Structural Systems
Mechanical Systems


New Additions

Enclosure that preserves decorative staircase and also meets safety code.

In undertaking rehabilitation work on historic buildings, it is necessary to consider the impact that meeting current health and safety codes (public health, occupational health, life safety, fire safety, electrical, structural and building codes) will have on character-defining spaces, features, and finishes.

Special coordination with the responsible code officials at the state, county or municipal level may be required. Securing required building permits and occupancy licenses is best accomplished early in work project planning. It is often necessary to look beyond the "letter" of code requirements to their underlying purpose; most modern codes allow for alternative approaches and reasonable variance to achieve compliance.

Some historic building materials (insulation, lead paint, etc.) contain toxic substances that are potentially hazardous to building occupants. Following careful investigation and analysis, some form of abatement may be required. All workers involved in the encapsulation, repair, or removal of known toxic materials should be adequately trained and should wear proper personal protective gear. Finally, preventive and routine maintenance programs for historic structures known to contain such materials should also be developed to include proper warnings and precautions.

Note: Although the work in this section is quite often an important aspect of rehabilitation projects, it is usually not part of the overall process of preserving character-defining features (identify, protect, repair, replace); 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 to meet health and safety code requirements.



....Health & Safety

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Identify, retain and preserve

Small, compatible stairtower on rear elevation.

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.

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.

Worker using poultice to remove lead paint safely.

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.

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.

Large incompatible stairtower on highly visible elevation. Photo: Martha L. Werenfels, AIA.

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.


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