Vertical Access Adds Three!

Tuli Kuckes has joined the firm as a SPRAT Certified Level 1 Rope Access Technician and Preservation Technician. He is a graduate of Skidmore College and the National Outdoor Leadership School, served as a High Ropes Course instructor, and has his Wilderness First Responder certification.

Matthew Kreidler has joined the firm as our new TPAS and CAD Manager.  He received his Masters in Architecture from the University at Buffalo and comes to the firm from Boston Valley Terra Cotta.

Judith Fagin, PMP, has joined the firm as Business Development Manager. Judy has spent the majority of her career in project development and implementation and has worked in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. She has a Bachelor of Arts in art history from Tulane University, a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Miami, and did graduate work in Historic Preservation at Columbia University. She recently received her Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

See our full team here!

A Visit from St. Nicholas?

‘Twas the month before Christmas, Thanksgiving weekend 
On a campus deserted, but lo! There ascends
We know not yet which – sleigh, climber, or drone
To place upon high a garment on loan
From a jolly old elf: a hat red and white;
A mischievous prank under cover of night…

Exactly 22 years and 58 days after one of the most famous pranks in the history of the Ivy League, another mysterious object appeared atop Cornell University’s McGraw Tower on Sunday, December 1. This time, instead of a hollow gourd, it was a Santa hat. No one has come forward to claim responsibility for the caper, and the perpetrators’ means of access is unknown. 

A swirl of questions surrounded the pumpkin, after it was discovered on the morning of October 8, 1997. Speculators wondered whether it was real and pondered how anyone had managed to impale it at the top of a steeply-sloping metal roof. Student scientists competed to obtain a sample of the object to confirm that it was, indeed, a pumpkin. And finally, after enduring five months of winter conditions, the shriveled fruit was removed with a crane. To this day, the pranksters have not revealed their identities (Vertical Access was not involved). 

Unlike the pumpkin, the hat has disappeared just as quietly as it appeared. Did a certain toymaker reclaim his cap? Did the wind blow it down? Why didn’t they call VA? We may never know.

While Vertical Access had nothing to do with the placement of the hat – “my alibi is rock-solid,” says Founding Partner Kent Diebolt [Cornell ‘82] – we stand at the ready to put our expertise to work in accessing, documenting, or removing the next object to appear atop McGraw Tower.

Daniel Gordeyeva Joins Vertical Access

Vertical Access announces Daniel Gordeyeva joins the company’s Ithaca office at the end of July.  A tree climbing instructor with Cornell Outdoor Education, Daniel will assist with AutoCAD and certify to a SPRAT Level I Rope Access Technician.  He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, majoring in Sustainability Studies and Economics. He has also served as a Back Country Steward with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and as an Operations and Maintenance Solar Electrician with EMT Solar works.

“Parking Garages are Buildings Too”

Vertical Access is called upon to assist with all kinds of difficult to access civil structures, not just buildings.  Parking garages are no exception, and are increasingly coming under scrutiny by building codes departments across the country.

Vertical Access assisted Elwyn & Palmer with an assessment the ends of the post-tensioned beams on the north and south sides of the Seneca Street Parking Garage in Ithaca, NY.

Last summer, New York State amended Title 19 of the New York Code, Rules, and Regulations to require periodic inspection of parking garages. An initial condition assessment is required prior to an issuance of an updated certificate of occupancy or certificate of compliance being issued for a new structure.

Deadlines are fast approaching. Existing buildings must complete an initial condition assessment prior to:

  • October 1, 2019 if originally constructed prior to January 1, 1984
  • October 1, 2020 if originally constructed between January 1, 1984 and December 31, 2002
  • October 1, 2021 if originally constructed between January 2003 and August 29, 2018 (the date of the release of this new rule).

Following the initial condition assessment of a parking garage, such parking garage shall undergo periodic condition assessments on an ongoing basis every three years. 

According to a recent issue of NYC Building News, the New York City Department of Buildings is currently recommending similar requirements for periodic parking garage inspections for adoption in New York City as a local law through the Department’s Periodic Code Revision Process.

Contact Kelly Streeter, P.E., our resident Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector, to see how we can assist with your parking garage inspections.

Three more technicians certified in Infrared Thermography!

Kristen Olson, Mike Russell, EIT, and Patrick Capruso completed Level I Thermography Certification Training through the Infrared Training Center in Nashua, NH.  Bolstering our team’s already existing infrared thermography skills, the course will help Kristen, Mike, and Patrick better collect quality data about differences in emitted infrared energy and account for measurement effects such as distance and emissivity using infrared cameras. This technology helps with our investigation of moisture infiltration and evaluation of subsurface conditions. Infrared thermography measures emitted and reflective heat coming from an object. This closely corresponds with the temperature of that object; the hotter it is, the more heat it will emit to its surroundings.

It is useful in building inspections to be able to “visualize” differential levels of heat emanating from a building. Water, for example, will heat up and cool down at a slower rate than the rest of a building façade. This makes it possible to view where there may be water infiltration using a thermal imager because wet areas exhibit different heat signatures, whereas a visible light image will not show the temperature differences. Steel rebar and relieving angles in a facade will similarly change temperature at a different rate than the surrounding material and therefore be distinguishable in a thermal image.

The certification and training included:

  • Comprehensive, hands-on introduction to thermal imaging and measurement systems for predictive maintenance applications.
  • Hands-on instruction on how to interpret thermograms and make informed decisions using heat transfer concepts to analyze thermal images
  • Learning about the latest in infrared inspection report generation and database software.
  • Training to distinguish between hot spots and reflections, direct vs. indirect readings and qualitative vs. quantitative thermography.

Read more about our infrared projects and services

Read more about our non-destructive testing services

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.


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.

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?




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.


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.

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?





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.


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.