Optimizing Historical Preservation Under Climate Change: An Overview of the Optimal Preservation Model and Pilot Testing at Cape Lookout National Seashore

Erin Seekamp, Max Post van der Burg, Sandra Fatorić, Mitchell J. Eaton, Xiao Xiao, Allie McCreary
Posted on: 5/28/2019 - Updated on: 8/11/2020

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Sandra Fatoric


This report provides an overview of a pilot effort to integrate vulnerability (exposure and sensitivity), significance, and use potential metrics in a decision framework—the Optimal Preservation (OptiPres) Model—to inform climate adaptation planning of a subset of buildings in historic districts (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) at Cape Lookout National Seashore. The OptiPres Model uses a numerical optimization algorithm to assess the timing and application of a portfolio of adaptation actions that could most effectively preserve an assortment of buildings associated with different histories, intended uses, and construction design and materials over a 30-year planning horizon. The outputs from the different budget scenarios, though not prescriptive, provide visualizations of and insights to the sequence and type of optimal actions and the changes to individual building resource values and accumulated resource values. Study findings suggest the OptiPres Model has planning utility related to fiscal efficiency by identifying a budget threshold necessary to maintain the historical significance and use potential of historical buildings while reducing vulnerability (collectively, the accumulated resource value). Specifically, findings identify that a minimum of the industry standard ($222,000 annually for the 17 buildings) is needed to maintain the current accumulated resource value. Additionally, results suggest that additional appropriations provided on regular intervals when annual appropriations are at the industry standard are nearly as efficient as annual appropriations at twice the rate of industry standards and increase the amount of accumulated resource values to nearly the same level. However, periodic increases in funding may increase the risks posed to buildings from the probability of a natural hazard (that is, damage or loss from a hurricane). Suggestions for model refinements include developing standardized cost estimations for adaptation actions based on square footage and building materials, developing metrics to quantify the historical integrity of buildings, integrating social values data, including additional objectives (such as public safety) in the model, refining vulnerability data and transforming the data to include risk assessment, and incorporating stochastic events (that is, hurricane and wind effects) into the model.


Seekamp, E., Van der Burg, M.P., Fatorić, S., Eaton, M., McCreary, A., Xiao, X. (2019) Optimizing historic preservation under climate change: An overview of the “Optipres model” and its pilot test at Cape Lookout National Seashore. SECSC G15AP00141 Final report. U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, DC. https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20181180