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The Standards & Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada

S&G Cover Page

The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada is the first-ever pan-Canadian benchmark for heritage conservation practice in this country. It offers results-oriented guidance for sound decision-making when planning for, intervening on and using historic places. This document establishes a consistent, pan-Canadian set of conservation principles and guidelines that will be useful to anyone with an interest in conserving Canada's historic places.

Changes since the last edition

This second edition of the Standards and Guidelines expands and clarifies the information contained in the original 2003 edition.




The revisions in this edition:

  • Address comments received from users of the first edition of the Standards and Guidelines;
  • Clarify the relationship between the Standards and Guidelines and a Statement of Significance;
  • Better explain the conservation decision-making process;
  • Provide interpretation of the fourteen Standards to clarify these important principles;
  • Add guidance for typical sustainability-related interventions;
  • Address new topics such as cultural landscapes, including heritage districts;
  • Address recent heritage, including the specific issues of conserving modern materials and assemblies;
  • Improve the guidance provided for engineering works; and
  • Provide a more comprehensive set of Guidelines for Archaeological Sites generally, and in a specific setting.

The Conservation Decision-making Process

AuyuittuqConservation activities can be seen as a sequence of actions - from understanding the historic place, to planning for its conservation and intervening through projects or maintenance.

Understanding a historic place is an essential first step to good conservation practice. This is normally achieved through research and investigation. It is important to know where the heritage value of the historic place lies, along with its condition, evolution over time, and past and current importance to its community.

Planning is the mechConfederation Centre for the Artsanism that links a comprehensive understanding of a historic place with interventions that respect its heritage value. Planning should consider all factors affecting the future of an historic place, including the needs of the owners and users, community interests, the potential for environmental impacts, available resources and external constraints.

Intervening on a historic place, that is, any action or process that results in a physical change to its character-defining elements, must respect and protect its heritage value.

These three phases can further be defined through a series of steps:


  • Refer to Heritage Value and Character-defining Elements
  • Investigate and Document Condition and Changes


  • Maintain or Select an Appropriate and Sustainable Use
  • Identify Project Requirements
  • Determine the Primary Treatment
  • Review the Standards
  • Follow the Guidelines


  • Undertake the Project Work
  • Carry out Regular Maintenance


The Conservation Treatments

Conservation is the umbrella term in Canada. The conservation treatments of preservation, rehabilitation and restoration fall under conservation.

The Standards

The standards are based on internationally recognized conservation principles. The 14 standards are:

General Standards (for preservation, rehabilitation and restoration)

1. Conserve the heritage value of a historic place. Do not remove, replace or substantially alter its intact or repairable character-defining elements. Do not move a part of a historic place if its current location is a character-defining element.

2. Conserve changes to a historic place that, over time, have become character- defining elements in their own right.

3. Conserve heritage value by adopting an approach calling for minimal intervention.

4. Recognize each historic place as a physical record of its time, place and use. Do not create a false sense of historical development by adding elements from other historic places or other properties, or by combining features of the same property that never coexisted.

5. Find a use for a historic place that requires minimal or no change to its character-defining elements. Ferryland

6. Protect and, if necessary, stabilize a historic place until any subsequent intervention is undertaken. Protect and preserve archaeological resources in place. Where there is potential for disturbing archaeological resources, take mitigation measures to limit damage and loss of information.

7. Evaluate the existing condition ofcharacter-defining elements to determine the appropriate intervention needed. Use the gentlest means possible for any intervention. Respect heritage value when undertaking an intervention.

8. Maintain character-defining elements on an ongoing basis. Repair character- defining elements by reinforcing their materials using recognized conservation methods. Replace in kind any extensively deteriorated or missing parts of character-defining elements, where there are surviving prototypes.

9. Make any intervention needed to preserve character-defining elements physically and visually compatible with the historic place and identifiable on close inspection. Document any intervention for future reference.

Additional Standards Relating to Rehabilitation

10. Repair rather than replace character-defining elements. Where character- defining elements are too severely deteriorated to repair, and where sufficient physical evidence exists, replace them with new elements that match the forms, materials and detailing of sound versions of the same elements. Where there is insufficient physical evidence, make the form, material and detailing of the new elements compatible with the character of the historic place.

11. Conserve the heritage value and character-defining elements when creating any new additions to an historic place or any related new construction. Make the new work physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place.

12. Create any new additions or related new construction so that the essential form and integrity of a historic place will not be impaired if the new work is removed in the future.

Additional Standards Relating to Restoration

13. Repair rather than replace character-defining elements from the restoration period. Where character-defining elements are too severely deteriorated to repair and where sufficient physical evidence exists, replace them with new elements that match the forms, materials and detailing of sound versions of the same elements.

14. Replace missing features from the restoration period with new features whose forms, materials and detailing are based on sufficient physical, documentary and/or oral evidence.

The Guidelines

The guidelines provide practical advice for decision making when interventions are undertaken on a historic place. The guidelines address four types of resources as well as materials.

  • Cultural Landscapes
  • Archaeological Sites
  • Buildings
  • Engineering Works
  • Materials


Historic Place: a structure, building, group of buildings, district, landscape, archaeological site or other place in Canada that has been formally recognized for its heritage value.

Heritage Value: the aesthetic, historic, scientific, cultural, social or spiritual importance or significance for past, present and future generations. The heritage value of a historic place is embodied in its character-defining materials, forms, location, spatial configurations, uses and cultural associations or meanings.

Character-defining Element: the materials, forms, location, spatial configurations, uses and cultural associations or meanings that contribute to the heritage value of a historic place, which must be retained to preserve its heritage value.


If you would like to know more about the Standards and Guidelines, look at this presentation (PDF - 1.15 MB).

If you would like to know more about heritage conservation in general, look at this document (PDF - 77 KB).


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