Planning a Historic Building Rehabilitation Project | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Planning a Historic Building Rehabilitation Project

Planning a Historic Building Rehabilitation Project | Wisconsin Historical Society

If you are beginning a rehabilitation project on your historic house or building, you’ll have to decide whether to hire a professional to coordinate your project. It takes a huge amount of time and skill to manage a historic rehabilitation project. And if you are like most people, you have significant time constraints (job, family) that will make it tough to manage your own rehabilitation project. Hiring a professional could be a worthwhile investment for your project.

Decide Which Professional to Hire

To achieve the outcome you want from your building rehabilitation project, you must clearly communicate your plans and expectations to the contractors. The best way to do that is to provide detailed drawings and specifications for the contractors to bid on. A preservation architect or historic preservation construction consultant (HPCC) can provide these drawings and specifications.

It is not a good idea to use a contractor in the planning stages. Many contractors will have your best interests in mind, but some will not. If a contractor who is bidding on the work also wrote the specifications for your project, the situation would present a conflict of interest.

Hire a Professional for a Large-Scale Project

If your proposed project is large in scale or complexity, you might consider hiring a preservation architect. Preservation architects are trained in the rehabilitation of existing and historic structures. Some specialize in large institutional projects like the adaptive reuse of historic schools, hospitals and other civic buildings. Other preservation architects specialize in smaller Main Street-type commercial rehabilitations or residential preservation. An architect will be able to listen to your concerns and needs, and then translate your project ideas into drawings and specifications that a contractor can bid on.

If you would like to hire an architect, it is essential that you interview several architects with historic preservation experience. Depending on the scope of work, you might need to hire an engineer as well.  Engineers are trained in specific aspects of building design, such as structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Hire a Professional for a Medium to Small Project

A historic preservation construction consultant (HPCC) is often overlooked for small- to medium-sized residential historic rehabilitation projects. If your existing conditions inspections didn't reveal any major problems, and the rehabilitation does not require structural engineering work, an HPCC might be a good choice. An HPCC will generally have a thorough knowledge of all the different preservation trades and cutting-edge best practices in the field. He or she can take your existing conditions inspections (or create them for you) and turn them into a working plan. A high-quality HPCC should also have all the resources and contacts needed to create the specifications and blueprints for your entire project.