What is Heritage Engineering?

The conservation, rehabilitation and sustainability of existing structures and designated historic buildings are crucially important issues, both in Canada and worldwide.

By the Numbers

The National Trust for Canada estimates that in 2012 there were more than 25,000 properties designated as “heritage” by federal, provincial or local authorities in Canada; a number anticipated to grow by 420 designations annually. In a 2003 report commissioned by The National Trust, 10% of pre-1941 properties were considered to potentially possess heritage value. This means that there are more than 128,000 properties in Canada that may require intervention by heritage rehabilitation specialists for restoration, preservation, energy upgrades or monitoring. The Heritage Conservation Directorate of Public Services and Procurement Canada estimates that it will need 250 to 300 professionals with specialist engineering skills and heritage conservation training to address the needs of federally owned heritage buildings alone. Given that the federal government currently manages less than 5% of Canada’s designated heritage properties, the potential magnitude of demand is huge.

Existing Buildings and Energy Efficiency

Heritage buildings are not the only issue. Even the most energy-efficient new building cannot offset its embodied energy for many years, however rehabilitating existing structures can reduce  carbon footprint and contribute to potentially slowing the acceleration of climate change. It has been estimated by Blue Green Canada that efforts to reduce energy and gas consumption through retrofits and upgrades will increase employment in Ontario by over 25,000 by 2025. Gelfand and Duncan have suggested that “the vast majority of the buildings to be occupied during the next 30 years are already constructed. Existing buildings are the most important places to realize big changes now and in the near future.” The National Trust for Historic Preservation and its Preservation Green Lab report on “The Greenest Building” suggests that reusing and upgrading the efficiency of an existing building  is almost always the best option. Regardless of building type and climate, reusing existing buildings can offer an important means of avoiding unnecessary carbon outlays and help communities achieve their carbon reduction goals.

Preparing for a More Sustainable Present and Future

In order to develop and deploy advanced technologies, materials and methods for the assessment, conservation, rehabilitation and sustainable repair and operation of both existing structures and designated heritage buildings, there is a critical need for interdisciplinary training among engineers, architects and heritage professionals. NSERC CREATE Heritage Engineering is designed to address this need.

More information on the Heritage Engineering Program at Carleton University is available here.