The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties: Preservation as a Treatment and Standards for Preservation

Preservation as a Treatment

Preservation is defined as the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property. Work, including preliminary measures to protect and stabilize the property, generally focuses upon the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction. New exterior additions are not within the scope of this treatment; however, the limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a preservation project.

Standards for Preservation 

  1. A property will be used as it was historically, or be given a new use that maximizes the retention of distinctive materials, features, spaces and spatial relationships. Where a treatment and use have not been identified, a property will be protected and, if necessary, stabilized until additional work may be undertaken. 
  2. The historic character of a property will be retained and preserved. The replacement of intact or repairable historic materials or alteration of features, spaces and spatial relationships that characterize a property will be avoided. 
  3. Each property will be recognized as a physical record of its time, place and use. Work needed to stabilize, consolidate and conserve existing historic materials and features will be physically and visually compatible, identifiable upon close inspection and properly documented for future research. 
  4. Changes to a property that have acquired historic significance in their own right will be retained and preserved. 
  5. Distinctive materials, features, finishes and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved. 
  6. The existing condition of historic features will be evaluated to determine the appropriate level of intervention needed. Where the severity of deterioration requires repair or limited replacement of a distinctive feature, the new material will match the old in composition, design, color and texture. 
  7. Chemical or physical treatments, if appropriate, will be undertaken using the gentlest means possible. Treatments that cause damage to historic materials will not be used. 
  8. Archeological resources will be protected and preserved in place. If such resources must be disturbed, mitigation measures will be undertaken. 

The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring & Reconstructing Historic Buildings

Choosing Preservation as a Treatment

Preservation is the appropriate treatment when the objective of the project is to retain the building as it currently exists. This means that not only the original historic materials and features will be preserved, but also later changes and additions to the original building. The expressed goal of the Standards for Preservation and Guidelines for Preserving Historic Buildings is retention of the building’s existing form, features, and materials. This may be as simple as maintaining existing materials and features or may involve more extensive repair. Protection, maintenance, and repair are emphasized while replacement is minimized.

When the property’s distinctive materials, features, and spaces are essentially intact and thus convey the historic significance without extensive repair or replacement; when depiction at a particular period of time is not appropriate; and when a continuing or new use does not require additions or extensive alterations, Preservation may be considered as a treatment. Prior to undertaking work, a documentation plan for Preservation should be developed.

The Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties illustrate the practical application of the Standards for Preservation to historic properties.

History of the Standards

Read a History of The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for Preserving, Rehabilitating, Restoring & Reconstructing Historic Buildings.

Last updated: June 20, 2023