When new words and terminology enter our vernacular, they often take on a connotation larger and broader than they deserve. Today, “green” and “sustainable” are synonymous with responsible living and construction, their meanings understood as clearly by an architect or engineer as they are by the lay person. They are buzz words that make consumers feel good about their purchases; they’re doing their part to protect the environment and help save the world. But, in certain applications, use of these terms is more than a misnomer; it’s outright false advertising.
Do you care about historic buildings?
Proposed changes to the International Energy Conservation Code threaten to cause irreparable harm to thousands of historic buildings in the United States. I refer you to “International Code Council Approves Stringent New Requirements for Historical Structures” from Architect magazine.
Historic fabric is a term used quite regularly in the historic preservation world but what it is, or—better—how it comes to be, receives disproportionately little attention. McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of Architecture and Construction defines historic fabric as “those portions of a building fabric that are of historic significance.” This definition implies that materials that are part of a building develop significance, presumably over time and as it relates to the life of the building. One might also infer from the definition that some parts of a building may not possess historic significance. What other sources provide a definition for historic fabric? It would be ideal to point to a definition supplied in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties but one does not exist. Surprised? There’s no definition of historic fabric in the National Park Service’s Cultural Resources Management Guideline’s glossary either.
About the author
Ward Hamilton is a recognized expert in historic preservation and the owner of Olde Mohawk Historic Preservation. He provides consulting and contracting services to clients in Greater Boston and throughout New England.