Historic Restoration

Rooted in Tradition

High Plains Architects is well versed in the varied demands of historic restoration, preservation and historically sensitive design. Having successfully completed seven Historic Tax Credit projects, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, High Plains has the knowledge and experience to successfully undertake any preservation project, including the renovation of existing buildings of all types.

Much of High Plains Architects’ historic preservation philosophy goes hand in hand with the sustainable design principles that we apply to every project. Our preservation work utilizes a unique blend of historic preservation and green building practices in order not only to preserve the historic character of the building but also to retain its embodied energy and transform it to a high performance building.

We understand the challenges and utilize the opportunities that present themselves when adapting and remodeling existing buildings. We are committed to the preservation of our architectural heritage by following historic preservation guidelines such as the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and utilizing rehabilitation tax credits. The proof of our commitment to preservation is in our projects and in certifications we've received for our efforts.

Don't Amputate: Renovate!


Many historic buildings can be adapted to new uses without major intervention and resulting loss of historic character. High Plains Architects’ historic projects were all adapted for new uses, allowing another generation of users to experience high quality materials and workmanship that is no longer available and to maintain the embodied energy of the buildings. We have also found that historic projects make excellent candidates for sustainable design and LEED certification. Because these buildings were built prior to the widespread use of mechanical ventilation and fluorescent lighting, they were designed for natural ventilation and daylighting—strategies that can result in highly efficient buildings when used in conjunction with window, roof, and wall insulation upgrades.

We have extensive experience with the International Existing Building Code, which is specifically written to cover existing buildings and is different than the code for new construction. We understand how to work with the code rather than being limited by the code. Existing buildings present unique challenges. By “listening to the building,” we have developed strategies that allow existing systems and components to work for us instead of trying to design around them. Our experience with overcoming these hurdles allows the team to work efficiently to create a mixed-use building that utilizes the full potential of the building and site.

High Plains Architects has developed special expertise in developing design solutions that maximize the value of the existing building and minimize renovation costs. While one often hears the refrain that “it would be cheaper to build new than renovate your building,” High Plains Architects has never found this to be the case. Our renovation projects have consistently saved owners first cost money even as they achieved much higher energy, social, and environmental performance with lower operational cost.


When in doubt, don't amputate: renovate!

Smart Funding Mechanisms


Many High Plains’ projects have utilized Historic Tax Credits to augment project financing. A Federal tax credit equal to 20% of the qualifying restoration costs may be available for qualifying buildings. The building must be eligible for listing on the Register of Historic Places, including projects listed as contributing members of a Historic District. A Montana State Historic Preservation Tax Credit may also be available to Montana State residents equal to 25% of the qualifying Federal Tax Credit. Restoration must comply with the US Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties. The tax credits are taken against one’s personal income tax obligation. Combined, the state and federal tax credits are equal to 25% of the renovation cost ($25,000 in tax credits on a $100,000 project!)

High Plains has also been recently working with specialized tax credit consultants to offer an additional option for project financing. By syndicating the Historic Tax Credits available for a qualifying project, capital funds may be made available at the start of construction, even for non-profit building owners who could not otherwise use tax credits.  This can provide significant leverage when securing project financing.

Contact us for more information about this process and how it may apply to your historic property in need of some repair or rehabilitation.


Reclaiming Our History


Historic Preservation is a more demanding form of renovation work, often meeting rigorous standards such as local historic ordinances or the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. Buildings must meet these Federal standards in order to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and receive Historic Tax Credits. High Plains Architects has extensive experience in historic preservation, with seven buildings listed on the National Register and another in the process of being listed.

Complying with the standards often provides unique challenges. This involves evaluating the building’s relative importance in history, the physical condition of the building, the proposed use, and mandated code requirements in order to ensure that the rehabilitation project will retain its existing historic character. Each of our Tax Credit projects has required creative solutions to achieve ambitious high performance goals and adapted building uses while simultaneously retaining and highlighting the existing historic character.

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