Reply To: The carbon foot print of industrial heritage

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The situation in Australia is that the large publicly funded “institutional” museums lost interest and expertise in technological heritage long ago and now generally retain iconic items and some “moving” exhibits driven by hidden electric motors or compressed air.
The overwhelming majority of industrial/technological heritage from vintage radios to motor vehicles , railways and aircraft conserved in operating condition is owned by individuals or community organisations. Around 500,000 people from a population of 25 million are directly involved and 99% of funding comes from members or visitors.
The threat of external donors withholding money is not a major concern for these owners and organisations.
The most serious concerns for operating heritage in Australia (defined as items preserved in original form and performing their original function) are:
1. Requiring heritage items to comply with 21st century regulations. Carbon emissions will fall into this category but more pressing issues are safety standards (guards on moving parts, infant capsules in veteran cars, etc.), general environmental standards (air and water quality) and the need for infrastructure to meet 21st century load and speed standards (eg. rail and tram permanent way). A study sponsored by Alison (another topic on this forum) is aimed at investigating this situation.
2. Increasingly high public liability insurance policies (a symptom of society’s increasing tendency to sue each other) are now the major cost for volunteer heritage organisations.
3. Access to intangible heritage trades and skills to maintain and operate heritage items.
Access to coal is probably the highest profile concern and the threat of a bureaucrat declaring a total ban is possible.
Perhaps more insidious is the likely difficulty in obtaining processed mineral fuels in the future such as diesel fuel, motor vehicle and other internal combustion motor fuel and aviation fuels because it will no longer be economically viable to produce them.
Availability of fuels is not the only concern – incandescent light bulbs, electric valves and high-quality structural timber are now becoming increasingly rare.
It is now possible to convert a vintage Volkswagen beetle to battery/electric drive – but is an electric VW beetle really a VW Beetle?
Finally, environmental rating systems in Australia consider the operating cost of a building in tonnes of CO2. We are quite comfortable with the concept of life-cycle cost (capital plus operating cost) of an investment measured in $, £ or € but don’t adopt the same concept for emissions costs. Too often we see heritage industrial buildings demolished and replaced with modern structures in the name of environmental efficiency without considering the “capital cost” of the concrete, steel, glass, plastics, etc. used in construction.