Towards transformative adaptation of cultural heritage to climate change

Elena Sesana, Alexandre Gagnon, John Hughes

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Climate change together with sea level rising, its impacts on temperature, rainfall patterns, coastal erosion, flooding and an increase in storminess already pose a challenge to the conservation of cultural heritage. Changes in environmental parameters that control physical effects such as freezing and thawing, heat shock and changes to humidity are critical for the condition and durability of materials, resulting in degradation and loss of cultural value.

This paper introduces the topic of sustainable adaptation and transformation to climate change in the field of cultural heritage. Although there are some papers published on assessing the impacts of climate change on cultural heritage in Europe, there is limited research accomplished to date on adapting cultural heritage and its management to climate change. Yet, most adaptation that has taken place in the field of cultural heritage has been incremental in nature; however, given the rapid rate of environmental change a long-term transformational approach to adaptation is required. In addition, there is a dichotomy between the policy drivers towards reducing the carbon footprint of historical buildings through the implementation of energy efficiency measures and preserving the authenticity of historical buildings. Most of the work in practice on adapting cultural heritage to change has focused on increasing the resilience of buildings with limited discussion taking place on the integration of mitigation and adaptation. On the basis of interviews with academics, professionals, government officials and managers of heritage sites, the views on the topic of sustainable adaptation and transformational change in the area of cultural heritage are presented.

The dichotomy between increasing resilience to maintain the authenticity and integrity of historical buildings and adapting to change makes cultural heritage an excellent realm for debating the integration of mitigation and adaptation and the concept of transformational change. Hence, this paper emphasizes the challenges that the concept of transformation poses to the field of cultural heritage, in particular the dichotomy and interdependency between conservation and adaptation. Cultural heritage is an area where transformational adaptation to climate change poses significant conceptual challenges and we welcome the opportunity to debate this at this conference by presenting the results of empirical research performed in Scotland and Italy. Presenting at this conference would also give us the opportunity to highlight to the academic community the need for cultural heritage to be included in the discussion on transformation as well as benefiting from participating in the discourse on the applications of the concepts of transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017
EventTransformations 2017: Transformations in Practice - Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience (CECHR), Dundee, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Aug 20171 Sept 2017
Conference number: 3


ConferenceTransformations 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Cultural Heritage
  • Climate change
  • Tranformation


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