On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the THI’s first ever training / CPD event took place. Its focus was the Repair and Maintenance of Traditional Buildings and it took place upstairs at the Deane’s House in Church Street.
A total of fourteen people attended this small two-day course and all passed the test at the end that gained them NVQ Level 3 certificates. The people on the course were a mixture of trainees, architects, stone masons, building surveyors, property developers and conservation advisors – quite a broad group, but that’s the nature of our historic buildings – they are in the hands of so many different disciplines.
The lectures were organised by Kay Leech from the National Heritage Training Group. The speakers were Bruce Induni (Induni Conservation), Gary Butler (Butler Hegarty Architects) and John Walters (Building Crafts College). On the first day of the course, I led the group around Prescot town centre to show them the project buildings and ‘live’ examples of repair and maintenance issues.
Bruce’s lectures spanned most of the first day of the course. He focussed on how traditional structures work and should be repaired, the philosophy of whether to repair or restore and how stone decays. Bruce’s talk on dampness in buildings – water can be a building’s worst enemy – was of particular interest. It’s amazing to see the damage that can be done to interiors and stonework by simple things like a blocked or leaking gutter, a failed copingstone or having compost stacked up against a wall. What almost always seems to happen is when damp strikes, people look at boarding out the interior of the building or installing expensive damp proofing when the problem is as simple as a dodgy downpipe or a defective drain.
Gary started his talk on day two by applying conservation principles to a vintage push bike he had recently bought – if he starts replacing parts to make it ride-able again, at what point does it stop becoming an antique? The same applies to historic buildings – they need to adapt if they are to stay in use, but where do you draw the line? This was followed by a very detailed case study of a four storey townhouse he had recently worked on – leaking gutters and blocked downpipes meant that structural timber beams to the roof and each of the floors were badly rotten and the back wall was full of damp, making the brick decay much more quickly. Huge damage and lots of care needed to make sure the building stayed standing – all because of a gutter and a downpipe not working as they should. What would have been a complicated conversion was made even more difficult and costly due to the amount of repair work and rescuing needed.
John took us through site safety and legislation before overseeing the test.
This first event was a success, with a mixture of paying delegates and people who had been awarded free places via Prescot THI and the Liverpool Ropewalks THI. The course was purposefully kept small so that everyone on it had the chance to ask the lecturers questions and keep the whole event friendly and informal. We will be looking to work more with the NHTG in the future to bring more training opportunities to Prescot.