Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes

Special Requirements


Preservation Planning

Factors to Consider

Special Requirements

Using the Standards + Guidelines

Organization of the Guidelines




Work that must be done to meet accessibility, health and safety, environmental protection or energy efficiency needs is usually not part of the overall process of protecting cultural landscapes; rather this work is assessed for its potential impact on the cultural landscape.

Accessibility Considerations.
It is often necessary to make modifications to cultural landscapes so that they will be in compliance with current accessibility code requirements. Accessibility to certain cultural landscapes is required by three specific Federal laws: the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Federal rules, regulations and standards have been developed which provide guidance on how to accomplish access to historic areas for people with disabilities. Work must be carefully planned and undertaken so that it does not result in the loss of character-defining features. The goal is to provide the highest level of access with the lowest level of impact on the integrity of the landscape.

Health and Safety Considerations.
In undertaking work on cultural landscapes, it is necessary to consider the impact that meeting current health and safety codes (for example, public health, life safety, fire safety, electrical, seismic, structural, and building codes) will have on character-defining features. For example, upgrading utility service, storm or sewer drainage systems requires trenching which can disturb soils, plants and archeological resources. Special coordination with the responsible code officials at the state, county, or municipal level may be required. Securing required permits and licenses is best accomplished early in project planning work. 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.

Environmental Protection Requirements.
Many cultural landscapes are affected by requirements that address environmental issues. Legislation at the federal, state and municipal level have established rules and regulations for dealing with a variety of natural resources -- including water, air, soil and wildlife. Work predicated on such legislation must be carefully planned and undertaken so that it does not result in the loss of a landscape’s character-defining features. Securing required permits and licenses should be considered early in project work, and special efforts should be made to coordinate with public agencies responsible for overseeing specific environmental concerns.

Energy Efficiency.
Some features of a cultural landscape, such as buildings, structures, vegetation and furnishings, can play an energy-conserving role. Therefore, prior to undertaking project work to achieve greater energy efficiency, the first step should always be to identify and evaluate existing historic features to assess their inherent energy conserving potential. If it is determined that such work is appropriate, then it needs to be carried out with particular care to insure that the landscape’s historic character is retained.


These unique historic lightposts at a small park in Sausalito, California, have been preserved. An integral part of the project work included a code-required upgrade and improvement of the fixtures for energy efficiency. (NPS, 1993)