Building history survey

A building history survey serves the process of defining a property’s need for preservation during a planning project. It also serves as an aid when renovating a historically and culturally significant property.

Building history surveys from the year 2019. ©Ark-byroo

Each building has its own unique story

A building history survey provides you with a comprehensive description of a property. Typically the subject building of the survey is about to go through some alterations. The survey aims to highlight the architectural and cultural values of its subject, as well as its relation to the surrounding cityscape, thus helping to conserve these values through the building’s renovation. The subject properties are often listed buildings and the work is guided by a museum official. The end results of the survey can be used to plan renovations or to apply for alterations in the city plan. The survey also includes written accounts of the building’s history that can be used in building the image of the property being developed.

Office building of the Bank of Finland in Kotka by architect Gustaf Nyström. The building was completed in 1909. Photo:
After the survey we serve as a negotiating consultant in the building permit phase.

Financial interests don’t necessarily clash with building preservation. We assist our clients even with difficult projects relating to the preservation and development of historical properties. Our aim is to produce balanced solutions agreeable for all parties involved. With expertise we are able to act as as consult in planning, developing, altering and renovating properties. We are involved in the negotiations with the authorities and we assist in the production of material required in judicial processes.

Historical survey or survey of characteristics?

A survey of a building’s characteristics is a less involved way of mapping the distinct properties of a property. This type of survey is better suited for an unlisted building that still has some architectural, cultural and historical merits. During the survey these distinctive characteristics are defined for the proper authorities to use as a tool in deciding whether the building should be preserved or torn down.

Buildings waiting for demolition are also worth documenting for future generations. The documentation of restoration work is beneficial to the planning of the property’s future upkeep and serves as a considerable aid in planning future renovations. The focal point of the documentation is photography which we execute professionally. We also offer drone services for aerial photography.



Phases of the survey process

It is recommended to reserve around 12 weeks for the survey to be conducted. Within this time frame we go through archives, study and photograph the buildings and eventually gather our findings into a high quality presentation. Below is a more detailed description of the most common phases of the surveying process.


Conversing with the experts

Even though we produce dozens of historical surveys each year with highly refined working methods, each unique research subject requires its own unique approach. Through conversation we can better define how to inspect the particular building and how to present its unique architectural characteristics. In addition to our own expertise we exchange ideas with the owner, the users and the proper authorities.


Keeping in touch

The first rule is to always listen to the needs of the client. The survey starts by mapping the existing conditions on the property. At the first client meeting we go through the different phases of the work at hand and its specific focal points. We also discuss how to keep in touch during the process.


Archival and literary research

This phase includes listing all the available source material. Potential sources can be found in public or private archives, research literature or, for example, old newspapers. One of the most crucial things is to locate the building’s original architectural plans as well as the documentation concerning its later alterations and changes in use.


Field work

During the field phase we get to know the building physically.
The building is documented with text, photography and measurements and possible interviews are conducted. During this phase special attention is paid to how well original features have been preserved, as well as the different historical layers visible in the structure, including the most recent additions. The documentation can be presented either by building or by room/space.



The source material accumulated during the surveying process is organised and interpreted into an accessible form. At the end of each survey the most distinctive features of the subject are presented and, depending on the nature of the project at hand, the architectural merits and the need for preservation of the property are commented on.


Graphic design and visualisation

The visual aspects of the historical survey are designed to illustrate the historical changes and special characteristics of the property as clearly as possible. The final product is tailored into a format that best serves the needs of the particular client. The main goal of our surveys is to present the information gathered on the building in one volume as an easy to read summary, as well as a more detailed inspection.

The finished survey

The finished print is made with care and withstands time — much like its subject.

What do our services offer?

  • A concise and clear presentation of the history of the building
  • Visually high quality documentation where photographs and diagrams play an important role
  • The documentation summarizes the key features of the building, which facilitates the planning of further measures
  • The building is viewed as part of its environment and the construction of its time, and is given context

Contact us

Would you like to know more about us? You can reach us by phone call or text message at:

+358 50 574 8710