The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

Under CPA, all work on historic resources must comply with the Standards for Rehabilitation as outlined in the United States Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties (the Standards). This regulation is outlined in the definition of rehabilitation at the beginning of the CPA legislation, which says:

...with respect to historic resources, "rehabilitation" shall comply with the Standards for Rehabilitation stated in the United States Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties codified in 36 C.F.R. Part 68.

What are the Standards?
The U.S. Department of the Interior's website calls the Secretary of the Interior's Standards "common sense principles in non-technical language [that] were developed to help protect our nation's irreplaceable cultural resources by promoting consistent preservation practices." The Standards may be applied to all types of historic resources, including buildings, sites, structures, objects, and districts.

The Department of the Interior's website explains that the Standards themselves are not used to make important decisions about which features or portions of a historic resource should be saved and which might be changed. Once these decisions have been made, however, the Standards -- a series of concepts about maintaining, repairing, and replacing historic materials, as well as about designing new additions or making alterations -- can provide consistency and a unifying framework for the work.

Download a copy of the Standards.

What does this mean for CPA projects?

CPA communities use a variety of methods to ensure that CPA historic projects follow the Standards. In some communities, a specific town board oversees this process, such as the Historic Commission, Historic District Commission, or the Community Preservation Committee. In other communities, outside experts are used such as the architect for the project, or an historic preservation consultant. Often, the party charged with this work is specifically identified in the warrant article approving the project.

The important thing for CPCs to remember is this: CPA grant awards for rehabilitation work on historic resources should clearly stipulate use of these Standards as a requirement of receiving the grant. This is true whether the work is being done on municipally owned assets, such as a town building, or if the grant is being given to a non-municipal organization. If everything is set out clearly in advance in the grant award, then there is less chance of something going wrong later when the project is underway.

In evalutating applications for rehabilitation of an historic building, the CPC should ensure that there is sufficient detail on how the work will be completed.  The plan for each historic element in the building (windows, siding, roof, heating and cooling, flooring, interior layout, etc) should be examined at the application stage to make sure that the guidelines are being followed and there is adequate funding to do the work properly.  The Department of the Interior has a series of 48 Preservaton Briefs available online or in printed form that outline the guidelines for each element of an historic building.  These briefs should be carefully consulted during the application process and attempts to save money by not following proper standards should not be given a CPC recommendation.

Further Resources . . .

>> The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings. (These are the first set of official guidelines on how to make changes to improve energy efficiency and preserve the character of historic buildings)

>> The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Weatherization Guide for Older and Historic Buildings

>> The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Historic Windows Resource Guide