SLATERPAULL attends the Association for Preservation Technology International Conference – Part I


Jessica R. Reske, AIA, LEED AP
Architect/Historic Preservation Specialist


I recently had the opportunity to attend the Association for Preservation Technology International (APTI) conference in New York City.  The theme for this year’s conference was “Preserving the Metropolis.”  The conference covered a broad range of technical preservation topics and provided a great opportunity to mingle with preservationists from around the world.

I spent two days attending paper sessions, primarily focusing on material conservation, energy use in historic buildings, and the balance of preservation and development.  Amidst the paper sessions, I also had the chance to peruse the exhibit hall and explore New York City.   

The first night of the conference, I attended the Opening Welcome and Keynote Speaker session.  The Keynote Speech was given by Peg Green, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, who discussed a number of preservation issues faced by New York City.  Many of these issues are universal, shared by large cities as well as small communities.

The second day of the conference I attended three paper sessions.  Highlights from the first day of paper sessions included the following:

·         The first session I attended discussed sustainable design in terms of cultural and social sustainability.  The session looked at John Earley architecture, particulary in terms of how to rehabilitate one of his concrete structures in Chicago.  A great deal of research was completed regarding the concrete mix design to be used, particularly if it should match the original mix or be engineered to meet today’s standards.  The engineered mix would have been easier to work with for a variety of reasons, but the historic mix was used to preserve and honor historic construction techniques and materials.    (speakers included Gabriel Pardo Redondo of Old Structures Engineering, PC, and Erik Anderson, Heritage Building Conservator in Uppsala, Sweden)

·         The next session I attended addressed a current concern in the world of historic preservation: how to deal with mid-century modern buildings, which are now becoming historic as they are more than 50 years old.  These buildings are generally preserved for their usefulness, not necessarily for their beauty, as many see them as plainer buildings than their predecessors.  Preserving the cavity wall is therefore becoming an important topic, one which was discussed as part of this session.  The cavity wall is a more complex, less redundant system than a solid masonry wall.  A variety of issues including inadequate wall ties, differential movement, and wall ventilation and drainage come into play when diagnosing issues with cavity walls and subsequently repairing them.  Repair strategies for this type of construction will become increasingly important as more mid-century buildings with this type of construction are targeted for preservation, adaptive re-use, and rehabilitation.   (Speakers included Rachel Will of Wiss Janney Elstner and Associates, James Dossett of The Façade Group, and Jon Sargent of the Savannah College of Art and Design)

·         I attended a session focusing on the topic of energy efficiency in historic preservation.  Adding insulation to the interior face of solid masonry exterior bearing walls is a major consideration in the adaptive re-use of historic buildings.  In the session, the speakers presented case studies that provided appropriate details for insulating historic buildings.  One speaker shared a project in which they insulated a test area of a wall and monitored its performance over the course of two years.  Though that’s longer than most of us have the opportunity to observe the performance of a proposed insulation system, the data they collected can be applied to and used by a number of projects.  Another presenter shared a project that involved removing an existing roofing system and replacing it with a system appropriate for increasing the insulative properties of the roof on the building, supporting the construction of a roof deck, garden, and penthouse, and retaining the appearance of the exposed original wood structure and sheathing on the interior of the building.  All of the strategies presented for insulating historic buildings met the Secretary of the Interior’s Standard of reversibility.  In all scenarios, if someone wanted to return the building to its original appearance and / or construction detailing, that could be accomplished.  (Speakers included Rachel Cusimano of the University of Utah, Susan Knack-Brown of Simpson, Gumpertz, & Heger, Anne Hinsman of Walter B. Melvin Architects, and Ekaterina Tzekova of the University of Toronto)