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Historic Preservation Architecture Techniques

March 2, 2023

There are several historic preservation architecture techniques that architects can use to help protect historical buildings. These techniques include conservation, restoration, reconstruction, and adaptive reuse.

Using these methods helps preserve historic buildings and saves money in the long run. In addition, they conserve resources and reduce pollution.


Using a conservation approach to the design of buildings and landscapes is a fundamental practice in historic preservation. Often used in conjunction with rehabilitation, conservation emphasizes the preservation of historic features, materials, elements and spatial relationships that convey historical, cultural, and architectural values.

The use of conservation techniques in the design of historic properties is governed by federal and state laws and guidelines. Architects must be familiar with these regulations and ensure that they are followed in any design project.

Conservation includes both preventive and reactive measures. Preventive conservation involves preventing problems before they can become major issues. This can include addressing existing conditions, such as erosion or rusting, and implementing new protective methods.

It also involves restoring an artifact, archaeological, or ethnographic item that has been damaged or decayed. This can be accomplished by using similar techniques as in restoration and also through the study of the items deterioration to determine what is causing it.

This practice aims to preserve an item’s integrity as a cultural icon for future generations. It also uses conservation science to understand how the object was put together and what can be done to extend its lifespan for future generations.

These techniques are applied to the art and architecture of different cultures. This can include the preservation of old castles, monuments and palaces from a particular culture.

An example of this is the UNESCO World Heritage List which lists sites of great value to the world. It is important to protect these places because they represent an essential part of the culture that made us what we are today.

There are also a number of organizations dedicated to preservation. They may be government-run or charitable. They can be in the form of museums, parks, monuments or other areas of interest.

One organization that takes an active role in promoting historic preservation is the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT). NCPTT advances the application of science and technology to historic preservation through training, education, research, technology transfer and partnerships.

The NCPTT also provides assistance to communities and individuals interested in the practice of preservation. This can include information on zoning laws that protect historic sites, preservation-friendly design alternatives for renovations, and the role of public policy in preservation projects.


A restoration is the process of putting something back to its former state or condition, usually by restoring it to its original appearance. This can be done for a building that has been damaged, or for the restoration of an item like a fossil animal or a model.

The word “restoration” is derived from the British slang term for a king who had been kicked off his throne only to be restored to it. It can also be used to describe a reconstruction of a building or a model of the landscape of a former geological age.

Historic preservation architecture techniques are often used in an effort to save a building that has been destroyed, or in an effort to preserve an area because of its historical significance or in an effort to attract visitors and residents to the area. It can also be done to reduce the environmental impact of a construction project, as reusing historic buildings rather than replacing them reduces waste and conserves resources.

Restoration is one of the most common and important of the historic preservation architecture techniques. It is usually applied for buildings that are of special importance, such as churches or military bases, and may be necessary to return a building to its appearance at a certain period of time.

When it comes to restoration, there are a few things that need to be kept in mind, as stated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

STANDARD 5 - Distinctive materials, features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship will be preserved where possible. These items should closely match their historic counterparts in design, color, texture and, where possible, material.

STAANDARD 6 - Deteriorated historic features will be repaired instead of replaced when the deterioration is extensive and replacement necessary, using new construction that matches the original in style, color, and materials. This is an especially critical consideration when considering the use of materials that are not historically associated with a property.

When it comes to restoration, there are countless factors that can affect the success of a project. For example, the climate can have an effect on the materials used to construct a structure or the location of a site can make it difficult to repair a damaged historic building. Having these concerns in mind is important for the success of a project, and should be given special attention during the design stage.


Reconstruction is the term used to describe the period in United States history that spanned from 1865 until 1877, during which time attempts were made to redress the political, social and economic legacy of slavery. This was a time of great political turmoil and violence, but it also resulted in the establishment of many important new institutions and programs.

One of the most important achievements during this period was the re-establishment of African American voting rights and representation in local, state and national governments. The Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution granted African Americans the right to vote, and in most Southern states a large number of Blacks were elected to both local and state government positions.

The success of this movement was largely due to the efforts of freedmen, who formed a strong political and economic force in the South. They fought for the removal of racial segregation, the extension of free education and health care, the strengthening of plantation labourers’ bargaining power and the development of ambitious economic development programs.

However, while these accomplishments were significant, they ultimately failed to establish the basis for a new racial system in the South. Rather than creating a "New South" where Blacks and Whites could work together, the political leadership of Reconstruction created a rigid racial caste system that disenfranchised most Blacks, and relegated them to low-wage agricultural and domestic employment.

While this new racial system was effective at the time, it became a legal and political impediment to Black progress in the years following Reconstruction. By the mid-20th century, most Blacks had been disenfranchised and denied access to voting in Southern states until the 1960s.

Several Northern historians and politicians saw the beginning of Reconstruction as an opportunity for Whites to re-establish a system of white supremacy in the South. Others viewed Reconstruction as a failed experiment in interracial democracy, and some even saw it as an attempt to fast-track slavery back into the South.

Historic preservation architecture techniques are designed to help preserve the character of historic buildings and landscapes. This includes identifying the appropriate treatment for a property at project initiation, and then working with that property to maintain or restore its historic integrity. The most successful approach is to avoid demolition of any significant historic features or the alteration of original architectural fabric.


The preservation of historic structures can be a daunting task. A building is often a community's most prized asset and its preservation may serve a variety of purposes, from increasing tourism to creating more beautiful neighborhoods.

In many cases, it's possible to mobilize public opinion and change the course of a project when an alteration threatens a historic structure. Officials might enact new regulations or policy, citizens might take to social media to protest, or a developer might be convinced to agree to a preservation plan in exchange for monetary compensation.

It's important to identify and document the historic features of a property before any work is done. These can include distinctive materials, craftsmanship, unique construction techniques, and examples of ornate design and detailing.

This can be accomplished by conducting site evaluations, examining the building’s documentation and acoustics, or by utilizing a combination of these methods. The resulting treatment plan should be designed to preserve, protect, and restore the unique character-defining characteristics of a building or landscape while accommodating its intended function.

Another Historic preservation architecture technique involves the replacement of missing elements that are substantiated through documentary and physical evidence. A missing front porch, for instance, may be rebuilt if a sufficient amount of historical documentation exists.

Other examples of alteration include a building's original architectural fabric, which can be replaced with new materials and construction techniques to provide an updated design while retaining its integrity. It is also possible to replace a building’s exterior, such as by adding a new roof or siding.

Standard 9 and 10 link these two Historic preservation architecture techniques by recommending that additions and alterations be compatible with the existing historic conditions of a building. The goal is to minimize damage to the historic material, as well as ensure that the additions and alterations are reversible.

The concepts of significance, integrity, and authenticity are central to the preservation of historic resources. These concepts encourage the preservation of the most significant aspects of a building's history and help inspire creative and compatible design solutions for new construction.


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