Facade Additions

Additions to historic buildings are required, by the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, to be sympathetic to and compatible with the existing building. Standard #9 is written as such:

New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property. The new work shall be differentiated from the old and will be compatible with the historic materials, features, size, scale and proportion, and massing to protect the integrity of the property and its environment.

Standard #10 is written as such:

New additions and adjacent or related new construction will be undertaken in a such a manner that, if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired.

With proper consideration and consultation, a good addition is usually possible. However, sometimes, you’ll come across a building that completely violates all forms and any thoughts of a good addition. Often, this will be an addition on the facade (the front of a building). Sometimes you won’t even realize that there is another building behind it. Take these examples:

Barre Street in Montpelier, VT.

Barre Street in Montpelier, VT. There is an Italianate building behind that storefront addition.

Main Street in Montpelier, VT.

Main Street in Montpelier, VT. There is a small house behind that long front addition.

What do you think? Are facade additions ever appropriate? Considering how much of survey & determination of eligibility is based on the appearance of the street facade, it’s hard to imagine a good facade addition.

Surveys For Those of Us With Opinions

Who is opinionated? Most of us, right? Well good, because there are a few surveys around the internet that need some well-reasoned, fairly opinionated preservationists (and others) on the case.

First, how important are trails to communities? Do you think they’re great? Spotsylvania County, VA is currently running a survey to find out what people would like to see in the area. For those of you familiar with Spotsylvania County (Mary Wash grads!) take one minute to fill out the survey and help Spotsy create a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists. For the survey, click here.  (You do not have to live in Spotsylvania County — just be familiar with it — the quiz asks for your location, but can otherwise be anonymous.) Thanks to Andrew Deci for sending the survey.

Second, preservationists and those familiar with the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation, you are aware that preservation + sustainability are natural friends, but we haven’t quite figured out how to meld them into guidelines that aren’t so incredibly case-by-case or trial and error.  Do you have ideas and thoughts as to how the guidelines should or should not incorporate sustainability? This is the perfect survey for you. Sent from Andrew Deci via Megan J. Brown at the Historic Preservation Grants Division at the National Park Service:

As the custodian of the Secretary’s Standards and of the Guidelines for interpreting them, the National Park Service is beginning the process of expanding the Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings in order to address questions raised by the current emphasis on sustainability. Before we begin to draft any expanded Guidelines, it is critically important that we hear from those who rely on the Standards and Guidelines to preserve  their local communities. We need to know what general concerns you have, and we need to know of specific issues you have encountered where historic preservation values and sustainability were or appeared to be at odds with each other.  In all of the current discussions concerning historic buildings and sustainability, an important component is the relationship between the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and the various recommended building treatments designed to attain more sustainable communities and energy efficient buildings. While there is a growing body of information on how to undertake these alterations, there is not yet a set of official guidelines on how to make such changes in ways that appropriately maintain the character of historic properties.  Please take a few minutes to complete this online survey before June 1. The survey will no longer be available after that time.

To take the survey click here.

Thanks everyone!

Community Restoration and Revitalization Act

The Community Restoration and Revitalization Act has been all over the preservation blogs and news lately, but it’s such an important issue that it can stand to be discussed in as many places as possible. Many people have at least heard of tax credits (20%) for restoring a historic building. The fine print is that the building is a “certified” (i.e. significant) historic and it must be an incoming producing building and in compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. In other words, no one can restore their own home and receive tax credits.

However, this Community Revitalization and Restoration Act consists of eight proposed amendments to the Federal Tax rehabilitation Tax Credit could change all of that. These proposed amendments would encourage greater use and rehabilitation of historic buildings by qualifying owner occupied residences (rather than just downtown rentals), allow for tax credits for energy efficiency, allow for an increased credit for smaller rehabilitation projects (re: size and cost), specify that tax credits are not federal income, among other aspects. The abbreviated list, from the National Trust, is this:

1. Increase the federal historic tax credit from 20% to 30% for “small projects” with $5 million or less in qualified rehabilitation expenditures.

2. Permit the 10% non-historic credit for older buildings to be used for rehabilitating residential rental property.

3. Use the common definition of an older building as one that is at least 50 years old in determining eligibility for the 10% non-historic rehabilitation credit.

4. Allow for certain leasing arrangements with non-profits and other tax-exempt entities that are now precluded.

5. Encourage building owners who are rehabilitating historic buildings to achieve substantial energy savings and allow graduated increases in the credit based on the scale of energy efficiencies achieved.

6. Allow for the transfer of historic tax credits to another taxpayer for projects under $5 million in qualified rehabilitation costs.

7. Allow for moderate rehabilitation by reducing by half the substantial rehabilitation requirements.

8. Specify that state historic tax credits should not be considered federal income for tax purposes.

source: PreservationNation

For the entire list explained, check out he National Trust blog post.  Or read this document from the National Trust in which the eight amendments are explained a bit more in depth (it’s only three pages, don’t panic).

And once you’ve read all about it, encourage your local representatives to support this amendment. The National Trust also has a page where you can look up who is supporting it so far and the Trust has a letter example that you can personalize and email to your representatives. Also, you can send a thank you letter.

Those of us who dream of restoring our own home someday, this will be incredibly beneficial to us. Really anyone who works with historic buildings serves to gain something from these proposals.