Fifty years ago, there were few places to turn for help if you wanted to upgrade your historic home to contemporary standards while still retaining its historic character. Thankfully, things have changed.
It wasn’t until 1977 that the The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation established “professional standards for the preservation of historic properties.” Revised and expanded many times to keep pace with advances in sustainability, energy saving technology, climate change resiliency, and accessibility for the disabled, the Standards and accompanying Guidelines remain the gold standard of design guidelines for historic properties.
Intended to be a design aid in determining acceptable alterations, additions, and repairs for preserving the character of existing buildings while updating to contemporary usefulness, they are intentionally broad in scope and can easily be applied to a wide range of circumstances.
Widely used and adopted by communities across the country, the Standards assist architects, contractors, planners and homeowners make the best long-term design decisions for efficient contemporary use while preserving a building’s character defining features.
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the secretary of the interior's Standards
The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation are widely accepted as the basis for how historic buildings should be rehabilitated and are regularly used at the federal, state, and local levels to guide and evaluate the appropriateness of repairs, alterations, and construction work. The Standards allow buildings to be changed to meet contemporary needs, while ensuring that those features that make buildings historically and architecturally distinctive are preserved. The following Standards are to be applied to specific rehabilitation projects in a reasonable manner, taking into consideration economic and technical feasibility.
1. A property shall be used for its historic purpose or be placed in a new use that requires minimal change to the defining characteristics of the building and its site and environment.
2. The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided.
3. Each property shall be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or architectural elements from other buildings, shall not be undertaken.
4. Most properties change over time; those changes that have acquired historic significance in their own right shall be retained and preserved.
5. Distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a historic property shall be preserved.
6. Deteriorated historic features shall be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature shall match the old in design, color, texture, and other visual qualities and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features shall be substantiated by documentary, physical, or pictorial evidence.
7. Chemical or physical treatments, such as sandblasting, that cause damage to historic materials shall not be used. The surface cleaning of structures, if appropriate, shall be undertaken using the gentlest means possible.
8. Significant archeological resources affected by a project shall be protected and preserved. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures shall be undertaken.
9. New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction shall not destroy historic materials that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment.
10. New additions and adjacent or related new construction shall be undertaken in such a manner that if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.
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The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings.
The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings. Provides recommendations and guidance on making historic buildings more sustainable while simultaneously preserving their historic character.
The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring, and Reconstructing Historic Buildings. Provides practical guidance on the preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction of historic buildings