Heritage Conservation in the Spotlight!

On Thursday, August 11, 2011, Access Television’s current affairs program, Alberta Primetime, aired a segment on the preservation of historic buildings in Alberta. A webcast of this segment can be found here.

The segment included a panel discussion consisting of me (Larry Pearson, Director of the Historic Places Stewardship Section), Darryl Cariou, the City of Calgary’s Senior Heritage Planner and Edmonton architect Shafraaz Kaba, Senior Partner with Manasc Issac Architects. Our discussion explored the benefits of adaptively reusing heritage buildings and some of the funding support available to their owners.

During the panel discussion, I noted that there are approximately 700 historic places listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places. Of these, 508 are designated as Municipal Historic Resources or Provincial Historic Resources. These places are legally protected under Alberta’s Historical Resources Act and are eligible for funding from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation. Beginning with the February 1, 2012 grant deadline, Provincial Historic Resources will have an annual eligibility for up to $100,000 in cost shared funding to support eligible conservation work. For Municipal Historic Resources, the annual eligibility will be $50,000. Darryl Cariou outlined the City of Calgary’s grant funding and illustrated how other strategies, such as defering tax increases that would normally occur when a building is signficantly upgraded, could be used to support the rehabilitation of historic places legally protected by the City.

In exploring the benefits of adaptivly reusing historic places, the panel illustrated how heritage conservation is an excellent example of “sustainable developmant”. The reuse of existing buildings is environmentally sustainable. Shafraaz noted that the “greenest building is the one that is already built”.  This is because the reuse of an existing building saves a landfill from the waste created by demolition and conserves the energy that was invested by a previous generation during its construction. A study prepared for the Government of Alberta showed that the rehabilitated historic Lougheed Building in Calgary would use about 10% less energy than a typical new building of similar size. The study also revealed that the overall energy saved was equivilant to the annual energy use of 1,591 homes. Recycling historic places also contributes to “economic sustainability”. A higher percentage of the money invested in rehabilitation projects represents labour costs rather than material costs. The labour investment reflects the work of skilled tradesman and, because it is spent locally it is also more likely to stay in the community. Heritage conservation also helps a community maintain its sense of place, therefore, it supports cultural tourism and contributes to viable communities and a high quality of living.

For more information on the heritage programs of the Government of Alberta, click here.

Information about the City of Calgary’s heritage programs can be found here.

Written by: Larry Pearson, Director of Historic Places Stewardship