Celebrating 50 Years of Historic Ithaca

June 20th marked the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of Historic Ithaca, one of the oldest nonprofits in New York State dedicated to historic preservation. Members of the Vertical Access team have been involved with HI in various capacities for nearly 20 years, as board members, staff, and volunteers.

Kristen Olson served as HI’s Preservation Service Coordinator before joining Vertical Access. She has been working as a volunteer on the organization’s 50th Anniversary activities, including HI’s participation in the annual Ithaca Festival Parade in June:

Kristen parade

Kristen Olson carries a sign promoting Historic Ithaca in the annual Ithaca Festival Parade

Kent Diebolt served on HI’s board of directors from 1997 to 2000. During his tenure as President from 1998 to 1999, Historic Ithaca purchased and stabilized the State Theatre, saving it from near-certain destruction.

On June 20th, HI supporters gathered at the theater to hear Alternate Acting Mayor and city Alderperson Seph Murtagh read the City of Ithaca proclamation declaring Historic Ithaca Day, honoring the organization’s long history advocating for and protecting historic places.

From the lobby steps in the restored vaudeville-era theater, Kent and other former board members spoke about the organization’s work over the past 50 years. As a visual aid, Kent brought along an enlarged copy of the notice of condemnation that was placed on the theater in 1998, demonstrating just how close it came to demolition.

Kent at state

Kent Diebolt speaks at Historic Ithaca’s 50th Anniversary celebration



Here’s to the next 50 years for Historic Ithaca!

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

beyond bending: ETH zurich erects sandstone vault at venice architecture biennale

presented by ETH zurich at the 15th international architecture exhibition, ‘beyond bending’ is an installation conceived by block research group (prof. philippe block and tom van mele) that forms part of the biennale’s main exhibition at the arsenale.

The various elements – four prototypes of vaulted floor systems, a series of graphical force diagrams, and an expansive stone vault – demonstrate how architecture can learn from the building techniques of the past. the work asserts that aesthetics and the efficient use of resources are not mutually exclusive. through the use of novel structural design approaches and digital fabrication methods, excess steel has been eliminated, allowing more humble materials — such as earth and stone — to take precedence.
[vimeo 167868985 w=640 h=360]

Source: beyond bending: ETH zurich erects sandstone vault at venice architecture biennale

New NYC DOB regulations for Local Law 11 work… | Habitat Magazine

May 6, 2016 — New DOB regulations will boost the cost of mandatory Local Law 11 work.

As the new cycle for Local Law 11 inspections begins, new regulations, previewed at an industry meeting staged by the Department of Buildings (DOB) on April 18, are causing consternation among building owners and their professionals. The upcoming requirements for Local Law 11, formally known as the Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), will affect about 14,000 buildings over six stories high throughout the city, and will be, in the words of Howard L. Zimmerman, president of Howard L. Zimmerman Architects, “more involved, more intense, more expensive.”

Source: Facade Repairs | Habitat Magazine

American Society of Safety Engineers – 2016 Professional Development Conference and Exposition – Atlanta, GA

ASSE Professional Development Conference & Exposition takes place in Atlanta, GA from June 26 through June 29, 2016.

For more than 50 years, ASSE’s Professional Development Conference has been and will continue to be the direct reflection of what is taking place in the occupational, safety and health industry.

Source: Safety 2016 – Atlanta, GA

Rafael Guastavino movie, “El arquitecto de Nueva York” premiered in Valencia, Spain

On March 1, 2016, Kent Diebolt, founding partner of Vertical Access, and Berta de Miguel, Metropolitan New York branch office manager traveled to Valencia to join 500 people at the world premier of the documentary film, “El arquitecto de Nueva York”.

Lunch on the beach with friends, family and colleagues in Valencia, the day of the Premier. Right to left: María Alcalá, Fernando Vegas, Camilla Mileto, Kent Diebolt, Arturo Zaragozá, Gabriel Pardo, Berta de Miguel

Lunch on the beach with friends, family and colleagues in Valencia, the day of the Premier.
Right to left: María Alcalá, Fernando Vegas, Camilla Mileto, Kent Diebolt, Arturo Zaragozá, Gabriel Pardo, Berta de Miguel

A celebration of the lives and careers of the Rafael Guastavinos – father and son – the film, produced by Endora Productions and produced and directed by Eva Vizcarra, aims to get the public to know and admire this largely unknown architect.

The documentary explores the life and professional achievements of Rafael Guastavino Senior through masterfully designed special effects and 3D recreations, images and testimonials by different persons professionally or personally involved with the architect. Kent and Berta are two of those professionals that participated in the film, sharing their passion and knowledge of the Guastavino legacy.

Right to left: Berta de Miguel, Eva Vizcarra, Kent Diebolt

Right to left: Berta de Miguel, Eva Vizcarra, Kent Diebolt

Filmed in the United States and Spain, El arquitecto de Nueva York is a very well documented, written and executed film, intended to allow the general public in both countries to humanly and professionally know one of the most important figures in the history of architecture of the United States. Eva Vizcarra builds such depth of respect and passion for Rafael Guastavino’s achievements and humanity, that the viewer feels like a friend of his at the end of the 90 minute documentary film. A one-hour version of the film will be broadcast by the public Spanish television TVE2 on April 15th 2016, and a longer version will be projected in cinemas across Spain after that date. The release date for the English version in the United States remains unknown, but we will keep you posted.







Watch the film’s trailer here.


Learn more about Rafael Guastavino

The Valencian Architect and Constructor Who Built (Quite a Bit of) New York

How One Family Built America’s Public Palaces

Recuperando a Guastavino: el qrquitecto de Nueva York’ fue valenciano (y es un desconocideo)

Can you identify this building? – Series No. 7

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. 7:

Gargoyles and turrets abound on this monumental government building, constructed just before the turn of the twentieth century to house several federal agencies under one roof. In which city on the shores of Lake Michigan is this building located?



Answer: U.S. Courthouse and Federal Office Building, Milwaukee, WI. This Romanesque Revival building was designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury. It originally housed a post office, courts and U.S. Customs office. Today, the only original remaining tenant is the United States District Court.


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.

Reaching a Wide Variety of Audiences about the Ups and Downs of Drones

The rise of the development of drones and their game-changing potential to advance applications for commercial use in the building industry is huge.  We’ve been working to stay abreast of opportunities and advances since first recognizing the value these new tools bring to our work.

Vertical Access holds a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 333 Exemption for the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to assist with the inspection of buildings, monuments, dams, bridges, and other types of structures in the United States. However, FAA regulations and restrictions are keeping drone operators pretty much grounded.  While there are opportunities opening up for the use of drones for inspections in the energy sector and for bridge and dam inspections for example – uses for building inspections in urban environments it is not an option – yet.

While regulations are slow to change, technology and software developments are not hindered at all and we’ve been continuing to invest in the time, hardware, and software to be ready and prepared for future project possibilities.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3sJoRsPk-M]

During the last six months, Vertical Access partners and staff have been presenting to a variety of audiences in California, Michigan and Pennsylvania about the potential for the use of drones for inspections. These presentations to industry organizations have provided updates on the state of the ever-evolving FAA regulations and technical applications.

Drones or UAVs: Life on a Frontier

Last Fall, Kent Diebolt co-presented with John Sier, Principal of the law firm Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook about the use of drones in the building industry. The symposium held in Novi, MI, was organized by the Michigan Chapter of the Construction Owners Association of America (COAA). COAA members include public and private owners and developers from government, academia, and commercial venues who use construction services. The presentation was designed to untangle and de-mystify the many questions about drones from a supply, application and legal / regulatory point of view.

Kent provided an overview of the exponential rise in the potential use of drones in the building and construction industry, including some of the latest stories in the news about the problems they are causing, such as hampering the efforts of fire fighters. FAA regulations and restrictions were presented along with a robust scenario of the myriad opportunities for advancing inspection technologies that are being rapidly developed.

Drones – the Next Big Thing (Maybe)

Kelly Streeter presenting at the 2016 Winter Technical Meeting in San Diego, CA. Photo: @InfoSWR

At the 2016 Winter Technical Meeting of the Sealant, Waterproofing and Restoration Institute (SWRI) in San Diego, CA, Kelly Streeter delivered a 40-minute presentation about drones to an audience of commercial contractors, manufacturers, and building design professionals.

Kelly talked about the increasing popularity of the use of UAVs as a new tool that can be utilized, for example, to increase the sample size of building façade inspections. She explained how still photography, live feed video streams, and infrared thermography could be completed using UAVs, and how improved photogrammetry tools can be integrated to create three-dimensional models of existing conditions and infrared profiles.  A sobering look at the latest state of FAA regulations and they way they’re halting use of UAVs in urban environments was also explained.

Members of SWRI can login and see a video of Kelly’s presentation here.

Q: Was there a high level of interest in this subject at the conference?
Kelly: I always judge the interest level of any presentation I am a part of by the range and number of questions after I stop talking.  If I use that measure, I think there was a lot of interest in the topic of UAVs.  The level of knowledge about both the opportunities for UAV technology in architecture, engineering, and construction was largely limited to visual inspection so the photogrammetry, I think, was new to most.  The review of the regulatory environment was a surprise to most.

Q:  What were some of the questions and concerns of the audience? Anything surprise you about their responses?
Kelly: There were definitely people out in the audience who are using drones in their work without adhering to the current FAA regulations.  In that sense, I was the bearer of bad news.  Specifically, I had to underscore that the “drone registry” is for hobby users only and is not the proper path for users who are using the technology for commercial purposes.

Q: What application for drones in your business are you most excited about ?
Kelly: I think the creation of 3D photogrammetric models is incredibly compelling and could be very useful for developers working with historic structures.  I also constantly think of project examples where a drone could help us rig certain structures more safely.  Again, both of these applications are not viable until the FAA loosens up.

Q: The FAA recently announced it is developing drone regulations to allow some unmanned aerial vehicles to fly over people for commercial purposes. Could this be the beginning of broader approvals coming down the road?   Read article
Kelly: I certainly hope so.  The fact that our applications have both commercial need and public benefit should matter.  Yes, our services would make money, but our applications could also increase the safety of our employees and of the public.  It seems to me that April 1 may be a bit optimistic but we will see.

Drones: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown


Joe Haun presenting at the Documentation Technologies Workshop hosted by the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology International (APT)

On March 11 and 12, Joe Haun and Kristen Olson presented “Drones: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown” to a workshop hosted by the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology International (APT). The two-day Documentation Technologies Workshop was presented by the APT Technical Committee for Documentation in partnership with the Delaware Valley Chapter, and is part of a series of traveling workshops on this topic being presented by the Documentation committee.

Other presenters demonstrated laser scanning, photogrammetry, nondestructive evaluation tools, hygrothermal analysis, and a host of digital applications to aid in the documentation of buildings and communication among team members. A common theme was the adaptation of technologies that were originally developed for other applications or industries.

Kristen presented an overview of potential drone applications for Vertical Access, including visual inspection of hard-to-reach areas, reconnaissance survey to identify areas for hands-on inspection, and as an aid to solve difficult rigging challenges. She also demonstrated drawings and 3D models created with photogrammetry using imagery captured by our drone.

Joe presented the wide array of unmanned aircraft and hardware available, as well as innovations that are likely to enable the large-scale commercial use of drones, such as sense-and-avoid technology, and low-altitude air traffic managment. He also discussed the roadblock to successful integration of drone technology with building investigations – the tangle of FAA regulations that severely restrict the commercial use of drones.

The workshop concluded with demonstrations, where attendees were able to see VA’s drone in action.



Additional Resources