Cultural heritage is considered a resource for local sustainable development, although there are some contradictions. The sites recognized as cultural heritage are increasing; the costs for functional maintenance/reuse are growing, while public resources available are becoming scarcer, and private actors are increasingly focused on the short time for payback.
The consequence is that there is a growing risk that the decay of heritage increases year by year, because of lack of funding support and viable business models.
This is the context of CLIC trans-disciplinary research project whose overarching goal is to identify evaluation tools to test, implement, validate and share innovative “circular” financing, business and governance models for systemic adaptive reuse of cultural heritage and landscape, demonstrating the economic, social, environmental convenience, in terms of long lasting economic, cultural and environmental wealth.
The CLIC project applies the circular economy principles to cultural heritage adaptive reuse for achieving environmentally, socially, culturally and economically sustainable urban/territorial development. Adaptive reuse of cultural heritage is seen as a mean to circularize the flows of raw-materials, energy, cultural capital as well as social capital. The circular paradigm is assumed in the project not only for the economic growth but also for promoting human development.
The CLIC project adopts a trans-disciplinary and systemic approach that integrates technology, business models and economic organisation, finance, governance and regulations as well as skills and social innovation, framed in the perspective of the circular economy as possible model for a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable development. The project combines traditional knowledge with scientific knowledge, developing multistakeholder win-win business, financing and governance models, inclusive planning and decision-making.
Cultural heritage/landscape is recognized by the European Union as a key economic resource in the global competition. The CLIC project is theoretically and practically interrelated to the international research, policy orientation and innovation activities on the role and impacts of cultural heritage/landscape for sustainable local development. The circular economy approach opens innovative solutions attentive to conservation of cultural/natural resources, to local production loops, local circuits of value production.
Flexible, transparent and inclusive tools to manage change are required to leverage the potential of cultural heritage for Europe, fostering adaptive reuse of cultural heritage/landscape. Tools for management of change should consider costs and benefits at the local level and for all stakeholders, including future generations, and should take into account the cultural, social, environmental and economic costs of disrepair through neglect, compared to the benefits obtained through diverse scenarios of transformation/integrated conservation.
Investment costs are related to the materials, technologies and techniques to be used to preserve the cultural value of the heritage/landscape, and to maintenance/management/operating costs. The willingness to invest, the same value done, increases with the reduction of costs. Then, the social cost of abandonment – and eventual irreversible loss of heritage – must be included in the investment choice.
The investment gap in cultural heritage and landscape regeneration can be addressed through careful evaluation of costs, complex values and impacts of adaptive reuse, providing critical evidence of the wealth of jobs, social, cultural, environmental and economic returns on the investment in cultural heritage.