Preservation Standards & Guidelines

In order to best protect historic properties, preservation entities that review preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction projects performed on historic buildings must establish and enforce preservation guidelines. These guidelines serve as a clear demonstration of the entity’s goals and intentions as a public or a private steward of the built environment. Every historic structure review organization, whether at the local, state, or federal level, develops guidelines by which to review the projects, and while each set is tailored to the specific review body and location, most guidelines follow the same basic principles.

The Trust for Architectural Easements reviews alteration projects to the properties on which it holds preservation easements. To best protect these historic properties, the Trust follows the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, guidelines established within the U.S. Department of the Interior organizations and entities that review projects associated with the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HRTC) and Historic Preservation Tax Incentive (HPTI) or preservation easements.

Essentially the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards define four possible treatments for historic buildings: preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction. Preservation and Rehabilitation are the most commonly recommended treatments, with Restoration and Reconstruction permitted in exceptional instances.

Preservation focuses primarily on the maintenance of the structure as it stands, with emphasis on protection from further damage, maintenance of historical materials, and the retention of the structure’s physical evolution through time. Rehabilitation allows for the adaptive reuse of a historic structure while retaining as much of its character-defining features as possible. Restoration returns a historic building to specific period of significance, allowing the removal of the layers of history that fall after the depicted period. Reconstruction recreates a historic structure or significant piece of a structure that no longer exists.

Each treatment features its own set of guidelines that provide a framework for appropriate application of the chosen treatment. For the most comprehensive understanding of the Trust’s basis for historic structure project review, please see: