Photo: Prof. JoAnn Cassar and Prof. Charles Galdies leading the Round-table discussion.
The Department of Conservation and Built Heritage within the Faculty for the Built Environment, in partnership with the Institute of Earth Systems, are currently working on a research project entitled Earth Observation for Heritage Building Conservation and Sustainability (EO4HBCS), a project supported by MCST, through the Space Research Fund 2019. This project is studying the behaviour of traditional and modern roofs, using a combination of data obtained from satellite imagery, together with similar data obtained from UAVs (drones) and also from direct measurements - also inside the buildings. The main aim is to understand the behaviour of such roofs, especially in the hot summer months and how they can be affected by climate change, especially in relation to occupant comfort.
As part of the dissemination of the project methodology and its initial results, a one day workshop was held on the 18 th November 2021. Important stakeholders in the conservation of buildings attended the event, which was held at the Gran Salon of the National Museum of Archaeology. Participants included professionals from various Departments and Institutes of the University of Malta, and from the Ministry for the National Heritage, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, the Restoration Directorate and Heritage Malta, as well as conservation architects, conservators in private practice and Historic House curators. The workshop was introduced by the Dean of the Faculty for the Built Environment, Prof. Alex Torpiano. The morning session consisted of a series of presentations given by speakers from various Heritage entities, who set the scene by explaining the technology of the traditional deffun roofs, as well as the importance of safeguarding them.
This was followed by an introduction to the project and preliminary results, by Prof. JoAnn Cassar, Head of the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage, Prof. Charles Galdies from the Institute of Earth Systems; Researchers working on the project also presented the practical sides of the project. The afternoon was dedicated to a round table discussion where several stakeholders shared their views and opinions: the themes addressed were: “Satellite and remote data applications to cultural heritage”; “Integrating the results of the project into practice”; and “Translating the results of the project into strategies and policies”.
In the first part of the discussion, the potential for such a project to be a tool for remotely identifying different roof typologies was debated. It was pointed out that satellite data which is freely available, such as Copernicus (European Space Agency), has challenges with regards to spatial resolution whereas commercial satellite data has shown potential for characterization, but at a cost. The debate then turned to the issue of whether this innovative methodology can be used for the management of cultural heritage. This methodology is showing great potential when applied to large areas and can be an important decision-making tool for policy makers. Other discussion points included the potential of available results to raise awareness in safeguarding traditional roofs, as well as the behaviour of these roofs with regards to the predicted climate change.
Further on into the discussion, participating practitioners highlighted the dire need for professionals and skilled labourers to build and maintain our traditional roofs, as well as further research into modern materials to face future challenges. The last part of the discussion was dedicated to how the information resulting from this project, being a first-ever gathering of quantitative data to explain the behaviour of traditional roofs, can be translated into strategies and policies and how it can feed into the National Research Agenda as well as Government policies and schemes.