Tower of London

Any major construction project will employ or work closely with heritage consultants; very large infrastructure projects (like HS2) have teams of heritage consultants and archaeologists, so that any impact on historic or archaeological assets can be identified at an early stage, and conservation and preservation work undertaken.  

What is the role of a heritage consultant?

A heritage consultant uses their knowledge and skills in many areas so that sites of significant cultural or historic importance can be preserved for generations to come. They can assess the impact of construction work on historic or archaeological sites, advise on restoration work to historic buildings, and provide guidance on projects to adapt buildings to new uses.  

The duties of a heritage consultant include inspecting historic sites and structures to assess project requirements, researching the history of heritage sites and buildings, considering modern building regulations, and being aware of conservation area requirements. 

Why are heritage consultants important? 

Heritage consultants, also known as conservation officers or historic building officers, can preserve elements of the built heritage and sites of archaeological interest from being destroyed, damaged or affected by construction work. 

Projects where a consultant is required

Restoration projects 

Historic buildings like manor houses, castles, churches and royal palaces require significant programmes of maintenance and repair. Heritage consultants can advise on various aspects of restoration projects, from building materials to the particular types of fabrics and paints that can be used to ensure the restoration work retains the character and style of the building.  

Construction projects in historic areas 

Archaeological and heritage surveys are needed whenever construction work is proposed in an area. Heritage consultants will be involved in these desk and field-based assessments, which establish whether heritage assets will be impacted, or identify if the area holds items of archaeological interest. The findings of such surveys will inform planning applications.  

Adaptive reuse project 

Some historic or listed buildings will no longer serve the function they used to. For example, former industrial buildings like mills or factories may have the status of historic assets, so cannot be demolished, but can start a new life as buildings for residential, commercial or leisure use. Heritage consultants will be able to advise on what changes can be made within a building to adapt it to its new function.   

Strategies used by heritage consultants

Heritage consultants use a range of different strategies and approaches in their work. They will conduct site surveys both remotely and in person, write heritage impact statements and archaeological reports, contribute to planning documents and make recommendations for subsequent work, such as geophysical surveys, building recordings and archaeological digs. 

Ensuring compliance with heritage regulations

One of the most important parts of a heritage consultant’s job is to have a detailed understanding of what a ‘listed’ building or heritage asset means in terms of compliance and regulations. What can be altered, modified or extended, and what is not allowed? Heritage consultants will know the details of individual consents and permissions, and communicate these to whoever has an interest in a project, such as construction companies, building owners or planning authorities.  

Some examples of restoration projects requiring consultants

Restoration can take many forms. It could be a scheduled historic monument, such as Hadrian’s Wall, which needs ongoing protection from the long-term effects of the weather, visitor numbers and the environment. Country houses or historic buildings like the Palace of Westminster may need significant restoration work to their interior and exterior, to ensure the buildings are safe to visit, live and work in. Individual works of art could require specialists to undertake conservation to save them from degradation and protect them for future generations to appreciate.  

Find out more about a career as a heritage consultant