Conservation consultants

It is often important to seek expert advice when applying for planning permission, listed building consent or when carrying out any change to your historic building or structure. 

It can be difficult to find the correct expert, below we provide some ideas on where and how to find the appropriate consultant or specialist.

The type of expert that you require will depend upon the task.  If you are preparing a full planning application you will probably need to appoint an architect, who specialises in historic building conservation; however you may also need to appoint a structural engineer, a quantity surveyor or an expert in a particular aspect of building conservation etc.

Guide to selecting and appointing a Historic Building Conservation consultant or specialist

The choice of consultants or specialists able to undertake work in relation to planning applications or similar schemes can be guided by the following principles:

1.  Membership of an appropriate Institute

Architects are normally members of the Royal Institute of British Architects or are registered architects (details on AARUK) and have undertaken rigorous training in their field.  RIBA can provide further information for choosing the appropriate architect for your project.  

There is also a Register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation, which was established  with the support of English Heritage.

Some historic building conservation specialists are members of the Institute of Historic Buildings Conservation and companies who specialise in historic building conservation may be registered with its Historic Environment Service Providers Recognition system.

Where a formal Environmental Impact Assessment is required, membership by a  consultancy or individual of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment is a useful indication of competence.  

Consultants or specialists, depending on their field of expertise may also be members of other specific professional bodies, for example -

2.  Knowledge of the Local Area

Knowledge of the local area can be useful in understanding the local materials, building types and features etc and in having good contacts with local contractors, suppliers and specialist building companies.   It can also lead to a better understanding of local historic building conservation policies, constraints and opportunities.  

3.  "In house" Expertise 

Not all environmental, planning or architectural consultancies will have their own in-house historic building conservation specialists and other freelance consultants may be used, particularly on cases / sites that require a multi-skilled approach.  In such a case it is advisable to ascertain who the specialist or consultant will be, and what professional qualifications or relevant expertise they posses. 

4.  Relevant Experience and Knowledge

It is important to ensure that your historic building conservation consultant or specialist is qualified and experienced in the relevant fields, for example an architect with extensive experience of working on the re-development of historic docklands may not have the appropriate experience to work on the repair of rural timber framed buildings.  It may even be necessary to appoint additional specialists for particular parts of the project, for example the repair of fine plasterwork or wall paintings.   

5.  Legal requirements

It is important to ascertain whether the consultant that you have appointed has all the appropriate legal documentation and qualifications that are required both within their profession and for health and safety etc.

6.  Located or based locally

Is your expert located locally or will you be charged for travelling time and mileage ?  It is important to establish this before you appoint any expert advice.

7.  Tenders and detailed written proposals

It is always advisable to seek, for comparative purposes, several written tenders that include details of the work that the consultants would undertake. It may be helpful to ask for a “day rate” for any additional work that may also be required.

8.  Insurance

Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance should be held by the consultants to cover the costs of any legal liabilities established against them.

9.  References and Recommendations

It may be useful to ask for references from any potential consultant for similar projects that they have carried out.  Local contacts can also be a good source of information as to suitable consultants.

Where do consultants and specialists advertise?

Historic building conservation specialists and consultants often advertise in the relevant magazines and periodicals, for example -

The Building Conservation Directory also provides contact details for many consultants. specialists and contractors who specialise in building conservation.

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