Specialist skills shortage could put historic buildings at risk, warns RICS

Britain’s historic buildings are at risk due to a restoration skills crisis the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has warned.

A YouGov survey commissioned by RICS found that despite 91% of the British public believing historic buildings are symbolic of the country’s heritage, young people have little awareness of the specialist professions and trades essential to their preservation, suggesting that as people retire, the current skills base could be all but wiped out.

According to the survey, 9 in 10 people (91%) agreed that buildings such as Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace are symbols of the country’s heritage. This sentiment is strong across all age groups, including millennials, with 89% of 18-24 year-olds appreciating the importance of historic buildings.

The vast majority of the population (89%) also believe that that these ‘iconic treasures’ should be preserved for future generations and place the responsibility for maintaining them firmly at the door of the government (42%), followed by industry organisations (16%) and the general public (14%). Appreciation for historic buildings is particularly strong in West Midlands, with almost two thirds (65%) saying that it’s ‘very important’ such buildings are preserved, while around 2 in 5 respondents (42%) from Scotland say the same.

However, despite the public’s love for these buildings, 83% are not knowledgeable about what a historic building surveyor does, and 80% do not know what a roof thatcher’s job entails. Awareness of age-old building professions is fading away amongst the younger generation, with only 1 in 10 18-24 year-olds able to describe the job of a stonemason, and only 16% know what a glass blower does.

This lack of awareness comes at a time when the industry as a whole is facing a skills shortage in the built environment, with the latest figures from the RICS Construction Market Survey showing that the skills gap reported by professionals across the construction sector increased from 2% in 2012 to 43% in 2016.

Matthew Howell, RICS managing director for UK & Ireland, said: “It’s fantastic to see that so many people care about our historic buildings, especially young people.

“However, without a pipeline of talent developing expertise in these specialist areas, these landmarks could be left in ruin. We need the next generation to understand the role of a historic building surveyor, and the craft of a stonemason or glassblower to preserve this heritage for the future.”

Related Articles

Have your say

Sign in to make a comment on this story.

Sign In

Text size

Desktop Site | Mobile Site