Practical Building Conservation: Earth, Brick and Terracotta
Practical Building Conservation: Earth, Brick and Terracotta, Historic England, Ashgate, 2015, 1,020 pages, profusely illustrated.
The Practical Building Conservation series, first authored by John and Nicola Ashurst 28 years ago, had become a key reference for many practitioners. Originally of five volumes, the series has recently been expanded to 10 volumes by a team at Historic England, with the assistance of expert contributors.
More than simply a revised edition, the volume on earth, brick and terracotta has been comprehensively rewritten. Totalling 1,020 pages, it is written by Alison Henry, Iain McCaig, Clara Willett, Sophie Godfraind and John Stewart.
Each of the three materials is introduced with a review of how it has been used in England through history. In this respect the volume is much more than a technical handbook. Regional variations are explained in great detail – for example, there are pages on the different characteristics of cob buildings across the country – followed by comprehensive sections assessing and diagnosing defects, and repair and maintenance.
Although wordy, the information is easily accessible; the section on daub, for example, describes its preparation, including the merits of hay and straw, and the different lengths to which each should be chopped. The method given for temporary support of a leaning cob wall is an example of the practical advice found throughout.
The coverage of brickwork stabilisation techniques, in preference to dismantling and rebuilding, is one of many valuable technical sections. Terracotta and faience are served equally well, and anyone reading this chapter in full would finish with a very good appreciation of this often misunderstood material.
The text is well-illustrated throughout, with cogent, annotated drawings and a very broad range of photographs, many showing defects and repairs in action and having real educational value. The chapter on each of the materials ends with a selection of case studies showing how the theory is put into practice, and the lessons learnt.
Its encyclopaedic nature makes the volume a one-stop reference for most matters relating to clay-based building materials, and it is essentially four books in one, which goes a long way to justifying its price. Thankfully it is particularly well set out, with coloured dividers aiding its use as a reference text. Helpfully, there is a colour-coded key system for referencing other relevant volumes in the series, although this volume serves perfectly well in isolation.
As the name suggests, the book does indeed provide practical advice on building conservation, and is aimed primarily at those who work on or look after historic buildings. It will also be of interest to owners or those in education looking to acquire a detailed understanding of the subject. While the focus is on buildings in England, the characteristics of the materials and the approach for their conservation are relevant across the UK and beyond. Although most likely to be used as a reference text for dipping into when presented with a particular defect, Earth, Brick and Terracotta is also an absorbing read.
Find out more
Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Arup and Better Shelter at the Working Together For Disaster Relief conference.
- Defects in brickwork.
- Earth building.
- Earthen construction.
- IHBC articles.
- The Institute of Historic Building Conservation.
- Unfired clay masonry: An introduction to low-impact building materials.
- Use of ceramics in construction.
The Construction Industry Council’s (CIC’s) ‘CIC Coronavirus Digest – Issue 8’ surveys the latest government advice with updates from the construction industry.
Organisations with conservation links have been collating resources on COVID-19 impacts, including Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS), Historic Environment Forum, The Heritage Alliance (THA), and Historic England, on cleaning surfaces.
Councils are reported to be considering taking up rarely-used executive powers to keep the planning and development system moving during the coronavirus pandemic.
Historic England's 'After a Flood' provides timely advice on how to dry walls properly and avoid further damage to the building fabric.
Context Issue 162 offers a peek into an archive of timber conservation history through the records of the practice of FWB and Mary Charles Chartered Architects.
To meet the government’s target of being carbon neutral by 2050, we must recycle, reuse and responsibly adapt our existing historic buildings, according to this year’s Heritage Counts report, so Historic England and partners are calling for a reduction in VAT rates to incentivise this more sustainable option.
Donald Insall Associates, with the help of Historic England, has completed restoration work of Moseley Road Baths, being converted for use as an arts and culture venue.
Celebrate your local ‘retired members’ and ‘successful learners’ with £500 cash prizes and 2020 Brighton School places!
The Conservation Hierarchy is a new framework developed by the University of Oxford to help construction projects achieve Biodiversity Net Gain.
Jacqueline Hughes, senior risk analyst at Equib, in pbctoday discusses how project managers for town centre developments can get their risk management strategies right.
A new paper from the Adam Smith Institute argues that the problem with the High Street has been totally misunderstood, saying that we need to reform restrictive planning rules and reject a policy of managed decline to reinvigorate our town centres.
The Whole Life Cost of Energy (WLCoE) calculator – issued by government in BETA form – is intended to help building owners and operators to understand the full financial cost of the energy their buildings use, and welcomes feedback.