Like Notre Dame Cathedral, all historic buildings are at risk of fire

The devastating fire this week at the 800-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, is a stark warning to other historic buildings, which might be at risk of a similar fate.

Lisa Ackerman, interim CEO at the World Monuments Fund said historic buildings made of wood were a particular concern. “For many sites without the resources that have poured into Notre Dame after the fire, an emphasis on preventive maintenance, attention to changes in conditions, and constant care are the best defences against disaster. Years of deferred maintenance can make sites vulnerable”

Ackerman added that it was crucial "to convince people that investment in ongoing maintenance is a necessity not a luxury."

Other historic buildings have taken on board the developments this week, including the Palace of Westminister, which is currently under going renovations.

“Parts of the palace are as old as Notre Dame and we must make sure that every fire precaution is taken as the major work goes ahead. God knows we've had enough warnings,” tweeted Chris Bryant, who is on the Palace of Westminster restoration committee.

Susan Corr, president of the European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers' Organisations said “All medieval buildings are at risk. They all have wood. How they are taken care of, who updates them, and at what point conservation becomes a copy are questions we are constantly dealing with.”

It’s not only large, famous sites that are at risk. Many historic buildings around Europe are on endangered lists to raise awareness and encourage preservation. But a lack of funding often hampers conservation efforts, according to Corr.

“The real value of heritage in human terms is felt acutely and viscerally when we witness the damage and loss just experienced over the last 24 hours to Notre Dame,” Corr said. “We are in a constant battle to decide what’s worth keeping.”


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