Storm Damage

Damage caused by high winds to historic buildings in the centre of Inverness made the headlines this week.

Masonry falling from buildings is always extremely dangerous and has caused fatalities in the past, it is no surprise that it is a matter of public concern. However, there was an irony about the response of some of our councillors, reported in the local press.

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Inverness Courier Front Page reporting damage to historic architecture in the Highland Capital

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Their advice; that property owner should take responsibility for the condition of their buildings, have them inspected regularly and carry out necessary maintenance, is welcome. However, it fails to recognise the issues that were critical to this particular event, as it appears that the damage has been caused by advertising banners erected by the council.

The banners that stretch across the street were supported on cables anchored to the walls of buildings on either side. In the wind the banners act like sails, catching the wind and pulling on the fixings. These banners weren’t imagined when these buildings were designed by the Victorians, and they were not designed to carry the kind of forces that these banners exert.

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Damage to historic architecture in Inverness by utility company

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The council are by no means the only ones doing this kind of thing. Our utility companies, providing Gas, Telephone, Electricity, Street Lighting and Water services often hack away at our historic buildings, to make convenient routes and fixing points for their cables and pipes without the requirement to obtain consent, any consideration for the damage to building fabric or consultation with the property owners. Property owners also need to be careful as you can do a lot of damage when things like satellite dishes and aerials are attached to chimneys or walls.

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street clutter on historic architecture in Inverness

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Unless you are a professional or tradesman, you rarely get an opportunity to view the impact of these alterations close-up, and you may not notice what has happened. Until of course there is a problem.

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So what lessons can be learned from this event?

If you own a traditional building, you need to be aware of the changes that happen to your building, whether it is through natural weathering or wear and tear. You also need to be aware of what others are doing to your building and ensure that they take responsibility for their actions.

Our advice is to have your building checked regularly by a conservation professional with the skills and expertise to necessary to assess historic building fabric. When changes are envisaged, however small they may appear, get their advice before you begin. When you have a professional that has already carried out a survey and is familiar with your particular buildings, they will be able to tell you quickly and at very little cost, if there are likely to be potential issues that you need to examine in more detail before you begin.

 As we have seen this week, what may seem like and minor change, can have major impact.

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MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland. 

If you need independent advice give us a call ?