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Preventive conservation and maintenance. M’Zab, Algeria


Activities, News

Preventive conservation and maintenance

A workshop on “Preventive conservation and maintenance” was held from 23 to 25 November 2009 in the M’Zab Valley, in southern Algeria, organized by the Euromed Heritage programme of the European Union and the Algerian Ministry of Culture. The Rehabilitation and Environment Unit of the CAATEEB was invited to explain its experience and knowledge in the field. The aims of the workshop were to present the methodology and tools used to maintain buildings and introduce this practice in Mediterranean countries, starting with the 40 or more representatives of housing and heritage of the 15 countries that took part.

A little theory
In the first session, Xavier Casanovas presented the general principles of preventive conservation and maintenance, suggesting the professionalization of the tasks of inspection, diagnosis and intervention to adapt traditional maintenance to the needs of today’s society. There was a great deal of interest in creating the concept of “Head Technician”. The speaker went on to present the diagnosis and treatment of structural pathologies in buildings. The second session centred on the tools and particularly the manuals of rehabilitation and maintenance that offer guidance to technicians and workers, providing simple descriptions that adapt to the characteristics of construction of a given place. Some of the manuals presented dealt with Sardinia, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria and Jeddah; the CAATEEB has been involved in all of them. The third and final session centred on specific experiences in Belgium, Slovenia, Algeria and Egypt. A particularly interesting experience is being conducted in the Flemish Region of Belgium, where cooperatives have been organized to carry out inspections and maintenance work on buildings, funded by periodic payments by owners and government subsidies.

The M’Zab Valley. Maintenance as a living tradition
An entire day was given over to a visit to the pentapolis that shapes the valley, with interesting routes through the complex urban fabric of these towns to see maintenance work being carried out. The visit took in buildings whose owners continue the tradition of maintenance by carrying out periodic preventive interventions in their homes. It is interesting to note that this remote desert valley is one of the few places left in the world where the residents feel thoroughly rooted in their traditions. Although modern life has made a strong impact, they have not given up their defining cultural characteristics, which include carrying out maintenance work to their homes.

Recommendations for the whole Mediterranean
The final day was devoted to debate, exchanging opinions and drafting recommendations for politicians and professionals, with a view to disseminating a modern approach to maintenance that extends the useful life of buildings and allows them to offer an optimum service. Some of the main aspects are listed below:

  • Maintenance forms part of a sustainable approach and should be directed at adapting the building to present-day demands. This calls for the involvement of government bodies, the participation of residents and a coherent legal framework.
  • The maintenance plan is a vital tool, as it lists the work to be carried out and provides guidelines for documenting interventions.
  • The promotion of maintenance calls for accessible technical assistance, operational tools (manuals, calendars, files, etc.) and specific training for professionals and companies.