Heritage conservation today is recognised one of the oldest philosophies in the field of built environment aimed at creating a sustainable management system for historic buildings, sites and monuments. At the root of its theory, policies and practices lies the belief that cultural built heritage is a priceless asset. Unfortunately, some argue it is a bankrupt metaphor. The concept of pricelessness has failed persistently to protect places with important historical and cultural values from being demolished by way of neglect. Built assets may frequently receive appropriate listing or other statutory protection until such time as a conflict arises with what are considered the more mainstream values of capitalist societies, generating a tension often relieved, by the desecration and loss of the heritage asset. From this perspective, this paper explores the term priceless in relation to (i) its influence on heritage conservation and changing built environment (ii) how the concept can be employed more synergistically with the behemoth of economic development to achieve a more positive outcome for the community. A critical review of the literature and an empirical analysis of data collected from focus group studies conducted in Australia and Tanzania. It was found that heritage sector stands to lose far more without a paradigm shift that generates a balance between justifying new development at the expense of priceless, irreplaceable built heritage. The paper suggests that heritage practitioners need to more effective methods for assessing the values of cultural built heritage. The originality in this paper is its new perspective on pricelessness in light of understanding the impacts on sustainability in built heritage conservation.
Keywords: Built Heritage Conservation, Economic Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability, Social Sustainability, Environmental Sustainability.