Be 1% Better: 1% for You, 100% for the Planet

Vertical Access has been a supporting member of 1% for the Planet since 2006, pledging a portion of our profits to non-profit organizations that make our planet a more sustainable place for future generations. In celebration of Earth Day 2019, we wanted to heighten awareness of this organization and take a moment to urge others in the preservation community to step forward and make a commitment to the future of our global environment.

By recognizing the important role that historic preservation plays in the sustainability movement, VA has made a commitment through our 1% FTP contributions to The Association for Preservation Technology International (APT), The U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS), and Friends of Alta.

 

When Vertical Access first joined 1% for the Planet in 2006, we were one of about 250 other businesses that pledged a small proportion of our annual net revenues to environmental causes. Today, 1% for the Planet is a growing global movement with more than 1,800 members in over 45 countries, working together to protect the future of our planet.

Join us and Be 1% Better! Visit One Percent for the Planet to see how you can make a difference, and check out all the donor and recipient partner organizations. Please consider supporting these organizations when you make purchasing decisions, and consider becoming a supporting member. We can all make a difference.

 

Proposed Changes to NYC’s FISP Regulations

Photo courtesy of Sullivan Engineering

Vertical Access often assists building owners, architects, engineers, with New York City’s Façade Inspection & Safety Program, or FISP, also known as Local Law 11.  We would like to share some proposed changes that were recently brought to light by Brian Sullivan, a principal at Sullivan Engineering in a recent article in Habitat Magazine:

Brian sits on a DOB advisory committee that proposes changes to FISP regulations. The committee’s attention is now focused on Cycle 9, which begins in February 2020.

Here are some proposed changes:

  • Probes to verify and document wall anchors in cavity wall facades might be required in the 9th cycle and every 10 years thereafter.
  • The number of required close-up inspections might increase.
  • Qualified Exterior Wall Inspectors (QEWI) might be required to have at least three years of relevant experience. (VA partner Kelly Streeter, P.E., is a certified QEWI).
  • A time frame to resolve unsafe conditions might be required, with a maximum of five years.
  • Monthly civil penalties for unsafe conditions might accrue and increase annually at a rate based on the length of sidewalk shed.
  • The DOB might perform inspections before granting extension requests.
  • Boards might be required to display a FISP condition certificate – either “safe,” “safe with repair,” or “unsafe” – in the lobby.

To read Brian’s article, go here.

To learn about VA’s façade inspection services, go here.

 

Important Changes to SPRAT Certification Requirements Coming April 1, and a Note on ANSI 121 – Tool Tethers

Recently I attended the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) Annual Conference in Cancun, Mexico, and brought home updates on some pretty important changes to SPRAT certification requirements that will be posted to www.SPRAT.org and go into effect April 1, 2019.  A sampling of some of the changes are below. Even if industrial rope access is not part of your job, we think it is good for you to be aware of all the qualifications and skills Vertical Access rope access teams bring to your projects.

New SPRAT Certification Requirements Effective April 1st, 2019

Level I Certification requirements (changes)

  • Horizontal Aid climbing (both fixed and movable) has been moved from a Level II skill to Level I
  • The rescue scenario for Level I will now involve the casualty being in ascent, previously a Level II skill
  • Level I testing will include proof of hands on skill with building various load sharing anchors in addition to inspecting ones built by Level II’s and III’s
  • Additional skill assessments for rigging and operating a hauling and lowering system will include lowering and belaying with communication awareness of mechanical advantage (?)

Level II Certification requirements (changes)

  • Vertical aid climbing will be required for a minimum of 10 feet
  • Additional knots to know include friction hitch and load-releasable hitch
  • Additional skills assessment of picking off a casualty through knots
  • Additional skills assessment of rescue from aid traverse (using a rope-to-rope method)
  • Rigging and operating a rope access system pre-rigged to lower

Level III Certification requirements (changes)

  • Demonstrating an understanding of mechanical anchor systems (tripods and beam clamps) will be removed
  • Rescues through knots will be moved to Level II
  • Re-anchor or rope-to-rope rescues skills assessment will need to be performed mid-obstacle
  • Hauling and lowering through knots (pitch head or platform) in both backup and main lines
  • Additional job safety components added to the written test regarding the Job Hazard Analyis or Job Safety Analysis

More information about SPRAT can be found here.

At the conference, we also discussed the 2018 revision to  ANSI 121 – Tool Tethers, that could have impacts across all facets of the construction industry.

 

ANSI 121 – Tool Tethers

ANSI 121 –  Tool Tethers is currently rolling out the 2018 revision to incorporate new regulations in response to increase in incidents.  This update will see impacts across all areas of the construction industry, not just industrial rope access.

At the SPRAT conference, we discussed some of the following from the new revision that will impact the way we approach our rope access work.

  • Modification of tools will no longer be allowed for tethering (no drilling holes, etc)
  • No duct or electrical tape will be allowed – a specialized tape is recommended that acts upon tightness of winding
  • Every component that can easily come off needs a tether (for example, batteries on drills)
  • Locking carabiners with captive eyes need to be used to tether tools and loose accessories that travel with the person
  • Declarations of conformity should be issued by suppliers
  • Label requirement guidelines are detailed in the revision
  • There is now a defined standard on approved containers where tools can be stored without a tether

More information can also be found at https://safetyequipment.org/dropped-object-prevention-resources/

 

City of Ithaca to Repair Cemetery Vaults Using VA Repair Estimates

(Hint: It’s not all about rope access!)

In 2017 Vertical Access was retained by the City of Ithaca to perform a condition assessment of twelve hillside burial vaults located within the Ithaca City Cemetery in Ithaca, New York.  Early this year the City of Ithaca voted to bond money toward the repair some of the hillside vaults.  

The Ithaca City Cemetery comprises approximately 16 terraced acres on University Hill, between downtown Ithaca and Cornell University, with views over Cayuga Lake and downtown. Vehicle entrances are located at University Avenue, Stewart Avenue, and DeWitt Place. An additional pedestrian entrance is located at Cornell Avenue. Owned by the City of Ithaca and managed by the Parks and Forestry Division, the cemetery is actively used by pedestrians, cyclists, and dog walkers. 

The City Cemetery is Ithaca’s oldest burial ground, dating from the city’s earliest settlement period in the 1790s. During the nineteenth century, it underwent multiple expansions, evolving into a park-like, formally-designed landscape following the “rural cemetery” movement. 

Beginning in the 1860s, hillside burial vaults were constructed by prominent Ithaca families.

VA historian Kristen Olson conducted a  hands-on inspection of the vault exteriors and video documentation of selected vault interiors with assistance from VA partner Evan Kopelson. Ithaca City Forester Jeanne Grace was on site to discuss findings.

The vaults range in overall condition from fair to poor. All exhibit signs of water infiltration and structural movement to some degree. Ten of the vaults are constructed with stone exhibiting widespread mortar failure and erosion. Delamination is widespread in units of locally quarried shale known as Llenroc.

Vertical Access documented existing conditions at all twelve burial vaults within the Ithaca City Cemetery. Notable and representative conditions were documented digitally using the Tablet PC Annotation System (TPAS®), with digital still images linked to condition annotations in an AutoCAD drawing. Additional investigation was conducted at three of the vaults using a GoPro camera mounted to a telescoping pole, inserted through a hole in the door or gap between the door and adjacent masonry, and illuminated with a flashlight.

A Borescope was used in an attempt to obtain imagery of the interior spaces of vaults with gaps that were too narrow to accommodate the GoPro, but the footage was not of use since the depth of the masonry at the door surrounds was generally greater than the length of the Borescope. A fiber optic “See Snake”, incorporating a camera with built-in illumination at the end of a flexible cable, was used to investigate the interior of one of the vaults which had an accessible rooftop vent.

Vertical Access prepared repair recommendations and cost estimates for each vault, with additional emergency stabilization recommendations and cost estimates for the three vaults found to have the most advanced deterioration.

While the current funding is inadequate to reconstruct all of the vaults, it will address the three vaults most in danger of collapse as identified in the Vertical Access study. The City’s continued investment is crucial to maintaining this valuable community historic site and greenspace.

Mike Russell, EIT, Certified to Level III Rope Access Supervisor

Mike Russell, EIT, recently trained and was certified to the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT) Level III Supervisor. According to SPRAT’s Safe Practices for Rope Access Work, all site work must be performed under the supervision of a Level III Supervisor.

Level III Supervisors are responsible for the overall rope access operations on site.

Mike joins Kelly Streeter, P.E. and Kevin Dalton as Level III Supervisors for Vertical Access.

As part of the training, Mike reviewed basic rope access techniques that we most often use in our site work as well as more advanced skills that are less often used, such as passing knots, rope-to-rope transfers, redirects, rebelays and horizontal aid traverse. The training also covered rope rescue techniques and mechanical advantage systems used for raising or lowering a casualty or other load.

SPRAT is a membership organization that promotes the development of safe practices and standards for rope access work in the United States, Canada, Mexico and beyond. Vertical Access is a member of SPRAT and active in its leadership committees.

LAANC is Here: Near-Realtime Airspace Authorization

The biggest obstacle to utilizing UAVs for building documentation has been the prohibition on flying within restricted airspace surrounding airports. Since 2016, authorization to operate in this airspace has depended on case-by-case review by the Federal Aviation Administration with a typical lead time of at least 90 days. By 2018, the backlog for reviewing airspace authorization requests had grown to 6 months or longer.

Shown here is Kristen Olson surveying Springfield, MA’s Campanile clock tower with a drone for Bruner/Cott Architects. We are assisting with a wide range of discovery phase tasks as part of the Springfield Campanile Restoration and the drone is one tool helping us provide a complete picture.

Beginning earlier this year, the FAA made available a new system for requesting authorization to operate UAVs within restricted airspace, called LAANC, or Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. LAANC is a partnership between the FAA and third-party providers such as AirMap and Skyward, who have developed app-based platforms to allow UAV pilots to apply for and obtain airspace authorization in near-real time. LAANC was rolled out over a period of six months, and as of September 13, all of the regions in the US are on-line, although not all airports are participating as of this time.

The LAANC concept is based on maps showing predetermined maximum flight altitudes in a grid pattern surrounding an airport. While flights very close to airports are still off-limits (or will require a more rigorous application and vetting process), the LAANC system greatly expands the possibilities for UAVs to gather valuable information about buildings and structures in U.S. cities. To put it in perspective, more than half of the downtown areas of Albany, Boston, Baton Rouge, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Kansas City (to name just a few) were effectively off-limits to commercial UAV flight prior to LAANC.

The next development, still years away, will be a system developed by the FAA and NASA to fully integrate low-altitude flight into the national airspace.

 

For more on LAANCE, visit: https://www.faa.gov/uas/programs_partnerships/uas_data_exchange/

 

Can you identify this building? – Series No. 13

Test your knowledge of historic and iconic buildings in the U.S. (and beyond!) in this series of “guess the building” blog posts.

Series No. 13:

This church boasts a wealth of sculptural ornament, including dozens of life-sized saints and historical figures, as well as smaller details such as these depictions of tradespeople. The shield is a clue to its location. Where is it?

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344-109 Stone_Note Photo-sculpture 2013-1

Answer: St. Thomas Church, New York, NY.  Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson won a competition for the design of the church in 1906, and it was constructed between 1911 and 1913. The church was Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Goodhue’s final collaboration before Goodhue established his own practice. The principal facade on Fifth Avenue has an elaborately ornamented entrance with a spectacular rose window and sculptural grouping in the parapet above.

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Photos by Vertical Access.

Celebrating 50 Years of APT International

The last week of September, Vertical Access attended the hottest conference in preservation: APT International’s 50th anniversary celebration happening in Buffalo and the Niagara Region of Canada.

Fifty years ago, a group of preservation and conservation professionals from both the United States and Canada came together in New Richmond, Quebec to form a new organization called The Association for Preservation Technology International (APT).  APT is a is a multi-disciplinary, membership organization dedicated to promoting the best technology for conserving/preserving historic structures and their settings.

This joint American-Canadian organization has grown to include chapters around the world. It is only fitting that this year’s conference was held in Buffalo with events and celebrations on both sides of the border.  The conference billed itself as “a point of departure for our next 50 years”, alluding to the fact that at one point in history, Buffalo was one of the most important points of departure on the continent.

Vertical Access has had a long history of involvement in APT since our founding in 1992. Founding Partner Kent Diebolt served as President of the Board of Directors from 2001 – 2003. This year, Evan Kopelson served as Co-Chair of the Programs Committee, and also served with Kristen Olson and Patrick Capruso on the Local Planning Committee.  We were excited that some of the events were held at historic locations that we have personally played a role in revitalizing, including:

While there were many field sessions and education opportunities to choose from during this multi-day celebration, two that we had a hand in coordinating are:

What Do Buckingham Palace, Brooklyn Bridge, and Buffalo Have in Common? – Medina Sandstone

(Coordinated by Patrick Capruso): Quarried in Orleans County near the town for which it was named, Medina sandstone was prized by builders and architects for its inherent strength and beauty. Fourteen attendees joined the all-day, Medina Sandstone Field Session as part of APT 2018. The field session included a visit to the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame where the Medina Sandstone Society offered programming on the stone’s mineral composition, an in-depth look at life in and around the quarries, and the socioeconomic impact that the quarrying industry had on the region. Following lunch in Medina, the trolley was bound for Buffalo for site visits at several ecclesiastic landmarks and the Richardson Olmsted Campus. Mike Lennon, of Flynn Battaglia Architects, provided insight into preservation efforts at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and First Presbyterian Church. At St. Louis RC Church, the Church historian and a member of the Board of Trustees highlighted the parish’s past restoration campaigns. Finally, our docent at the Richardson Olmsted Campus gave a whirlwind hardhat tour of the site’s exterior façades and a glimpse of an interior space slated for redevelopment.

 

Preservation by the Pint: Revitalization and the Craft Beverage Boom

(Co-coordinated by Kristen Olson): Preservation By the Pint was a driving tour of adaptive use sites where craft beverage producers have rehabilitated existing and historic structures representing three very different areas of Buffalo. Along the way, session co-planner Courtney Creenan-Chorley pointed out historic structures that remain from the city’s incredibly rich history of brewing and malting.

At our first stop, above, Ethan Cox of Community Beer Works showed us their newly-rehabilitated 7th Street space and gave a fascinating history of brewing in Buffalo, from tavern days through the post-Prohibition decline of independent breweries, to the revival of craft brewing in the 1970s and 80s and the current brewing renaissance. Ethan literally wrote the book on Buffalo’s rich brewing history; he is the co-author of Buffalo Beer: The History of Brewing in the Nickel City. He also described some of the technical aspects of converting an existing building for a brewery, utilizing tax credits, and the inherent challenges of locating in a historic neighborhood with older utilities, all driven by the community ethic central to the business’ identity.

Next, we traveled to the mixed-use First Ward neighborhood where Adam Bystran, head distiller at Lakeward Spirits, walked us through the transformation of the Barrel Factory, a historic manufacturing building just one block off the Buffalo River. Adam and his family took on a true labor of love in rehabilitating the 1903 manufacturing structure into apartments, an event center, and commercial spaces including a brewery and distillery (and more). Many of the attendees in our group are working on or have worked on craft beverage projects, and impressed Adam with their questions about code issues and utilities needs!

Our final stop was Big Ditch Brewing’s downtown taproom and production facility, an adaptive use project completed in 2015.

APT The Next 50 Symposium

While Kristen and Patrick packed it in after a whirlwind of educational field sessions and presentations during the conference, Evan Kopelson stayed in Buffalo for Thursday’s Symposium, where speakers and attendees explored:

  • Where are we in the world with preservation technology?
  • How has the field changed in 50 years?
  • What new formula will we need for the next 50? What are the new challenges?
  • How can we be more mainstream, less specialized? As the field matures, who are the partners we must collaborate with to remain vital?
  • How will authenticity, resilience and changing technologies guide us?

With a keynote presentation, summaries of the conference plenary sessions, small group break-outs and facilitated discussion, a facilitator and Technical Committee leaders worked with participants to create a vision for the Next Fifty. The first break-out session focused on the context and trends in preservation as a whole, while the second break-out looked at these issues through the lens of APT’s six technical committees. In wrapping up the symposium, the discussion focused on how to turn this vision into action. The findings and discussions of the symposium will be summarized by the symposium organizers and made available to APT membership.

We thoroughly enjoyed exploring with our colleagues all that is possible in preservation for The Next 50 Years.

For more about the conference, visit: https://www.eventscribe.com/2018/APT/ 

Vertical Access was a Bronze Sponsor of the conference this year.

Photogrammetry with Drones, Rope Access, and TPAS®

Photogrammetry is the practice of extrapolating spatial relationships from photographic imagery. While the concept of photogrammetry is centuries old, today’s powerful software quickly generates a 3-dimensional point cloud of any scene or object captured with a half dozen or up to several hundred overlapping digital photographs. Two recent projects illustrate very different applications for this technology in expanding what Vertical Access can do for clients in hard to reach areas.

Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Conditions Documentation and Image Capture

Work on existing structures begins with accurate as-built documentation. But what if there is no background drawing on file for use in the field?

Enter photogrammetry. On a recent project, the main façade of a building could not be surveyed with an aerial lift due to site features, leading the project team to investigate the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) to capture close-range imagery of the façade conditions as well as photographs for use in the creation of scaled, detailed background drawings.

Vertical Access’ licensed drone pilots operated a DJI Phantom 2 drone to obtain medium-range imagery for the creation of a photogrammetric 3D point cloud, as well as close-range 4K video for the conditions documentation of the structure. The field work was accomplished by a team of two pilots in less than two days and required only partial closure of the pedestrian walkway to safely conduct the drone flights.

2D elevations generated from the 3D model annotated with fault conditions in AutoCAD. Fault conditions such as cracks, spalls, and displaced masonry units were annotated digitally using the Tablet PC Annotation System (TPAS®).

Back in the office, VA used Pix4D Mapper Pro photogrammetry software to generate the point cloud, textured mesh, and 2D orthoimages of the main façade, side wings, and tower returns. The orthoimages were scaled and placed as background images in an AutoCAD drawing, and fault conditions such as cracks, spalls, and displaced masonry units were annotated digitally using the Tablet PC Annotation System (TPAS®). Condition quantities were extracted from the AutoCAD drawing into an Excel spreadsheet to facilitate repair cost estimates.

A close-range visual inspection as well as image capture for photogrammetry were completed in much less time than it would have taken to inspect the façades and obtain hand measurements using an aerial lift. The field work was accomplished with minimal disruption to pedestrians.

Deliverables from this study include a scaled 3D point cloud and textured mesh, 3D PDF model, background drawings based on orthoimages generated from the photogrammetric point cloud, and 4K video documenting façade conditions at close range, with over 800 video stills hyperlinked to conditions annotations in the AutoCAD elevation drawings.

Modeling Decorative Features of Historic Structures With Photogrammetry

A 3D3D photogrammetric models of an individual terra cotta unit, to be transformed into shop drawings for replacement units.

Restoration of historic decorative terra cotta, cast stone, or natural stone often requires extensive replacement of individual units. Erecting scaffolding for hands-on access to measure and remove existing units adds significant cost to project budgets.

Vertical Access recently used photogrammetry to aid in a pilot project as an alternative option for acquiring dimensions of existing units.

Vertical Access photographed a terra cotta spandrel panel and parapet, using existing scaffolding to gain hands-on and close-range access. The photographs were used to create 3D photogrammetric models of individual units, to be transformed into shop drawings for replacement units.

With VA’s demonstrated rope access capability, units can be photographed and modeled without the need for scaffolding, yielding a cost savings for the building owner.

Can you identify this building? – Series No. 12

Test your knowledge of historic and iconic buildings in the U.S. (and beyond!) in this series of “guess the building” blog posts.

Series No. 12:

This monumental cathedral – one of the largest churches in the world – has been under construction since 1892. Many delightful details can be found in its stone sculpture, along with a clue to its name. Where is it?

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Answer: The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York, NY. The cathedral was originally designed by the firm of Heins & LaFarge in 1888 in a Byzantine-Romanesque style, and later modified by Ralph Adams Cram in the Gothic Revival style.  In 1909 a “temporary” Guastavino tile dome was installed over the crossing; over 100 years later, the dome is still in place and is the largest Guastavino dome ever constructed. The cathedral opened from end-to-end for the first time in 1941, nearly 50 years after construction began. World War II halted building activity, which resumed in the 1970s and 80s, however the cathedral still has not been completed.

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Don’t miss another architectural challenge: subscribe to our blog by signing up with your email address in the sidebar. Click here to see all of the posts in this series.

Photos by Vertical Access.