Blog: Sustainable Solutions

Policy Blog - Heritage Debate 2022

Blog from Anglia Lime Company on the future of heritage.

Shared in the lead-up to The Heritage Alliance’s Heritage Debate 2022: Heritage in 20 years.

Heritage in 20 Years: what will matter most?

It’s impossible to imagine what the heritage sector will look like in 20 years without remembering what it looked like 20 years ago. Before sustainability became a driving force, the priorities of the heritage sector and construction industry were even farther apart. Heritage conservation was (and still is) viewed as slow, expensive and stuck in the past. The construction industry, on the other hand, was speeding up due to the widespread use of cement and concrete. With their cheap price tag, high compressive strength and ease of use, cement and concrete pushed traditional building materials like lime out of the mainstream. Yet these non-traditional materials have come with a much higher, delayed price tag, one at the cost of irreparable damage to many of our historic buildings and one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide pollution in our atmosphere. 

Many of us in the heritage sector recognise lime as an esteemed building material used for millennia. Yet few of us know that lime is also a better choice for our planet in the face of climate change and making evermore crucial designs regarding sustainability. Cement and concrete lack breathability and flexibility and are dangerously non-porous, risking damage to historic building fabric. Their production process also releases large quantities of carbon dioxide and continues to emit CO2 as they set. Making and using lime, however, is a traditional craft that produces far less CO2. Furthermore, as lime sets, it continues to reabsorb CO2. Finally, lime’s porous, flexible nature helps maintain the integrity of building fabric, protecting historic structures. As the construction industry slowly shifts towards using more sustainable and eco-friendly materials such as lime, we are choosing to make decisions not for the short term but the long-term viability of heritage conservation. We can preach the values of lime over cement, day in and day out, but the real challenge is passing these values on to future generations. 

At Anglia Lime, we believe the future of heritage lies in the decisions we make now: to use more sustainable construction practices and building materials while educating and training our local communities in best practices. We work with our partners to ensure we use as many local products as possible to avoid the high carbon costs of shipping across long distances. We run lime training and pointing courses to educate anyone curious about lime, its uses and benefits. These are open to any member of the public, whether or not you work in the building industry. In 20 years, we hope the heritage sector will be better integrated into the construction sector, with sustainability as our top priority. We hope architects, contractors, homeowners and hobbyists will consider sustainable materials like lime as the first and best option rather than something required by Conservation Officers or a “splurge” buy. Heritage will not survive without sustainability being at the forefront of our decisions; our built environment will not survive without heritage being valued by all.

Anglia Lime Company

All images in this blog are from Anglia Lime Company.

Explore other perspectives on ‘Heritage in 20 Years: what will matter most’ over on our event page for Heritage Debate 2022.