Appointment of Professionals for Quinquennial Inspections
An Introduction to Accreditation
and Approval Systems
It is widely recognised that the inspection
of historic churches requires specialist skills, but it is not always
easy for non-specialists to determine which professionals have the skills
required. Some professionals seem to qualify solely because they have
always qualified, and it is likely that many continue to practice methods
which are now known to damage historic buildings, simply because they
have not been required to keep abreast of current developments.
Most churches and chapels
in Britain are inspected 'quinquennially', that is to say every five
years. The Church of England introduced quinquennial inspections as
a statutory requirement in 1955 through The Inspection of Churches
Measure, and dioceses are required to maintain a fund to pay for
them. Most other denominations and many secular organisations which
are responsible for historic buildings now adopt a similar approach
Quinquennial inspections involve a thorough
survey of all aspects of a building's fabric and are intended to identify
problems which have developed since the last time it was inspected and
to establish priorities for repair to ensure the preservation of the
fabric. Quinquennial inspections are generally frequent enough to catch
problems before significant damage occurs.
In addition to the structure of the church
building, chapel or other place of worship, Church of England quinquennial
inspections may be required by the archdeacon to include works of art,
artefacts and other articles of particular importance or value. Ruined
churches and other churchyard ruins may also have to be included where
designated jointly by the Council for British Archaeology and the Royal
Commission on the Historic Monuments of England (now part of English
Heritage), but as yet no proper survey has been carried out. Any trees
in the churchyard covered by a tree preservation order must also be
The importance of regular inspections by
architects and surveyors who specialise in the conservation and repair
of historic buildings cannot be over-emphasised. Historic and 'traditional'
structures deteriorate in a manner that is very different from modern
buildings and it takes a specialist to correctly distinguish defects
that require attention from the superficial results of the ageing process.
Guidance Notes for Applicants for the Joint
Grant Scheme for Churches and other Places of Worship highlight the
issue. Here, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund state that
"not all architects or chartered building surveyors have the appropriate
experience in historic buildings", and the employment of an 'appropriate'
professional is stipulated as one of the standard conditions of grant
Where historic buildings are concerned,
successful identification of the cause of a problem depends on a thorough
understanding of the way traditional materials and structures work,
and on identifying the weak points of the building in question in particular.
It is vital that specialists remain up to date. Scientific approaches
are continually breaking new ground, and some assumptions made in the
recent past are now being shown to have been false, such as the use
of hybrid mortar mixes (lime mortars gauged with hydraulic lime).
HOW ARCHITECTS AND SURVEYORS ARE 'APPROVED'
Since the Inspection
of Churches Measure 1955 was amended by the Care of Churches
Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991, chartered surveyors as
well as architects have been eligible to qualify for appointment by
the Church of England to carry out quinquennial inspections. Inspectors
are approved and appointed as individuals rather than as firms.
Although appointments are made by the local
parochial church councils (PCCs), the approval of the Diocesan Advisory
Committee for the Care of Churches (or DAC) is required. According to
the Council for the Care of Churches' Guide to Church Inspection and
Recording, this is to ensure 'that a person has the appropriate knowledge
and experience relative to the type, size and age of the building'.
Most DACs provide an 'approved list' of inspectors, while others consider
each appointment individually. In either case the architect or surveyor
wishing to take on quinquennial inspections can apply to the PCC with
details of his or her work and experience. Where the PCC wishes to appoint
somebody who is not already on the DAC-approved list, the person must
then apply to the DAC to be included. PCCs are discouraged from appointing
members of the congregation or local community.
In some other denominations the diocesan
authority appoints an individual or firm to carry out quinquennial inspections
for all churches or places of worship within its diocese. However, in
dioceses which are large and spread out, this can be impractical. The
Episcopal Church in Scotland has recently abandoned this requirement.
Variations in approach can also occur between
dioceses within a denomination. In the case of the Roman Catholic Church
for example, each diocese is autonomous under the authority of the bishop,
and their national Church Arts, Architecture and Heritage Committee
operates in an advisory capacity only.
Where historic buildings
are concerned, it can be difficult to determine whether the prospective
inspector is really qualified to carry out the work. Arguably the most
reliable indicator of an architect's or surveyor's suitability is accreditation.
Other relevant considerations include training, experience and membership
of professional bodies.
The Royal Institution
of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has an established accreditation system
for conservation specialists, ensuring that anyone on its list of surveyors
accredited in conservation has appropriate training, is experienced
in the field and stays up to date. The Royal Incorporation of Architects
in Scotland (RIAS) established a similar accreditation system in 1994,
but in England and Wales the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
have now decided against accreditation in any specialist field. Their
view is that their members should be entrusted not to take on work for
which they are unsuited. In theory this is fine, but in practice those
who are most likely to feel qualified to carry out conservation include
some non-specialists who are not fully aware of the risks involved.
The paradox is that the more one learns
about conservation, the more one appreciates the risks involved. The
difficulty of distinguishing those who are genuinely qualified to advise
from those who are simply ignorant of the risks is compounded by the
fact that many practising 'specialists' have not kept abreast of developments
in the field and some are hopelessly out of date.
Some architects in England and Wales recognised
the problem and formed their own special interest group, The RIBA Conservation
Group. However, all special interest groups were disbanded by the RIBA
in January 1999 leaving a vacuum. Some other special interest groups
have reformed as separate societies 'linked' to the RIBA, and it is
to be hoped that conservation architects will follow suit.
As a result of the RIBA's decision, a new
and entirely independent body has emerged, the Architects Accredited
in Building Conservation Register. The AABC Register is run as a private
limited company with applications for accreditation assessed by independent
specialists, overseen by a board representing key conservation organisations.
The first edition of the Register will be launched following the first
wave of assessments which will take place in August 1999.
Accreditation by the AABC Register, the
RIAS or the RICS is clearly an excellent indication of an architect's
suitability to carry out conservation work in general. However, it may
be some while before the majority of conservation architects have registered
with the AABC Register in particular.
Membership: In addition to the RIBA,
RIAS and RICS, there are a variety of other professional bodies which
include professionals with related interests. Of particular relevance
here are the Cathedral Architects Association, the Ecclesiastical Architects
and Surveyors Association, and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation,
all of which have strict entry requirements. Membership of certain other
associations and interest groups may also indicate active involvement
in conservation, such as the Association for Studies in the Conservation
of Historic Buildings, the Building Limes Forum and the Society for
the Protection of Ancient Buildings amongst others.
Training: The number of professionals
who have trained in conservation is increasing rapidly, and most younger
applicants may be expected to have attended one of the growing number
of postgraduate courses such as the Architectural Association School
of Architecture in London and RICS course in Building Conservation at
the College of Estate Management in Reading (a full list of short, graduate
and postgraduate courses can be found in The Building Conservation Directory).
Older applicants are less likely to have postgraduate qualifications,
but may have attended relevant lectures and seminars (or given them
themselves) organised by professional bodies, conservation associations
and organisations, or training centres such as the University of York.
Experience: Unless recognised and
accredited conservation specialists are involved in the selection process,
a proper assessment of the quality of an applicant's work may be almost
impossible. However, the type of projects that a person has worked on
will usually be relevant, particularly if backed up by evidence that
he or she has kept abreast of recent developments in conservation technology.
Experience gained carrying out quinquennial inspections for other churches
of a similar period, size and complexity will be most relevant, closely
followed by experience in the broader field of building conservation,
whether secular or ecclesiastical.
It is widely recognised that there is a
need to bring on and give experience to new, less experienced people
to carry out inspections so that they can gain experience. One solution
is to approve inspectors to inspect different types of church buildings
according to their level of expertise. According to The Council for
the Care of Churches, several dioceses operate this system. The Diocese
of Southwell, for example, operates two lists, one of which lists inspectors
approved to inspect all churches, while the other lists those who are
approved to inspect specific churches only, or types of buildings in
which they specialise, such as Victorian churches.
LIMITATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS
In 1999 the Council for
the Care of Churches completed a survey of Church of England dioceses
which revealed significant faults in the implementation of procedures
required under the Inspection of Churches Measure 1955 (as amended).
In particular, one in three dioceses did not have a written 'scheme'
setting out the requirements for inspections, and almost one in three
dioceses did not have a fund to pay for quinquennials. Although it was
clear that the statutory procedures were not being followed properly,
the Council for the Care of Churches believes that 'the vast majority
of churches are being inspected every five years in an organised and
One of the most significant issues raised
by the survey concerned the quality of inspectors approved to carry
out quinquennial inspections. It was revealed that many DACs were concerned
that where an inspector was no longer considered fit to carry out inspections,
for reasons such as age or incompetence, removing the inspector could
result in legal action against them.
In response to this concern, The Council
for the Care of Churches sought the advice of the Legal Advisory Commission
of the Church of England. In brief, the opinion given was that, if DAC
approval of an inspector was withdrawn for good reason and the DAC acted
'fairly and in accordance with natural justice', the Commission could
see no grounds for a legal challenge. Indeed, the Commission felt that
the DACs have a right, or even a duty, to review from time to time the
list of approved inspectors.
An alternative to this approach, which
was also mentioned in the report, is for DACs to revise their lists
entirely from time to time and to make all inspectors reapply. Several
Church of England DACs have adopted this less confrontational approach.
Another area of concern raised by the Council's
report is that the selection procedure adopted by the Church of England
is limited to the appointment of inspectors only. The inspector may
well be the best person to prepare specifications and oversee repair
work described in the quinquennial inspection report, particularly if
the inspector specialises in that particular type or period of architecture.
However, this is not always the case. Inspections, specifications and
the overseeing of repair works all require different skills, and care
should be taken to identify the right person for each aspect of the
Churches are perhaps at their most vulnerable
where building works are carried out without any professional involvement.
Often building contractors are appointed to carry out minor repairs
and maintenance work to historic buildings without having a specialist
conservation architect or surveyor to advise on the appointment and
to oversee the work. The training, accreditation and experience of everyone
involved, from scaffolders to stonemasons, is equally important, and
a professional should always be employed to ensure that the work is
carried out to the appropriate standard, particularly where the building
is old and of historical importance.
Finally, where churches retain ecclesiastical
there needs to be some system to ensure that essential work identified
by an inspection is carried out.
The success of conservation legislation
in preventing neglect and poor repair depends on how widely it is known
and understood, the funding available and the effectiveness of enforcement.
As in the conservation of secular buildings, legislation on its own
Those responsible for appointments need
to be aware of the importance of obtaining the very best advice where
the inspection and the repair of historic buildings are concerned, as
mistakes may not be immediately apparent but may leave an expensive
legacy for the future.