Heritage Terms & Definitions

Adaptive Re-Use:

Using an old building for a new purpose or function. Sometimes involves extensive alteration to both the exterior and interior.

Architectural Conservation:

The physical intervention in a building to counteract deterioration or to ensure its structural stability. Some typical treatments include the cleaning of wallpaper, reattachment of loose plaster, masonry repointing, and consolidation of an existing foundation.


To recognize the heritage value or character of a building, site or other resource. Often involves the placing of a plaque or other marker. Commemoration does not means protection or legal restriction of any kind.


All activities involved in the protection and retention of heritage resources. Includes the study, protection, development, administration, maintenance and interpretation of heritage resources, whether they are objects, buildings or structures, or environments. Often used interchangeably with preservation ("heritage conservation" in Canada is "historic preservation" in the U.S.). It is also used to refer to a highly specialized field of activity that normally deals with the protection of objects in museum collections: a CONSERVATOR is the person who is responsible for the care and treatment of objects.


A treatment used to strengthen deteriorated materials to ensure their structural integrity. Traditional skills and materials are preferred. The intervention should be reversible. REPOINTING is an example of a reversible consolidation treatment. An example of a non-reversible consolidation process would be the strengthening of a timber by inserting metal rods in a bed of epoxy.     


Legal protection through passage of a bylaw (local or regional government) or Order in Council (provincial). Designation offers long term protection and allows regulation and control of alterations and demolition.

Heritage Area:

A synonym for a designated historic district or conservation area which denotes a neighbourhood or district unified by a similar use, architectural style and/or historical development.

Heritage Resource:

Refers to an artifact, building, site, or other feature that has heritage value or character.


Actions to slow the rate of deterioration of fabric and extend building life. Maintenance is generally divided into three categories:

  • Emergency: Maintenance that must be carried out immediately in order to stabilize the structure for future habitation.
  • Preventive: Action taken to avoid expected failures. The simplest preventive maintenance is regular inspection of building systems. This process also monitors the service life of materials and systems.
  • Routine:  Activities that take place on a regular basis. The most common is cleaning or housekeeping to remove deposits of soil before they can accumulate and cause damage to surfaces.   


» See 'Conservation'


Describes the piece-by-piece rebuilding of a structure's original components either in the original location or a new site. May be required when a structure lacks integrity even though its original components are sound. One of the most common reasons for reconstitution is land use change which requires the relocation of a structure.


The re-creation of an object, building or structure that no longer exists, on the basis of archaeological,literary and historical evidence (i.e. old photographs, diaries). Often raises concerns about accuracy as certain elements are often based on conjecture when no evidence can be found.


The process of modifying an historic building to extend its useful life through alterations and repairs, while preserving the important architectural, cultural and historical features.


A process which involves upgrading or replacing interior parts and features. This process tends to be done more for aesthetic reasons rather than functional ones. Remodeling may involve the removal and refinishing of interiors to make them indistinguishable from new structures, as well as applying architectural details from different, usually earlier periods. Often such buildings end up with a hybrid appearance, neither looking old or new. This process is often discouraged by conservationists.


A generic term to describe the process of modifying an historic structure in order to extend its useful life. It is also used to describe the improvements made to existing buildings or neighbourhoods. Other terms which also refer to renovation are: remodeling, recycling and rehabilitation.


A generic term that refers to the various activities which will strengthen existing building materials and systems that are salvageable.


The removal of existing materials which can no longer perform their proper function and their replacement with as exact a substitute as possible (i.e. the replacement of old shingles with new that match the existing shingles in material, pattern and exposure). This may be impossible when materials are unavailable or costs are to high.


The process whereby an exact copy of an object, building or structure is produced.


Removing old mortar in masonry joints and relplacing it, preferably with motar and technique which match the characteristics of the original.


The practice of returning an object or building to its appearance at a particular time period. Restoration may include the removal of additions and alterations made after the particular time period, and reconstruction of missing earlier features.


The upgrading of an existing building to meet code requirements (i.e. for fire or emergency exits) and increase comfort and safety, e.g., installation of new insulation, storm windows, smoke detectors, fire sprinklers, new heating and new electrical systems.


A process of economic, social and cultural redevelopment of a civic area or neighbourhood. Heritage area revitalization concentrates on historic buildings and other heritage resources to achieve economic, social and cultural objectives.


The introduction of new materials to supplement existing ones which no longer perform their proper function. Stabilization is designed to be reversible and includes:

  • Interim Stabilization: Anticipates a greater level of intervention in the future. Treatments should be temporary and easy to reverse, so not to prejudice future decisions.
  • Long Term Stabilization: Done to permit use of the building in its deteriorated state when a greater level of intervention is not in the building's future. In addition to protecting the structure over a long period of time (and ensuring the safety of occupants), the treatments should be reversible.