Heritage Design

SBA is well respected within the heritage community and has the skills and expertise required for your heritage project, either as the Prime Consultant or as a dedicated Heritage Sub-Consultant. Three of SBA’s partners are members of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) and our projects have achieved recognition and won numerous awards for the high quality of the conservation work. 

We have the experience and expertise to provide a full range of services for your heritage property, from assessments of the existing condition and development of Conservation Master Plans, to full Conservation/Restoration and adaptive re-use projects. We also provide specialized services for Heritage Impact Assessments and Cultural Heritage Evaluations.

Condition Assessments

The undertaking of an assessment of the existing condition of an existing building is the an important step in the development of a Master Plan / Conservation Plan or before undertaking a Conservation / Adaptive Re-use project. Depending on the needs of the particular building and client, the assessment can focus on only the identified heritage attributes and the elements that directly affect them, or encompass the entire building including mechanical, electrical (and other) systems.

In addition to identifying the existing conditions of the building elements, the report also analyses the cause of any deterioration, and the recommended action. The recommended timeframe and estimated budget can also be included.

With SBA’s extensive experience in the assessment and conservation of heritage buildings we have developed the skill set required to complete extremely thorough, accurate and efficient condition assessments. Our clients have commended us on the usefulness of our assessments, and easily referenced format which we have utilize for all of our reports.

Conservation Feasibility Studies

A Conservation Feasibility Study is the initial assessment of a Conservation Project to determine the best approach to the conservation of the heritage property, whether it’s a stabilization to prevent deterioration, preservation of existing elements, or a full restoration. The study develops recommended approaches and methodologies that will be most beneficial to both the heritage resource and the client’s needs. The study typically includes development of an approximate construction budget which assists the client in making informed decisions.

It is highly recommended that a feasibility study be undertaken at the onset of a project, particularly for renovations, additions, or conservation projects. The study can be completed as part of the design development of a project, or as a separate contract.

Conservation feasibility studies focus on four principal issues: good heritage practice, approval requirements, design concept, construction budget and schedule. Approvals include the assessment of Authorities related items such as Building Code, Zoning issues and Heritage Conservation requirements. The conceptual design explores alternatives to maximize the projects potential. Construction costs are broken down by division with allocated contingencies for the basis of project management.

SBA’s significant experience in heritage conservation complements our architectural expertise to create an in-depth understanding of the potential benefits and pitfalls facing a conservation project, enabling us and our clients to maximize the success of our projects.

Heritage Conservation/Preservation Projects

The conservation of a heritage property requires the sensitivity and insight of highly skilled heritage professionals. Three of SBA’s partners are members of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals and are thus committed to the highest standards of heritage conservation.

We pride ourselves on developing detailed specifications and construction drawings which clearly address the observed site conditions, constructability, and good heritage practice while simultaneously addressing the client’s programmatic and budgetary needs. During the construction phase, our extensive contract administration experience on heritage projects and our attention to detail enables us to work effectively with the heritage contactors to resolve any construction issues which may be discovered.

SBA has completed a wide range of diverse heritage conservation projects from small restoration projects such as the Ward’s Island Landing Stage and wood cladding repairs at Fort York, to complete masonry parapet and metal cornice rebuilds at the Macdonald Institute and the exterior restoration of the 16 storey tower of the Whitney Block at Queen’s Park.

Sample Projects: (links to portfolio)

  • Macdonald Institute – Parapet, Portico & Lecture Hall
  • Macdonald Institute – Ceremonial Stair
  • Ward’s Island Landing Stage

Stabilization Projects

A stabilization project can be undertaken to preserve a heritage property when a full conservation/restoration is not currently feasible. The intent of a stabilization project is to prevent the further deterioration of a properties heritage attributes, and to mitigate any life-safety issues which may arise on the site. These projects are not intended to be final solutions, but temporary measures until a building has new occupants, new use, or until funding is in place for a larger conservation project.

SBA’s uses our extensive understanding of material and building science in conjunction with our heritage sensitivities to assess the existing conditions and specify the appropriate response based on both the needs of the heritage property and the needs of our client. Our goal is to use minimal interventions to stabilize the heritage attributes so that they may be successfully restored in future projects.

Adaptive re-use projects

Adaptive reuse is the process of changing a building’s function to accommodate the changing needs of its users. The benefits of re-use extend far beyond the conservation of our cultural legacy. Re-use of existing heritage buildings can be economical through tax credits and lower acquisition, demolition, and construction material costs. Available utilities and public services can also lower site preparation costs.

Re-use of an existing building or building elements often has environmental benefits. An existing building contains a significant amount of embodied energy and the demolition of an existing structure to rebuild with all new materials wastes this energy.

SBA’s technical expertise and sensitivity to existing building conditions enable us to develop creative and useful means to adapt existing structures.

Sample Projects: (links to portfolio)

  • Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
  • Dundurn National Historic Site

Cultural Heritage Evaluations (C.H.E.) and Cultural Heritage Evaluation Recommendations (C.H.E.R.)

The Ontario Heritage Act provides a frame-work for the conservation of properties that are valued for the important contribution they make to our understanding and appreciation of the history of a place, an event, or people. The identification and evaluation of potential heritage resources are a vital part of the conservation process.

Following the criteria set out in Ontario Regulation 9/06 (for municipal designation) and 10/06 (for provincially owned properties), the evaluation examines the contextual, historical/associative, and design/physical significance of a property. A Cultural Heritage Evaluation requires historical research and site analysis to develop understanding and knowledge of the overall context of a community’s heritage and how the property being evaluated fits into that context; research into the history and cultural associations of the property; and examination of the property for physical evidence of its heritage features/attributes, past use or cultural associations.

If the property is determined to have heritage value through the C.H.E. process, recommendations are then developed (C.H.E.R.) along with a draft Statement of Heritage Value. A Statement of Heritage Value explains why a property or heritage resource is significant and identifies the features of the property that must be preserved in order to protect its heritage significance. It also addresses why the resource is identified as having heritage value. The statement is the key document on which the conservation approach for a property is based. These recommendations are submitted to the municipality or other appropriate authority, for the purpose of Designating or Listing the property.

SBA and our team have the expertise and experience required to complete an in-depth and thorough C.H.E.’s and develop the associated recommendations.

Additional Information/Recources:

Heritage Impact Assessments (H.I.A.)

A Heritage Impact Assessment (H.I.A.) is a study to determine if any cultural heritage or areas of archaeological potential, are impacted by a proposed development or project. It can also demonstrate how the heritage resource will be conserved in the context of redevelopment or site alteration. Mitigative or avoidance measures, or alternative development/approaches may be recommended.

As per the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement and the Planning Act, a municipality or approval authority requires a H.I.A. to guide the approval, modification, or denial of a proposed project that affects a heritage resource. Planning authorities shall not permit construction projects on lands adjacent to a protected heritage property except where the project has been evaluated and has demonstrated that the heritage property will be conserved. This applies to all properties containing cultural heritage resources, including all designated, listed, inventoried, and mapped heritage properties, protected heritage properties, and others, under local, provincial or federal jurisdictions.

As Heritage Architects registered with the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP), SBA is fully qualified to prepare H.I.A.’s for built heritage resources and cultural heritage landscapes. SBA has completed numerous H.I.A’s for a wide variety of building and project types, for a broad range of corporate, governmental, and private property owners.

Heritage Conservation Plans

A Heritage Conservation Plan is a document that details how a cultural heritage resource can be conserved. The recommendations of the plan should include descriptions of repairs, stabilization and preservation activities as well as long term conservation, monitoring and maintenance measures.

A Heritage Conservation Plan is a valuable resource for any owner of a heritage property as it guides both short and long term projects to ensure the heritage property is maintained and appropriately conserved.

The quality of a conservation plan relies on the expertise of the development team. As heritage architects and as members of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professional, SBA and their consultant team has the expertise and resources required to develop thorough and appropriate conservation plans. SBA has completed Heritage Conservation Plans for a wide variety of heritage properties throughout Ontario, including the award winning Conservation Plan for the Whitney Block and Tower at Queens Park, Toronto (CAHP Award). SBA’s Heritage Conservation Plans typically include site investigation, research, condition assessment and recommendations, proposed conservation schedule and conservation budget estimates. We strive to ensure our conservation plans are thorough, easily referenced, and useful to the owner and/or facility management team.

Construction Protection Plans

Heritage properties often have the potential to be damaged by adjacent construction projects. We utilize our knowledge of heritage construction and materials behaviour to anticipate the potential deterioration caused by the adjacent construction, and determine the appropriate preventative measures to ensure your heritage property remains undamaged.

Heritage Commemoration Documentation Prior to Demolition

When a designated heritage property, or portion of a designated property is required to be demolished, the heritage fabric needs to be thoroughly documented through measured drawings, photographs, and other means. This ensures that records of the heritage attributes are retained for commemorative purposes. The documentation process can also identify heritage attributes and other building elements that could be salvaged for re-use, either integrated within a new building on the site, or used elsewhere in other restoration projects.

SBA’s attention to detail and experience in building documentation and heritage assessment provide us with the skillsets required for Heritage Commemoration Documentation work. We also have the construction site experience to enable us to safely be present during the demolition work, ensuring the entire process is fully documented.

Heritage Grant and Tax Rebate Applications

Many municipalities, including the City of Toronto have Heritage Grant and Heritage Tax Rebate Programs to assist owners of Heritage Properties Designated under part IV and Part V of the Heritage Act with funding for conservation and maintenance projects.

The Toronto Heritage Grant Program provides grant funds for a portion of eligible heritage conservation work to designated heritage properties. Eligible heritage conservation project includes conservation work that restores elements significant to the heritage attributes of the designated property. Successful recipients may receive one Toronto Heritage Grant every five years for any given heritage property.

The Toronto Heritage Property Tax Rebate Program assists owners of eligible commercial and industrial heritage properties with the cost of maintenance and conservation which preserves, repairs, or restores an eligible heritage property; is planned and executed in a manner that is consistent with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada; and is in compliance with any in-force heritage conservation district plan and associated guidelines. The Toronto Property Tax Rebate may be applied for yearly for buildings designated under Part IV of the Heritage Act.

SBA has a successfully applied for both the Heritage Grants and Tax Rebates on behalf of various clients to assist in funding conservation and maintenance of their Designated properties.


Expert Witness

Jane Burgess is an experienced Expert Witness on heritage matters at the Conservation Review Board (Ontario) and at the Ontario Municipal Board. This service typically follows the development of a Heritage Impact Assessment or a Heritage Evaluation Study, the conclusions of which have been refuted and opposed by another party. As part of this service, clients and their lawyers are assisted with preparation of a Witness Statement and an Outline of Evidence.

Expert testimony services also may include (when requested) being present during the expert testimony of other witnesses to provide points of cross-examination for legal counsel on heritage matters.