VHF has gathered the following information in order to answer common heritage concerns. If you have a question or query not answered below, feel free to contact the VHF office Monday to Friday from 9 am-5 pm Monday to Friday, 604 264 9642.
VHF has also developed several unique educational resources on different approaches to conservation. We’ve looked at a wide range of heritage structures and places including residential, commercial and institutional buildings, neighbourhoods, as well as sites of historic, cultural, social and environmental significance.
Learn with us as we explore Vancouver’s heritage.
What is built heritage?
Built heritage encompasses houses, buildings, bridges, monuments, structures and landscapes defined by their heritage value and/or heritage character. According to the National Standards & Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, “heritage value is the aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual importance or significance for past, present, or future generations.” Vancouver possesses a rich and varied collection of heritage buildings ranging from the late 1800’s to the modern era. The City of Vancouver has a municipal heritage register that lists many heritage buildings, structures and sites. However, if a building is not listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register this does not necessarily mean that it is not a heritage house or that it does not have heritage value and/or character.
What is municipal heritage designation?
Designation of heritage buildings as protected heritage property is a legislative tool that ensures they remain a legacy for future generations. Designation allows the City to regulate, by By-Laws, the demolition, relocation and alteration of heritage property. The Heritage Legislation that passed in 1994 allows for the designation of identified interior fixtures and features. Changes to a designated site require a Heritage Alteration Permit.City Council’s policy on heritage designation states the following:
- The City’s long term goal is to protect, through voluntary designation, as many resources on the Vancouver Heritage Register as possible.
- Legal designation will be a prerequisite to an owner accepting certain bonuses and incentives.
- The City may initiate designation of buildings of extraordinary merit.
While Council can consider designation without an owner’s consent as a means of protection for a heritage property, in practice, most designations are agreed to by building owners in exchange for incentives. Designations are noted on the property title.
Visit the City of Vancouver’s website to learn more about heritage designation or speak to the Heritage Planning Department.
What is the Heritage Register?
Is my property on the Heritage Register?
Should I nominate my building for the Heritage Register?
How are archaeological sites different from built heritage?
Archaeological sites are the physical evidence of past human occupation and make up 98% of BC’s historical evidence for the last 14,000 years. Sites range in size and complexity from single artifact finds to village sites with layers of occupation. They differ from heritage buildings in that most often their character-defining elements are hidden or unknown. In BC any sites or objects pre-dating 1846 that have heritage value to BC, a community or First Nations are considered archaeological and are protected by the Heritage Conservation Act. Permits are required for any activity that may disturb archaeological heritage. Most heritage buildings, on the other hand, post-date 1846 and are protected by municipal legislation.To learn more about archaeological heritage and the responsibilities of property owners and developers, visit the Archaeology Branch’s website.
Also check out the guidelines concerning archaeological sites in the National Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada.
How old is my building? Who lived there?
Where can I find historical photos and other archival documents?
What architectural style is my building?
Can I make changes or alterations to my building?
Alterations can be made to heritage buildings. However, there are guidelines and policies in place which should be followed. Alterations and maintenance should have minimal impact and should respect the heritage value of the building and its character defining elements. The City of Vancouver’s policy on altering heritage buildings on the heritage register states:
“The exterior of a building listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register can be altered. However, the heritage value of each building on the Vancouver Heritage Register is formally recognized, and the elements that define the building’s character should be respected.”
Municipally designated heritage buildings require a heritage alteration permit to alter exteriors and where applicable interior elements and landscape features. Designated buildings are protected under the Heritage By-law.
Learn more about requirements for designated buildings and how to apply for a heritage alteration permit.
Before altering your heritage building it is important to understand existing heritage conservation guidelines. To learn more, see the project planning tips we have created for homeowners that help ensure you preserve the charm of your heritage building when planning small or large projects.
Where can I find skilled tradespeople that work with heritage buildings?
Can I insure my heritage home?
Where can I find information relating to maintaining my building?
Are there incentives for conserving heritage buildings? Or financial assistance for restoration projects?
What career and educational opportunities are there in heritage conservation?
VHF offers several educational workshops, talks and courses on heritage conservation.To learn about additional career and educational opportunities try the following links.
- National Trust Education Resources
- Canadian Heritage Information Network
- Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals
- Architectural Institute of BC
- Planning Institute of BC
- BC Association of Professional Archaeologists
- Heritage BC Education Programs
- Association for Preservation Technology Conferences & Training
- SFU City Program
- UVIC Heritage Studies
What can I do to protect Vancouver’s heritage?
Get Involved! Join VHF and a growing community of people who want to limit the demolition of our heritage buildings, promoting heritage conservation through education and awareness. VHF offers tours, events, workshops and lectures as well as online resources for learning more about Vancouver’s heritage.
Support VHF! You can support VHF by volunteering, partnering with us or by donation. Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity supporting the conservation of heritage buildings and structures in recognition of their contribution to the city’s economy, sustainability and culture.
Have your say in the city’s development! The City of Vancouver offers several ways to get involved. You can keep up to date on the Heritage Commission’s initiatives, all meeting dates and minutes are posted online and VHF provides regular updates about the Heritage Action Plan and new developments concerning heritage. There are also opportunities to join committees and advisory boards.