Historic Preservation: Part 2

If you read our previous blog regarding the benefits of historic preservation, you understand how important it can be to maintain a historical property. Not only are there cultural benefits, but there are also economic and sustainability benefits to restoring or rehabbing a property. To ensure the success of a preservation project, it’s critical to follow certain requirements to meet project goals and design standards. Historic preservation projects must be both economically viable and preservation-sensitive, and therefore requires close collaboration between preservationists and design disciplines. For the successful execution of a preservation project, teams should follow the general outline below.

Initial Project Planning Stage

In the first stage of historic preservation a property must be declared historic by the local, state, or federal government. The designation of a property as historic recognizes its architectural, historic, and community value. Oftentimes designating agencies require certain age qualifications, architectural merit, historic significance, character, and integrity of design to determine a property’s historic value. The National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service often designates properties, however they can also be designated on an individual basis. Other requirements during this designation stage include:

  • Conducting investigation and research of the property
  • Understanding the history of a property
  • Determining the regulation guidelines and standards surrounding the property
  • Identifying the property’s character-defining features

Planning Stage

Assembling an experienced and qualified project team is critical to the success of any preservation project. Professionals should have experience with preservation projects and a clear understanding of the unique requirements of historic preservation. The team will then create the individual preservation management and master plans. A planning document which outlines the significance of a historical building, determining characteristics, preservation priorities, and how to treat the building is extremely important. These plans should also include the planning of suitable spaces for the program needs.

Design Development Stage

A critical aspect of any preservation project is to keep the changes at a minimum. The design team must aim to ensure that changes to the property contribute to the property’s character, rather than detract from it. Therefore, this stage requires the careful crafting of the design to minimize changes to the property. Choosing a qualified contractor who understands the project goals is critical to the success of a preservation project.

Construction Stage

During construction, it’s important to protect the property from damage during the construction process. Temporary protection of the site or certain features should be included in the project plans. This can include fire-prevention systems and additional property supervision. It’s important to educate both the community and construction teams about the significance of the project. Informed teams are more likely to treat the property with the care it requires. It helps to create a building maintenance manual for use by the tenants and building staff. This document should provide operational guidelines, information about maintaining the property, and other resources for properly caring for the property.

Occupancy Stage and Operational Guidelines

The tenets of a historical property must understand what they can and cannot do prior to leasing the property. Establishing a leasing agreement helps to protect the property from improper use and damage. This stage should also include the creation of a special event policy and individual management plan.

Divestiture

During this stage it’s critical to discuss a property’s long-term useful life and life-cycle costing. Divestiture is the use of any authorized method to permanently remove a property asset from an organization’s inventory. Divesting of a property will be considered either by disposal, deconstruction, or demolition. Whenever a historical property is destroyed it must be highly regulated, documented, and controlled by a governing body.

One can clearly see that the renovation and construction of a historical property is a unique and carefully monitored process. It requires collaboration from several groups and the community as a whole to be successful. As your Melbourne commercial contractors, we’re experienced in historic building rehabilitation and understand the special attention that these properties and projects require. Historic preservation is a unique process that’s important to the history and culture of our communities. The proper execution of these projects requires a team that’s experienced and sensitive to the project’s goals. To learn more about the preservation process, contact the engineering and construction professionals at MEC.

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