Our environment is facing a number of climate change related challenges.

The UKCP018 (UK Climate Projection 18)  projections of future change (measured relative to a 1981-2000 baseline for temperature and precipitation and a 1980-1999 baseline for sea-level rise) for Northern Ireland if high emissions continue are:

graphic showing climate change

These are issues which will have significant implications for heritage assets over coming years, as it will speed up and exacerbate many decay mechanisms.

Impacts are likely to include:

  • structural damage to heritage assets;
  • the undermining of structures;
  • loss of coastal heritage through rising sea levels;
  • the exposure and erosion of archaeological sites;
  • the collapse of unstable masonry elements.
  • the loss of some historic landscape features;
  • the decay of building fabric caused by increased saturation;
  • microbiological growth in interiors and
  • increased corrosion of metal elements.
     
  • There will also be a risk posed by responses to the issue such as inappropriate energy efficiency or rainfall adaptation or even inadvertent damage in response to threats like fire or flood.

So what are DfC:HED doing to respond to this issue?

The Department recognises the urgency surrounding adaption to and mitigation against Climate Change impacts with regard to the historic environment. Current work underway by the Department includes:

  • The Department has the policy lead for heritage, working with colleagues across other departments and within local government to identify and address Climate Change impacts on cultural heritage and shared challenges or opportunities.  The Department has engaged with District Councils through their Community Planning process to advise them of the potential of the Historic Environment and are working with a number of councils as they produce plans to develop their heritage including steps to consider the future impacts of climate change.
     
  • In March 2021 a joint meeting was held between the Historic Buildings Council and Historic Monuments Council to share and highlight issues affecting the historic environment in Northern Ireland as a result of Climate Change.
     
  • DfC is currently drafting an Action Plan for Climate Change.  HED is also creating a more specific Action Plan for identification of, adaptation to and mitigation against Climate Change Impacts on Heritage Assets in Northern Ireland.
     
  • By maintaining ‘The List’ of Historic Buildings of Special Interest, and the Schedule of Historic Monuments,  as well as maintaining and continually updating the Historic Environment Record of Northern Ireland, which contains thematic records of all of NI’s recorded heritage assets, the Department makes every effort to ensure that the historic environment in Northern Ireland is recognised and protected.  These records are extensive and include the Register of Parks and Gardens, the Industrial Heritage Record and the Defence Heritage Record amongst others.
     
  • DfC already identifies and protects a wide range of historic assets through designation and policy.  As statutory consultees within the planning process the Department is a statutory consultee in relation to works to or in the setting of heritage assets, which helps prevent against inappropriate development; the Department also provides best practice guidance and advice on the repair and maintenance of heritage assets in Northern Ireland.  This includes identifying buildings and structures which are at risk – one of those risks being the impacts of climate change.
     
  • In partnership with our sister agencies across the UK and lead by the National Trust, a Climate change Hazard Map Tool has been created to help custodians of heritage assets to identify the risks associated with climate change for example to their building, monument or historic garden. This hexigrid mapping tool also allows forecasting into the future, which means that consideration can be given to long term strategies to adapt to climate change hazards where they arise.
  • The Department is a significant owner/ custodian of heritage assets - State Care Monuments. HED is carrying out Climate Change Risk Assessments across our own estate. Evaluation of climate change issues for the state care monuments is to be embedded in the quinquennial condition surveys, and within the Investment Programme proposals that are being developed.
     
  • Through cyclical monitoring, HED is also gathering data on condition and risk scoring for Scheduled Monuments.
  • HED are currently considering the Drafting of an Action Plan for identifying, adaptation to and mitigating against climate change Impacts on heritage assets in Northern Ireland also includes proposed strategies for creating a condition baseline for future monitoring the rate of climate change impacts.  It proposes using information gathered by HED to make recommendations about adaptation to and mitigation methods to others as guidance.  This information ranges from LIDAR to the ground visual inspection. It will also involve consultation with our historic environment stakeholders.
     
  • There are particular facets of older buildings and monuments which often lead to them responding differently than newer structures to climate change, their special status also means that there are variations in how buildings and monuments should be adapted to mitigate against climate change for example to improve energy efficiency.  HED works with sister organisations across the UK and Ireland to understand how best to address these impacts, and share knowledge. 
     
  • HED is currently working on a range of guidance, including on retrofitting and energy efficiency in heritage assets, for issue in 2021. A self-assessment tool is also being finalised, to allow owners to consider key issues for their property.
  • Guidance due to be published includes information to help listed building owners who wish to:
    • improve the energy efficiency of their historic buildings whilst retaining the building’s special interest
    • install renewable energy plant within or within the setting of listed buildings whilst retaining the building’s special interest
    • adapt buildings to better withstand the impacts of climate change
    • understand how to maintain their buildings whilst considering climate change impacts
    • carry out a Climate Change Risk Assessment to better understand the potential impacts of climate change on their building
    • prepare for and recover from climate change ‘events’ such as storm damage due to high winds or flash flooding
    • guidance to address issues relating to climate change like rising sea levels and potential flooding for Heritage Assets in Ports and Harbours.
  • The Department is responsible for collating progress reports against the Executive’s Protocol for the Care of the Government Historic Estate, and the current report which is being collated will include specific content on climate change impacts and planned mitigations.
     
  • The Division is also reviewing, with CPD and others, whether the BREEAM standard currently being used in a number of construction projects would provide a suitable mechanism to embed climate change considerations within projects. The standard covers many different elements, including climate change, and is already being used as the basis for some NI public sector projects.

Dunluce Castle is a monument in State Care.  The monument itself as well as the landscape surrounding it are being observed carefully.  HED are monitoring their monuments in State Care for signs attributed to climate change impacts like accelerated weathering due to more frequent and violent storms/high winds or coastal erosion. 

aerial picture of Dunluce Castle
Aerial picture of Dunluce Castle

Mussenden Temple. In order to assess and plan for the risks associated with climate change, HED will look at both current and future predicted weather patterns.

Mussenden Temple
Mussenden Temple

A drone survey is used to observe areas of possible masonry failure on wall tops at Castlecaulfield

Wall tops at Castlecaulfield
Wall tops at Castlecaulfield

Useful Links:

Climate Projections

Risk Assessment

  
International Context

 
UK/Regional Context
 

 Policy and Legislation 

Strategic Documents which guide Climate Change policy

  • The Regional Development Strategy (RDS 2035) for Northern Ireland, section RG11 describes the need to conserve, protect and, where possible, enhance our built heritage and natural environment, including protection form the impacts of climate change.
  • The Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) for Northern Ireland ‘Planning for Sustainable Development’, published in 2015.
  • The NI Outcomes Delivery Plan 2018-19 is the highest level strategic document of the NI Civil Service - providing a direction for the work of government as set out by the Executive in the form of the draft Programme for Government. The Outcomes Delivery Plan contains 12 strategic outcomes which have been identified as making the greatest difference to people’s lives and wellbeing.
  • New Decade, New Approach  - January 2020

Guidance

Flooding

 
Coastal Erosion
 

Marine

 Energy efficiency

BREEAM as a tool for sustainable refurbishment
 
Installation of Renewable Energy Sources in listed buildings
 

Impact of the installation of Wind Turbines in Northern Ireland’s landscapes (including historic landscapes)

 

Wave and Tidal Energy in the Historic Environment

Historic Environment Scotland – Wave and Tidal Energy
 
Windows
 

Carbon Footprint and Traditional Buildings

 

  • Historic England Advice on Re-use and Recycling to reduce carbon

Energy Performance Certificates for Traditional Buildings

 

 Historic Buildings and Climate Change - Research

 

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