Building conservation masterclass

Specifying Conservation Works with Malcolm Starr

Ref: B3D09118


Course cancelled - scroll down for other

About this course

This course covers all aspects of specifying conservation repairs in the life of a project; from initial surveys and project planning, through the tendering stage, to the work on site, and the effect on the building.

It presents a reliable methodology for compiling clear, unambiguous specifications that will address the repair needs of historic buildings and produce reliable costings from the tendering process. The problems of working with particular materials and repair techniques are also considered.

The teaching is based on a lively themed presentation of many real examples, with good humour but serious intent, showing what worked well where, what didn't, and why. The course tutors present views from the practising professional, the contractor, and the "permission-giver".

While the content of the course is comprehensive, its emphasis can be tailored to suit the particular needs of individual delegates, or the group as a whole.

As well as ample opportunities for "question and answer" sessions with the tutors, there will also be guided exercises and individual tuition in writing the key elements of a specification, using selected buildings at West Dean as examples.

The course would suit quantity surveyors, engineers, and other conservation professionals or practitioners, as well as architects and building surveyors.

Course Description

The course addresses seven on the ten core competencies of the RIBA curriculum and the award of the completion certificate is evidence for at least 20 hours of conservation-specific CPD, seven of which involve practical work with individual tuition. A minimum of 20 hours of continuing professional development is recommended by the RICS.

The seven core competencies covered are:  

Being Safe – Health and Safety:

The course addresses the health and safety of the workforce, the professional advisor, and a building’s users, occupants and visitors, both in the planning of repair works and during their implementation.

External Management – clients, users, and delivery of service:

We discuss how to assess client and user needs at various stages of a repair project; in its planning, during implementation, and in the end results.

Internal Management – professionalism, practice, business and management:

We consider how a professional service should work during a repair project to achieve best efficiency and relationships with all others involved in the project, while following ethical processes and delivering best value in the cost and durability of the results.

Compliance – legal, regulatory, and statutory framework:

The course covers how processes that involve building regulations, and planning, listed building, and scheduled ancient monument controls can affect the planning and execution of a repair project.

Procurement and Contracts -  

Tendering processes and forms of contract are included in the lectures.

Designing and building it – structural design, construction, technology and engineering

In the context of this course, “designing” means everything from the survey, the assessment of repair needs, and the structuring and writing of the specification, to the availability and performance of materials, and repair technologies ranging from the small-scale application of repair techniques to major engineering approaches.

Context – the historic environment and its setting

The course covers how the historical evolution of buildings and their construction technologies affects their repair today, especially in buildings of a complex historical chronology. We also consider the historical evolution of specifications and of the professional figure in the repair process.


Course structure: 

Day 1: Welcome Lecture: A timely provifion, that nothing may be wanting or prevent the compleating of the works - the essential elements and functions of a specification, investigations and trials

Day 2: Lecture and site tour. Introduction to the practical exercise

Lectures: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - some salutary examples, A Quantity Surveyor's view of a specification, A perspective from private practice, A Contractor's Lot …views from the sharp end.

Open group Q&A and discussion with all the course tutors and opportunity for informal individual or group discussion on any aspects with all the course tutors.

Day 3: Exercises: The building appraisal and planning the repairs, with individual tuition and Writing the specification, with individual tuition

Day 4: Lectures: The results of the exercises summarised and discussed, A detailed case study and its lessons, Illustrated cases and problems from participants, The specification in context. Summary and Questions. Issue of certificates and depart.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • The Wednesday sessions are opportunities to work up real specifications with individual tuition. For the Open Session on Thursday, please bring a memory stick with information/photographs of any especially vexing (please keep it succinct and simple) specification problem you have: it may be chosen, subject to time and its relevance to the group interest as a whole.


Malcolm Starr

Malcolm Starr - BCM Course Leader

Malcolm is a Historic England architect who previously worked in private practice, as an advisor in a county conservation team, and as a conservation officer in a local authority. His long and varied experience has involved him in a considerable number of specifications and the consequences of their qualities or deficiencies for historic buildings


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest