Condition survey objectivity and philosophy driven masonry repair: An increased probability for project divergence?

Alan Mark Forster, James Douglas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: The assessment of a deteriorating masonry structure should lead to an objective evaluation of condition. This process is, however, inevitably subjective owing to human interpretation. The condition of the substrate and the required repairs cannot be guaranteed and may vary from building inspector to inspector. For conservation works the determination of repairs is a function of condition but also directly relates to the underpinning framework of building conservation philosophy. These are also fundamentally subjective. The combination of both condition survey subjectivity and building conservation philosophy's nebulous nature creates the potential for project aesthetic and technical divergence. This paper aims to examine this issue. Design/methodology/approach: The paper presents a literature review and hypothetical case studies. Findings: It has been shown by various researchers that a visual survey is subjective and is therefore prone to differences in reporting. In addition, the application of building conservation philosophy is seen through the perspective of the professional specifying the repairs. The combination of these two factors leads to the potential for significant project outcomes. Originality/value: Subjectivity of evaluation of condition for traditional masonry structures has been little studied by academics and practitioners alike, and it is generally assumed that these yield objective, rational data. This is not necessarily the case. The application of building conservation philosophy to determine repair strategies is also a subjective process. The combination of both may lead to significant project divergence. These combined factors have never previously been discussed. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)384-407
    Number of pages24
    JournalStructural Survey
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


    • Building conservation
    • Maintenance
    • Surveying


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