<photo>Detail of window arches above a rehabilitated storefront;  Link to National Park Service
<photo>wood structural members of an early industrial building

Identify    Protect    Repair    Replace    Alterations/Additions

Identify, Retain and Preserve

Identifying, retaining, and preserving structural systems--and individual features of systems--that are important in defining the overall historic character of the building, such as post and beam systems, trusses, summer beams, vigas, cast iron columns, above-grade stone foundation walls, or loadbearing brick or stone walls.

The Savage Tire factory - San Diego, CA

This 20th century reinforced concrete tire manufacturing building features a large central interior volume with side passages on three levels. Notable elements include its generous space, splayed tops to the columns that disperse the load from the adjacent floors, and an attractive curved hanging stair from an adjacent floor to the side passage. The load-bearing structural elements should remain exposed in any re-configuration for a new use and the large volume should not be substantially subdivided. Photo: William Manly, 1989. HAER Collection, NPS.

Not Recommended
Removing, covering, or radically changing visible features of structural systems which are important in defining the overall historic character of the building so that, as a result, the character is diminished.

Putting a new use into the building which could overload the existing structural system; or installing equipment or mechanical systems which could damage the structure.

Demolishing a loadbearing masonry wall that could be augmented and retained, and replacing it with a new wall (i.e., brick or stone), using the historic masonry only as an exterior veneer.

Leaving known structural problems untreated such as deflection of beams, cracking and bowing of walls, or racking of structural members.

Utilizing treatments or products that accelerate the deterioration of structural material such as introducing urea-formaldehyde foam insulation into frame walls

Protect and Maintain

Protecting and maintaining the structural system by cleaning the roof gutters and downspouts; replacing roof flashing; keeping masonry, wood, and architectural metals in a sound condition; and ensuring that structural members are free from insect infestation.

Examining and evaluating the physical condition of the structural system and its individual features using non-destructive techniques such as X-ray photography.

Not Recommended
Failing to provide proper building maintenance so that deterioration of the structural system results. Causes of deterioration include subsurface ground movement, vegetation growing too close to foundation walls, improper grading, fungal rot, and poor interior ventilation that results in condensation.

Utilizing destructive probing techniques that will damage or destroy structural material.


Repairing the structural system by augmenting or upgrading individual parts or features. For example, weakened structural members such as floor framing can be paired with a new member, braced, or otherwise supplemented and reinforced.

Before interior rehabilitation began, structural stabilization of the historic masonry walls was undertaken through a series of exterior braces. Photo: NPS files.

Not Recommended
Upgrading the building structurally in a manner that diminishes the historic character of the exterior, such as installing strapping channels or removing a decorative cornice; or damages interior features or spaces.

Replacing a structural member or other feature of the structural system when it could be augmented and retained.


Replacing in kind--or with substitute material--those portions or features of the structural system that are either extensively deteriorated or are missing when there are surviving prototypes such as cast iron columns, roof rafters or trusses, or sections of loadbearing walls. Substitute material should convey the same form, design, and overall visual appearance as the historic feature; and, at a minimum, be equal to its loadbearing capabilities.

Not Recommended
Installing a visible replacement feature that does not convey the same visual appearance, e.g., replacing an exposed wood summer beam with a steel beam.

Using substitute material that does not equal the loadbearing capabilities of the historic material and design or is otherwise physically or chemically incompatible.

The following work is highlighted to indicate that it represents the particularly complex technical or design aspects of Rehabilitation projects and should only be considered after the preservation concerns listed above have been addressed.

Alterations/Additions for the New Use

Limiting any new excavations adjacent to historic foundations to avoid undermining the structural stability of the building or adjacent historic buildings. Studies should be done to ascertain potential damage to archeological resources.

Correcting structural deficiencies in preparation for the new use in a manner that preserves the structural system and individual character-defining features.

In the example shown here, a rehabilitation project took into account--and respected--the unique industrial structural character of a mill building in its conversion to retail shops. In fact, the exposed structure is an attractive component of the new interior design. If these visible posts had been altered or hidden, the existing industrial character would have been lost. Photos: NPS files.


Designing and installing new mechanical or electrical systems when required for the new use which minimize the number of cutouts or holes in structural members.

Adding a new floor when required for the new use if such an alteration does not damage or destroy the structural system or obscure, damage, or destroy character-defining spaces, features, or finishes.

Creating an atrium or a light well to provide natural light when required for the new use in a manner that assures the preservation of the structural system as well as character-defining interior spaces, features, and finishes.

Not Recommended
Carrying out excavations or regrading adjacent to or within a historic building which could cause the historic foundation to settle, shift, or fail; could have a similar effect on adjacent historic buildings; or could destroy significant archeological resources.

Radically changing interior spaces or damaging or destroying features or finishes that are character-defining while trying to correct structural deficiencies in preparation for the new use.

Installing new mechanical and electrical systems or equipment in a manner which results in numerous cuts, splices, or alterations to the structural members.

Inserting a new floor when such a radical change damages a structural system or obscures or destroys interior spaces, features, or finishes.

Inserting new floors or furred-down ceilings which cut across the glazed areas of windows so that the exterior form and appearance of the windows are radically changed.

Damaging the structural system or individual features; or radically changing, damaging, or destroying character-defining interior spaces, features, or finishes in order to create an atrium or a light well.


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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