• Historic Building Analysis

  • Identifying heritage risks and opportunities at an early stage

  • Experience - Knowing what to investigate and whether to record
  • Intelligent and appropriate application

    Many investigations can be completed in a few hours

Historical Building Analyses


Understanding the historical importance and archaeological sensitivity - if any - of the building you are planning to demolish or modify is fundamental to a successful project. It is also a requirement of Section 12 of the National Planning Policy Framework and the conservation policies of most local planning authorities. That understanding is best developed through the application of  'Archaeological Building Investigation and Recording' (ABIR) -  'Bauforschung' in German - or 'Building Palaeopathology' (Heaton 2009).

The scope and detail of such investigations should be justified and agreed in advance, but it can vary from a brief initial appraisal to detailed scientific analyses and can be applied to only part of a building or all of it.

Archaeological Building Investigation is a form of building pathology that studies, inter alia, the structural development of an historic building; Building Recording is a  detailed and archive-oriented form of record survey that utilises written and photographic records as well as the measured survey data familiar to building surveyors and architects. Together, when properly employed -  as a tool rather than as an end in itself - during the Feasibility and Design stages of a building refurbishment or repair project, they can be of immense benefit to clients - financially and technically - by identifying heritage risks and opportunities at an early stage. This is now recognised in the NPPF , which requires preliminary 'heritage impact' assessment of all projects affecting historic buildings - Listed or not - and other 'heritage assets'. Such 'assessments' need involve no more than a couple of hours. When applied intelligently to a building refurbishment, restoration or repair project, ABIR can provide the verifiable information needed by Client, Designer and Curator to allow the project to proceed to their mutual satisfaction and credit. The legal tension inherent to such projects, created by the English planning system and c. 150 years of philosophical debate about what we now call 'building conservation', is not necessarily a bad thing, but its resolution requires the application of intellectual rigour to verifiable, objective information: ABIR can provide both.

The principal skill in recording, is knowing what to investigate and whether to record. Buildings are the largest of human artefacts and  potentially embody more archaeological information than any other class of material. However, there are a lot of historic buildings in the UK, and many of them contain much material of negligible historical significance or archaeological potential.  Archaeological analysis of a building should therefore attempt to identify,  through the stages identified by ALGAO (1997), English Heritage (2001; 2006) and PPS5, what is significant about a building, before incurring the expense - and sometimes tedium - of recording it. “..A programme of work intended to establish the character, history and archaeological development of a building..for the purposes of ....the formulation of a strategy for the conservation, alteration, demolition or  management of a building......“ or to seek a better understanding (and) compile a lasting record..” IFA, 1999 “The successful conservation, repair and alteration of historic buildings relies upon an adequately documented understanding of what is to be changed. Information required for planning applications can be obtained through investigations tailored to each case, using a progressive sequence of appraisal, assessment and evaluation.”         ALGAO, 1997

Our Clients include:
  • Commercial and social property developers
  • Utilities companies
  • Parochial Church Councils
  • Leading conservation organisations such as The National Trust
  • Local and national government and their agencies
  • Private individuals

Most of our work is repeat commissions or referrals from delighted clients. Client needs are paramount: Archaeology and historical analysis are our tools, not necessarily our primary objectives, and they should be used sparingly. Heritage can be a burden to commercial property developers or the owners of historic buildings, but it can also provide bountiful opportunities and added value to development and refurbishment projects alike, when managed properly.

As an indicator of the range of services we offer - and the interests we enjoy - we maintain an irregularly updated selection of project summaries. However, please bear with us if the page appears static from one month to the next: our current workload leaves us precious little time for promotional work! A selection of our more interesting projects are reported in greater detail on our Significant Discoveries page

View case studies