Conditions Assessment: What is it? Why is it necessary?

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Advice and help with building history capacity.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

Conditions Assessment: What is it? Why is it necessary?

By: Tamsin Himes | June 24, 2020
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

What is a Conditions Assessment? 

A conditions assessment is a report that details the present state of a building. It identifies the different elements, assesses their condition, and gives advice about proper treatment. It is comprehensive but non-invasive. It focuses on historically important areas. 

Why is it important? 

  • In the process of historic preservation efforts, a conditions assessment is not the most exciting step, but it is one of the most important. It provides the base for careful and appropriate preservation work. Relevant historical information, architectural details, and professional advice give valuable guidance for moving forward. 
  • If an organization is working through the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant program, a conditions assessment is the first step in this process. It becomes the foundation for all further Legacy Grant projects. 

Who should I hire to complete a Conditions Assessment?

  • Architects hired to complete a conditions assessment must be qualified historic architects. This means they must meet the qualification standards set by the Secretary of Interior. They must have both experience and training in dealing with historic structures. You can find the standards here.
  • Qualified historic architects will be able to provide a historical recap of the building, detail architectural elements, and provide a list of work priorities. A historical recap gives context for historic features and treatment recommendations. Details of architectural elements give clarity about the age and significance of the building. A list of work priorities (or “treatment recommendations”) provides a roadmap for other preservation projects. 

When is a Conditions Assessment necessary? 

  • Ideally, any historic building should have a current conditions assessment. Even buildings with no obvious issues benefit from an up-to-date, professional report. Architects often identify potential trouble spots early on. This gives owners the chance to prevent future damage. 
  • A conditions assessment is essential before beginning any project involving a historic building. In this case, it serves two purposes: 1. protecting the building from harmful work and 2. Focusing resources on the most necessary work. As mentioned before, it also provides a roadmap for planning a long-term preservation strategy. 

Any questions about conditions assessments? Contact Tamsin Himes at