The application form for a funding bid asks how we will
ensure that our project is "sustainable". As this is a repair
project, what are we really being asked?
AS YOU suspect, "sustainability", like "community", is a much
and variously used word.
If you are repairing your building, it is pretty obvious that
appropriate materials are sustainable ones. Your roof material,
slate, tiles, lead, or other metal should have a long life without
too many repair issues. The same with stone, gutters, and so on.
The quality of work as checked by your architect will ensure
But sustainability, even for a repair project, can also be about
how you are going to look after the repaired work. It is important
that rainwater goods are checked and maintained: all too often,
repairs from incoming water are necessitated by poor maintenance,
gutters full of leaves, and downpipes blocked with debris. If
repaired systems are not cared for appropriately, then the problem
will recur, and that is unsustainable. Why repair it in the first
The question also arises when churches install new facilities
such as lavatories, serveries, and heating. Can the church afford
to run the new heating? Some install underfloor heating, which
sounds great, but if you cannot afford to pay for it to be on from
November to May, it is unsustainable: it would be better to install
a radiator system that can be turned on when the church is
If you are applying for a grant from a heritage fund that
includes heritage activity within the grant, or if you are applying
for a community-facilities grant on the grounds of local demand for
space, you should expect to make a case for the sustainability of
the activities on which your bid is based, even if the money will
mostly be spent on capital costs.
How will you manage activities in the building so that groups
can continue to use the space, or so that heritage activities can
continue beyond a one-off burst? Often, funders will ask about
year-on-year projected numbers of users of the building or
activities, and this will tell them that you plan to continue. It
will also tell them how you will promote the use and manage the
One aspect of sustainability which is often ignored is
"renewals". Lavatories in a public building are not a one-off
fitting for ever. Every few years, you will need to renew the
fittings, lavatory bowls, wash-basins, and towel-holder. Floor
coverings, even tiles, will need renewal, and the dividing panels
between cubicles will wear out.
As you plan your facilities, ask your architect for an estimate
of how long the fittings will last before replacement. You can then
set aside an appropriate sum in an accruing fund, to make your
facilities sustainable. Do not be one of those churches - I have
visited many - where the facilities are so run down (and often
smelly and dirty) that no one wants to use them, but no one can
work out how to replace them.
Trusts will not want to make grants to you if you are not going
to look after what their monies provide.
Send your issues and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.