Monday, March 05, 2007

Rehabilitation of Heritage Buildings in Malaysia

Organised by: Trisakti University, Indonesia


This research is a study on the rehabilitation of heritage building in Malaysia. This research intends to highlight the existing practice on rehabilitation projects in Malaysia with the main focus on problems encountered at rehabilitation work stages. The problems encountered will be discussed and these cover three stages - inception stage, pre-contract and project development stage and finally, the project implementation stage. In addition to this, regulatory frameworks will also be discussed. The broad objective of this research is to examine the general problems arise when commencing rehabilitation project. A case study on Art Gallery at Kedah will be featured for this research.

Keywords: Rehabilitation, Art Gallery, Kedah, Heritage Building, Maintenance, Conservation Practice.

Case Study: Art Gallery, Kedah.

1.0 Introduction

Malaysia’s history is largely embedded in its architecture, social and cultural fabric, and of these the architectural fabric is probably the most enduring one. Recently, the historical rehabilitation and maintenance can be considered as a popular method use in Malaysia. In fact, heritage building is an important element in town development which can be seen in some cities in the world. It plays an important role in defining the landmark within the urban area as well as generating income and boosting the tourism industry.

2.0 Terminology of ‘Rehabilitation’

Burra Charter describes that conservation consists of several scope of works, which then can be categorized into several groups. Conservation, although defines a general meaning of preserving and conserving historical buildings, sites, areas or monuments as a national heritage through the gazette action, however can be specifically categorized under several categories, as follows. Each category carries a different meaning, outlining and defining the difference on the scope of works that associate with it. Rehabilitation is a part of the wide conservation filed. Rehabilitation works are recently becoming increasingly important for urban development. According to Young and Egbu, rehabilitation covers a wider scope of work, not limited to alteration and adaptation. Rehabilitation also includes the renovation, extension, improvement, conversion, modernization, fittings out and repair which undertaken on an existing building to permit its reuse for various specified purposed [1]. Rehabilitation means the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration which makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portion and features of the property which are significant to its historical, architectural and cultural values [2].

3.0 Conservation Practice in Malaysia
3.1 Existing Scenario in Malaysia

Building conservation has long been of concern, although its popular application is relatively recent in origin, particularly in Malaysia. In the past few years, many historic buildings have been preserved and conserved while others have been converted to become premises for a bank, restaurant, information centre or a printing office. Malaysia is one of the fortunate countries that have many historic buildings which are of immense architectural and historical value. An inventory study undertaken in 1992 and 1993 at the government’s request by the Heritage Trust of Malaysia in conjunction with the National Museum, the Housing and Local Government Ministry and Faculty of Built Environment, Malaysia University of Technology (UTM) reveals that there are near 39,000 historic buildings built between 1800 and 1948 throughout the country which are worthy for preservation and conservation. Buildings built within these periods are classified as ‘pre-war buildings’ due to their year of build, ranging from 1800 to 1948 [3]. Listed in Table 1 is the number of ‘pre-war buildings’ located in 247 cities and towns nationwide.

Table 1: The distribution of pre-war urban buildings throughout various states in Malaysia.

No, States, Number of Historical Buildings & Percentage of Historical Building (Overall)
1. Penang 5,057 24.3%
2. Perak 3,351 16.1%
3. Johore 2,323 11.2%
4. Malacca 2,177 10.5%
5. Kuala Lumpur 1,763 8.4%
6. Kedah 1,282 6.12%
7. Selangor 1,166 5.6%
8. Sarawak 1,010 4.9%
9. Negeri Sembilan 999 4.8%
10. Pahang 831 4.0%
11. Terengganu 420 2.0%
12. Kelantan 373 1.8%
13. Perlis 25 0.1%
14. Sabah 10 0.05%
Total 20,787 100%

3.2 Conservation Regulations

Currently, there is no specific Conservation Act being drafted in Malaysia and therefore the this topic is not being clearly spelled out either by the means of laws and regulations, or guidelines. However, the rising awareness amongst the public and the new conservation movement as well as the setting up of conservation unit in several states in Malaysia is seen as a catalyst for promoting conservation. The conservation and rehabilitation principles which are used in Malaysia are similar to as outlined in ICOMOS', Venice and Burra Charter. In Malaysia, under the Antiquities Act 1976 a historic building or monument aged at least 100 years old can be listed or gazetted by the Government through the Museum Department to give protection and encouragement for preservation and conservation works. At present, there are 51 buildings and 86 monuments which have been gazetted. Out of these 51 gazetted buildings, only 21 buildings are British colonial architecture. Most of them are owned by the government even though there are many privately owned buildings which are of architectural and historical values. Example of historic buildings in Malaysia are traditional Malay houses, mosques, churches, palaces, clock towers, prisons, government offices, institutional and commercial, residential, schools, railway stations, hotels and guest houses; and monuments.

3.3 Conservation Bodies

The practice of conservation works in Malaysia is managed and supervised by the conservation bodies. Conservation bodies in Malaysia can be divided into three groups which are [4]:

a) Official Conservation Committees
Official Conservation Committees consist of representatives from the establishment of specific bodies or departments enforcing the guidelines for conservation works. In other meaning, official conservation committees are authorities’ departments formed at Federal and State levels.

b) Private Societies
Private Societies are formed specifically to ensure proper maintenance of gazetted or conserved buildings be properly maintained which then ensures the building’s age can be prolonged. The private societies are voluntary and self-funded by the established private organizations and activities to generate income, particularly for ensuring continuous maintenance works are being carried out are designed and implemented by the organizations. It is prominent in publicity and intervenes in local and regional development proposals.

c) Charitable Trust
Malaysian Heritage Trust began officially in 1983 as a charity trust and until now it is the only charitable trust established in Malaysia. It was set up by a group of volunteers who were keen to preserve Malaysia's built heritage and areas of architectural interest in all parts of the country.

4.0 Case Study – Art Gallery, Kedah
4.1 Project Background

The Art Centre is the earliest modern building in Alor Setar, Kedah which is one of the 14 states in Malaysia. Built in 1912 by one of the local architects, the building encompasses Moorish architecture with grandiose fa├žade. The building was formerly used to house various State Government departments. The building has been gazetted under the Antiquities Act 1976 as National Heritage by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism under National Museum to conserve and preserve for the purpose as a one of the historical places and will be able to offer more as a tourist destination. This project has been approved by the government and appoints consultant to design and document the project and then appoints the contractor to build. The contract amount is approximately about RM1,649,100.00. The contract period is 32 weeks. The project was completed on 5 Mac 2003. The scopes of works under this contract include the investigation, conservation, restoration and preservation works of the building. The client for the project is the Department of Museum and Antiquities of Malaysia while the main contractor is local contractor.

4.2 Rehabilitation Guidelines

As earlier mentioned, the current conservation or rehabilitation practice in Malaysia is based on what outlined in ICOMOS, Burra Charter and Venice Charter. Rehabilitation Principles and Guidelines deal specifically with the procedures to ensure maximum preservation of historic elements in any rehabilitation project to be retained and same requirements are being enforced for rehabilitation project of the Art Gallery in Kedah. The manual includes a set of conservation and rehabilitation principles that should be used by consultants, funding agencies and authorities or conservation organizations. The rehabilitation guidelines used determine the rehabilitation principles. These guidelines have been developed to ensure that any changes necessary in rehabilitation work are undertaken in the most sensitive way possible to preserve the heritage structure's historic character and features. In addition, the guidelines are compulsory to be complied with from initial planning stage through to project completion.

4.3 Rehabilitation Process

The rehabilitation process needs a proper planning because the new use may conflict with the structural, spatial or symbolic nature of an existing building. The major challenge in the rehabilitation process arise when these is a process accommodate both the new and the old and to find creative solutions that will respond to the qualities and opportunities afforded by historic interior and exterior spaces. The redevelopment process requires various phases of any project be clearly and thoroughly planned. The principles and following guidelines will assist in the planning stages of the project and can be used as a handy reference throughout the course of all redevelopment. In order to meet this challenge, the rehabilitation and conservation principles must be integrated into any redevelopment plan or proposal. A redevelopment plan is usually prepared by the owner and the design professional i.e. engineer and architect in consultation with the local planning authorities. The phases of such plan in purpose of carrying out the rehabilitation works include the followings:
a) Start up i.e. review of rehabilitation standards and guidelines, legal description, ownership, zoning, determine proposed uses, potential financing, initial research and prioritization of work.
b) Stabilization and protection i.e. safety of building and public, emergency repair and bracing, protection of valuable material from decay and damage during rehabilitation.
c) Research, recording and documentation as found a documentation and photos and historic research.
d) Programming and design to understanding of a building's opportunities and limitation, integration of new services and handicapped access.
e) Approvals and permits a documentation of proposed alterations and conservation work to satisfy standards for rehabilitation and building code.
f) Budget and work schedule to arrange financing, audit control systems, timing, phasing and sequencing of works to be done.
g) Tendering and contracts in order to prepare the contract documentation, accept bid, write final contracts to coincide with the work schedule.
h) Conservation, repair and construction which will be commenced in accordance to the project objective. This includes work supervision and documentation on all amendments as well as processing payment and claims.
i) Carrying out cyclical maintenance i.e. establishing a regular conservation maintenance program.

4.4 Principle of Rehabilitation

The conservation and rehabilitation principles are similar in spirit to other widely accepted set of principles, including those outlined in ICOMOS, Venice Charter and Burra Charter. The same principles were applied for the rehabilitation of Art Gallery, Kedah [5].

The principles can be summarized as follows:
a) Conservation works should be based on and preceded by sufficient historical research, site analysis and documentation to identify and safeguard fill heritage values to be conserved. The evolution of the structures and site should be paid to attention. The contributions of all periods are important to the historical development and merit retention.
b) Decisions about appropriate levels of intervention shall be based on the heritage values of each contribution in which minimal intervention should be practiced. Conjecture and the falsification of building elements should be avoided in all heritage conservation projects. A well-defined maintenance plan should be clearly established in order to prepare for an appropriate level of maintenance and care upon completion.
c) Functional layout should be developed. Wherever possible, deteriorated historic building material and features should be repaired rather than removed or replaced. Where replacement is necessary the new material should be compatible with material being replaced in composition, design, colour, texture, and other visual qualities, but upon close inspection, it should be distinguishable from the historic fabric.
d) Contemporary designs for alteration or new additions may be accepted. However, they should be compatible with the existing materials and design, yet they must also be seemed as products of their own time and be readily distinguishable from the historic fabric. Alterations which seek to create an earlier appearance or which use different architectural elements from other buildings or structures are discouraged.

4.5 Scope of Works

The scope of works under this contract for Conservation Works of Balai Seni Negeri included the investigation, conservation, restoration and preservation works of the building as follows:
a) Preparation of preliminaries works such as temporary works which are required for conservation works.
b) Research and investigate the conservation works including preparation of Historical Architectural Building Survey (HABS) including scale photos, HABS Drawing etc.
c) Preparation the conservation, restoration and preservation work for structural and non-structural elements.

4.6 Problems Encountered

There were some major and minor problems encountered during pre-contract stage and post-contract stage. In broad summary, the problem was in the aspect of difficulties faced in implementing conservation activities. Conservation process encompasses a sequence of activities. This process commences with the identification of the buildings to be conserved followed by appraisal studies conducted by appointed consultants in the building industry to compile data and information on the existing condition of the building. Problems encountered at each stages are as indicated below:

a) Inception stage
This is a time consuming and tedious process due to shortage of capable expertise and man-power within the authorities' organization and the industry to assist the client to identify, implement, monitor and supervise tends to taint this process. This leads to inability of these organizations to function effluently.

b) Pre-contract and project development stage
Lack of capable expertise within the construction industry often leads to difficulty in defining accurately the scope of work and the overall period for implementation of the conservation activities. The absence of important data such as original drawings and specifications requires re-measurement works necessary which leads to more time and needed to define the works necessary. Similarly building up specifications too was also turned out to be a laborious process and time consuming. The lack in compiling basic data as well as the unavailability sources of supplies of equivalent materials hampered the effort to estimate accurately the actual cost limits and establishment cost plant for cost control purposes. Even though when the resources were identified the materials cost were extremely expensive. Another problem faced at this stage was the task of selecting contractors to perform specific works. The selection became perplexing as no established yardstick can be used as basis to measure the ability of contractors suitable to be recommended for the job.

c) Project implementation stages
Difficulty in identifying the required building materials of the equivalent type, design, size and quality to comply with the requirements of the project was the main problem faced during this stage. The unavailability of previous record on construction technology and materials contributed to the difficulty in identifying and assimilating old and new technology. As rehabilitation or preservation of adaptation works demands high quality workmanship and requires experienced craftsmen, shortage of original materials and unavailability of using the original technology may affect the building quality as well as not complying with the general principle of rehabilitation works. The reason on the unavailability of materials and technology was due to shortage in obtaining these two factors as skills were not developed or passed down to the younger generation. Another contributing factor is the fact that current professionals in the construction industry are generally not trained to supervise or implement conservation works. In some circumstances, sophisticated equipment to carry out the works effectively and safely were unavailable. Alteration methods adopted were not compelling enough to produce the quality of works as required and expected.

5.0 Conclusion

Like many other countries in which building conservation seem a fairly new practice, Malaysia faces several problems in dealing with the issues of historic buildings. First, the present legislation on historic buildings is not sufficient and suitable to protect such buildings from being demolished and destroyed. There are presently four Acts and Enactments which show some aspects of building conservation even though it is felt that their application and formulation are restricted and not intended to address the question of heritage conservation extensively. With the country's current rapid development in which the practice of demolishing historic buildings has been the norm, none of these pieces of legislation is comprehensive enough. Second, there is no suitable system in force for discovering and recording the historic buildings in the country. The systems are quite important in building conservation, particularly among other things to locate the building location, function and owner; classify the buildings into their functions, assist the authority in keeping a record on the buildings for future research and funding; and measure building defects and assess remedial measures. Finally, there is lack of technical knowledge in repairing and maintaining historic buildings. This is a major problem because almost all conservation jobs involve both repair and maintenance stages requiring an understanding of and analysis of building defect diagnoses.

6.0 References

[1] Mills, E.; (1988); Building Maintenance and Preservations – Guide To Design and Management; 2nd Edition; U.K.
[2] Keromo, P.; (Oct. 1999); Teknik Pemulihan Tapak Dasar Bangunan (Conservation technique for Archaeological Site), paper presented on October 1999 for Workshop On Conservation of Monuments and Historical Sites; Malaysia.
[3] Syed Zainol Abidin Idid; (1995); Pemeliharaan Warisan Rupa Bandar (Conservation for Urban Intervention); Malaysia Heritage Trust; Malaysia.
[4] Kit, T.E.; (2001); National Conservation Legislation In Malaysia; Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya, Malaysia.
[5] BEQS Consultant; (2002); Rehabilitation of Art Gallery, Kedah; conservation report submitted to National Museum and Antiquities Department, Malaysia.


Anonymous said...

where can i find a learning center that provide a short course in conservation of heritage building? im a contractor.

shannen chinsean said...

where can i get these reference book as i am going to write my theses related to building conservation

shannen chinsean said...

where can i get these reference books as i am going to write theses about building conservation too.

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