Understanding the Secretary of the Interior's Standards
The Secretary of the Interior of the United States is responsible for establishing professional standards and providing advice on the preservation and protection of cultural resources. The National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior, has developed guidelines and standards that guide decision-making at the national, state, and local levels to encourage consistent preservation practices across the country.
The overarching guidance document is the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation. These standards and guidelines became effective in 1983, and are intended to provide technical advice about archeological and historic preservation activities and methods, including information regarding: preservation planning; the identification, evaluation and registration of historic properties; archeological, historical, architectural and engineering documentation, professional qualification standards, and capital historic preservation projects. They are not regulatory.
Guidance and Regulations for Bricks and Mortar Projects
The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties (codified as 36 CFR Part 68) are neither technical nor prescriptive, but are intended to promote responsible preservation practices that help protect our irreplaceable cultural resources. They may be applied to a variety of historic resource types, such as: houses; building complexes; landscape and natural features; archeological resources; structures such as bridges and dams; and objects such as fountains and statuary.
The Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties break down preservation projects into four approaches:
The choice of approach depends on a variety of factors, including the property’s historical significance, physical condition, proposed use, and intended interpretation. The Standard’s are not intended to be used to make essential decisions about which features of the historic building should be saved and which can be changed. However, once a treatment is selected, the Standards provide a general philosophy and approach that must be uniquely applied in each situation based on the desired outcomes and existing conditions.
MHT Use of the Secretary’s Standards
The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties (36 CFR 68) are used as the basis for MHT reviews to easement properties and as general guidance for all other MHT programs. These guidelines should also serve as the basis for design guidelines employed in the administration of Historic Area Zoning Ordinances authorized under Article 66B, Sections 8.01-8.17, Annotated Code of Maryland and the Certified Local Government program.
A separate National Park Service regulation, codified under 36 CFR Part 67, focuses on “certified historic structures” as defined by the IRS Code of 1986. While the language in this section is similar to that under 36 CFR 68, it is nonetheless distinct and used for federal and State regulatory reviews. The Standards for Rehabilitation cited in 36 CFR 67 are used by MHT in its review of projects seeking certification for Federal and State rehabilitation tax credits and approval for work under MHT Historic Preservation Capital Grant and Loan assistance.
What are the Secretary's of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation?
The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation (frequently called "The Standards") are a list of ten basic philosphies and principles for how to repair, rehabiliate, and in some cases add on to historic buildings in a manner that is compatible with the historic features of the building.
The Standards are not overly specific and describe general approaches and decision-making rather than providing a check-list of "dos" and "don'ts". The Standards are broad partly because no two buildings are exactly alike, and each building has its own unique features, problems, and issues. The goals of individual property owners are unique as well. Some owners want to restore their home, some need to put on a new roof or repair their windows, and some want to make room for new family members or accomodate different needs. Each of these projects requires a slightly different approach, and so it's not practical to try and write specific guidelines that apply to all types of projects on all types of buildings in all parts of the State.
Online Assistance with the Standards
The National Park Service offers several online guidance documents aimed at understanding the philosophy and interpretation of the standards, as well as technical guidance on completing rehabilitation projects.
- Four Approaches to Treatment--What They Are http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/tps/standards/choosing_treatment.htm
Designed to assist historic property owners, managers, and maintenance personnel, the essay explains the philosophy behind the various work approaches on historic buildings in The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Easy-to-read charts tell the differences between the four treatments.
- Telling Historic Preservation Time
This web guidance demonstrates that TIME constitutes the philosophical framework for the four approaches to working on historic buildings--Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration and Reconstruction. Uses the idea of four clocks to make key points.
- The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation with Illustrated Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings
The Standards (36 CFR 67) and accompanying illustrated guidelines help property owners, developers, and federal managers apply the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation during the project planning stage by providing general design and technical recommendations. These are the standards that must be used by federal historic preservation tax credit applicants.
- The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring and Reconstructing Historic Buildings http://www.nps.gov/hps/tps/standards/index.htm
The Standards (37 CFR 68) and guidelines provide a consistent framework for undertaking any one of four approaches to work, Preservation, Rehabilitation, Restoration, and Reconstruction. They pertain to both exterior and interior work on historic buildings of all sizes, materials, and types. (PDF format)
- A Checklist for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings
The rehab checklist suggests a typical process of documenting, evaluating, and assessing a historic building prior to undertaking rehabilitation work.
- All Wet & How to Prevent It - Managing Moisture in Your Historic House
This mini-web class can help anyone who cares for, or about, a historic house to better understand how moisture can invade historic materials and what goes wrong when moisture is not adequately managed. It provides a series of simple, common sense tips to combat the problems and a quiz that's fun to take.
- The BOILERPLATE "YESs!"
This web guidance focuses on approaches to rehabilitation work that serve to protect historic materials, exterior features, and interior spaces, features, and finishes in the process of making changes for new or continued use.
- The BOILERPLATE "NOs!"
This web guidance illustrates what happens when inappropriate approaches to rehabilitation work cause the loss of a historic building's unique character. Includes examples of incompatible new additions--large and small.
- Electronic REHAB
This popular web class is useful for historic building owners, historic preservation commissions; architects, contractors, and developers; maintenance personnel; and others involved in the care of historic buildings. Two quizzes are included.
- The Walk Through--How to Read a Historic Building
This web class helps anyone identify those tangible elements or features that give historic buildings their unique visual character. Includes a challenging quiz.
- Preservation Briefs 1 - 41
The Briefs are developed to assist owners and developers of historic buildings in recognizing and resolving common preservation and repair problems prior to work.
- Preservation Tech Notes
Preservation Tech Notes (PTN) provide innovative solutions to specific problems in preserving cultural resources for architects, contractors, and maintenance personnel, as well as for anyone seeking the tax credit for rehabilitation.
This page updated: May 21, 2009
Links and Documents
- Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation.
- Interpreting the Secretary of the Interior's Standards Bulletins (NPS)
- Standards for Tax Credit, Capital Grant, and Loan Projects (36CFR67)
- Standards for Alterations to Easement Properties (36CFR68)
- Standards for Local Design Guidelines (36CFR68)
- Standards for State and Federal Compliance Projects (36CFR68)