The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and accompanying guidelines are common-sense historic preservation principles in non-technical language. The Standards and Guidelines can be applied to historic properties of all types, materials, construction, sizes, and use. They include both the exterior and the interior and extend to a property’s landscape features, site, environment, as well as related new construction.

  • Standards are a series of concepts about maintaining, repairing, and replacing historic materials, as well as designing new additions or making alterations. The Standards offer four distinct approaches to the treatment of historic properties—preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction – with Guidelines for each. They are regulatory for all grant-in-aid projects assisted through the National Historic Preservation Fund. The Standard for Rehabilitation (link: of special interest because it is used for the review done as part of the Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program.
  • Guidelines offer general design and technical recommendations to assist in applying the Standards to a specific property. Together, they provide a framework and guidance for decision-making about work or changes to a historic property. They are advisory, not regulatory.

Federal agencies use the Standards and Guidelines in carrying out their historic preservation responsibilities. State and local officials use them in reviewing both Federal and nonfederal rehabilitation proposals. Historic district and planning commissions across the country use the Standards and Guidelines to guide their design review processes.

The four approaches to the treatment of historic properties are:

  1. Preservation focuses on the maintenance and repair of existing historic materials and retention of a property’s form as it has evolved over time.
  2. Rehabilitation acknowledges the need to alter or add to a historic property to meet continuing or changing uses while retaining the property’s historic character.
  3. Restoration depicts a property at a particular period of time in its history, while removing evidence of other periods.
  4. Reconstruction re-creates vanished or non-surviving portions of a property for interpretive purposes.