Valuing the Vernacular: Scotland’s earth-built heritage and the impacts of climate change
Scotlandâ€™s vernacular earth-built heritage has received inadequate recognition over a number of decades, being the reserve of a small group of academic, architectural and conservation practitioners, with negative perceptions of the structures and their inhabitants having been developed over the long-term. This has ultimately contributed to the loss of a wide number of earth building traditions previously widespread across Scotland. Heritage custodians have invested in the restoration and maintenance of a select few sites, but wider recognition of the significance of extant structures, including the intangible aspects of inherited traditions, remains limited. This thesis therefore seeks in the first instance to promote improved understandings of Scotlandâ€™s earth-built heritage through historical appraisals that underline its wider heritage value within global, regional and local contexts, whilst demonstrating the limitations of survey evidence hitherto relied upon.
Heritage policies and management procedures are increasingly driven in response to the climate changes projected for the remainder of the twenty-first century, partly informed by the impacts of changes that have already been observed. As a result of this, new fields of research such as heritage climatology have developed with a view to offering bases from which to develop longer term mitigation and management strategies that recognise potential changes to the causes and processes of deterioration in the historic environment. Alongside the development of academic interest in climate and heritage has been an ever-increasing accessibility to advanced analysis methods through technical apparatus (often portable) that can be used to create improved evidence repositories based on processes-led approaches to investigation.
Scotlandâ€™s earth-built heritage is susceptible to a range of climate-related phenomena that are likely to manifest in different ways over coming decades. Conservation strategies have continued to rely, however, upon the empirical observations and the experience of very few individuals since the latter-twentieth century. Consequently, the ad hoc approaches to the management of Scotlandâ€™s earth-built heritage and lack of strategic planning that have been typical to this point require amendment. This interdisciplinary thesis therefore seeks to contribute to addressing the issues outlined above through the exploration and application of portable scientific sampling apparatus that allow for in situ, rapid and non-intrusive insights to be gained at various scales of interest. These, together with other minimally intrusive approaches to assessing performance in earth building materials, allow for the development of processes-led strategies to extending the evidence base beyond that presently relied upon.
Amongst the key outcomes of this are the generation of a locally-focused dataset of climate projections that are used to develop understandings of future climate conditions in the Carse of Gowrie, Perthshire, and in turn garner insights as to how these will impact in relation to the earth-built heritage for which this region is noted. Temperature and humidity monitoring evidence gathered from within the walls of extant structures over the course of fourteen months from March 2012 to April 2013 are set against contemporary external weather conditions and alongside measurements of moisture ingress. These serve to highlight both aspects of inherent resilience and points of particular risk to the future integrity of earth-built structures. An extended benefit of this work is the demonstration that the novel procedures used are easily replicated and could be employed in a variety of local contexts to develop suites of intra-site data across Scotland, with the potential for offering evidence-based inferences relevant to management procedures and policy discussion. The utility of the understandings and methods of investigation long established in the field of soil science but conspicuously overlooked in earth buildings research is also addressed, with insights into micro-scale processes offered using micromorphological and micromorphometric methods and the results being directly related to macro-scale observations.