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Centre for Sustainable Heritage (CSH)

About us

The UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage was established in March 2001 by University College London. It was formed through the collaboration of three UCL departments:

The Centre consists of a small, flexible, focussed, interdisciplinary team - a model of sustainable practice.

The Centre has identified, and aims to fill, the gap between disciplines responsible for the physical protection of the moveable and immovable heritage. Its contribution to a sustainable future for the heritage is through participation in collaborative environmental, scientific and technological research, innovative teaching, advice and consultancy. The Centre engages in evidence-based research on heritage protection, and through its teaching activities challenges the traditional divide between preservation and use.

We work closely with external partners on interdisciplinary stakeholder-led research focussing on past present and future climate and on educating future heritage managers on the links between sustainability and cultural heritage.

The context of our research

The 'environment' area of Bartlett research is one of the largest and most mature within the Bartlett and has expanded significantly over the last five years to a team of fourteen core funded permanent staff.

In 2006, the Centre of Sustainable Heritage together with the Environment research group at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies was awarded a Platform Grant to investigate Complex Built Environment Systems by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The group of building scientists who research environmental problems are now restructuring into the 'Complex Built Environment Systems' (CBES) group. CBES is primarily interested in developing solutions to the practical problems of designing, constructing and managing appropriate environments within and around buildings. This will enable the Centre for Sustainable Heritage to work closely with colleagues on complex problems that face cultural heritage.

Increasing natural and man-made pressures on cultural heritage requires enhanced protective measures that address widespread concerns over the survival of cultural heritage in a changing world. These include the effects of:

  • Climate change (including pollution)
  • Urbanisation
  • Tourism
  • Widening participation in conservation.

These pressures constantly change, creating the need for new knowledge and understanding of:

  • The character of historic materials and assemblies
  • Mechanisms of deterioration
  • Catastrophic and influencing natural and anthropogenic factors
  • Damage assessment
  • Conservation techniques and tools.

Research by the Centre for Sustainable Heritage aims to be timely, relevant, collaborative and international in scope in order to deliver greater added value. It is our belief that scientific and technological research helps to create an understanding of the contribution that heritage preservation makes to society by elaborating on issues such as heritage value, cultural tourism, cultural identity, quality of life, urban planning, maintenance and whole life costs, economic competitiveness and wealth creation.

We endeavour to design solutions for cultural heritage protection that have a sound scientific basis, are sensitive and scaled to the problem in question and recognise the range of values attributed to heritage.

The context of our teaching

How do we ensure that society gets the cultural heritage practitioners it needs?
How do we prepare today’s professionals to meet tomorrow’s challenges?
How do we educate professionals with a broad range of skills?
How do we ensure that they will be able to work effectively with others especially those beyond the cultural heritage field?

It is our goal to diffuse the boundaries between the classroom and the workplace. We do this by:

  • Using existing instruments to make cultural heritage practitioners aware of relevant research
  • Organising short courses as effective tools to disseminate best practice
  • Communicating scientific research results through workshops and our Masters degree programme
  • Providing opportunities for work placements and studying overseas is an integral part of our Masters degree programme

Find out more about our Learning Objectives.

An effective way of learning

"Too often professionals associated with one type of heritage, or with a given skill set, are unable work effectively with other professionals, owing to the insularity that can begin during the education of these professionals and can continue through subsequent practice.

However, in recent years, political, economic and other pressures have underscored the need for professionals working in the heritage sector to forge areas of common purpose and action, resulting in viable and sustainable solutions based on interdisciplinary exchanges of information, viewpoints, approaches and methodologies."

Curriculum Document for An Interdisciplinary Master of Science (MSc) Built Environment: Sustainable Heritage

It is the Centre's view that practitioners need to develop both scientific and technical knowledge as well as negotiation and mediation skills, and teamwork and leadership skills. This is provided through:

  • Opportunities for interdisciplinary learning
  • Valuable encounters with different professionals: architects, engineers, surveyors, planners, geographers as well as conservators and curators
  • A focus on mid-career learning that incorporates work-based learning, a problem-centred approach and using case-studies.

Historic futures

The Centre intends to foster its growing international reputation by building on its network of collaborators and partners. It aims to develop foresight planning for cultural heritage to support research and policy.

It will focus on key social, economic and environmental drivers of change and it will apply a methodology based on scenario building to develop a clearer understanding of what the future strategic environment might be like.

We do not have a ready-made picture of the future. We will therefore facilitate a process by which the insights of citizens' juries and practitioner groups will help to define a range of plausible historic futures. These will used in 2 key ways:

  • Historic futures will be used to identify the research that is needed to enhance knowledge and understanding of cultural heritage protection in an uncertain world
  • Different historic futures will be communicated to cultural heritage leaders to inform governance, strategy development and decision making.

We welcome any inquiries about our work, invitations to collaborate, interest in our teaching programmes and prospects for research partnerships. Please contact us by telephoning the Centre's Director on +44 (0)20 3108 9005 or by emailing sustainableheritage@ucl.ac.uk.