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 IHBC seeks to raise awareness and understanding of how building conservation philosophy and practice contributes towards meeting the challenge of climate change.
From Amenity Societies and Wentworth Woodhouse to Kurt Schwitters, Scotland’s Towns, Chester and more...
The former Royal High School building in Edinburgh is to be transformed into a £55 million national centre for music after the City of Edinburgh Council agreed to the lease of the historic property.
The joint-institute document aims to help maintain cultural heritage by providing a consistent framework across different sectors & geographies
IHBC’s Gus Astley Student Awards 2021: Win £500 and a place on IHBC’s 2022 Aberdeen School with your built environment/heritage coursework, closes 31/07!
The last remaining buildings on the site of the Harris meat factory family’s historic mansion are being restored to their former glory and converted into new homes.
The Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum (CICV Forum) has unveiled a new guide to the crucial and increasingly complex issue of professional indemnity insurance (PII).
ICOMOS has advised that the new football stadium proposal, if implemented, would have a completely unacceptable major adverse impact its authenticity and integrity.
Responding to the changing working patterns of a post-Covid Scotland, the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) has revealed new plans to help retrofit public spaces into out-of-town alternatives to city centre offices.
The free-to-access online issue mixes the topical and practical to explore how the sector can best adapt to digital innovation.