Heritage significance and the identification of attributes to preserve in a sustainable refurbishment

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The refurbishment of the historical building stock is of key importance to meet the climate goals set by the EU for 2050. When aiming to reduce the environmental impact of the historical building stock, special attention is required in relation to the conservation of cultural values and heritage significance. This is often referred to as a “balancing act” or “trade-off” of retaining heritage significance while implementing sustainability measures. The definition of heritage is continuously expanding; it is incorporating a wider range of heritage values, involving more stakeholders in identifying such values, moving from objects to landscapes, and now includes tangible and intangible assets. While the identification of values (the “why”) associated with heritage significance has resulted in a wide range of frameworks and typologies, the clear and transparent identification of the attributes (the “what”) that are associated with heritage significance is often lacking. Many authors and projects that have focused on the development of decision-support-systems for the “balancing-act” of implementing sustainability measures while preserving heritage significance underscore the need for a specific and sufficiently detailed understanding of what needs to be preserved, and what can potentially be altered and to what degree. This need is in line with the notion of management of change; the clear identification of the extent to which change is considered acceptable is imperative in its application. The aim of this research is to develop a method to determine, analyse and represent the heritage significance of attributes in sufficient detail to assess the heritage impact of refurbishment strategies. The method was developed through an evaluation of the recent developments of the heritage management discourse from the perspective of the balancing act of allowing sustainability measures while retaining heritage significance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-293
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage
Early online date27 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Attributes
  • Heritage impact
  • Heritage significance
  • Management of change
  • Preservation
  • Sustainable refurbishment


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