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The fire that engulfed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in mid-April heavily damaged the centuries-old building. It also reminded the general public of the potential vulnerability of historic facilities specifically, and all types of institutional and commercial facilities — something maintenance and engineering managers understand all too well due to their roles in emergency preparedness and batting deferred maintenance.
Lisa Ackerman, interim CEO at the World Monuments Fund, says historic buildings made of wood or featuring decorative wood elements were a particular concern, according to NBC News.
“Years of deferred maintenance can make sites vulnerable,” she says. “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 defenses against disaster.”
Ackerman added it was crucial "to convince people that investment in ongoing maintenance is a necessity not a luxury."
Not only large, famous sites 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.
Britain's Houses of Parliament are often referred to as crumbling and are scheduled to undergo renovations in the mid-2020s. The oldest part of the estate, Westminster Hall, was built in 1099 and remains in use today. Despite the planned renovations, lawmakers warned that fire safety measures are urgently needed at the iconic building.
Water leaked through the roof of the House of Commons earlier this month, forcing Parliament to close for the day at the height of the Brexit crisis.
Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions.