WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) Chair Sara C. Bronin released her Report and Recommendations on the Application and Interpretation of Federal Historic Preservation Standards to the ACHP, pursuant to the agency’s statutory responsibility to review and recommend improvements to federal, state, and local historic preservation policies.

The report examines standards developed by the Department of the Interior addressing changes to historic properties, which are used in federal, state, and local regulatory processes that annually impact 120,000 federal agency actions, $8.8 billion in projects receiving the federal rehabilitation tax credit, and thousands of individual projects reviewed by local historic commissions. The report summarizes the development and prior analyses of these standards, reviews and appends 300 pages of recent public comment received, and makes recommendations on how to improve their application and interpretation to meet modern needs.

“Federal historic preservation standards, which govern virtually every aspect of preservation practice, determine whether and how we can rehabilitate our historic properties, and cumulatively, interpretations of these standards significantly impact our economy, environment, and society,” Chair Bronin said. “We, as preservationists, must work together to proactively ensure that these highly technical rules promote the conversion of vacant buildings to housing, the reuse of religious and institutional buildings, and the preparation of historic neighborhoods for climate change.”

The report focuses on three key areas, making suggestions for the consideration of the Department of the Interior, the ACHP, and others, including the following:

  • Economic Growth and Housing: Historic preservation can fuel economic growth through construction activity, housing creation, downtown and Main Street revitalization, and heritage tourism, among other things. The report suggests that federal historic preservation standards be applied and interpreted in ways to allow greater flexibility in changing floor plans, adding interior atria, reconfiguring large assembly spaces, and increasing new additions to stimulate economic growth, including on small town Main Streets, and increasing housing production. These recommendations are consistent with the ACHP’s 2023 Housing and Historic Preservation Policy Statement.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Historic resources, which are inherently environmentally sustainable, must integrate sustainable materials and approaches (including renewable energy) and be adapted to climate change. The report suggests that federal historic preservation standards be applied and interpreted to facilitate solar panel installation; energy-efficient, low-emissivity, and operable windows; and interior building insulation to mitigate the impacts of climate change. It also suggests that the Department of the Interior consider rulemaking to add up to five new, official Standards to lay out how historic places can be adapted to climate change-related threats. These recommendations are consistent with the ACHP’s 2023 Climate Change and Historic Preservation Policy Statement.
  • Equity: An equitable historic preservation program at all levels of government is of paramount importance. The report identifies the overall need for more certainty and consistency in applications and interpretations of the standards, while also suggesting improvements specific to the federal rehabilitation tax credit process (including the availability of prior decisions and improvements to the appeals process). It also encourages broader conversations about a graduated system for the National Register of Historic Places, which may enable more equitable application of federal historic preservation standards.

“This report is just the start of a conversation on these important issues,” Chair Bronin said. “I look forward to debating the ideas in this report, hearing from those with new or different perspectives, and moving forward with fellow preservationists and federal, state, and local officials to improve the way we evaluate changes to treasured sites.”

Chair Bronin will be hosting a webinar Exploring the Chair’s Report: Reviewing & Modernizing Federal Historic Preservation Standards at 12 p.m. ET, Tuesday, March 12.

View the report without appendices.

View the Standards Report webpage.