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Architectural Conservation Assessment — Resources • Checklist

References (NPS)



Specific reference is made to resources of the Technical Preservation Services, National Park Service.

Conservation Assessment

A conservation assessment is...

There are several types of assessments. This is a formative assessment, as it is conducted during the course of development or implementation of work, not at the conclusion of a particular project or phase, in which case a summative assessment (based on time-contingent and project-based criteria) might be best applied.

A formative assessment can be considered as an assessment for learning—a learning experience in its own right that can enhance knowledge and guide research, communication and organizational skills. A summative assessment is an assessment of learning. Formative evaluation focuses on the process, which is critical to the concept of preservation described in this report.

Formative assessments are implicitly conducted more than once with an aim to improve. However, this assessment is singular as it is a single“snapshot” in time.

Nonetheless, this report lacks some of the critical, constructive qualities that ongoing, sustained feedback can provide. In recognition of this shortcoming, several of the specific recommendations (and Standards) provided in this assessment serve to further this process of ongoing, formative assessments.

Executive Summary


Scope of Professional Services

This Architectural Conservator represents her/his services performed with the usual thoroughness and competence of his profession. No other warranty or representation is expressed or implied in this report or related and subsequent work. The consultant does not represent herself/himself as an architect or engineer, or as a specialist in these fields.

The conservation assessment includes a limited visual assessment in readily and easily accessible areas of apparent conditions that existed at the time of the inspection. No warranties or guaranties are given or implied for any latent concealed defects or for any defects occurring after the date and time of the inspection. The architectural conservator is not liable for any problems, defects, or deficiencies that could not be reasonably discovered during a limited visual inspection.

The services provided herein are for the Owner's exclusive use and benefit and that such services, data, recommendations, proposals, reports, photographs and similar information produced and provided by the Conservator are not to be used or relied upon by other parties without the expressed permission of this consultant.

Contractors shall not be expected to quote for or carry out the specialized work described herein without further guidance; they shall be provided with a proper specification or, if the particular work is minor, they shall be asked to submit their detailed proposals for the Owner and/or qualified professionals retained by the Owner to review. Similar procedures shall be applied to work undertaken by volunteers.


Standards are understood to include standards, charters, guidelines, benchmarks, addressed here, which inform plans, policies, reports and assessments.

Standards are the moral and philosophical compass and the practical roadmap for the organization as it leads itself into the future while shouldering its fiduciary responsibilities of the past.


  • Define any preservation- and conservation-specific terms, with reference to peer-review definitions


  • List, and cite, site-specific records used for the assessment. These may include:
    • Past reports.
    • Drawings
    • Photographs


  • Architectural
  • Historical (limited for this assessment).
  • Check surveys.

Existing Surveys and Inventories

Inclusion in any of the following, with copies of pertinent surveys, documents.

If in a survey note wheter the structure is listed as an individual property (give name indicated in survey) or as part of a district (give name).

  • Stete Register of Historic Places
  • National Register of Historic Places
  • National Historic Landmark
  • Historic American Buildings Survey

Physical Description

Architectural Style(s)

  • American Architectural Styles
  • The characteristics of the architectural style(s) and the distinction between:
    • the 'ideal' stylistic elements (the 'high-style'), with reference to local, regional examples.
    • and the 'as-built' variations (the 'vernacular') of a particular style or combination of varying stylistic elements.
    • the use of structural and decorative features, production and construction techniques, and building materials as they help determine the date(s) and evolution of a structure.
    • the manner in which the characteristics of construction techniques and architectural styles influence the performance of a building: the materials, the individual elements, the building systems, and its entirety.
  • Write a brief architectural description of the structure. You do not have to undertake a description to the extent found in National Regiater (NR) nominations, seen below. But a NR nomination of the property may be available (in whcih case use them, with reference) or similar propeties. For an example of the NR format, see National Register Nomination Form #10900 (download from Nominations Forms). For examples of NR nomination, section 7, "Architectural Description," browse Pennsylvania SHPO database. Specific examples: simple James-Lorah House (PDF file, page 2); detailed Summit Hill High School (PDF file, page 7).

Period Literature

  • Reference to period literature that influenced (directly or indirectly) design, construction and/or use.
  • Provide specific period illustrations, as needed.

Space Use, Program

  • Present use.
    • An assessment of the contemporary uses, their compatibility to the building (and vice versa), and recommendations to meet future, changing program needs.
  • Past uses


  • Line sketch of elevations, floor plans, details as needed.
    • Use CAD drawings as an option, but not requirement.
  • Use HABS drawings, existing architectural drawings, others...as available. Credit and cite sources.


  • Exterior (site context, elevations and details)
  • Interior (rooms, elevations, details)
  • Use a "scale" (tape measure, etc.) in photographs as needed. No product placement (no Coke cans).

Physical Evolution

  • A chronicle of the physical evolution of the structure by inspecting the visual character and noting important features and periods and dating important elements and systems of the structure.
  • Date (exact, circa, pre-, post-)



By name, address


  • By name
  • By room number


  • Envelope
  • Drainage
  • Site
  • Foundation
  • Structure
  • Openings
  • Landscape
  • Masonry
  • Metals
  • Woodwork
  • Finishes
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Security
  • Collections

Condition (values) Conditions Rating

Inventory Quality and Condition, Stage III - Element Assessment and Recommendations, Historic Building Preservation Plan, General Services Administration, 1983. [Amended]

An element is evaluated as Good when:

  • intact;
  • performing its intended purpose;
  • retaining structural and physical integrity;
  • few or no cosmetic imperfections;
  • needing no repair and only minor scheduled maintenance.

An element is evaluated as Fair when:

  • showing early signs of wear, failure, or deterioration;
  • generally retaining structural and physical integrity;
  • adequately performing its intended purpose;
  • there is failure of a subcomponent of the element;
  • replacement required of up to 25% of the element; or replacement of a defective subcomponent.

An element is evaluated as Poor when:

  • the element is no longer performing its intended purpose;
  • the structural and physical integrity is compromised;
  • there is a treat to health or life safety of occupants;
  • deterioration or damage affects more than 25% of the element and cannot be adjusted or repaired;
  • the element shows sign of imminent failure or breakdown;
  • the element requires major repair or replacement.

An element is Missing when:

  • missing through deterioration;
  • removed and lost;
  • relocated and not able to be returned to original context


Priorities indicate the importance of a task relative to other work, with the most urgent being done first. Assessments rate the priority of any work as minor, serious, or critical. The rating is base on assessing the elements (systems) deficiencies: the lack of essential qualities that, combined, allow it to serve its intended purpose. Usually, the priority is determined by an element's significance and the role it plays in keeping a house from deteriorating, with respect to its intended purpose.

There are two important aspects of rating condition and priority.

  1. An element's condition does not always determine its priority. Work on an element in poor condition may not be an urgent priority if the feature is neither significant nor essential to the house. For example, highly deteriorated or missing exterior paint will not cause a house to collapse.
  2. Fixing an urgent priority may be neither time consuming nor expensive. A cracked beam may be an urgent priority. But quickly adding a few temporary supports will stabilize the structure and keep it from collapsing.

The limited scope of a preliminary survey and inspection means that the exact condition or priority of an element is not completely known without further examination, monitoring, and testing. But rating condition and prioritizing helps inspectors begin to qualify the preservation work. At the same time, documenting a building or structure helps quantify the extent of deterioration and the amount of material that needs preservation. The inspection and documentation serve as the basis for doing more detailed examination to determine exactly what needs to be done, calculating materials, costs, an d skills needed, and, finally, developing a preservation plan and treatment.

  • Critical — There is a threat to the health and safety of clan members; there is advanced deterioration that has caused failure, or will in the next two years if not fixed; there is rapid deterioration of adjacent or related elements as a result of the condition; and/or there is a failure to meet the needs of the organization.
  • Serious — There may be a possible threat to the health and safety of people; further deterioration of adjacent or related elements may result if the element is not fixed in two to five years.
  • Minor — There has been lack of maintenance; deterioration may result in possible failure; and/or deterioration will begin to affect related elements if not fixed in five years.


  • Code
  • Structural
  • Accessability
  • Safety
  • Maintenance
  • Housekeeping
  • Security
  • Program
  • Interpretation


  • Organizations, agencies that may help.