<photo>Detail of window arches above a rehabilitated storefront;  Link to National Park Service
<photo>detail of historic fire escape

Although the work in these sections is quite often an important aspect of rehabilitation projects, it is usually not part of the overall process of preserving character-defining features (maintenance, repair, replacement); 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, radically change, damage, or destroy character-defining features in the process of rehabilitation work.

Identifying the historic building's character-defining spaces, features, and finishes so that code-required work will not result in their damage or loss.

Complying with health and safety codes, including seismic code requirements, in such a manner that character-defining spaces, features, and finishes are preserved.

photo of a small-scale stairtower addition on a nonsignificant rear elevation

This small-scale stairtower on a nonsignificant rear elevation is compatible with the historic character of the building. Photo: NPS files.

Removing toxic building materials only after thorough testing has been conducted and only after less invasive abatement methods have been shown to be inadequate.

Providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment for hazards found in the worksite.

Working with local code officials to investigate systems, methods, or devices of equivalent or superior effectiveness and safety to those prescribed by code so that unnecessary alterations can be avoided.

Upgrading historic stairways and elevators to meet health and safety codes in a manner that assures their preservation, i.e., so that they are not damaged or obscured.

photo of a stair enclosure that preserved the historic staircase and also meets the safety

In undertaking rehabilitation work on historic buildings, it is necessary to consider the impact that meeting current health and safety codes will have on character-defining spaces, features, and finishes. This stair enclosure preserves the decorative staircase and also meets the safety code. Photo: NPS files.

Installing sensitively designed fire suppression systems, such as sprinkler systems that result in retention of historic features and finishes.

Applying fire-retardant coatings, such as intumescent paints, which expand during fire to add thermal protection to steel.

Adding a new stairway or elevator to meet health and safety codes in a manner that preserves adjacent character-defining features and spaces.

Placing a code-required stairway or elevator that cannot be accommodated within the historic building in a new exterior addition. Such an addition should be on an inconspicuous elevation.

Not Recommended
Undertaking code-required alterations to a building or site before identifying those spaces, features, or finishes which are character-defining and must therefore be preserved.

Altering, damaging, or destroying character-defining spaces, features, and finishes while making modifications to a building or site to comply with safety codes.

Destroying historic interior features and finishes without careful testing and without considering less invasive abatement methods.

Removing unhealthful building materials without regard to personal and environmental safety.

Making changes to historic buildings without first exploring equivalent health and safety systems, methods, or devices that may be less damaging to historic spaces, features, and finishes.

Damaging or obscuring historic stairways and elevators or altering adjacent spaces in the process of doing work to meet code requirements.

Covering character-defining wood features with fire-resistant sheathing which results in altering their visual appearance.Using fire-retardant coatings if they damage or obscure character-defining features.

Radically changing, damaging, or destroying character-defining spaces, features, or finishes when adding a new code-required stairway or elevator.

Constructing a new addition to accommodate code-required stairs and elevators on character-defining elevations highly visible from the street; or where it obscures, damages, or destroys character-defining features.

photo of a new large-scale stairtower addition on a highly visible elevation

This new stairtower addition on a historic university building has been constructed on a highly visible side elevation. Together with its contrasting color and size, it obscures the historic form and roofline. Photo: Martha L. Werenfels, AIA.



The Approach

Exterior Materials
Architectural Metals

Exterior Features
Entrances + Porches

Interior Features
Structural System Spaces/Features/Finishes
Mechanical Systems



Special Requirements
Energy Efficiency
New Additions
Health + Safety

The Standards



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Historical Overview