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Permits and Design Review

Permits for Homeowners

Getting the right permit for a building project is a homeowner’s basic responsibility before starting the work. For work on a historic property or in a historic area, getting a permit also involves making sure that proposed changes are compatible with protected historic and architectural characteristics. This is done through a design review process managed by the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) and Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Historic preservation review is quick for most types of work, but design review of major projects may involve presentation of the project at a public meeting.

Permits for DC Government Projects

District government agencies are required to get a building permit before starting work on a government construction project. For work on a historic property or in a historic area, getting a permit also involves making sure that proposed changes are compatible with protected historic and architectural characteristics. This is done through a design review process managed by the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) and Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Design review is quick for most types of work, but design review of major projects may involve presentation of the project at a public meeting.

About Permits and Historic Preservation Review

Historic preservation review is part of the building permit process. It occurs for new construction and any addition, alteration, or repair to the exterior appearance of a historic property when a building permit is required. Building demolition and subdivision of property is also subject to historic preservation review. Additional Information may be accessed below:

How Historic Preservation Review Works

HPO and HPRB conduct their reviews according to established preservation practices, principles, and design guidelines.

HPO Review (Expedited Review)

HPO approves in-kind repair and replacement, small additions, and minor alterations that are compatible with the character of the historic property or area. For routine items, this review occurs “over the counter” on a walk-in basis. For more significant changes, it may involve setting up a meeting with the HPO staff. Homeowners are encouraged to contact HPO when planning a project to determine what level of review will be necessary.

When getting a permit, homeowners are encouraged to visit the Homeowner’s Center at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

HPRB Review

HPRB reviews demolition, new construction, and larger projects like sizable additions and major alterations. This review occurs at an HPRB meeting open to the public. In almost all cases, HPRB reviews project designs at an early conceptual stage. The conceptual design review process allows property owners to get HPRB’s general approval and direction on the project before preparing full architectural plans for final HPO review.

Commission of Fine Arts Review

Not all preservation or design review in the District of Columbia is conducted by the HPRB or HPO staff. In accordance with several Acts of Congress and Executive Orders, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts ("CFA" or "Commission") reviews three types of building projects:

  1. Federal and District of Columbia government projects;
  2. Georgetown Historic District Projects; and
  3. Shipstead-Luce area projects for properties that face or abut major federal properties, parks and sites.

Additional information is found in the document and website links below:

Raze Permits

All raze permit applications in the District of Columbia are submitted to the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) for clearance.  Please select the "Raze Permits" link below for more information on the role of the Historic Preservation office in this process.

Subdivisions of Property

The Historic Preservation Office (HPO) signs off on all applications to subdivide perty in the District of Columbia. Please select the "Subdivisions of Property" link below for more information on the role of the Historic Preservation Office in this process.

For More Information