The SPAB Approach to building conservation combines well-proven principles with practical repair techniques. It has influenced building conservation worldwide and underpins much in UK heritage legislation.
Other conservation approaches exist, but the Society’s principles are viewed by most as the yardstick. The SPAB Approach began as an outcry against destructive work, but the guidance the Society offers today is practical and positive. It aims to promote the value and good sense of caring for the fabric of old buildings. The SPAB takes a long-term view, urging that in our own actions we consider the legacy we will leave to future generations.
The SPAB Approach is based on the protection of 'fabric' - the material from which a building is constructed. A building's fabric is the primary source from which knowledge and meaning can be drawn. Materials and construction methods embodied in building fabric illustrate changes in people's ideas, tastes, skills and the relationship with their locality. Fabric also holds character and beauty; the surfaces, blemishes and undulations of old buildings speak of the passage of time and of lives lived. Wear and tear adds beautiful patination that new work can only acquire through the slow process of ageing.
Building fabric is precious. A concern for its protection helps ensure that the essence of an old building survives for future generations to appreciate. The SPAB Approach therefore stands against Restorationist arguments that it is possible and worthwhile to return a building to its original - or imagined original - form. Equally, the SPAB Approach generally rejects arguments that original design or cultural associations are more important than surviving fabric. For the Society, protecting fabric allows meaning and significance to be drawn from it by individuals, groups and successive generations.
You can download the full SPAB Approach, written by SPAB director Matthew Slocombe.