• Vol 9, No 7 (2018)
  • Architecture

Green Maintenance for Heritage Buildings: An Appraisal Approach for St Paul’s Church in Melaka, Malaysia

Brit Anak Kayan, Imaduddin Abdul Halim, Nurush Syahadah Mahmud

Cite this article as:
Kayan, B.A., Halim, I.A., Mahmud, N.S., 2018. Green Maintenance for Heritage Buildings: An Appraisal Approach for St Paul’s Church in Melaka, Malaysia . International Journal of Technology. Volume 9(7), pp. 1415-1428
Brit Anak Kayan The Centre for Building, Construction & Tropical Architecture (BuCTA), Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya (UM), 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Imaduddin Abdul Halim The Centre for Building, Construction & Tropical Architecture (BuCTA), Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya (UM), 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Nurush Syahadah Mahmud The Centre for Building, Construction & Tropical Architecture (BuCTA), Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya (UM), 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Email to Corresponding Author


Maintenance is an important conservation activity in ensuring the survival of heritage buildings for future generations. Knowledge and practices in this field have essentially shifted toward the sustainability framework, comprised of economic, societal, and environmental parameters. Regarding the environment, low carbon repair became the main item on the sustainability agenda for heritage buildings, and this case study supports this growing agenda by examining the “Green Maintenance” concept and methodology. The study aims to determine the applicability of Green Maintenance in assessing low carbon repair for laterite stone structures based on their embodied carbon expenditure, focusing on St Paul’s Church within the Historical City of Melaka, Malaysia. In addition, this study highlights the nature of the maintenance and common techniques and materials used in laterite stone repairs. The results reveal that the most sustainable repair techniques are influenced by the longevity of the repair and the embodied carbon expenditure, represented by the Environmental Maintenance Impact (EMI) of Green Maintenance modeling. The EMI measures the amount of “true” CO2 emissions in a sample of laterite-stone-repair techniques over the selected maintenance period, which can be calculated through the “cradle-to-site” boundary of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The study also found that the quality of repair (workmanship), material durability, and selection of materials to deal with specific areas of deterioration are other variables to be considered when determining the most sustainable technique.

Environmental Maintenance Impact (EMI); Green maintenance; Heritage building; Laterite stones; Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)


At least half of the buildings that will be used worldwide in 2050 have already been built, and heritage buildings will soon constitute a significant portion of the global building stock (Levine et al., 2007). Kamal et al. (2008) reported that 39,000 of Malaysia’s historical buildings were available in early 1992, and that number is expected to grow. In the UK, English Heritage (2010) announced that 1.5% of its historical buildings would be added into the existing building stock in a year, and 372,000 of them will be designated as heritage buildings. These trends therefore indicate that heritage buildings must be given priority in any development of technology, documents, policies, tools, and certification schemes toward shaping a more sustainable and better world.

The maintenance of heritage buildings is now largely accepted as a necessity for conservation(Sodangi et al., 2013). Recently, the discussion surrounding heritage-building conservation, particularly in maintenance and repair, has shifted toward sustainability. This shift has permeated the cost-analysis cycle, ensuring that there are meaningful gains on investment in maintenance projects, or sparked broad philosophical debates in conducting maintenance projects, such as the principle of least intervention, “like-for-like” materials, and honesty and integrity (Bell, 1997). Both analyses are important to ensure that high-quality interventions are undertaken in the maintenance of heritage buildings. The question raised is how philosophical vs. cost-guided approaches may be beneficial in reducing environmental impact (i.e., CO2 emissions) while ensuring the survival of heritage buildings. In this paper, the “Green Maintenance” concept and methodology is proposed to support the sustainability agenda, call for the protection of the cultural significance embedded in heritage buildings, and simultaneously preserve economic and environmental capital (Kayan et al., 2016). Green Maintenance brings philosophical factors, cost, and environmental impact into the decision-making process; therefore, the repair techniques that best comply with these factors will be considered the most sustainable (see Figure 1).


Figure 1 The green maintenance concept (Source: Forster et al., 2011)


The need for low environmental impact is primarily associated with the threat of global warming, exacerbated by the generation of CO2 emissions and resource depletion and requiring the full attention of experts, governments, and citizens around the world. The Green Maintenance of heritage buildings offers a wide range of benefits related to the mitigation of embodied carbon expenditure in repair. “Embodied carbon” refers to hidden carbon incurred in the processes of raw material acquisition, material transportation, and the processing and manufacturing of buildings (Giesekam et al., 2016). Calculating embodied carbon is considered 
“ahead of the game” in combating today’s environmental problems (De Wolf et al., 2017).

It is well known that the investment of energy in the construction of heritage buildings was made a long time ago. However, the maintenance of heritage buildings, aiming to double the buildings’ lifespan, contributes to their high environmental impact through embodied carbon expenditure in repair. Materials related to maintenance account for more than 10% of total emissions, 70% of which is allocated to manufacturing and 15% to transportation (Rawlinson & Weight, 2007). Additionally, the construction industry consumes about 40% of the world’s stone, gravel, and sand supply for maintenance, quarrying 50–300 million tons each year (Crishna et al., 2011). In the past, building materials were locally sourced, more economic, and easily quarried, such as laterite stone (Dimes & Ashurts, 1998). However, due to the scarcity of materials, local products are impossible to find, and materials must be outsourced from other countries if like-for-like repair strategies are preferred. Further, the weight of materials influences the mode of transportation and fuel consumption, which creates different amounts of CO2 emissions. The environmental impact caused by recurring embodied carbon (i.e., energy) expenditures in each maintenance project is subject to the longevity of the repair and the durability of materials (Dixit et al, 2010). The solution needed to change the way we think about this problem must engage every player in the reduction of CO2 emissions in the built environment, which can be informed through the Green Maintenance concept and methodology.

Ideally, understanding the longevity of repair and the single impact over the arbitrary maintenance period will become important variables in selecting low-carbon repair techniques. In this paper, these variables are represented by the total Environmental Maintenance Impact (EMI), which is calculated using Kayan’s (2013) simplified mathematical equation (see Equation 1). The carbon footprint of maintenance and repair from the resource extraction (cradle) to use phase (building site) of  Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) will be tested through a case study of a laterite stone building (i.e., St Paul’s Church) in the Historical City of Melaka, Malaysia. This paper applies a mathematical modeling method to quantify CO2 emissions, which was developed by Forster et al. (2011) and adopted by Kayan (2013); thus, the present study represents a logical, practical continuation of the established theory. To attain a practical application of the Green Maintenance concept, the embodied carbon expenditure of repair must be evaluated using comparable and reproducible methods that can be adapted to different contexts (e.g., geographical settings, materials).


In creating a better future, the Green Maintenance model can be used to generate the embodied carbon expenditure of a maintenance project, thus aiding in the selection of the most sustainable technique for the repair of laterite stone structures, such as St. Paul’s Church. Ultimately, it provides an environmental point of view toward the repair scenarios available, revealing those that have the lowest amount of CO2 emissions. Stone replacement is considered the most sustainable repair technique, compared to plastic repair, pointing, repeated plastic repair, repeated repointing, and plastic repair combined with stone replacement. However, stone replacement requires further discussion regarding its philosophical implications (e.g., like-for-like materials), as the usage of compatible materials will ensure higher longevity compared to new materials, due to their unknown durability. The present study can be used as a launching pad for further discussion on compatible yet imported materials versus incompatible yet locally sourced materials, using a variety of maintenance projects at different scales. In addition, although stone replacement is costly due to the amount of materials and skilled labor (workmanship) required, if the maintenance project is planned properly through the Green Maintenance concept and methodology, the cost could be reduced over a longer period. The amount of total embodied carbon expenditure, as measured by the EMI, will enable decision makers to conduct a deeper analysis of the philosophical, economic, and environmental concerns involved in the maintenance of heritage buildings. To develop wider understanding in academia and industry, further studies on Green Maintenance must be undertaken to produce rigorous evidence regarding low-carbon buildings and present such evidence in an accessible language. 


The authors would like to thank the Malaysian Ministry of Education for funding this research under the Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (Project No: FP005-2014A) and the Postgraduate Research Grant (PG2016-A).


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