Technical Preservation Services of the National Park Service has released a set of illustrated guidelines to help improve the energy efficiency of historic buildings while preserving their historic character.

The Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings offer practical advice to building owners, developers, and preservation practitioners, showing recommended – and not recommended – approaches to projects from solar panel installation to heating and air conditioning upgrades to weatherization and insulation. National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis notes that the guidelines would advance the growing trend of “greening” historic buildings.  “While historic buildings are inherently sustainable because they already exist, by adding energy saving features like cool roofs and solar technology we can bring these icons of our past into efficient twenty-first century use.”

He also noted that waterless toilets, recycled pop bottle carpets, and compact fluorescent lights are just the latest components of green building.   “Remember front porches and shutters? Those were specific designs that save energy.”

Jarvis said that more and more developers think “sustainability” when they consider historic preservation projects today. “It makes sense from a couple of perspectives,” Jarvis said. “Historic preservation projects generally have a lighter carbon footprint.  They also make great economic sense when a project qualifies for the National Park Service’s program that confers a 20 percent federal tax credit for historic rehab projects. ”

The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program encourages more than $4 billion in private investment in historic preservation annually.  To be eligible for the tax credits, construction projects must comply with The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.  While not codified as program requirements, guidelines help property owners, developers, and federal managers identify treatments that are consistent with the Standards.

NCPTT participated in the development of the new guidelines along with a number of other public agencies, professional organizations, and private individuals. The guidelines are part of an ongoing commitment by the National Park Service to ensure a place for our shared built heritage in a future of energy uncertainties and environmental concerns. As the lead office in NPS efforts to advance sustainable practices in historic preservation, NCPTT recognizes that technical efforts to preserve cultural resources must not contribute to the degradation of the environment. Rather, they should be environmentally and culturally sensitive and sustainable over the long term.

To download a copy of the Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, visit