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How Can I Address Energy Efficiency in My Historic Building? Thinking and Acting with a Sustainable Mindset

By Melanie Islam It’s undeniable that preserving an existing building is one of the most sustainable building actions. Embodied energy is conserved and environmental impacts are limited by building reuse. Yet, nearly 74% of the energy produced in the U.S. is used to operate buildings and 38% of CO2 emissions are byproducts of buildings. Inefficient building operations are a result of many things that can be contributed to a building envelope’s response to the natural elements, specified equipment and its performance, or user behavior. Existing building stock represents a majority of building portfolio and addressing the role historic buildings have in positively reducing the larger impact buildings have towards the environment requires a holistic approach that involves all parties – owner, consultant, and occupants—in the decision-making process. By applying the “SWOT process” to building analysis, all parties have the opportunity to understand why historic buildings are inherently sustainability, while identifying the challenges to meet energy efficiency targets. For example, we know that many historic buildings were originally designed to be passive and low-energy structures. These buildings have tall ceilings with operable windows, beautiful day lit stairwells, good wall-to-window ratios, and facades that respond to the local climate conditions. All of these qualities support key sustainability strategies for day lit and naturally ventilated spaces. But, historic building envelopes are often poor thermal barriers, as the walls, roof, and windows lack the required U-value to accommodate for the temperature difference between indoor and outdoor air caused by the introduction of air conditioning. A solution to this problem could be to insulate the walls or roof and properly seal windows and doors to reduce coolth loss by infiltration. This may not be the exact answer, but the [...]

2017-09-06T17:46:36+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Categories: Ask an Expert|

What are the pros and cons of using substitute materials when making repairs to a historic building?

By Sharon C. Park, AIA When deteriorated, damaged, or lost features of a historic building need repair or replacement, it is almost always best to use historic materials. In limited circumstances substitute materials that imitate historic materials may be used if the appearance and properties of the historic materials can be matched closely and no damage to the remaining historic fabric will result. The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation require that: Deteriorated architectural features be repaired rather than replaced, wherever possible. In the event that replacement is necessary, the new material should match the material being replaced in composition, design, color, texture, and other visual properties. The practice of using substitute materials in architecture is not new, yet it continues to pose practical problems and to raise philosophical questions. On the practical level the inappropriate choice or improper installation of substitute materials can cause a radical change in a building's appearance and can cause extensive physical damage over time. On the more philosophical level, the wholesale use of substitute materials can raise questions concerning the integrity of historic buildings largely comprised of new materials. In both cases the integrity of the historic resource can be destroyed. In general, four circumstances warrant the consideration of substitute materials: the unavailability of historic materials; the unavailability of skilled craftsmen; inherent flaws in the original materials; and code-required changes (which in many cases can be extremely destructive of historic resources). Use of these materials should be limited, since replacement of historic materials on a large scale may jeopardize the integrity of a historic resource. Every means of repairing deteriorating historic materials or replacing them with identical materials should be examined before turning to substitute materials. Because [...]

2017-04-26T11:48:24+00:00 April 26th, 2017|Categories: Ask an Expert|

How Can I Identify Architectural Character?

By Lee H. Nelson, FAIA Adapted from Preservation Brief 17 “Identifying the Visual Aspects of Historic Buildings as an Aid to Preserving their Character” The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties embody two important goals: 1) the preservation of historic materials and, 2) the preservation of a building's distinguishing character. Every old building is unique, with its own identity and its own distinctive character. Character refers to all those visual aspects and physical features that comprise the appearance of every historic building. Character-defining elements include the overall shape of the building, its materials, craftsmanship, decorative details, interior spaces and features, as well as the various aspects of its site and environment. Character-defining features at the Wakamiya Inari Shrine include the o-mune (ridge beam), chigi (X-shaped elements along the top of the ridge) and katsuyoi (barrel-shaped pieces that run horizontally along the ridge). Photo by Alec Freeman There are different ways of understanding old buildings. They can be seen as examples of specific building types, which are usually related to a building’s function, such as schools, courthouses or churches. Buildings can be studied as examples of using specific materials such as concrete, wood, steel, or limestone. They can also be considered as examples of an historical period, which is often related to a specific architectural style, such as Gothic Revival farmhouses, one-story bungalows, or Art Deco apartment buildings. There are many other facets of an historic building besides its functional type, its materials or construction or style that contribute to its historic qualities or significance. Some of these qualities are feelings conveyed by the sense of time and place or in buildings associated with events or people. A [...]

2017-04-21T01:00:52+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Categories: Ask an Expert|

When should historic signs be retained?

By Michael J. Auer, “The Preservation of Historic Signs” Preservation Brief 25  Historic signs once allowed buyers and sellers to communicate quickly, using images that were the medium of daily life. Historic signs can contribute to the character of buildings and districts. They can also be valued in themselves, quite apart from the buildings to which they may be attached. However, any program to preserve historic signs must recognize the challenges they present. These challenges are not for the most part technical. Sign preservation is more likely to involve aesthetic concerns and to generate community debate. Added to these concerns are several community goals that often appear to conflict: retaining diverse elements from the past, encouraging artistic expression in new signs, zoning for aesthetic concerns, and reconciling business requirements with preservation. The City Mill sign is a familiar landmark on Nimitz Highway. Courtesy of City Mill Co. The Hawai‘i Theatre marquee sign is one of the most photographed locations in Chinatown. Courtesy of Mason Architects.   Maintaining and Repairing Historic Signs Maintenance of historic signs is essential for their long-term preservation. Sign maintenance involves periodic inspections for evidence of damage and deterioration. Lightbulbs may need replacement. Screws and bolts may be weakened, or missing altogether. Dirt and other debris may be accumulating, introduced by birds or insects, and should be cleaned out. Water may be collecting in or on sign cabinets, threatening electrical connections. The source of water penetration should be identified and sealed. Most of these minor repairs are routine maintenance measures, and do not call for special expertise. All repairs, however, require caution. For example, electricity should be turned off when working around electric signs. [...]

2017-04-21T01:00:57+00:00 April 23rd, 2016|Categories: Ask an Expert|

How Can I Maintain the Exterior of an Historic Building?

From “Preservation Brief 47: Maintaining the Exterior of Small and Medium Size Historic Buildings” by Sharon C. Park, FAIA. Maintenance is the most important preservation treatment for extending the life of a historic property. It is also the most cost effective. Understanding the construction techniques of the original builders and the performance qualities of older building materials, using traditional maintenance and repair methods, and selecting in-kind materials where replacements are needed will help preserve the building and its historic character. Over time, the cost of maintenance is substantially less than the replacement of deteriorated historic features and involves considerably less disruption. Stopping decay before it is widespread helps keep the scale and complexity of work manageable for the owner. Maintenance can be managed in small distinct components, coordinated with other work, and scheduled over many years to ensure that materials are properly cared for and their life span maximized. A written maintenance plan is the most effective way to organize, schedule, and guide the work necessary to properly care for a historic building. The maintenance plan should include a description of the materials and methods required for each task, as well as a schedule for work required for maintenance of different building materials and components. Historic house journals, maintenance guides for older buildings, preservation consultants, and preservation maintenance firms can assist with writing appropriate procedures for specific properties. Priorities should be established for intervening when unexpected damage occurs such as from broken water pipes or high winds. Worker safety should always be paramount. When work is beyond the capabilities of in-house personnel and must be contracted, special efforts should be made to ensure that a contractor is both experienced in working with historic buildings [...]

2017-04-21T01:01:10+00:00 December 29th, 2015|Categories: Ask an Expert|

How Can I Prevent or Remove Graffiti from Historic Buildings?

Graffiti are markings that are applied illicitly on walls or other surfaces, usually in a public place. It can damage or weaken the original building material (the substrate), and also leave unsightly markings both from the original tags and the effects of visible overpainting or shadows after removal. Graffiti also have a strong correlation to crime and undesirable activities that affect the public perception of an area.  If applied without owner consent or proper approvals (such as compliance with sign codes or other land use requirements), graffiti is considered vandalism or defacement. Most local jurisdictions have laws against graffiti, with civil and criminal penalties for violations. The National Park Service Preservation Brief on removing graffiti from historic masonry emphasizes that quick response to remove graffiti as soon as it appears is important both for its elimination and its recurrence. Quickly removing the applied coating can keep it from permanently adhering to the building material. Quick removal also acts as a deterrent to vandalism and reduces the likelihood of recurrence. The goal for graffiti removal is to remove the marking without damaging the underlying material. It is important to use the gentlest means possible to avoid harming the substrate. Otherwise, the graffiti removal can be as harmful or disfiguring as the markings themselves. To select an appropriate removal method, it is necessary to identify both the material of the substrate (such as brick, basalt, glass, concrete, or wood) and the media of the coating (e.g. spray paint, ink, wax, or markers). Download the WJE Report on Graffiti Cleaning & Prevention (PDF) A recent technical study of graffiti prevention and removal in Honolulu’s Chinatown identified four major graffiti removal methods: microabrasion, chemical methods, water methods, and overpainting. [...]

2017-04-21T01:01:16+00:00 August 24th, 2015|Categories: Ask an Expert|

Development and Redevelopment in a Historic District

By Kiersten Faulkner, Executive Director With the advent of the City and County of Honolulu's transit oriented development (TOD) project spurring many questions from the community, we wanted to take a moment to share some of our thoughts on development and redevelopment in a historic district. The best type of redevelopment in a historic district is to use rehabilitation and adaptive use of existing structures. There are opportunities for hidden density by increasing use of currently vacant second floors in existing buildings. Many of the second floors of historic buildings could be used for housing, office, small-scale manufacturing or even retail. There are also a few underutilized lots or surface parking lots scattered in the area (especially mauka of Beretania Street) that could accommodate low-scale, new development that would fit with the scale and character of the area. Maintaining, preserving and upgrading existing buildings would also utilize the existing fabric in a way that respects the heritage and character, and also is more affordable and less environmentally damaging than new construction. Both Chinatown and Downtown Honolulu are already transit-oriented developments, so any additions or changes to the districts should use a light touch, polishing or investing in the existing urban fabric rather than trying to re-invent the entire area. The City’s transit oriented development (TOD) zoning overlay district specifically calls for plans, development and implementation actions to preserve individual and groupings of historic and cultural resources through the application of architectural and other design guidelines and standards for development; and also requires that TOD zones and implementing regulations include objectives addressing neighborhood character, unique community history, and protection of historic resources.  The draft Downtown TOD plan includes specific goals and objectives to protect and preserve [...]

2015-07-14T10:36:38+00:00 July 14th, 2015|Categories: Ask an Expert|Tags: , , , , |

What Considerations Are Important When Nominating Historic Cemeteries to the National and Hawai‘i Registers Of Historic Places?

By Megan Borthwick, Preservation Program Manager This year’s Experts Lecture Series focused on preserving historic cemeteries. Staff from the State Historic Preservation Division shared information about the National Register of Historic Places and burial sites in Hawai‘i. This lecture brought up the topic of criteria considerations and what types of properties need additional justification for listing on the Hawai‘i and National Registers. The Hawai‘i and National Registers of Historic Places are the official lists of the districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects worthy of preservation on the State and National level.  For a property to be eligible for listing on either of these registers, it must meet the criteria for significance in prehistory or history and retain sufficient historic integrity. The significance criteria are: (A) association with historic patterns or events, (B) association with important persons to history, (C) distinctive design or physical characteristics, or (D) potential to yield important information about history or prehistory. In addition to meeting on or more of the significance criteria, the historic property must also retain integrity of materials, design, feelings, location, association, workmanship, and setting to sufficiently demonstrate their significance. Certain types of properties are generally not considered eligible for inclusion on the historic register, but could be eligible if they meet additional criteria. These include (A) religious properties, (B) moved properties, (C) birthplaces or graves, (D) cemeteries, (E) reconstructed properties, (F) commemorative properties, or (G) properties that have achieved significance within less than 50 years. A cemetery would not normally be considered eligible for historic designation, unless it shows additional merit. In addition to meeting the basic criteria of significance and historic integrity, it must also demonstrate that the cemetery derives its primary significance from graves of [...]

2017-04-21T01:01:18+00:00 May 13th, 2015|Categories: Ask an Expert|

What’s the Difference Between “Integrity” and “Condition” and Why Does it Matter?

By Megan Borthwick, Preservation Program Manager As advocates of preservation, we often hear things like, “why not tear it down – it’s in terrible condition?” or “it’s practically falling down – how could it be historic?” We sometimes even hear the opposite, such as “they did so many great improvements, why don’t you consider it historic anymore?” The answer is: condition and historic integrity are two different concepts that play a large role in defining what properties are eligible for the historic register and which properties are not eligible. A property that is eligible for the register of historic places meets a number of criteria. First, the architectural historian or archaeologist evaluates which criteria of significance the property falls under: (A) Historic Pattern or Event,  (B) Association with Important Person, (C) Architectural or Engineering, or (D) Potential for Information. Then the property’s ability to convey this significance, also known as historic integrity, is assessed. The property’s ability to convey its significance—that is, its historic integrity—must be intact in order for the property to be eligible for the Register of Historic Places. This means that the property must retain a majority of the seven aspects of historic integrity: Materials Design Feeling Location Association Workmanship Setting Condition, on the other hand, is an assessment of the physical state of the property and is usually listed as poor, fair, good, or excellent. Therefore, a historic property that has been well maintained and any work done to the property that followed the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties would have high integrity and excellent condition, while a property that had largely been left unchanged and not maintained would have high integrity and poor condition. Additionally, [...]

2017-04-21T01:01:21+00:00 December 19th, 2014|Categories: Ask an Expert|

What Are Architectural Surveys and What Purpose Do They Serve?

By Jessica Puff, State Historic Preservation Division Architectural Historian Management of cultural and historic resources would be impossible without having an idea what resources are where. Archaeologists conduct Archaeological Inventory Surveys to find what cultural resources are located within a specific project area (see “Ask An Expert” May 2014). Architectural historians conduct this same type of study for architectural historic resources. For the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD), survey and inventory is the foundation of everything that the office does. It provides them with the information needed to document the history of a place, build special educational and outreach programs that share that history, apply for grants that may help a community use the programming developed by SHPD, nominate the site(s) to the State and National Registers of Historic Places and help those sites become eligible for Federal Historic Tax Credits, while providing guidance for the preservation or restoration of places surveyed. Architectural Surveys are regulated by the same laws and standards as Archaeological Inventory Surveys, such as the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. There are a number of reasons to conduct a survey, including identification of resources within a project area under the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106, or Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 6E. Surveys are also conducted for planning purposes; land managers must have an idea what resources are within their management areas in order to effectively plan for the future. Once the purpose of a survey is clarified, the architectural historian decides which type of survey best fits; reconnaissance level survey (RLS) or intensive level survey (ILS). Both RLS and ILS collect the same type of data, but ILS provides additional information to inform nominations to [...]

2014-09-02T22:49:35+00:00 September 2nd, 2014|Categories: Ask an Expert|