Celebrating 50 Years of APT International

Next week we are excited to be attending 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 is held in Buffalo with events and celebrations on both sides of the border.  The conference bills 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 is serving as Co-Chair of the Programs Committee, and also serves with Kristen Olson and Patrick Capruso on the Local Planning Committee.  We are excited that some of the events are being held at historic locations that we have personally played a role in revitalizing, including:

While there are 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. Visit some of these iconic structures including site visits to the Richardson Olmsted Campus, Connecticut Street Armory, and stunning ecclesiastic landmarks.  During this session, attendees will explore Buffalo’s iconic Medina sandstone structures, including the Richardson Olmsted Campus (originally the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane).

Saint Louis Church, Buffalo

 

Preservation by the Pint: Revitalization and the Craft Beverage Boom

(Co-coordinated by Kristen Olson): Across the U.S. and Canada, brewers and distillers have successfully adapted many building types, from manufacturing and warehousing structures to former churches, into successful breweries, taprooms, and pubs. These businesses support local economies through purchasing local ingredients. Through “beverage-oriented-development,” the adaptive reuse of a structure can catalyze the revitalization of an entire neighborhood. But what role does infrastructure investment play in beverage-oriented-development?

Photo collage from www.thebarrelfactory.com, the landmark, newly-restored,
115-year-old historic factory in Buffalo’s legendary Old First Ward.

Whether you’re a Belgian beer person or an IPA “hop head,” a martini aficionado or a teetotaler, there will be plenty to see and taste on this field session. We’ll visit local craft beverage businesses, speak with owners about the challenges and of adapting historic buildings, and of course, taste some of their products!

We hope you’ll be joining us at this momentous event where we explore 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 is 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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Photos by Vertical Access.

 

Staff Certification Updates and My First Time as Trainer

Vertical Access recently conducted an in-house industrial rope access training course in preparation for third-party certification or recertification by the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT). As a Level III Rope Access Supervisor with over 17 years experience in the construction industry and a Vertical Access employee since 2011, I took on the role of trainer for the first time.

We are excited to congratulate the following staff on SPRAT advancements and recertifications:

Patrick Capruso: Level II (Certified)
Kristen Olson: Level II (Recertified)
Evan Kopelson: Level II (Recertified)
Kelly Streeter: Level III (Recertified)

I also recertified to a Level III prior to taking on the role as trainer.

Other VA staff SPRAT advancements and recertifications include:

Michael Patino:  Certified to Level I
Berta de Miguel:  Recertified at Level I
Mike Russell:  Certified to Level II

What Does Rope Access Certification Entail?

Certified rope access technicians and supervisors must undergo training and recertification every three years. As part of the training, technicians review basic rope access techniques that we most often use during 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 covers rope rescue techniques and mechanical advantage systems used for hauling or lowering a rescue subject or other load.

Following the training course, Vertical Access brought in an independent SPRAT Evaluator to conduct the evaluation. The evaluation and certification process includes written and oral examinations to test knowledge of safe practices for industrial rope
access and an understanding of the equipment and principles involved in rope access work. The main part of the evaluation is the skills test, in which each candidate must demonstrate a broad range of rope access skills.

What is SPRAT?

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 has been active in its leadership committees throughout the years.

  • Level I Technicians are rope access workers with the appropriate training, skills and qualifications to perform work under the direct supervision of a Level II Lead Technician or Level III Supervisor.
  • Level II Lead Technicians are responsible for physically conducting rope access operations and/or safety evaluations of rope access operations, including maintenance of associated access equipment, and are capable of performing all Rope Access Lead Technician duties as assigned in the employer’s rope access work program. To become a SPRAT Level II certified
    technician, Mike and Patrick were required to complete the evaluation as described above, in addition to logging 500 performing rope access work as a SPRAT Level I certified professional.
  • Level III Rope Access Supervisors are responsible for overall rope access operations on site and job site safety. Level III candidates should have current First-aid, CPR, and AED certification prior to evaluation and will have logged at least 1000 hours performing rope access work with at least 500 hours and six months as a SPRAT Level II certified professional.

 

Can you identify this building? – Series No. 11

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. 11:

The clues to this building’s use are in its marble and terra cotta ornament. It was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, and completed in 1930. Where is it?

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egg&dart, shell & trident

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Answer: Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL. This indoor public aquarium was once the largest in the world, holding over five million gallons of water. The building’s Beaux Arts style complements neighboring buildings on the Museum Campus Chicago.

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Photos by Vertical Access.

Celebrating the Life and Work of Guastavino at Recent Cultural Screenings and Discussions

I have dedicated a major portion of my career to studying the life and work of Rafael Guastavino. Recently I was honored to play a part of two screenings of El Architecto De Nueva York, the award-winning documentary in which I appeared with Kent Diebolt and John Ochsendorf as well as our Spanish colleagues Camilla Miletto, Arturo Zaragosa and Fernando Vegas. In the film we guided viewers through iconic examples of his work in New York City such as Grand Central Terminal, the Guastavino Oyster Bar, Ellis Island and more. This documentary won a Gold Dolphin at the 2016 Cannes Festival and a New York Festival World’s Best TV & Films section Biographies. The director was Eva Vizcarra.

Here I am after the Harvard screening showing a timeline we developed that follows the projects and main events in the Guastavinos’ lives.

On October 23, I moderated a round table following the documentary screening at the Instituto Cervantes NYC.

The participants of the round table were:

  • Jaume Soler, an acoustician with more than 20 years of experience designing theatres and concert halls around the world. He studied telecommunications engineering at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and he is currently an associate principal at the engineering firm Arup. Jaume’s first contact with the work of Rafael Guastavino was in a small town near Barcelona, while studying the acoustics of La Massa theatre in Vilassar de Dalt about 18 years ago. However, it was not until he moved to New York, in 2001, that he grasped the breadth and impact of Guastavino’s work. Jaume has worked and conducted acoustical surveys of several Guastavino projects since then.
  • Miguel Quismondo received his degree in architecture from the Polytechnic School in Madrid and developed his career in the United Sates. Over the past decade Miguel has worked for Olnick Spanu on the design, construction and management of Casa Mia, the Olnick Spanu Art Program, and the Magazzino Italian Art. He holds Master’s degrees in Real Estate Development from Columbia University and Construction Management from NYU. Miguel’s work has been issued in la Biennale di Venezia, Architectural Record, A+U, Casabella, ABC, El País and El Mundo among other publications.

We discussed the following topics:

  1. We usually talk about Guastavino as an individual but in fact there were two: Rafael Guastavino Moreno & Rafael Guastavino Expósito (RGM and RGE). Who were these two men and what is a Guastavino vault? Referred to as “Palaces for the People”, Guastavino vaults involve a technique known as timbrel vaulting: utilizing layers of interlocking small, flat tiles, plaster and mortar.  This technique has been described as inexpensive, fireproof, light, fast to build, having almost infinite aesthetic possibilities, and was installed by the Guastavinos in more than 1000 buildings in 11 countries.
  2. Keys of their success: both Guastavinos used in their own way traditional architecture as an inspiration for innovation. One example is the technical progress that RGE introduced in acoustics along with Wallace Clement Sabine. Jaume explained to the group why RGE’s contribution was so important in this field:
    • The two materials used in Guastavino vaults (Rundorf and Akustolit) significantly impacteded fields such as theatric and other performing arts.
    • “Whispering gallery” sound effects were not designed intentionally but are an artifact of architectural design.
  3. William Jordy was the first to include the Guastavinos in a History of Architecture publication in 1972. This is unfair for two men that are considered two of the most important architects/constructors. Considering their amazing contribution in different fields they are not as known as they should be. Surprisingly, we still don’t study the Guastavinos and their innovations in architectural and engineering academic curricula.
  4. RGM often compared music to architecture, saying that both need not only the creator or the artist but equal importantly the craftmanship of the hands of who is actually building or playing the music. That kind of craftsmanship today would be difficult and expensive.
  5. Each one of us chose a favorite Guastavino building and explained the election. Mine was the demolished Penn Station. Based on my research and historic photos, that building is one of my favorite for many reasons. As the architect, educator and critic Vincent Scully compared the demolished Penn Station to the current one: One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat. 

Then on November 9, I introduced the screening at the Observatorio del Instituto Cervantes en Harvard University (Link to the event: https://college.harvard.edu/documentary-screening-and-discussion-rafael-guastavino-el-arquitecto-de-nueva-york)

I let the audience know that they were about to see the only documentary ever filmed about the Guastavinos, two Spanish architects/constructors responsible for designing and building iconic spaces in more than 1000 buildings in the world. Of these, there are around 156 Guastavino buildings in Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I also read the words of Professor George Collins, from Columbia University, who rescued the incomplete but extensive archives of the Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company from destruction:

After the screening I answered some questions and analyzed the following topics:

  1. Keys for their success:
    • RGM registered the patent of what he called “cohesive construction” as a fireproof system. The timbrel vault was inspired in the traditional Spanish construction system of the bóveda tabicada o catalana. He used traditional architecture as an inspiration for innovation. In total, the Guastavinos held 24 US Patents.
    • Inexpensive: no form, fast to build. The main dome of Saint John the Divine (the largest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere) was built in just 3 months.
    • Almost infinite aesthetic possibilities. Fusion of industry, art and craft. They were beautiful.
  2. Legacy, anonymity, demolitions:
    • Collins registered a total of 1113 structures
    • USA: 1066 / Canada: 21 / Cuba, Holland, India, Mexico, Panama, Spain, Trinidad, UK: 26.  In New York City: 363; in Massachusetts : 156.
    • Their peak year of production was 1909 with 39 buildings in construction.
    • In Manhattan approximately 12% have been completely demolished. During the early 1960’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s consulting engineers did not fully understand the structural behavior of the Guastavino vaults in wings E and H, so they decided to demolish them and replace them with a steel beam girder system.
  3. Decline of Guastavino Vaulting
    • New aesthetic styles started to reject curvilinear surfaces in favor of the flat planes. Post-war changes in construction technology also began focusing on more industrial or manufactured, rather than hand-made approaches.
    • Rise of engineering: the company used to serve both as a structural engineer and constructor, but new codes forced the company to work under other structural engineers, many who didn’t understand the system and forced the company to over-build the structures.
    • Rise of reinforced concrete and thin shells: in 1913 German engineers built a concrete dome spanning 200’ (61 m) which, for the first time in 2000 years surpassed the Pantheon. In 1934 the Hayden planetarium in NYC was built with a concrete dome spanning 81’ (24m) and 3 inches thick (7.5cm). The American Concrete Institute promoted concrete as less expensive. In 1954 MIT organized an event on concrete shells and the Guastavino Company sent a representative to find out the price per square foot: $3. At that moment, due to rising labor cost, a Guastavino vault cost $7 square foot.
    • RGE sold the company in 1950 and died in 1962. The last project is Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, GA, 1961.
  4. Something to think about: How is it possible that the Guastavino Fireproof Construction Company could supervise so many ongoing construction sites simultaneously?

A View from a First Timers APT Annual Conference

Last October, the Association for Preservation Technology International (APT) and the National Trust for Canada held CAPITALizing on HERITAGE: COMMUNITY, GOVERNMENT and SAVOIR-FAIRE in Ottawa. The joint conference showcased 190 speakers and over 40 exhibitors. With roughly 1,100 attendees and more than 20 countries represented, the four-day event became the largest heritage conference ever held in Canada. CAPITALizing on HERITAGE was my first APT Annual Conference and fueled by a shameful amount of readily available coffee I made my way around paper sessions, banquets, and plenary discussions. Compared to regional APT symposia, the programming was diverse and immense with focuses ranging from the archeological unearthing and documentation of Nova Scotia’s built heritage to an exploration of Ontario’s northern wilderness in search of the rugged landscapes immortalized in paintings by the Group of Seven.

Seven paper tracks covered topics as diverse as cultural landscapes, non-destructive testing, heritage advocacy, the economics of preservation, engineering, and sustainability. Program book in hand, I raced around the conference level to catch specific presentations, curating a personal agenda that offered talks on architectural diagnostics and documentation as well as those that were distinctly Canadian like heritage values and the rights of Canada’s First Nations people. Thanks in large part to programming arranged by the National Trust for Canada, the duality of Ottawa’s existence as both a modern capital city and the unseeded ancestral territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe was never lost on those who attended the conference. This constant reminder sparked conversations that are simply not being discussed in the United States.

For every learning opportunity CAPITALizing on HERITAGE offered there was an occasion to network and reconnect. It became apparent that the social aspect of the event alone was worth the registration. In Ottawa, I attended the first meeting of the Technical Committee for Materials, talked shop with a former employer, shared a bottle of wine with new contacts, and was introduced to several leading authorities in preservation. I was happy to catch up with familiar faces from previous APT symposia as well. For someone who is relatively new to the field and APT, the Annual Conference offered an unparalleled opportunity to network.

Between the paper sessions, banquets and cocktail hours, CAPITALizing on HERITAGE was nearly overwhelming. Fortunately breaks in programming provided time to get out and explore downtown Ottawa. Whether it was views of Parliament Hill perched high above the confluence of three rivers or beaver tails in ByWard Market (fried dough smothered in butter and maple syrup did not disappoint), Ottawa delivered. The city proved to be an ideal venue for a joint conference with an emphasis on the built environment and interpretations of its cultural significance. With my first Annual Conference behind me I am looking forward to celebrating APT’S 50th Anniversary at Points of Departure next year in Buffalo. (I’m on the planning committee and so far it looks like it’s going to be awesome!)

Mike Russell Earns SPRAT Level II Certification

Mike Russell, EIT, has earned his Level II Certification from the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT).  A Level II certified individual is responsible for physically conducting rope access operations and/or safety evaluations of rope access operations, including maintenance of associated access equipment and performs all Rope Access Lead Technician duties as assigned in the employer’s rope access work program.  To become a SPRAT-certified technician, Mike was required to attend a certification session and pass a written test, verbal test, and a hands-on physical performance based test assessed by a SPRAT-certified Evaluator, in addition to logging 500 hours on the job as a SPRAT Level I certified professional.

Mike joined Vertical Access in 2016 bringing with him over six years of experience working in the construction industry, both commercial and residential, specifically relating to project management, sustainable building practices, and restoration in residential and maritime environments.

He began restoring boats for the City of Charleston (South Carolina) Maritime Foundation while pursuing a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning at the College of Charleston.  Following his switch to the field of engineering, Mike joined a residential construction firm located on the Connecticut shoreline that specialized in the restoration and rehabilitation of barns and historic homes.  From there he went on to join Whiting-Turner, a national contracting firm where he worked as a project engineer on large scale commercial projects before joining Vertical Access in the summer of 2016.

Announcing the TPAS 2017 Release Webinar

TPAS 2017 is here! Join TPAS LLC and Vertical Access for a live, interactive webinar on October 11 at 1pm EDT to learn about the new 2017 features as well as the basics of the Tablet PC Annotation System. Vertical Access uses TPAS for direct-to-digital surveys, saving time in the field and in the office.

Visit the TPAS Blog for more information about the 2017 release and webinar, or click here to register.

Congressman John Faso Joins Effort to Reform New York State Scaffold Law

Congressman John Faso announced on Tuesday the introduction of innovative, new legislation entitled the “Infrastructure Expansion Act,” which would relieve some of the negative effects of New York State’s Scaffold Law by imposing a liability standard of comparative negligence on all construction projects that receive federal financial assistance. This legislation is directly intended to reduce the cost of new construction – both public and private – which is subsidized using federal funds.  The proposal would ensure that any project using federal dollars is not subject to New York law mandating “absolute liability” on the building owners and contractors.

Listen to the WCNY interview below, and read the full press release here.

September 19, 2017: Rep. John Faso and Mike Elmendorf

 

For more about the Scaffold Law Reform, visit www.scaffoldlaw.org