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Safety And Preservation For Historic Buildings

Vermont has a high proportion of older buildings that contribute substantially to the sense of community and place that makes Vermont unique.

At the same time, these historic buildings usually create a diverse set of challenges when rehabilitated to modernization or adapted for change of use. Owners of historic buildings should seek the assistance of experienced, licensed designers specializing in the preservation of these structures.

Division of Fire Safety staff will assist in recognizing and utilizing the features of this Code in order to preserve, rehabilitate and enhance historic buildings. Clear and comprehensive informtion on the significant historic features must be provided to the division in order to facilitate a timely and accurate review of the rehabilitation project.

Laws and Rules

There are a number of adopted and referenced Codes, listed below, that are specific sections that address the nuances of existing and historic buildings:

  • NFPA 1, Fire Code, primarily addresses maintenance and the operation of buildings with performance guidelines for historic buildings
  • NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, principally addresses life safety issues and has specific chapters for existing buildings
  • NFPA 909, Protection of Cultural Resources including Museums, Libraries and places of worship, brings together the design and implementation of fire protection plans designed to protect both people and property
  • NFPA 914, Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures, addresses the identification of existing conditions, planning and fire protection practices for historic buildings

Design and Construction Resources

The Regional Offices of the Division of Fire Safety are staffed with safety professionals who have experience and training in developing solutions to meet both safety and historic preservation concerns.

For many buildings there are alternatives for certain code requirements that will provide an equivalent level of safety for the people using the building. To facilitate the review process for historic buildings, a fire safety and historic evaluation should be developed according to Section 43.10.2 of NFPA 101.   The use of NFPA 909 and 914 is recommended for additional guidance in the development of this evaluation.

Additional Resource Links

Note: Based on newer technology and preservation methods, some of the solutions found in the Field Guide may not be acceptable in a current rehabilitation project.