The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation – What They Mean and What They Really Mean

This is Part 2 of a two-part article series that will appearing in the September 2010 issue of “Licensed Architect,” published in print and online by the Association of Licensed Architects. Access Part 1 online here. The following article is for informational purposes only and should not be constructed as legal or business advice – architects should seek their own counsel when undertaking any of the serves discussed in this article.


Central to any project’s approval for Historic Rehab Incentives is its compliance with The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation (the “Standards”), which are published by the National Park Service (NPS) as a set of guiding concepts to ensure that properties retain their essential historic character during rehabilitation. While complying with the Standards can mean qualifying for incentives, failing to comply almost always means denial. In addition to denied Historic Rehab Incentives, locally landmarked projects that fail to meet the Standards may also fail to obtain permit approval from local historic preservation commissions.

But despite the importance of a historic rehab project’s compliance with the Standards, and, despite some of the Standard’s interpretations having become a little calcified over the decades, they most definitely aren’t carved in stone. The Standards are not prescriptive specifications; they’re performance guidelines that require interpretation on a case-by-case basis.

Click here for entire article (Part II)Gary L. Cole AIA, ALA, Esq. is Chicago-based Illinois and Florida-licensed architect and attorney and an expert in historic rehabilitation, preservation law and development financial incentives. He was a Historical Architect for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, a Visiting Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois Graduate School of Architecture and, as an attorney, has represented clients in preservation-related matters in Chicago, South Florida and Washington, D.C. He has worked for two of Chicago’s largest law firms and was in-house counsel for one of the Southeast’s largest retail developers. He practices construction, real estate, preservation and accessibility law and is a Certified Mediator and a member of the Roster of Neutrals for the American Arbitration Association. He publishes timely articles on a wide range of subjects at www.lawarkbuilding.com.

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