Summary and next steps

The survey results outlined above build on the research undertaken by Pye Tait in 2014, and provide an insight into the built heritage sector’s awareness and views on research frameworks, as well as how a framework specifically for the built historic environment may enhance and benefit their work. It has thus provided information in relation to the objectives outlined in Section Two above, which were:

  1. To identify levels of awareness of research frameworks within the built historic environment sector;
  2. To discover how research frameworks are used within the built historic environment sector;
  3. To identify themes and topics for discussion at workshops;
  4. To identify any areas commonly identified by the sector as under-researched;
  5. To discover areas of current research / projects being undertaken;
  6. To begin to understand how a research framework could be used within, and provide benefits to, the built historic environment sector.

Awareness and use of research frameworks

This survey found that awareness of research frameworks is generally quite high, with only 8.04% not having heard of them until undertaking the survey. However, only 26.76% said that they currently use research frameworks, with a further 5.90% having used them in the past. This contrasts significantly with the 2014 Pye Tait research, which found that 68% of those surveyed used research frameworks. However, the Pye Tait research was aimed at current users of regional archaeological frameworks, with the aim of discovering how they might be improved, whereas the HistBEKE survey was aimed at anyone who works in or with the built historic environment. For the 32.66% of respondents to the HistBEKE survey who use or have used research frameworks, they most commonly employ them for assessing significance, focussing research, defining project briefs or specifications, and when contributing to management or conservation plans. 

Themes and topics identified as under-researched

In addition to discovering a baseline level of awareness and current use of research frameworks, this survey also began the process of identifying knowledge gaps to inform the research agenda within the proposed HistBEKE framework. In relation to building types, the results show that the building types which are most commonly the subject of the sector’s work – domestic, Places of Worship, agricultural, and industrial – are also those for which additional research would be welcome. In addition to this, a number of more specific building types were identified as requiring additional research, all of which were added to the Autumn focus group discussion topic suggestions by the project team (HistBEKE, 2018). 

In addition to building types, a number of thematic topics or areas of work were also identified as those which would benefit from additional research. In contrast to the building types, apart from building recording/survey/research which was the most commonly chosen option for both, the majority of these were different, suggesting that perhaps these types of work are not undertaken or made use of because practitioners do not have enough knowledge about them. The key areas identified included: building conservation; materials science and analysis; and historic area assessments/appraisals. As with building types, a range of more specific areas were also noted by respondents as requiring further research, and these were also added to the suggested discussion topics at the focus group workshops.

How a Framework for historic buildings could provide benefits to the sector

The research undertaken by Pye Tait (2014) found that almost three quarters of those surveyed believed that frameworks could be more useful in the future, and those who do not currently use frameworks were very positive about their potential. In addition, approximately half of the Pye Tait respondents considered it to be ‘very important’ to offer more coverage of the wider historic environment, including built heritage, and specifically ‘all aspects of building history (technical and non-technical) and ‘history of construction materials and components’ (Pye Tait, 2014, 11). 

The results from this survey show agreement that a framework for the built historic environment would of benefit to the sector, with only 7% of respondents saying that it would not. In addition, one of the key target audiences for this survey, local authority or national park officers, were the most confident that it would be of benefit to them. The areas of work that respondents felt would be most enhanced by the framework were assessing significance, preparing heritage statements and enhancing their knowledge and understanding of the historic environment. In addition, 97% of respondents felt that the framework would most easily be accessed online, although many of those who added comments suggested that a dated PDF version would be beneficial if it is to be used for planning decisions or at appeals and inquiries.

Next Steps

As noted above, the results of this survey fed into the discussion topics at the focus group workshops held across England in the Autumn of 2017, a summary of which can be found here

These survey results and the recommendations that came out of the focus groups workshops will form the basis of the recommendations that the project team make for the development of the framework. Before these are finalised, however, they will be consulted on as part of a follow-up survey in the Spring of 2018, and the final recommendations following this will also be available as a draft document for comment via our website before being confirmed and submitted to Historic England.

In the meantime, however, the project team would be grateful for your feedback on this summary, particularly in relation to the identified knowledge gaps. If you would like to make any comments on these, or the project in general, please send them to Stella Jackson (stella.jackson@liverpool.ac.uk), or get in touch with us via Twitter on @HistBEKE.