HISTORIC STRUCTURES AND THE STATE BUILDING CODE

Original design, materials, and fixtures are often very important to the historic or cultural significance of a property. However, the original construction of historic structures does not always meet modern standards. Owners of historic properties can ask the local inspection authority for special consideration of their properties if they first have their structures certified as historic by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Officer as provided by chapter 3 of the North Carolina State Building Code, Volume IX -- Existing Buildings.

How Does A Building Become Certified as Historic? The process for a successful certification has three steps:

1. The property owner or someone working on the owner's behalf submits an "Application for Certification as Historic for the Purposes of the State Building Code" (also known as a Green Sheet due to its color) to the State Historic Preservation Office.

2. The State Historic Preservation Officer certifies a structure is historic for the purposes of the state building code.

3. The local building inspector takes that certification into consideration when making decisions about a property's compliance with the building code.

The State Historic Preservation Officer's authority ends with certification; any exceptions to the code are left solely to the local inspector. Building inspectors can provide some relief from the full weight of the building code for certified historic structures while still meeting the life safety requirements of the code.

What Sort of Properties Are Covered? The provisions of the North Carolina State Building Code, Volume IX -- Existing Buildings, constitute the minimum standards for change of occupancy, alteration, or repair of existing buildings. The code does not apply to buildings classified as day care centers, farm buildings, hazardous, high rise, institutional, one- and two-family dwellings, or residential care facilities. Chapter 3 applies only to historic commercial buildings or structures constructed prior to 1936 and to historic dwellings used for commercial purposes constructed prior to 1972. Historic Buildings constructed after those dates shall comply with the code in effect at the time of construction. Section 306 applies only to historic buildings used for public display, most often as house museums.

A "certified historic structure" falls into at least one of the following categories:

National Register of Historic Places:

1. A property individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places
2. A contributing structure in a district listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

State Study List:
1. A property individually listed on the State Study List.
2. A contributing structure in a district listed on the State Study List.

Locally Designated:
1. An individually designated local historic property or landmark.
2. A contributing structure in a locally designated historic district.

(Verification of a property's status and more information on these categories may be obtained by contacting the Survey and National Register Branch of the State Historic Preservation Office).

What if a Property Has No Historic Designation? An owner whose property does not fall into one of the above categories may contact the State Historic Preservation Office and request that property be evaluated. Staff will require that in addition to the Green Sheet, the owner complete an application to the State Study List for presentation at the next regularly scheduled quarterly meeting of the National Register Advisory Committee.

The Study List is composed of properties which have been determined to be potentially eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Study List application is a three-page form that requests basic information about a property's history and appearance. The National Register Advisory Committee will consider the Study List application, and determine if the property is potentially eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

How to Start the Process: The certification process is usually initiated by the property owner, but others such as local historic preservation commission staff or restoration consultants may also submit an application on behalf of an owner. The applicant completes a "Request for Certification as a Historic Building" form (the "Green Sheet"), and forwards it to the Preservation Planner in the State Historic Preservation Office. A Green Sheet may also be obtained from the Preservation Planner.

The Application: The Green Sheet is a simple, two-page form that requests information regarding a property's historic designation, its physical appearance, and its historic significance. Also requested are photographs or slides and a map. The Green Sheet more fully explains the specific requirements.

Evaluation and Certification: Based on the Green Sheet, the property is evaluated by staff of the State Historic Preservation Office, and the decision about final certification is made by the State Historic Preservation Officer. When the State Historic Preservation Officer has made a determination, the applicant, the property owner (if different than the applicant), and the local building inspector are notified.

Upon certification, it is then the responsibility of the local building inspector to make any exceptions to the code. Some standards of the code, especially those relating to public safety, health, and general welfare must be applied regardless of the structure's historic status.

For information about why the National Register was created and what listing means to a property owner, see NATIONAL REGISTER FACT SHEET 1, "What is The National Register of Historic Places?"

See the handout titled, "A Comparison of The National Register Of Historic Places with Local Historic Landmark and District Designations" for an explanation of the differences between the two programs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Green Sheets, the applicable section of the state building code, and a property's historic designation: Claudia Brown, Survey and National Register Branch Supervisor, 919/807-6573.

TheNational Register program and the State Study List: Survey and National Register Branch

Preservation tax credits and technical restoration assistance: Restoration Sevices Branch

These are branches of the State Historic Preservation Office, Office of Archives and History, 4617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-4617


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