Architect's Checklist For Rehabilitating Historic Structures

Procedure code:
Architectural Graphics Standards, 8Th Ed., Credit To Nps
General Requirements
Special Project Procedures
Last Modified:


This standard was adapted from a checklist developed by the
National Park Service and printed in Ramsey/Sleeper's Architectural
Graphic Standards.


The following checklist is intended for use in identifying some
preservation factors to consider when undertaking the
rehabilitation of historic buildings.  Not all of the factors
listed will be applicable to all structures or preservation




    a.   Is the building a local landmark or located in a locally
         designated historic district?

         Yes       No

    b.   Is it in a historic district that is listed in the
         National Register of Historic Places?  Does it contribute
         to the historic significance of that district?

         Yes       No

    c.   Is it individually listed in the National Register of
         Historic Places?

         Yes       No

    d.   What historical or architectural documentation is
         available about the building(s) or site?  For example:

         -    National Register nominations

         -    Architectural or engineering drawings for
              construction of survey such as Historic American
              Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering
              Record (HABS/HAER)

         -    State or local historical survey or inventory

         -    Local documents, views, photographs in libraries,
              archives, historical societies


    a.   Are there easements or local ordinances governing
         alterations to property (deed records, zoning offices)?

         Yes       No

    b.   How do the state and local building codes apply to the
         historic structure?  

         -    What impact will they have upon the character and
              integrity of the building?  

         -    Are code variances available?  

              Yes       No

         -    Are there code equivalency possibilities for your
              particular building?

              Yes       No

    c.   Will there be federal funds involved in the project which
         will require review by the State Historic Preservation
         Office or a Section 106 compliance consultation with the
         Advisory Council on Historic Preservation?

         Yes       No

         -    Are you familiar with the Secretary of the
              Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and
              Guidelines for rehabilitating historic buildings?

              Yes       No

         -    Have you contacted the State Historic Preservation

              Yes       No


    a.   Have you identified, listed, and prioritized the
         character defining aspects of the building?  These may
         include its form, materials, workmanship, features,
         color, relationship of solids to voids, and interior
         spaces--all those physical features or tangible aspects
         of the building that define its historic character.

         Yes       No

         NOTE:  Some original features may not be important
         contributors to the historic character, while some later
         features may be all important.  For example, a brick
         building may have been painted at a later date and its
         painted appearance may be an important aspect of its
         historic character.

    b.   What have been the architectural changes over time?
         These may include:

         -    new additions

         -    changes to surfaces and finishes (slates to
              asphalt, polychrome to monochrome)

         -    blocking of windows

         -    changes to grade

         -    loss of cornice

         -    false fronts

         -    changes to basic plan (single family to multiple

    c.   Are any of the changes significant and worth preserving
         or do they detract from the building?

         Yes       No

    d.   Has the architectural integrity of the building and its
         setting been assessed?  Architectural integrity means the
         intactness of the building as an architectural system
         (its plan, features, materials, finishes, structural
         system, and the presence of architectural features).

         Yes       No


    a.   Are there physical problems that threaten the building's
         architectural and structural integrity?

         Yes       No

    b.   Has a structural survey been performed to determine
         deficiencies due to settlement, deflection of beams,
         seismic inadequacy, and cuts through structural members
         for mechanical pipes and ducts?

         Yes       No

    c.   Are there inherent architectural problems, such as
         materials failure due to poor original design, poor
         original materials, severe environmental or moisture
         problems, neglect, improper maintenance, etc.?

         Yes       No

    d.   Is there man-inflicted damage, such as ornamentation
         removed, inappropriate coatings, bad repointing or
         cleaning, insensitive additions, or partitioning of
         significant interior spaces?

         Yes       No

    e.   Are historic features hidden behind later alterations?
         These may include ornamental ceilings or cornices hidden
         above dropped ceilings.

         Yes       No


    a.   Will it be necessary to write unique specifications
         rather than use standard specifications to apply to work
         performed on a historic building?

         Yes       No

    b.   Will testing be needed to determine the performance of
         the materials or the systems?  Note that it may be
         necessary to review test results with consultants or

         Yes       No

    c.   Will the project involve hard-to-find replacement
         materials such as terra-cotta or ornamental metals that
         may require logistical planning?

         Yes       No

    d.   Will the project involve hard-to-find crafts such as
         stone carving or ornamental plastering, and if so, can
         the necessary expertise be found?

         Yes       No

    e.   Are samples or models available for use in establishing
         the standard of craftsmanship for the project?

         Yes       No

    f.   Will the project involve energy conservation measures?

         Yes       No

    g.   Have historic materials and finishes been retained to the
         maximum extent possible?

         Yes       No

    h.   Will new uses require upgrading the loading capacity of
         wooden floor joists?  Will the preservation objectives
         affect the decision making?  For instance, it is better
         to double up existing joists with a parallel member than
         to remove historic materials, and if an ornamental
         ceiling would be damaged by this approach, a structural
         engineer should investigate other alternatives.

         Yes       No

    i.   Has the impact of new additions and adjacent new
         construction been minimized by keeping the size, shape,
         materials, and detailing in scale with the surrounding

         Yes       No

    j.   What protective measures will be taken to preserve
         important character-defining features and finishes during
                   the construction work?

    k.   On the exterior, will the rehabilitation work cause loss
         of significant historic fabric or seriously damage the
         historic character?  

         Yes       No

         Loss of historic fabric or change of historic character
         often occur when:

         -    storefronts and entrances are altered

         -    visible skylights are added to a roof

         -    dormers are added on prominent roofs

         -    new floors are added on top of an existing building

         -    porches are enclosed

         -    new window openings are created

         -    tinted films or reflective coatings are added to

         -    new window sash are historically inappropriate as
              to configuration and detailing.

    l.   On the interior, will the rehabilitation cause loss of
         significant historic fabric or seriously damage the
         historic character?

         Yes       No

         Loss of fabric or change of character often occur when:

         -    interiors are partitioned and there is a loss of
              significant sequence of spaces

         -    interior plaster is removed to expose brickwork

         -    interiors are gutted, as might occur to introduce
              new atriums, new floor levels, or to reconfigure

         -    significant stairs are removed or altered.

    m.   Will there be a professional on site during construction
         to ensure that work is carried out according to
         established preservation principles?

         Yes       No

    n.   Have construction personnel received adequate training in
         undertaking historic preservation work?

         Yes       No


This information was originally prepared (as it appeared in
Architectural Graphic Standards) by the following staff of the
Preservation Assistance Division National Park Service:  Lee H.
Nelson, FAIA, H. Ward Jandl, Michael J. Auer, Charles E. Fisher,
Anne Grimmer, Camille Martone, Sharon C. Park, AIA, and Kay D.

                         END OF SECTION
Last Reviewed 2012-02-24