14 November 2023

New technologies boost sustainable, inclusive and resource-efficient cultural heritage

On average, 21.6% of the building stock in the European Union was built before 1945, and a significant percentage of it has heritage value. This enriches communities and makes Europe a favoured cultural tourism destination. However, there are various challenges and dilemmas facing the preservation, restoration, use, reuse interpretation and management activities in heritage buildings.

Aimed at promoting energy and resource efficiency, sustainability, and inclusiveness of historic buildings, a new project, INHERIT, was recently launched in ICLEI Member Athens (Greece). For the next 42 months the team will seek to valorise Europe’s cultural heritage, facing challenges related to energy, resources and circularity, as well as to climate resilience and accessibility of historic buildings. For its part, ICLEI Europe will deliver a capacity-building programme for cultural heritage site operators and stakeholders at multiple levels ranging from local residents to the global New European Bauhaus Community. Additionally, ICLEI Europe, in collaboration with research partners, will develop e-learning modules and webinars to disseminate knowledge and prepare project outcomes for replication.

More generally, the project will help develop the next generation solutions for sustainable and resource-efficient buildings in need of differentiated renovation strategies. The team will create a systematic methodology, accompanied by leading-edge information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics. It will also use associated social/behavioural practices, towards sustainable, inclusive and resource-efficient solutions.

On its value beyond the technical scope of the work, Gioele Racca, Junior Expert for Built Environment, Culture and Heritage contributes, "INHERIT’s commitment to the New European Bauhaus values and working principles enables a sustainable project on energy efficiency to go beyond its technical aspects. It opens discussions on preserving and intervening in the aesthetics of the affected buildings, which is crucial considering their status as built heritage and highlights the importance of addressing the social element that might otherwise be overlooked."

INHERIT will enable socially innovative and economically viable interventions at different urban levels, not only focussing on buildings, but also on neighbourhoods and cities. All relevant aspects of the heritage-built environment’s life cycle will be covered, starting from design and renovation to management and monitoring, as well as preservation and maintenance. The solutions will be tested in eight cultural heritage sites across the EU.

Our cultural heritage represents our cultural identity, and therefore it should be protected and passed from one generation to the other,” said Stamatia Rizou, INHERIT Project Coordinator from SLG. “We are proud to launch the INHERIT initiative, an ambitious project that aims to shape sustainable pathways for a cultural heritage-built environment through social, scientific and technological innovations in line with the New European Bauhaus principles.”

To learn more about ICLEI’s work enhancing cultural heritage as a driver of sustainable change, click here.