How do I properly conserve or alter a registered heritage property?
Conceived as a best practice guide, the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada provides detailed and helpful advice in regards to the protection and preservation of buildings, engineering works, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites.
A functional planning tool, the Standards and Guidelines outline clear options for conservation work which maintain the heritage value and allow for the continued appreciation of historic sites.
It should be noted that the Standards and Guidelines document does not serve as technical manual and therefore, the advice of experienced professionals is required in order to make decisions pertaining to specific building materials and methods.
It is important to read the introductory sections of the document to become familiar with its approach and key concepts.
The Standards and Guidelines employ the following steps:
- Planning and Using
The purpose of conservation is to maintain a property’s the heritage value through its character-defining elements. This can only be accomplished if there is an established understanding of the site, both in terms of its physical structure and its historical significance. Before any conservation work can be planned or implements on a property, a resource must be created that fully details a property’s heritage value and documented character-defining elements.
Planning and Using
Once understanding of a historic property has been achieved, planning for conservation work can commence. The first step in this process is to identify the intended use of the property. Given the wide variety of buildings, sites and structures that qualify as historic properties, it is only natural that the variety of uses at such properties is also very broad. However, for the purpose of conservation planning, the term "use" relates to the following:
- The place will continue to be used in the same manner it currently is.
- The place requires interventions in order to allow an enhanced form of the current use or to accommodate a compatible new use.
- The place will be returned to a condition showing an earlier or original historic use.
The second step in this process is to identify the type of treatment the property requires. “Treatment" relates to different conservation approaches and in respect to planning, is easily determined as it is wholly dependent on the heritage value and the manner in which the property will be used. The following are the three types of treatments:
Preservation is the action or process of protecting, maintaining, and/or stabilizing the existing materials, form, and integrity of a historic place or of an individual component, while protecting its heritage value. (The place will continue to be used in the same manner it currently is.)
Rehabilitation is the action or process of making possible a continuing or compatible contemporary use of a historic place or an individual component, through repair, alterations and/or additions, while protecting its heritage value. (The place requires alterations in order to allow an enhanced form of the current use or to accommodate a compatible new use.)
Restoration is the action or process of accurately revealing, recovering or representing the state of a historic place or of an individual component, as it appeared at a particular period in its history, while protecting its heritage value. (The place will be returned to a condition showing an earlier or original historic use.)
In some cases, different treatments may be used for different parts of a property - for instance, a house might have its exterior Restored to the period of original construction while the interior is Rehabilitated a new use as professional offices. No matter what Treatment is selected or how many treatments one site undergoes, the first requirement is to protect the heritage value through the conservation of the identified character-defining elements.
Before embarking on any conservation work, the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada should be thoroughly consulted as it details the general boundaries for conservation work and though all standards may not apply, they must all first be considered. The Standards are set out in three sections:
Standards 1-9 are used for all projects and for Preservation.
Standards 10-12 are used in addition to 1-9 for Rehabilitation.
Standards 13-14 are used in addition to 1-9 for Restoration.
When reviewing the Guidelines, remember the following:
- The Guidelines give specific advice for conservation projects according to resource type: Archaeology, Buildings, Engineering Works, or Landscapes.
- The Guidelines for Buildings and Landscapes have separate sections for different parts of the historic place.
- The Guidelines used for all projects and for Preservation, which are found in sections 1-9, are considered general Guidelines and are applicable to Rehabilitation and Restoration as appropriate.
- Consult the Guidelines set out for your chosen Treatment and make your plan according to them.
Knowing the heritage value, character-defining elements, purpose of your work, and the Standards and Guidelines will allow you to choose materials and methods which best suit the conservation of your historic place. A key principle in all planning and work is Minimal Intervention. This means that selecting the approach which allows functional goals to be met with the least physical intervention. This is determined by:
- Consulting with appropriate professionals (architects, landscapers, engineers, archaeologists) as necessary.
- Document all stages of the Intervention.
- Before work commences
- During all stages of the process
- Once work is complete
- This can be done with photos, drawings, written descriptions or the combination which best records the intervention. Exact descriptions of materials used should be recorded (paints, types of plants, grade of metal elements, size of gravel).