Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


Director's Notes - July 2012

Monthly update from EWH Director Adam Wilkinson.

Jul 20, 2012

The excessive rain of the past couple of months is a salutary reminder of the importance of systematic planned maintenance of our historic buildings as the critical preventative measure. This translates into English as “it’s important to empty out your gutters a couple of times a year, on a regular basis, to stop water getting in to your house and wreaking havoc”. Paying someone to do this work for you results in a 20% tax being applied in the form of VAT. Many other countries in Europe give you a tax break for maintaining your building, and offer a subsidised maintenance service. There are training courses such as the SPAB’s Faith in Maintenance programme but we have no equivalent here in Scotland.

Some of the repairs we become involved with are the result of a lack of maintenance, but very many are simply because no building material lasts for ever, such as at Rutland Square. The tried and tested forms of construction, which in Scotland equates to stone walls and slate roofs, are generally pretty long lasting. However, the experimental forms of construction that were widely used after World War II, both as a practical reaction to a shortage of materials and out of the desire to break from the past, have not always lasted so well, or performed particularly well in other aspects, such as keeping residents warm.

With this in mind, and recoginsing that some of these modernist buildings tell an important story we are turning our minds to how we can both conserve and adapt such buildings to meet the requirements of modern life. We are starting to work with the residents and owners of the Basil Spence buildings on the Canongate, to understand the problems they and the buildings face, and what can usefully be done.

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