Studies in Building Conservation: Practical Building Conservation

PART OF: Diploma in Cultural Resource Management, Graduate Professional Certificate in Cultural Heritage Studies

Course description

This course is aimed at heritage conservation professionals and practitioners and is intended to equip participants with a strong practical foundation in the discipline. Through case studies, lectures and practical exercises, this introductory course presents a range of subjects relating to fieldwork on conservation projects. It begins with founding principles behind understanding material, structure, defects and threats, followed by diagnosis and assessment and ultimately focuses on different approaches to the practical methods of repair for different materials and construction types.

The course will be delivered on site at the historic Naval Depot of Cole Island in the inner harbour of Esquimalt, and will have a strong emphasis on hands-on learning. It will culminate with participants applying their new knowledge in the preparation of a detailed specification of repair of one of the two impressive shell stores at the site. Topics will include:

·      understanding the structure: materials, construction, defects and threats

·      introduction to practical assessment and documentation

·      conservation planning: identifying a course of action, designing methodologies, programming repairs

·      specifying repairs: importance of appropriate material materials, repair techniques

·      introduction to common repair techniques in timber

·      introduction to practical repairs in masonry consecution

·      practical group project: repair specification

Learning objectives

  • Be familiar with the principles and processes of historic buildings conservation.
  • Be able to demonstrate an understanding or Canadian and international standards.
  • Have a clear understand the main threats to timber and masonry structures.
  • Be aware of a range of conservation solutions relating to the use of traditional and sustainable building materials.


Note: though not required, prior experience in a cultural organization would be an asset for success in this course.

Please contact the Program Coordinator, Tusa Shea, directly at if you have any questions or concerns.


Ben Gourley is a practicing building conservator and archaeologist with a specialization in earth, timber and masonry structures. Originally from Vancouver, he moved to the UK to study conservation at the Institute for Advanced Architectural Studies in York in 1998, and subsequently joined the Department of Archaeology (York) in 2003 where he taught building conservation, buildings archaeology and landscape archaeology for nearly a decade. He has worked on projects in Europe, Canada, Asia and Africa and has a particular interest in the conservation of vernacular building traditions worldwide. In 2010, with stonemason colleague Nigel Copsey, he set up the Centre for Traditional and Sustainable Building, an organization dedicated to the promotion of traditional building skills in conservation.

Gord Macdonald is a Master Carpenter and Building Conservator with more than 30 years’ experience working with historic timber buildings, specializing in traditional timber-frame carpentry. He has led his carpentry teams through a range of interesting and award-winning projects from the restoration of medieval houses and castles to the re-creation of a 30-ton Roman war machine for BBC Television. Gord has worked at many diverse locations, including the equatorial jungles of Suriname and the Ross Sea of Antarctica. He has previously served as Chairman of Britain’s premier timber framing company Carpenter Oak & Woodland Co Ltd, and as director of the international non-profit Timber Framers Guild. He is a current director of Heritage B.C.

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