A View from a First Timer’s APT Annual Conference

In October, 2017, 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.

The trusty phone app.

Seven paper tracks covered topics as diverse as cultural landscapes, non-destructive testing, heritage advocacy, the economics of preservation, engineering, and sustainability. With my trusty phone app and 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 unceded 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 happen to be on the planning committee and so far it looks like it’s going to be an amazing event!)

 

 

 

Press Release – DOT and FAA Finalize Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has finalized the first operational rules (PDF) for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”), opening pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives.

Source: Press Release – DOT and FAA Finalize Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Conrad B. Duberstein U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse Restoration Receives Lucy G. Moses Award

On April 30, 2015 the New York Landmarks Conservancy presented their annual prestigious Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards for outstanding preservation projects in New York City.

Vertical Access is proud to have been part of the team that received recognition for the restoration of the Conrad B. Duberstein U. S. Courthouse in Brooklyn, NY.

conrad-b-pic

Project Team
General Services Administration
Goody Clancy & Associates
Boston Valley Terra Cotta
Jablonski Building Conservation
Nicholson & Galloway
Preservation Design
Robert Silman Associates
SUPERSTRUCTURES
Vertical Access
Vidaris

 

Learn more
The New York Landmarks Conservancy
General Services Administration
Traditional Buildings Magazine

Team Collaboration Key to Success on Toronto Heritage Building Envelope Project

A recent article in the Daily Commercial News describes the process of rehabilitating historic buildings – called heritage buildings in Canada – and mentions Vertical Access’ investigation of One King West, the former Dominion Bank Building in Toronto, Ontario. The article recaps a seminar presentation by Sarah Gray, managing principal with Halsall Associates, our client for the One King West project.

Ms. Gray highlighted the importance of archival research, testing, and inspection in the early stages of a repair or rehabilitation project. For One King West, Vertical Access provided a hands-on inspection and documentation of building conditions using TPAS™, the Tablet PC Annotation System. TPAS is now being used for the construction administration of the rehabilitation of One King West, demonstrating the flexibility and adaptability of the software for a variety of documentation and reporting needs.

The article, entitled “Heritage envelope rehab a balancing act”, was written by Dan O’Reilly and was published on January 5, 2015.

Vertical Access technicians inspect the One King West building in Toronto

Vertical Access technicians inspect the One King West building in Toronto

The truth about New York’s scaffold law is irrefutable …

The title of this post is the opening sentence from a guest viewpoint published in the Ithaca Journal on March 14, 2014 – Scaffold Law Hurts Contractors, Economy, by Brad Walters.  It goes on to say …

A recent Cornell study exposes the ugly truth about New York’s antiquated Section 240 of the Labor Law, more commonly known as the scaffold law. The law was created in 1885 and has remained unchanged over the years, in spite of greatly improved materials, methods, safety procedures and safety equipment. The law was put into effect in the days when contractors used wooden scaffolding to build high-rise buildings in New York City. Today, no other state in the country has such a law. In fact, the Cornell study suggests there is no other law like it on the planet.

The last state in the United States to have such a law was Illinois, and lawmakers there abolished it in 1995. So what were the results when Illinois put an end to the law? A study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Illinois from 1995 to 2006 found that construction fatalities fell from 1.7 per one hundred thousand to -2 per 100,000 workers, and construction injuries fell from 2.7 per hundred workers to -0.7 per 100 workers. That same study found that statewide construction jobs increased from roughly 220,000 annually to a high of almost 280,000 jobs. continued – download full article (pdf)

The full Cornell study is available to download here:
The Costs of Labor Law 240 on New York’s Economy and Public Infrastructure
Final Report to New York Civil Justice Institute
December 31, 2013

It’s Time for New York to Reform the 1885 Scaffold Law

By Kent Diebolt

scaffold-law-graphicOne of the state-specific challenges of doing business in New York has to do with two little-known New York State Labor Law statutes from the late 19th Century. Described as necessary and good laws when they were passed in 1885, things have changed in the last century, particularly with the advent of mandatory Workers’ Compensation insurance and federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations passed in the early 1970s.

Intended to protect construction workers and also known as NYS Labor Laws 240/241, these statutes place “absolute liability” on the contractor and building owner for injuries or fatalities resulting from a fall from height. In cases such as this, the entire onus is on the employer and no findings of liability on the part of the employee are permitted.  Liability on the part of the employer is assumed in all cases and the concept of proportionality of responsibility or use of recalcitrant worker or culpable conduct defense may not be considered by the courts and by statute, are considered irrelevant to these cases.

Findings of fault without a jury trial or damages result and judgment are made by a trial judge. However, since the defendant (employer) is de-facto guilty and cannot defend against claims, virtually all of these cases result in a guilty judgment or a settlement associated with very high costs for the insurance companies involved. Hearings for settlement amounts are made in front of a jury and since the guilty judgement has already been rendered, the awards tend to be “huge”. If they are held at all, mediation hearings essentially determine the amount of damages, since culpability has been established by statute.

At one time, all 50 states had similar legislation on their books but with the exception of New York State, these were all repealed or reformed subsequent to OSHA and worker’s compensation legislation. As a result, worker’s compensation is the sole recourse in these states unless negligence can be demonstrated on the part of the employer. Similar to the other 49 states, proposed reform of New York State’s 240/241 will not eliminate the rights of a worker to sue an employer for negligence but will allow employers to defend themselves in court. Reform would allow owners/contractors to present evidence, which is not presently allowed.

A Toxic Insurance Environment in New York State

All of this has resulted in a toxic insurance environment in New York State, with general liability and worker’s compensation premiums for companies that employ workers at height far exceeding the average rates in the rest of the country. Many insurance companies have left the New York State market because of the high frequency of successful claims, their inability to defend against claims and the severity of the rewards that result.

240/241 statures are kept in place due to political influence brought to bear primarily by labor unions and various New York State tort lawyer associations. Since a percentage of the awards are taken by the law firm, 240/241 cases represent very little risk associated with extremely high rewards to law firms trying these cases. Minor risk with very high, guaranteed returns result in a steady income stream for these law firms. Essentially, all a plaintiff’s attorney must do is establish the case as a 240/241 legal case. Historically, these cases have been broadly interpreted and are rarely turned down by the courts. Once in the courts, high rewards are all but guaranteed. Once a summary judgment is granted, interest is applied at 9% per year until the case is finally resolved.

In the last year, I have attended two excellent programs on this topic. The first was organized in March 2013 by the Greater New York Construction User Council. The second was in mid-January of this year, and was organized by the New York City Master Riggers Association, which hosted keynote speaker Tom Stebbins of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

Tom presented historic background on 240/241, comparisons to insurance costs in other states and an excellent overview of the current situation in Albany. LRANY has also organized an industry lobbying day in Albany, set for early February.  A link to download the presentation is provided below.

The issue of New York’s Labor Laws 240/241 is one that needs to be addressed.  It is a major reason for the high cost of construction and buildings maintenance in New York State and is significant contributor to a lack of competitiveness both between neighboring states as well as within the state.

Additional Information

The Scaffold Law and the Campaign for Reform (Tom Stebbins’ presentation, PDF download)
Scaffold Law Reform website
Contractors and Workers at Odds Over Scaffold Law, by Kirk Semple, New York Times, December 17, 2013.

Highlights from 2012 SPRAT Annual Conference in Golden, CO

Mike Gilbert and Keith Luscinski traveled to Golden, Colorado this month to attend the 2012 conference for the Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT). SPRAT is an organization comprised of individuals, companies, and agencies that have a stake in the safe development of rope access standards and practices. Although SPRAT is based in the United States, its scope is international. Currently, SPRAT members hail from the USA, Canada, Mexico, South America, and Europe. The membership includes individual practitioners, companies that provide rope access services, training or equipment, and government agencies.

Mike Gilbert, Level 3 SPRAT certified. Location: Jefferson Market Library, New York City. Photo by Ken Kobland.

SPRAT supports rope access practitioners with certification programs, regulatory support, networking, and opportunities to participate in developing industry-consensus standards. The key elements of the conference took place on Thursday and Friday, January 12 and 13.

Keith Luscinski, Level 3 SPRAT Certified. Location: Arthur Ravenel Bridge, Charleston, SC. Photo by Vertical Access.

On Thursday afternoon, a meeting was held by the Standards Committee, which comprises all SPRAT members. The Standards Committee oversees the key subcommittees that maintain and promulgate the current SPRAT standards and formulate new standards.  SPRAT has recently been seeing growth in new countries and industries, which was certainly evidenced by the committee’s attendance.  Members were present from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and Turkey, as well as from the window cleaning, chimney repair and telecommunication sectors.  Vertical Access, however, was one of only a few firms representing the East Coast.

An interesting new development by the Standards Committee is the introduction of a rope access company audit program.  This effort is the purview of the Company Audit Subcommittee. Keith attended the subcommittee meeting Thursday afternoon.

Intended to be a voluntary process, the audit would add distinction to businesses that are fully SPRAT compliant.  Currently, SPRAT certifies individual technicians but has no process for evaluations at the employer level.  This year will likely see a handful of trial runs of the audit program, with a full implementation of the program within the next few years. Vertical Access is interested in this program, and will likely participate in the “beta testing”.

Friday was primarily given over to presentations by the SPRAT membership and interested outside parties and without a doubt, the hottest topic at the conference was Petzl’s presentation of its recent statement regarding the Shunt backup device. Used by the majority of industrial rope access technicians in the United States, the Shunt has been an inexpensive, lightweight and user-friendly fall-protection/backup device for over fifteen years.

Petzl’s recent statement addresses the hazard of an uncontrolled descent should the user either fail to let go of the Shunt or grab the Shunt in the event of a fall or working line failure.  While this hazard has been acknowledged by Petzl and rope access practitioners for years, recent testing suggested the previous policy of allowing the Shunt to be used by trained technicians does not adequately mitigate the hazard.

The Petzl Shunt

The conclusion is that in spite of our best intentions, we cannot train panic. As part of the statement, Petzl advises against the use of the device for industrial rope access applications.  Many industrial rope access companies are now searching for other backup devices that are “panic proof,” meaning that they will arrest a fall even if grabbed by the user.

While every occupation has its hazards, historical data shows an exceedingly low rate of major injuries to industrial rope access technicians.  See statistics gathered by the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association.

SPRAT is reviewing its evaluation criteria in light of the previously ubiquitous use of the Shunt device. Vertical Access will begin using an alternative device, while we all await the development of the ideal backup device. Attention all inventors…..

ANSI Z359 November 2011 meeting

Eighty fall protection professionals representing the fall protection industry throughout the US and Canada gathered in Boulder, Colorado over three days in November to continue moving forward the Z359 fall protection code from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Kelly Streeter travels out to this meeting twice a year to take part in this consensus standard writing process. Vertical Access originally became involved in order to be an active subcommittee member of the Z359.8 group: Safety Requirements for Suspended Rope Systems.  Chaired by Loui McCurley, representing the Society of Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), the document is nearly ready to go to the full committee for ballot.

For the past year, Kelly has been the chairperson along with co-chair Steve Hudson, from PMI, of the Z359.9 subcommittee which is tasked with creating the standard for Personal Equipment for Protection Against Falls – Descending Devices. This standard reaches far beyond the world of industrial rope access as we know it at Vertical Access and includes six different types of descenders including devices that are intended solely for rescue purposes. The benefit of these meetings is not only to work on the Fall Protection Code, but also to connect with fall protection professionals outside of the Industrial Rope Access industry.

RESTORE offers 2011-2012 Masonry Conservation Course

Here’s some information that we’d like to pass along from a colleague in our community of conservators, architects, and engineers …

Registration is now open for Masonry Conservation 2011-2012, a two-semester program of classes, labs, and field workshops designed to equip participants with the knowledge and skills needed to handle complex preservation and maintenance issues encountered in the field.  Classes start NOVEMBER 15, 2011.

This is the 35th year that RESTORE  has been offering training in the technology of architectural conservation with their team of nationally and internationally renowned faculty.   Tuesday evening classes are held in New York City and are approved by the Professional Development Committee of the AIA. Graduates will receive 50 AIA continuing education learning units, 14 of which qualify for AIA Health, Safety, Welfare credit. Participants include a diverse cross-section of building design professionals, craftworkers, contractors, cultural resource and facilities managers, architectural conservators and preservationists.