an adequate record is to enable the architect and client
to understand the structure and to make decisions during the conservation process
based on the best information available.

Recording has assumed more importance following recent legislation. A planning

application for a Protected Structure may need an accurate survey, including a
photographic record, and an architectural evaluation of the Protected Structure. This
amount of detail may not always be required, for example for a change of use, or for
minor works.

The information contained within the survey record will also assist in complying with
Building Regulations, in compiling the Safety File (under the Safety, Health and
Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations (1995) and in building maintenance.

It is likely that, as a condition of planning permission, it will be a requirement that the

building record be lodged in the Irish Architectural Archive (IAA), or with the planning
authority, or both. The practitioner should consider doing this as a matter of good
practice, whether required by legislation or not. The IAA should be consulted in
advance about its requirements as to the form of the archival material to be deposited.

Buildings can be recorded in a number of ways and from many viewpoints. The
architectural profession is uniquely qualified to assemble a record in the form of
drawings which combine structure, materials, interior and exterior features in a
straightforward legible format. Drawings are perhaps the most valuable form of
record, as they frequently reveal much about the conception of a building which would
otherwise be obscure. The accuracy and clear presentation of this record is therefore
of key importance. For these reasons the RIAI aims, through these Guidelines, to
heighten awareness of these factors amongst architects, and so contribute to greater
scholarship and professionalism in this area of work.

In following these Guidelines, and implementing a consistent format for the assembly
and presentation of building surveys, factors such as the type, age and historical
importance of individual buildings or of the building’s context will clearly dictate the
detail required in any particular instance. Buildings of particular importance, for
example, will require more detailed information than those of lesser significance.

The extent of the survey will be determined by the brief given to the architect and the
importance of the building. The Guidelines are not intended to place onerous demands
on practitioners in circumstances where the nature of their commission may not extend to
the level of detail set out here. However, architects and their clients have a responsibility
to ensure that the building record, together with any research, is completed to an extent
sufficient to understand the significance of the Protected Structure and to develop
coherent proposals for the building. These proposals may indicate that further survey
work is required.

Basic techniques for accurate survey work, such as running dimensions, reconciliation
with previous surveys and Ordnance Survey Maps (both current and historical), should
be used. The effectiveness of freehand sketches for illustrative purposes should not
be underestimated.

Where surveys are necessarily hampered by lack of access or resources, areas not
accurately surveyed should be differentiated on the drawing.

Surveys must never be “fudged” by, for example, squaring off rooms where
dimensions cannot be reconciled, “tidying up” elevations and sections (to match
perceptions of correctness of design or historical details) or drawing “typical” historical
mouldings, cornices, door cases or window case panelling which are not those on site.
The architect should write the words “panelled door”, “moulded architrave with details”
etc., rather than make an inaccurate record. Again, freehand sketches may be of great

Simple photography attached to a survey, and referenced to it, can save hours of
possibly inaccurate drawing and be of far greater value. Multimedia techniques using
CAD and photocopy printing allow great flexibility for such presentations.

The use of rectified photography to assemble elevation surveys is a valuable exercise,

provided that the basic techniques of photographing elevational planes strictly at
right angles to the film plate and crosschecking with site measurements are always

Photogrammetry by specialists, and/or three dimensional computer modelling, may be

appropriate in certain cases.

It is likely that room-by-room photographic surveys, cross-referenced to the survey

drawings, will become standard practice. The long-term stability of the photographic
medium, including digital imaging and accompanying software should be considered.
For further information on photography and archives, see Section 10.

The following drafting guidelines relate to drawings/surveys of Protected Structures, as
these are assumed to be the primary means of recording buildings.

An appropriate scale for elevations and sections, sufficient to give overall accuracy
but not too onerous in terms of detail, should be chosen. A standard two directional
bar scale on the survey drawing helps to avoid later inaccuracies being introduced by
repeated copying.

Line weight should be appropriate for copying. The predominant quality of a set of
survey drawings should be that of line drawing.

Hatching, shading and shadowing obscure detail and should be avoided. An

exception may be made for hatching walls in plan to show their chronology. Otherwise
walls in plan and section should not be hatched or blackened-in.

When illustrating facades, materials and surface treatments should be indicated.

Only where facades have been surveyed in full detail to the individual brick or stone
should such detail be shown. Otherwise elevations should be annotated. Elevations of
fenestration must be recorded accurately as they exist on site at the date of survey,
and never with assumptions on “correct” fenestration. No standard CAD hatches or
patterns should be used; keep it simple. Elevations of buildings or interiors may be
carried out by rectified photography.

Broken lines can be used to indicate areas of the building which have not been
surveyed: roof configurations and roof pitches, for example.

Where the time or budget does not allow recording of building elements in detail,
these should be measured and shown only in overall dimension, annotated on the
drawing. For example, the overall enclosure of a door case (outside architrave to
inside architrave) should be shown, as should the size of its projection into the room
and the door swing. On plan and section, notes such as “heavily moulded door case”
or “panelled door” will draw sufficient attention to this element. The profile of window
reveals, such as “splayed”, etc., should be accurately described and not standardized.
Where ceiling cornices are not surveyed in detail their projection onto the ceiling
plane and down the wall plane should be recorded on the drawing.

For working and archival purposes all survey material should be retained (see Section
10). The following selection of drawings will give an overall picture of a building, sufficient
to enable basic historical architectural analysis to be carried out, taking into account the
points listed above:

A site plan to locate the building relative to its boundaries, outhouses, etc., in its
context, at a scale convenient to such illustration. The relevance under Part IV of the
Planning Act 2000 of the curtilage and attendant lands of a Protected Structure should
be borne in mind. The North Point should be shown on all plan drawings.

Plans of all floor planes including basements and their ‘areas’. The convention is that
all such horizontal sections are taken one metre over floor level. Arrows on stairs,
slopes and ramps always point upwards except where specifically stated otherwise. A
roof plan should be included within the limits of safe access, which should be provided
on a permanent or temporary basis as appropriate. Joist direction should be indicated.
Runs, sizes etc of proposed services should be noted. Existing services should be

Sections sufficient to illustrate the disposition of levels within the building.

Elevations of all external facades should show architectural features with associated
decorative and ornamental detail and structural features, including materials and
finishes, large cracks, putlog positions, stacks, roof slopes, ground levels and floor
levels dotted, and damaged finishes. In terraces and where other buildings adjoin, the
adjoining buildings should be drawn.

Sufficient larger scale details in photographic or drawn form may be required. If drawn
details are not possible, photographic details should be appended to the survey. The
number, location and direction of photos should be shown on plan.

Design Drawings
While hatching and shading in record and working drawings of historic buildings is not
recommended, it is desirable that the historic building should stand out on an overall
design drawing which also shows new building.

Accurate conservation of a building requires historical research. This can be a time
consuming way of obtaining variable amounts of information, particularly in Ireland where
much recordkeeping is less than ideal and many historical records were destroyed. Each
building will present differing research responsibilities and must be treated accordingly.
In some instances the architect may consider it necessary for the client to retain the
services of a consultant historical researcher.

The architect, who has a particular skill in the interpretation of construction, should
become involved in researching the building itself which is the primary source of
information on its construction methods and materials.

Examination of other buildings designed by the same or contemporaneous architects

or builders will help in developing the necessary methodology. This methodology must
extend to include any alteration to the building since its initial construction. The related
development of the environs may also yield valuable information.

Research should involve the assembly of all available documentary information relating
to the building. All documentary evidence should be carefully examined and, wherever
possible, primary sources should be checked. However, it is often the building itself that
will provide the stimulus for the most useful areas of research and the documentary
evidence should be compared with the actual building to determine its accuracy.

Research information may raise areas for further research, each case developing along
individual lines. In some cases the research will yield little or no relevant information and
the architect will have to rely on his own skills, experience and judgment to decide on the
conservation works required.


The purpose of the Condition Report is to give an independent professional opinion
on the structural and constructional condition of a property. In drawing on specialist
consultants’ advice in preparing a report on an historic building, it is important that all
contributors, such as engineers, archaeologists, town planners, surveyors, etc., are
guided by the same conservation principles.

A written Condition Report on the building must be prepared. For this to be

comprehensive, opening up parts of the building may be necessary, with non-destructive
methods of investigation being used where possible. It should be noted that planning
permission or a Declaration may be required for certain works of opening up, and the
planning authority should be consulted to establish this. The Condition Report will include
an assessment of the scope of the remedial work proposed, and will form part of the
Dossier to be submitted for any grant application or planning application.

There are various means of ensuring that a report is complete and the use of a checklist
is recommended.

Reference may be made to Surveying Buildings by Stavely Glover, The ICOMOS Guide
to Recording Historic Buildings, and to the RIAI Property Inspection Checklist and RIAI
Property Inspection Report, as well as to these Guidelines. The risk of error in report
writing is reduced by being systematic, adhering strictly to the facts, defining the scope
of the report and including a clause specifying the use for which the report is intended.
It should also be noted that the condition of a structure in itself should not be used as a
factor in assessing a building’s importance, value and architectural merit.

Having carried out a measured survey, researched the architectural and social history
of the building, and having reported on its condition, the architect is in a position to
analyse the building comprehensively. It is necessary to draw together fully the available
information in order to develop an approach to the building.

No two projects are identical and, to a large extent, the most important thing to be
conserved is the unique quality of a building or its setting, or its trueness to type, however
modest it may be.


The information from the studies outlined above is brought together to form a single
report or ‘Dossier’. This Dossier is a benchmark in the design process related to old
buildings. While the Dossier coherently conveys information to the building owner, its
main function is to establish the core data for an appropriate, non-damaging approach
to any interventions proposed for the building. In addition it will be extremely valuable in
dealings with planning authorities, prescribed bodies, statutory and funding organizations.

During the course of works to a building, further information may be brought to light,
which may lead to revision and extension of the Dossier. For the completed project,
“as built” drawings, records of repairs and other treatments should be added, so that in
returning to the building for subsequent projects, the architects or their successors are
presented with a working resource of tremendous worth.


The development of electronic information transfer, CAD, and digital photography in
recent years is having a significant effect on the archiving of material for use by future
generations. All those working in conservation understand the value of photographs,
maps, drawings and other records when researching historic buildings. However, with
the present reliance on computers in the work of architects, there is a real danger that
valuable material will be lost. This is usually because records are not being retained
in hard copy, and with developments in software, material recorded today may not be
accessible in a few years’ time.

This issue is a cause of concern to architects, libraries, archives and other repositories
of historical architectural material. At present the Irish Architectural Archive is not in
a position to accept drawings in digital format, mainly due to a lack of a consistent
methodology among architects in annotating drawings and recording revisions. This issue
is one on which the RIAI must engage with other national institutions to resolve. This
process is expected to take some years. In the meantime, practitioners are recommended
to take steps to ensure that valuable material is not lost.

Architects and practices should establish a protocol for maintaining their records for future
generations. This protocol might include some or all of the following:

Slides are still the best means of retaining images in a stable condition, followed by
photographic prints. If it is not practical to take photographs in digital and film format, the
digital photographic record should be stored on CD. A copy of the CD, properly annotated,
may be deposited with the Irish Architectural Archive, or an appropriate authority.

It is good practice that a copy of each report or on a historic building should be lodged
with the Irish Architectural Archive or an appropriate authority.

While it would be impractical to deposit complete sets of all drawings involved in a
building project with an archive, at the very least a hard copy of survey drawings,
proposed alterations, and ‘as-built’ drawings should be lodged with the local authority or
an appropriate repository, or with the Irish Architectural Archive.

Microfiche has stood the test of time in providing a stable and easily accessible form of
archiving and, in the constant pursuit of new technology, the proven value of microfiche
storage should not be overlooked.

Electronic storage
While policies and protocols for electronic archiving and document storage are
being developed, the advantages of using a ‘read only’ format such as pdf should be


A conservation report is usually required by a planning authority or funding agency as part
of any application. It is desirable that all conservation reports should follow a consistent
format. The following is a list of the information which would be required in a typical
conservation report. This information is not necessarily required for every building, and
may be amended to suit the individual building and the client requirements.

11.1 Introduction and context; why commissioned, and by whom.

11.2 Executive Summary, setting out:

a) The significance of the building/site/feature.
b) The general condition of the building.

11.3 Description of research and survey methodology and sources used: site visits,
meetings, map research, historical research, etc..

11.4 Extent of inspection and/or opening up : access to attic spaces, inspection using
binoculars, ladders, “cherry-pickers”, etc..

11.5 Historical overview of building and setting, architect, owners, etc..

11.6 Chronology of development of building, using sketches to illustrate stages of

construction where appropriate.

11.7 Description of statutory designation of the building in question under National

Monuments and planning legislation.

11.8 Description of building, including features, fittings, materials.

Note: A measured survey is usually not required except in particular circumstances. If

the architect considers that a measured survey is essential (to trace existence of earlier
fabric, etc.), he/she should advise the client of this when submitting the cost estimate.

11.9 Description of other features: associated subsidiary buildings, follies, gardens,

outbuildings, boundary walls, railings, etc.

11.10 Assessment of the significance of the building and setting.


11.11 An outline of the present condition of the building fabric, site, features etc. As the
Conservation Report may be prepared prior to an application for funding or decision
to purchase or alter, this may not necessarily be a detailed Condition Report.

11.12 Description of previous interventions/ repairs.

11.13 A preliminary assessment of the potential impact of any development or alterations

to the building in its setting, together with an indication of mitigation measures
which might be taken.

11.14 Recommendations as to priority repairs.

11.15 Copies of any maps used in research.

11.16 Copies of any relevant original drawings, papers, etc., where appropriate.

11.17 Photographic record.

11.18 Bibliography.

To enable the report to be photocopied A4 size sheets, or A3 sheets folded, should be

used for preference. Photographs should be scanned into the report.


Intervention may be defined as any act that alters, intrudes upon or interferes with the
spatial qualities, fabric, architectural features or setting of a building. Interventions may
be described as essential or non-essential and reversible or irreversible. The degree or
level to which an intervention can be considered acceptable will depend on the particular
merits and characteristics of the individual building which should be assessed as set out
previously in this guide.

At the outset it is crucial to set down a philosophy for the intervention and this should be
guided by accepted principles such as those of the ICOMOS Charters and the DOEHLG
Statutory Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities. These
principles recognise that a change of use may be the only way to ensure the survival of a
historic building, particularly when the original use is no longer possible.

The intention should be to restrict all interventions to the minimum that is consistent with the
established philosophy and the appropriate use, reuse, and continued survival of the building.
The philosophy of doing ‘as little as possible and as much as necessary’ applies here.

Reversibility of all interventions should be the aspiration, but this is not always possible
and it is important to properly define the term ‘reversible’ in the particular context of the
building in question. For example, extinguishing the use of a door by simply locking it and
sealing the joints in a sympathetic manner that allows it to be re-opened in the future can
be correctly described as reversible. The demolition of a wall on the basis that a new wall
could be built in the same location cannot be described as reversible. The fact that the
proposed works may be reversible does not justify the implementation of an inappropriate

All building materials eventually wear or erode from long term use, weathering, erosion,
decay or neglect. Some wear out quite quickly. It is normal and desirable to re-paint the
exterior of a building approximately every five years, whereas other materials, such as
external render, could be reasonably expected to have a life of over 100 years. Regular
maintenance is the most effective way to extend the life of any building. Most materials
can, by regular maintenance, careful conservation and repairs, have their respective
lives extended. However it is necessary to assess if such interventions are reasonable
and justifiable, or whether the more fundamental intervention of complete replacement
be considered as a better option. In considering whether the condition of any element of
a building warrants replacement or repair an assessment must be made in the context
of the building and its value as a historic object. Repair will be appropriate in some
instances, whereas replacement may be preferable in others. Performance, durability,
final appearance and cost are all factors that must also be considered.

Change of use may demand intrusive or destructive interventions and not all will be
reasonable or reversible. The particulars of the interventions arising from a proposed new
use should be assessed against the interventions necessary to accommodate that use.
If, having taken all relevant factors into account, the proposed alterations are considered
unreasonable, the proposed use should not be implemented.

The need to extend a building can also be described as an intervention. Most

historic buildings are an amalgam of differing periods and styles, which represent the
manifestations of the building at various times in the past and, within reason, this process
should be encouraged to continue. The replication of a historic style may be appropriate
in some limited cases, provided it is of high quality. The use of high quality contemporary
design of sympathetic form and scale to retain the qualities and composition of an
Architectural Conservation Area is a valid and, in some cases, desirable philosophy.


13.1 Conservation Grants from Local Authorities. National Conservation Grants
Scheme, aimed at assisting owners and occupiers to carry out conservation works
on protected structures. Information from individual local authorities.

13.2 Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government. Civic Structures
Conservation Grants Scheme provides support for local authorities, civic trusts,
and other not-for-profit bodies to upgrade buildings of significant architectural and
heritage merit.

13.3 The Heritage Council, Church Lane, Kilkenny. Current grant scheme in 3
categories: Heritage Research, Heritage Management and Heritage Education.

13.4 Tax relief under Section 482 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. Relief for
expenditure on approved buildings and gardens in the state. Information available

13.5 The Irish Georgian Society, 74 Merrion Square, Dublin 2. Grant aid for conservation
and restoration of historic buildings, interiors, gardens and monuments.

13.6 City or County Development and/or Enterprise Boards. Information from individual
local authorities.

13.7 Thatching Grants for renewal or repair of thatched roofs of houses. Information
from the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, Housing
Grants Section.

13.8 Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland – Greener Homes Scheme –

13.9 European Union Funding, Networking & Projects. Information from the Department
of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government; also from the Irish Regions
Office in Brussels (

13.10 The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 50 Hoxton Square, London N1 6PB.

Innovation Fund for not-for-profit organisations currently the only funding stream
open for applications (does not include construction or repair of buildings).

13.11 The Getty Grant Program. Current funding initiatives are focused on the
conservation of panel paintings and mosaics.

13.12 World Monument Fund. Saving the world’s architectural masterpieces and
important cultural heritage sites.


Construction work on protected structures must comply fully with the Safety, Health
and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 5.1 504 of 2006. The Conservation
Architect should be aware of the particular challenges of retaining as much as possible
of the fabric of a protected structure and providing a safe working environment during
construction. Particular care should be taken in relation to propping and temporary works
so as to minimise damage to and intervention in the fabric of the building. This requires
a coordinated approach by the Conservation Architect, the Health and Safety Officer,
Structural Engineer and the Contractor.

Part L is under review at the time of publication. Its current status can be obtained from
the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

These guidelines are intended as general advice on the appropriate upgrading of the
historic fabric of protected structures in order to reduce their thermal transmittance and
conserve energy. Such works are undertaken with a view to supporting the aims of fuel
conservation and sustainability, whilst conserving the architectural heritage.

Most historic buildings can accommodate some improvements without compromising

their special interest. The practitioner must find the appropriate balance between building
conservation and energy conservation.

Building Regulations
The Building Regulations (Amendment Regulations) 2005 came into operation on 1 July
2006. Under the legislation there is an exemption for Protected Structures and Proposed
Protected Structures (including extensions) from the necessity to comply with the
requirements of Part L of the Building Regulations. All buildings subject to the National
Monuments Acts are exempt from compliance with the Building Regulations. For other
existing buildings, Part L energy conservation upgrading is only required for parts which
are to be ‘substantially replaced’.

Protected structures are exempt from the Building Energy Rating System (SI 666 of 2006
and SI 229 of 2008).

However, the general acceptance of energy conservation requirements for buildings

will inevitably create pressure to upgrade the thermal performance of historic buildings,
particularly when they are being sold or purchased. In addition, in the interests of
reducing the global consumption of energy, it is appropriate that historic buildings should
play their part by the introduction of benign energy-saving measures.

Planning Acts
All works which materially affect the character of a Protected Structure require planning
permission. Carrying out unauthorised works which damage or endanger a Protected
Structure is a criminal offence. The intention of this section is to suggest measures which
could be considered exempted development.

A historic building can be described as a living, breathing organism, and many of the
solutions which are used in modern buildings, to insulate them and to improve the
conservation of energy, are simply not appropriate in historic buildings which depend on
the free movement and circulation of air to release moisture build-up. To tamper with or
intervene in this self-regulating process may affect the structure’s very survival. Historic
buildings can not be expected to perform to the same standards as a modern building,
but they possess many other positive attributes such as unique character, scale and
form, building materials and decorative details and should, of course, be regarded as
embodying energy in themselves.

Damage to the internal fabric of historic buildings is frequently due to the ingress of
moisture into the structure, or heating or ventilation insufficient to remove trapped or
built-up moisture. Inadvertent damage can occur through over-zealous refurbishment or
upgrading. This is an area of work in old buildings that needs to be carefully considered,
as the damage and destruction caused by radical refurbishment such as dry-lining
or thermal upgrading can be devastating. It is probably the most problematic area of
refurbishment because it is likely to be responsible for the extensive removal of original
fabric and loss of character. The practitioner who is seeking the appropriate balance
between building conservation and energy conservation must, of course, recognise
and respond to the enormous changes arising from the energy and climate crises, but
the response should be measured and reasonable, exploring alternatives that are less
detrimental to the character and fabric of old buildings.

Any strategy to extend the useful life of a building should incorporate the provision of
appropriate energy-efficiency measures to provide the required environmental conditions
at a reasonable operational cost. Otherwise, the continued use of the building may become
unsustainable due to the financial and environmental impact of high-energy consumption.

A reduction in energy use for heating, ventilation and hot water can be achieved by lowering
working temperatures, by improved insulation and air tightness, by provision of high efficiency
energy conversion technology and controls and by the use of renewable energy technology.

A reduction in energy use for lighting will be best achieved by establishing the minimum
lighting levels that are required, by providing lighting using the most energy-efficient
fittings available and by the installation of lighting management control systems.

Great care should be taken in the specification of thermal upgrading of roof spaces
in historic buildings. Interference in the balance between the internal moisture and
ventilation inherent in traditionally constructed buildings can result in potential moisture

Unless carefully detailed, the risk of condensation in a ‘cold’ attic may increase when
insulation is laid between the ceiling joists (the most common form of insulation).

It is appropriate to ensure that any potential leakage around pipe work and cable
routes into the heated building is sealed.

Insulating foams on the underside of slates should never be used on historic buildings,
as the sealing of the battens and upper parts of slates may lead to premature and
accelerated deterioration. Such treatment also reduces the normal airflow within the

Parging (i.e., the application of lime mortar) to the underside of the slating, if properly
done, is the traditional and most effective means of draught-proofing.

Traditional thatched roofs have been shown to provide very effective insulation.

The appearance of its walls is usually an essential part of the character of a historic
building, and only minor repairs and localised re-pointing, using correct methods and
materials, should be considered without applying for planning permission. Internally, the
application of any insulating material to walls inevitably results in a negative impact on
architectural features such as skirtings, architraves, door frames and cornices and should
be avoided. It should also be borne in mind that the thickness of walls in most historic
buildings provides passive insulation.

Unused chimneys are frequently closed off in order to reduce the flow of cold air into the
building. However, they can provide an important source of fixed ventilation for rooms,
particularly if windows are to be draught-proofed. Buildings with solid walls, permeable
materials and no damp-proof course need adequate ventilation.

Timber suspended floors can be insulated, and the tradition of pugging (used for acoustic
insulation) and shells is also effective for thermal insulation. Lifting of floorboards should
only be undertaken if no damage is caused. Insulation can be supported between joists with
chicken wire or with proprietary trays fixed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

At ground floor level, where the insulation is most effective, cross-ventilation requirements
must also be considered. At upper levels insulation can be effective when some parts of
the building are not in use and may not be heated.

Almost all buildings can be fitted with one simple, traditional method of retaining heat:
heavy, interlined curtains, which are most effective and can be removed during the
summer months to brighten up rooms and expose decorative joinery.

In terms of heat loss, draught-proofing an ill-fitting single-glazed window has almost

the same effect as changing the ‘U’ value from single to double glazing. The most
cost-effective and least intrusive method is to fit inconspicuous draught strips to
existing windows.

Many historic windows are fitted with shutters, which can significantly reduce heat loss
when used at night or when rooms are unoccupied. As with windows, their thermal
performance may be improved with draught-proofing.

In certain cases it may be possible to fit secondary glazing. However, if it is visually

intrusive either internally or externally it will require planning permission. Two other
issues to be considered are maintaining ventilation and any impact on existing shutters.

The use of double-glazing is rarely appropriate in historic buildings and requires

planning permission.

Where a replacement roof light is required, double glazing may be permitted provided
that the glazing bars are reasonably accurate copies of the original design.

If a door has more than 50 per cent glazing, it is treated as a window for the purpose
of Part L.

If ventilation in a historic building is reduced the risk of mould growth is substantially


Historic doors must be retained. Their construction usually provides a reasonable level of
insulation, with heat loss generally due to gaps between door and frame or cracks in the
door panels. Simply closing doors is an efficient way of retaining heat within rooms.

Cracks may be filled with a flexible filler when redecorating and draught-proofing
similar to that for windows can be used. It was the traditional practice to hang a heavy
curtain across the inside of the front external door.

Inserting an appropriate draught lobby to a Protected Structure will considerably

reduce heat loss in a building, but Section 57 may apply if this would have a material
effect on the building’s character, and an application to the planning authority may be

All hot water pipes should be lagged; otherwise a considerable amount of heat will be
lost in the ceiling voids, which, while it does contribute to the total heat inherent in the
building, is inefficient.

Hot water cylinders should be well insulated.

It may be possible to upgrade the heating system or install more energy-efficient

heating equipment in a Protected Structure without materially affecting its character, in
which case this will be exempted development.

Reducing the temperature will have beneficial results in terms of energy savings, is
healthier, and is less likely to harm decorative joinery and sensitive furnishings.

The use of low energy light fittings will increase energy savings.

Salvaged materials
The reuse of a historic building in itself represents practical energy conservation,
preserving the resources, materials and labour which went into the building in the first
place, and avoiding the costs and environmental impact of the energy, transport and
landfill involved in demolition.

The use of suitable salvaged materials has been widely advocated in the recent past, and
has been seen by many as an ideal solution. However, there are potential drawbacks to
this approach that should be considered carefully before any decision is taken.

The usual presumption is that salvaged materials are being proposed so that the repair
is entirely indistinguishable from the original. This contradicts the simple late 19th century
attitude that repairs should be honest and obvious. It is now widely held that in all but the
most exceptional cases the evidence of changes should not be removed or obliterated.

While it is occasionally possible that the salvaged materials chosen could be of an

incorrect date for their use, which would be anachronistic (and great care should be taken
to ensure that this does not happen), it is more important to consider how the materials
have become available for salvage and reuse. It is unacceptable if they result from the
unwarranted demolition, or partial demolition, of any building, particularly if this has been
done for planning gain; for instance the clearance of a site for development purposes.

The use of salvaged materials under these circumstances could be seen as condoning
such action and the financial gain of those involved. It can also be questionable in
technical terms because, however good they may appear to be, even on close visual
inspection, it is impossible to test the longevity of salvaged materials or guarantee their
future performance. There is no point, for instance, in re-using natural slates to repair a
roof if after a short time they fail and need replacement, with all the costs and annoyance
that this will entail. Such an exercise would give conservation a justifiably bad reputation,
particularly among the public. However, there can sometimes be a non-contentious use
for ‘surplus’ building materials, and they should not be dumped or destroyed without
carefully considering what these could be.

Architectural Heritage Protection: Guidelines for Planning Authorities. Department of the
Environment, Heritage and Local Government, 2005.

Building Regulations and Historic Buildings: balancing the needs for energy conservation
with those of building conservation. An Interim Guidance Note on the application of Part
L. English Heritage, 2004.

Guide to Building Services for Historic Buildings. CIBSE, 2002.

Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings. (DoEHLG Advice Series) Department of the

Environment, Heritage and Local Government, 2010.

Part B is under review at the time of publication. Its current status can be obtained from
the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

These guidelines are intended as general advice on the appropriate upgrading of the
historic fabric of Protected Structures in order to meet the requirements of the Building
Regulations Part B. The content of this Appendix draws partly on Architectural Heritage
Protection: Guidelines for Planning Authorities published by the Department of the
Environment, Heritage and Local Government in 2004, Chapter 17 of which provides
more detailed guidance.

Building Regulations
The 1997 edition of Technical Guidance Document B: Fire Safety ceased to have effect
from 1 June 2006 and is superseded by the 2006 Edition of TGD B. Certain projects may
benefit from transitional arrangements, which are detailed in the introduction to the 2006

Consultation between the architects, the planning authority and the fire authority should
take place, where possible at a pre-planning stage, in order to identify any interventions
required to satisfy the fire regulations. Fire safety design solutions should impact as little
as possible on the important spaces, elements and fabric of the Protected Structure, and
alterations which impact on important fabric should be readily reversible.

Planning Acts
All works which would materially affect the character of a Protected Structure or proposed
protected structure require planning permission, even where these works are necessary
to comply with a condition of a Fire Safety Certificate. It is therefore advisable that any
planning application includes details of the fire protection proposals for the building, so
that the local authorities can assess the impact of those interventions on the Protected
Structure. Should any additional fire safety enhancement works be required which were
not specifically included in a grant of permission, then a further planning application may
be necessary.

Because of the importance of preserving the architectural character of a Protected
Structure, imaginative compromises between active and passive fire protection measures
will often have to be made. A number of possible compensatory measures for works to

existing buildings are outlined in TGD B. Active provisions are those which come into
action on detection of fire, such as fire suppression systems, while passive provisions
relate to the defence against fire provided by the fabric and construction of a building,
such as floor and walls. Alternative approaches based on fire safety engineering may also
be employed to satisfy the requirements of the regulations.

Means of Escape in Case of Fire

When dealing with the safe escape of occupants from a Protected Structure,
compensating measures are allowed. These measures include all or some of the

enhanced levels of life safety protection by automatic fire detection and alarm

reduced travel distances;

enhanced smoke-control measures;

pressurisation of stairway enclosures;

protection to escape routes from places of special fire risk;

enhanced performance of fire doors;

additional structural fire-protection measures such as increased levels of

compartmentation of the building.

Special requirements for providing means of escape for people with disabilities may also
have to be considered.

Escape Routes and Exits

Escape routes should generally be internal where they can be accommodated without
damaging good internal fabric or decoration. The use of external escape stairs should
be avoided where possible, because of their large and usually negative impact on the
external appearance of the building.

Fire-Protected Lobbies and Corridors

Proposals to provide enhanced fire protection by the insertion of protected lobbies,
corridors or staircases in a Protected Structure may have a serious impact on the
character of the building. They may involve works to upgrade the fire resistance of historic
walls, floors, ceilings, staircases or door cases, and also damage the appearance of
rooms and disrupt important decorative schemes. The architect should explore all other

solutions and compensatory measures as alternatives. Where the insertion of a new

lobby is unavoidable, its design should be appropriate and take account of the existing
architecture of the interior.

Upgrading Historic Walls, Floors and Ceilings

The fire resistance of existing timber walls or floors may need to be upgraded. This can
be achieved by the addition of fire-resisting layers above, beneath or between existing
studs or floor joists. There are a number of proprietary methods for upgrading the fire
resistance of floors which may be appropriate. Upgrading works should not involve loss of
or damage to historic floors or to important plasterwork on walls and ceilings.

Upgrading Historic Staircases

The main staircase frequently constitutes one of the most significant elements in a
historic building. The removal or replacement of historic staircases or parts of staircases
should be resisted and alternative solutions sought.

Upgrading Historic Doors

Where an authentic door or door case of acknowledged quality or interest remains efforts
should be made to retain it in-situ rather than replace it with a replica fire-resistant door.
Modest upgrading, using seals and linings or the application of intumescent paint or
paper to bring the door up to the required fire resistance standard, may be possible.

As a last resort, where a door cannot be brought up to the required standards without
unacceptable alteration, it may be appropriate that it be recorded and tagged before
being carefully dismantled and safely stored in the building for possible reinstatement at
a later date and an appropriate replacement door fitted. The fitting of a second door may
sometimes be appropriate, provided that it does not adversely affect the character of the
original door and doorcase joinery.

Facilities for the Fire Service

Where a Protected Structure is sited in a remote location, away from a mains water
supply, the provision of an adequate water supply for fire-fighting needs to be considered.
Existing water features, such as ornamental lakes or fountains located adjacent to the
building, upgraded and with improved access, could serve as water sources. Alternatively,
underground water-holding tanks may be provided if their construction does not disrupt
important areas of gardens or hard landscaping.

The local fire service should be provided with sufficient information, including a visit to the
property if possible, to enable them to develop their understanding and approach to a fire
in the particular structure, and to prioritise particular areas or elements for attention in the
case of fire.

Fire-Safety Plan & Risk Assessment

The owners and occupiers of Protected Structures should be encouraged to take steps to
prevent their building becoming endangered by fire. This might include the preparation of
a regularly monitored fire-safety plan.

A fire risk assessment for the Protected Structure should be carried out, and will be most
useful if it is done before preparing a detailed planning application.

Common causes of fire in Protected Structures include electrical faults, building or

renovation work, arson and accidental fire from hearths, smoking, kitchens and the like.
Many of these causes can be eliminated or minimised by the adoption of operational
procedures, such as: banning smoking in or around buildings or adjacent to flammable
material such as thatch; prohibiting the use of “hot work” procedures during refurbishment
work; and avoiding the storage of combustible materials within the building.

Part M is under review at the time of publication. Its current status can be obtained from
the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

(The content of this Appendix draws partly on Architectural Heritage Protection:

Guidelines for Planning Authorities published by the Department of the Environment,
Heritage and Local Government in 2004, Chapter 18 of which provides more detailed

These guidelines are intended as general advice on the appropriate upgrading of the
historic fabric of Protected Structures so as to provide access for people with disabilities
while also conserving the architectural heritage.

The philosophy of universal access aspires to easy and dignified access into and within
buildings for all people, including those with disabilities. While this may be relatively
simple to achieve in new construction, in existing buildings, particularly where the building
is a Protected Structure or is located within an Architectural Conservation Area, resolving
access issues will be more complex and a balance will need to be struck between
improving accessibility and protecting the character and special interest of the historic
built environment.

Building Regulations
Part M of the 2009 “Draft” Building Regulations, Introduction, titled “Existing Buildings”
states: “In the case of material alterations of existing buildings, the adoption without
modification of the guidance in this document may not, in all circumstances, be
appropriate. In particular, the adherence to guidance, including codes, standards or
technical specifications, intended for application to new work may be unduly restrictive
or impracticable. Buildings of architectural or historic interest are especially likely to give
rise to such circumstances. In these situations, alternative approaches based on the
principles contained in the document may be more relevant and should be considered”.

Disability Access Certificates under Building Control Act 2007 (Commencement Order)
2009 (SI No. 352 of 2009) and Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2009 (SI No.
351 of 2009) came into effect on 1st October 2009. In the case of a material change of
use of an existing building, a Disability Access Certificate (DAC) will be required.

The need to provide access is implied by the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the
Equal Status Act 2000. However, when dealing with existing buildings it is the Building
Regulations that are likely to have the greatest impact.

Part M of the Regulations requires that adequate provision be made to enable people
with disabilities to access and use a building safely and independently. For the purposes
of Part M ‘people with disabilities’ means people who have an impairment of hearing
or sight or an impairment which limits their ability to walk or which restricts them to a
wheelchair. Part M does not apply to buildings constructed prior to 1 June 1992 unless
they are subject to material alterations. In the case of existing dwellings, the requirements
only apply to works in connection with extensions and material alterations where such
works create a new additional dwelling.

Technical Guidance Document M provides ‘deemed to satisfy’ guidance for new buildings.
The application of TGD M to existing buildings, particularly those of architectural and
historical interest, is unlikely to be appropriate and alternative approaches to meeting
the requirements of Part M should be considered. The Building Control Act provides for
the granting of a dispensation or relaxation in relation to specific works or materials by a
building control authority where the case for dispensation or relaxation is accepted by the

Where the building is a Protected Structure, or is located within an ACA, the architect
should seek the advice of the local authority Conservation Officer at an early stage.
Where the building is protected under the National Monuments Acts the Building
Regulations do not apply. Nonetheless it may be desirable to improve access, and the
architect is advised to consult the Heritage and Planning Division of the Department of
the Environment, Heritage and Local Government before drawing up detailed proposals
or lodging a planning application.

Planning Acts
All works which materially affect the character of a Protected Structure or a Proposed
Protected Structure, whether internally or externally, will require planning permission,
as will works to the exterior of a structure in an ACA which would materially affect the
character of the area. This applies whether or not the works are necessary for the
structure to comply with other legislation such as the Disability Act or the Building

Disability Act
The Disability Act 2005 requires further and better provision to be made in respect of the
use by people with disabilities of publicly-owned buildings. Section 29 of that Act requires
a public body to ensure, as far as practicable, that all or part of a publicly-accessible
heritage site in its ownership should be accessible by people with disabilities and capable

of being visited by them with ease and dignity. However, this does not apply if it would
have a significant adverse effect on the integrity of the heritage site or would compromise
the characteristics of the site.

Nothing in the Act requires the adaptation or modification of a publicly-owned heritage

site contrary to law. The proper procedures must be followed and the necessary consents
obtained under Planning legislation, National Monuments legislation and Wildlife
legislation before works can be carried out.

‘Heritage site’ within the meaning of the Disability Act includes Protected Structures (and
Proposed Protected Structures) and their attendant grounds, ACAs, recorded monuments
and heritage buildings, in addition to nature reserves and national parks.

Improving access to a historic building will provide a challenge. It will require a creative
and innovative approach from the architect and flexibility on the part of owners, building
managers and users. Some principles which should be borne in mind when considering
alterations, are:

The built heritage is a finite and irreplaceable resource

Standard solutions do not work and should not be applied to historic buildings

Interventions in the historic fabric should be kept to a minimum. Unnecessary change

should not be undertaken. For example, obstacles on a particular route should be
avoided rather than altered.

Where alterations are needed, efforts should be made to make them reversible

All available options for improving access should be explored before deciding on a

Interventions should be of high quality both in terms of design and of materials

There will be cases where an historic building will not be capable of providing full and
easy access for all. But, in such cases, there may still exist the opportunity to improve
access across a spectrum of disability. For example, if it is not possible to provide
for wheelchair users, a reasonable adjustment such as the provision of handrails or
changes in surface finishes would improve access for others.

Entering the building

The provision of access for wheelchair users to a building is likely to present the greatest
conflict between improving access and conserving the built heritage. The installation
of ramps or lifts to the front of the building can be difficult to achieve in a manner
sympathetic to the architecture of the building while minimising loss or damage to the
historic fabric. The typical Georgian terraced house can be particularly problematic, as
providing access for wheelchairs to the front entrance may involve the alteration or loss
of railings and plinths. Ramps above a basement area can compromise the use of the
rooms below by depriving them of natural light and ventilation. Where there is a basement
area to the street, it may be possible to incorporate a platform lift to the basement from
street level. Alternatively, it may have to be accepted that a second point of entry is
provided through a mews building or through the rear of the site.

Access ramps against the façade of a building can be visually intrusive and physically
damaging to the fabric; for example, where a concrete ramp is cast against a stone plinth.
The inclusion of a separating membrane between the new ramp and the historic fabric
would allow for the removal of the ramp at a future time without causing physical damage
to the historic fabric. However the acceptability of the visual impact of such a ramp will
need careful consideration.

Re-grading of external surfaces

Where the difference in levels is small it may be possible, with the co-operation of the
local authority where appropriate, to re-grade the pavement outside the building to
overcome the barrier. Again the impact on plinths and bases of the building will have
to be considered; not only the physical impact on the fabric but also the effect on the
proportions and appearance of the elevation.

Temporary ramps
Where use is infrequent, where access may only be required for short period of time,
or pending an acceptable permanent solution, the use of a temporary ramp may be
appropriate. But the temporary nature of the ramp should not be used as a justification for
unacceptable or intrusive design and any temporary ramp should be suited to its location.
A temporary ramp may require planning permission. Portable or demountable ramps may
be used as part of a managed solution to improving access in certain cases of particular
sensitivity. These require trained staff to erect and remove them when required, and
consideration needs to be given to the storage of the ramp when not in use so as to avoid
visual clutter around the entrance.

Secondary entrances
While the principal entrance is the preferred access point for everyone, it may not always
be possible to achieve. In such cases, opening up a secondary entrance in order to avoid

barriers present in the original entrance may be an acceptable solution. This may require
some careful re-ordering of internal spaces to make them suitable for access. Ideally, this
new entrance should become the access to the building for all users, although the original
entrance can be still available for use.

Circulation inside the building

Improved access into and around a building needs to be matched by enhanced provision
for emergency egress by disabled users, particularly where access is provided to upper
floors. There may be added requirements for the provision of refuge areas, alternative
escape stairs and evacuation lifts, each of which may have an impact on the fabric of the

Mechanical lifts
The most effective means of providing vertical circulation between floors in a building is
by means of passenger lifts. Their location, whether inside or outside the building, will
need to be handled sensitively. Inserting a lift shaft within a historic interior can involve
considerable disruption of fabric. It should therefore be located away from sensitive areas
of the interior, within areas already altered or where new alteration will be minimised.
Consideration must be given at an early stage in the design process to the potential
impact of machinery on roofs or basements. Problems may arise if the remodelling of the
roof profile is required, if important structural roof members will be damaged or, in the
case of basements, if archaeological material may be disturbed by the creation of a lift pit.
External lift shafts should be located away from important elevations and not be visible in
significant views of the building.

Stair lifts
Stair lifts can be obtrusive in a historic setting and are considered by many to be difficult
and undignified to use. Their use would generally not be acceptable on a primary
staircase because of their visual intrusiveness. The use of a stair lift on an escape route
would often not be acceptable as it forms a potential hazard.

Changes of level
Smaller changes of level within a building may be overcome by the use of carefully
located and designed ramps or platform lifts. Their use may not be appropriate where
they would conflict with important architectural details such as plinths, skirtings, panelling,
dado rails, architraves and the like.

Platform lifts can be large and visually intrusive in a historic setting. Their use should not
require the demolition or alteration of important stairs or landings. Where platform lifts are
installed, it is preferable that the works are readily reversible.

Car parking
Dedicated car parking with easy access to the building’s entrance should be provided for
people with disabilities. In some cases, depending on the sensitivity of the setting of the
building, this may not be possible to achieve. An acceptable alternative may be to provide
suitable drop-off points or to include separate limited parking for users with disabilities.
Where the car parking is to be located within the curtilage of a Protected Structure or is
within an ACA, planning permission may be required.

Surface finishes
Many historic path and paving finishes can be difficult for people with disabilities to
negotiate. These include gravel, cobbles, setts and some types of stone flags. These
surfaces can be unsuitable for wheelchair and pushchair movement and for others with
mobility impairment. Suitable solutions can include the provision of accessible routes
through the historic surface finish using a complementary paving material. Joints between
cobbles, setts or flags can be filled with mortar to prevent trapping of wheels or crutches.
Binders can be used to make gravelled routes more accessible.

The surface finish of staircases and the highlighting of stair nosings may also have
implications for historic stone staircases.

Where alterations to historic surface finishes within the curtilage of a Protected Structure
or within an ACA are proposed planning permission may be required.

Access to the Historic Environment: Meeting the Needs of Disabled People by Usa
Foster. Donhead Publishing Ltd., Lower Coombe, Donhead St. Mary, Shafresbury,
Dorset, SP7 9LY, England, 1997.

Easy Access to Historic Buildings. Second edition. English Heritage, 2005. www.english-

Code of Practice on Accessible Heritage Sites. National Disability Authority, Publication

anticipated in 2011.

Access : improving the accessibility of historic buildings and sites (working title).
(DoEHLG Advice Series) Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local
Government. Publication anticipated in 2011.

The Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01 6633040
Fax: 01 6633041

National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2

Tel: 01 6030200
Fax: 01 6766690

Trinity College Library, Trinity College, College Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6081661
Fax: 01 6083774

An Taisce, Tailor’s Hall, Back Lane, Dublin 8.

Tel: 01 4541788
Fax: 01 4533255

Irish Georgian Society, 74 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6767053

Office of Public Works, 51 St. Stephens Green, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6476000
Fax: 01 6610747
Lo-call 1890 213 414

Architecture and Planning Library, UCD Dublin, Richview, Clonskeagh, 14.

Tel: 01 7167777
Fax: 01 2830329

PADDI (Planning Architecture Design Database Ireland)


Dublin City Council Archives, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6744999
Fax: 01 6744881

Architectural and Planning Library, DIT Bolton Street, Dublin 1.

Tel: 01 4023681
Fax: 01 4023995

National Archives, Bishops Street, Dublin 8.

Tel: 01 4072300
Fax: 01 4072333

Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 63 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6761749

Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01 6762570
Fax: 01 6762346

Registry of Deeds, Henrietta Street, Dublin 7.

Tel: 01 8048400

Representative Church Body Library, Braemor Park, Churchtown, Dublin 14.

Tel: 01 4923979
Fax: 01 4924770

Environment and Heritage Service, Northern Ireland, Built Heritage, Waterman

House, 5-33 Hill Street, Belfast, BT1 2LA, Northern Ireland,
Tel: (028) 9054 3034
Fax: (028) 9054 3111

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 66 Balmoral Avenue, Belfast BT9 6NY,
Northern Ireland
Tel: (028) 9025 5905
Fax: (028) 9025 5999

Archive Unit, National Monuments Section, Department of the Environment,

Heritage and Local Government, 6 Ely Place Upper, Dublin 2
Tel. 01 888 2000

National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, Department of the Environment,

Heritage and Local Government, Dún Scéine, Harcourt Lane, Dublin 2
Tel. 01 888 2000

Government Departments
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government;
Environment and Heritage Service, Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland):
Government of Ireland. All legislation from the Oireachtas and the Office of the Attorney

Professional Bodies
Royal Australian Institute of Architects (links to Australian ICOMOS):
Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland:
Royal Institute of British Architects:
Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland:
Royal Society of Ulster Architects:

Heritage Organisations
The Heritage Council:
International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property
International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS):

Planning and Development Acts 2000 - 2006 (in particular Part IV: Architectural Heritage).
Planning and Development Regulations 2001 - 2007.
Architectural Heritage (National Inventory) and Historic Monuments (Miscellaneous
Provisions) Act 1999.
Building Control Act 1990.
Building Regulations and Technical Guidance Documents 1997 - to date.
Derelict Sites Act 1990.
Employment Equality Act 1998.
Equal Status Act 2000.
Fire Services Act 1981.
Freedom of Information Acts 1997 - 2003.
Heritage Act 1995.
Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1964.
Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Performance of Certain Functions)
Act 2002.
National Monuments Acts 1930 - 2004.
Registration of Title Act 1964.
Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (in particular Section 482: Relief for expenditure on
significant buildings and gardens)
Wildlife Acts 1976 - 2000.

Useful guidance on the application of this legislation is to be found in:

Architectural Heritage Protection: Guidelines for Planning Authorities. (Planning
Guidelines No.9) Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, 2004.
Archaeology in the Planning Process. (Planning Leaflet PL13) Department of the
Environment, Heritage and Local Government, 2007.

Charters of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (lCOMOS)

ICOMOS. International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and
Sites (‘Venice Charter’). Adopted at Venice, 1966.
ICOMOS. Charter on the Preservation of Historic Gardens (‘Florence Charter’). Adopted
at Florence, 1982.
ICOMOS. Charter on the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas (‘Washington
Charter’). Adopted at Washington, 1987.

ICOMOS. Guidelines for Education and Training in the Conservation of Monuments,

Ensembles and Sites. Adopted at Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1993.
ICOMOS. Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Significance (‘Burra
Charter’). Adopted at Burra, Australia, 1979. Revised 1999.
ICOMOS, Charter on the Built Vernacular Heritage. Adopted at Mexico, 1999.

Further information available from

Council of Europe Conventions

Council of Europe. European Charter of the Architectural Heritage. Strasbourg, 1975.
Council of Europe. Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe
(‘Granada Convention’).
Council of Europe. Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage of Europe
(‘Valletta Convention’).

Further information available from

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland
8 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

T: 353 1 676 1703

F: 353 1 661 0948

The material contained in this publication is presented in good faith, but its application must be considered in the light of the
circumstances of individual projects and the exercise of professional judgment. Neither the RIAI, its agents, consultants or
advisers can be held responsible for any effect, loss or expense resulting from the use of the material presented in this publication.

©RIAI 2010. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means
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