Preservation Approach – Secretary of the Interior’s Guidelines

Preservation Approach: Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines

When the property’s distinctive materials, features, and spaces are essentially intact and thus convey the historic significance without extensive repair or replacement; when depiction at a particular period of time is not appropriate; and when a continuing or new use does not require additions or extensive alterations, Preservation may be considered as a treatment. Prior to undertaking work, a documentation plan for Preservation should be developed.

Choosing Preservation as a Treatment

In Preservation, the options for replacement are less extensive than in the treatment, Rehabilitation. This is because it is assumed at the outset that building materials and character-defining features are essentially intact, i.e, that more historic fabric has survived, unchanged over time. The expressed goal of the Standards for Preservation and Guidelines for Preserving Historic Buildings is retention of the building’s existing form, features and detailing. This may be as simple as basic maintenance of existing materials and features or may involve preparing a historic structure report, undertaking laboratory testing such as paint and mortar analysis, and hiring conservators to perform sensitive work such as reconstituting interior finishes. Protection, maintenance, and repair are emphasized while replacement is minimized.

Identify, Retain, and Preserve Historic Materials and Features

The guidance for the treatment Preservation begins with recommendations to identify the form and detailing of those architectural materials and features that are important in defining the building’s historic character and which must be retained in order to preserve that character. Therefore, guidance on identifying, retaining, and preserving character-defining features is always given first. The character of a historic building may be defined by the form and detailing of exterior materials, such as masonry, wood, and metal; exterior features, such as roofs, porches, and windows; interior materials, such as plaster and paint; and interior features, such as moldings and stairways, room configuration and spatial relationships, as well as structural and mechanical systems; and the building’s site and setting.

Stabilize Deteriorated Historic Materials and Features as a Preliminary Measure

Deteriorated portions of a historic building may need to be protected thorough preliminary stabilization measures until additional work can be undertaken. Stabilizing may include structural reinforcement, weatherization, or correcting unsafe conditions. Temporary stabilization should always be carried out in such a manner that it detracts as little as possible from the historic building’s appearance. Although it may not be necessary in every preservation project, stabilization is nonetheless an integral part of the treatment Preservation; it is equally applicable, if circumstances warrant, for the other treatments.

Protect and Maintain Historic Materials and Features

After identifying those materials and features that are important and must be retained in the process of Preservation work, then protecting and maintaining them are addressed. Protection generally involves the least degree of intervention and is preparatory to other work. For example, protection includes the maintenance of historic materials through treatments such as rust removal, caulking, limited paint removal, and re-application of protective coatings; the cyclical cleaning of roof gutter systems; or installation of fencing, alarm systems and other temporary protective measures. Although a historic building will usually require more extensive work, an overall evaluation of its physical condition should always begin at this level.

Repair (Stabilize, Consolidate, and Conserve) Historic Materials and Features

Next, when the physical condition of character-defining materials and features requires additional work, repairing by stabilizing, consolidating, and conserving is recommended. Preservation strives to retain existing materials and features while employing as little new material as possible. Consequently, guidance for repairing a historic material, such as masonry, again begins with the least degree of intervention possible such as strengthening fragile materials through consolidation, when appropriate, and repointing with mortar of an appropriate strength. Repairing masonry as well as wood and architectural metal features may also include patching, splicing, or otherwise reinforcing them using recognized preservation methods. Similarly, within the treatment Preservation, portions of a historic structural system could be reinforced using contemporary materials such as steel rods. All work should be physically and visually compatible, identifiable upon close inspection and documented for future research.

Limited Replacement In Kind of Extensively Deteriorated Portions of Historic Features

If repair by stabilization, consolidation, and conservation proves inadequate, the next level of intervention involves the limited replacement in kind of extensively deteriorated or missing parts of features when there are surviving prototypes (for example, brackets, dentils, steps, plaster, or portions of slate or tile roofing). The replacement material needs to match the old both physically and visually, i.e., wood with wood, etc. Thus, with the exception of hidden structural reinforcement and new mechanical system components, substitute materials are not appropriate in the treatment Preservation. Again, it is important that all new material be identified and properly documented for future research. If prominent features are missing, such as an interior staircase, exterior cornice, or a roof dormer, then a Rehabilitation or Restoration treatment may be more appropriate.

Energy Efficiency/Accessibility Considerations/Health and Safety Code Considerations

These sections of the Preservation guidance address work done to meet accessibility requirements and health and safety code requirements; or limited retrofitting measures to improve energy efficiency. Although this work is quite often an important aspect of preservation projects, it is usually not part of the overall process of protecting, stabilizing, conserving, or repairing character-defining features; rather, such work is assessed for its potential negative impact on the building’s historic character. For this reason, particular care must be taken not to obscure, damage, or destroy character-defining materials or features in the process of undertaking work to meet code and energy requirements.