Lack of maintenance at heritage sites can be a cause of structural deterioration, so continuous inspection of these structures is critical.
The fire at Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral in mid-April confirms that older structures demand meticulous attention as part of an ongoing maintenance plan to keep heritage buildings in a state of good repair.
Lack of maintenance at heritage sites can be a cause of structural deterioration, so continuous inspection of these structures is a critical to any maintenance plan, as is keeping the buildings neat and free of environmental attacks on the structural integrity, says Geoffrey Jäck, managing director of heritage building refurbishment contractor Indawo.
Centuries-old building methods were vastly different from today’s and modern demands on these buildings place enormous pressure on their structural integrity, he says.
“The relentless flow of tourists takes its toll on structures, which grow weaker as they age.
“We often find modern building materials do not match, in aesthetics or functionality, those used hundreds of years ago.
“Adapting newer materials is required to ensure old and new combine seamlessly without losing the architect’s aesthetic intentions. This requires tailored solutions to ensure consistency in design.”
Contractors of yesteryear, while taking safety into consideration, could not have foreseen the demands of the 21st century with their associated risks, including health and safety and the intense pressure placed on cities from burgeoning populations. Modern construction considers fire risks on top of health and safety dangers.
Indawo’s refurbishments of heritage buildings, especially in the Western Cape, all required tailored solutions. In the case of Cape Town’s City Hall, a new roof included imported Spanish slate tiles, which closely matched the originals to maintain its original design.
The Clock Tower at the V&A Waterfront was repainted using the same colours that it had when first built years ago.
Die Groote Kerk in Cape Town was redecorated, which involved intricate work around old installations, such as the world-renowned organ.
The South African Jewish Museum required extreme care. Old artefacts, often priceless one-of-a-kind pieces, were handled carefully. Painting around fragile exhibits and fittings demanded a team that understood the value of the work they were doing.
Nazareth House, still occupied by the original tenants of the late 1800s, the Sisters of Nazareth, also received a total refurbishment, and great care was taken.
Many of the Western Cape’s university buildings date back many years. Restoring them demands not only care but minimal disruption to the students. These include Huis Jannie Marais, Die Kweekskool and Die Ou Hoofgebou at Stellenbosch University, all restored to retain their original aesthetics and architects’ design intentions.
“Heritage projects demand unique attention to detail,” says Jäck. “When restoring Notre Dame Cathedral after the fire, the contractor should have knowledge of the history of the building and an ability to restore the structure to its original. Part of heritage buildings’ tourism appeal is their ability to take visitors back in time to experience the culture and lifestyles of yesteryear, which makes these buildings vital to any country’s tourism offering.”
But accidents can and do happen, says Jäck, which is why contractors should understand the critical part that health and safety play in terms of compliance to all regulations and legislation.