Increasing energy efficiency in historic buildings is always a hot topic. Here are our Top Six Tips for improving the energy efficiency in historic buildings:

 

Number 1

Have a Maintenance Appraisal Performed to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

When not properly maintained, there are many ways energy efficiency in historic buildings suffers – one of which are air leaks into and out of the home.  A maintenance appraisal performed by a qualified contractor will locate any source of air leakage and provide you with a plan-of-attack to remedy the leakage without damaging the historic aspects of your home.

 

Number 2

Schedule an Energy Audit to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This could really be tie for the #1 spot – both the maintenance appraisal and an energy audit are absolutely essential things that need to be done BEFORE you implement any energy-improvement measures.  The energy audit will evaluate current energy efficiency in your historic building and identify any deficiencies in both the envelope of your home and/or the mechanical systems.

 

Number 3

Implement a Maintenance Plan to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

After you have these two critical reports in your hand, set to work implementing them.  Hire a qualified contractor to eliminate any air infiltration, repair windows, and perform the other maintenance affecting your home’s energy efficiency.  Hire a qualified energy contractor to replace any mechanical systems they’ve found to be detrimental to your home’s energy efficiency.  Make sure both of these contractors have a proven track record of working with historic buildings in a way that does not damage the architecture and its features.  Maintenance is one of the most critical aspects of improving the energy efficiency of historic buildings.

 

Number 4

Change Your Habits to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

This can be the toughest one to do, but if we truly want to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings then our habits have to change.  Some of these changes can be easy – install timers or motion detectors on lights, attach self-closing mechanisms on doors that might otherwise hag open, install fans and raise the thermostat temperature, use CFLs in your lights, unplug “vampire” devices that use electricity in standby mode or whenever they are plugged into an outlet (most chargers, DVD players, etc.).

 

Number 5

Install Insulation to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

Installing insulation in strategic places can be a cost-effective solution to energy loss – but make sure you are not installing the insulation in ineffective places and ways.  There is a lot of misinformation floating around out there of the best ways to insulate your house, and some of them can even permanently damage your home.  Have the historic contractor and energy consultant you hire work together to devise an insulation plan specifically tailored to increase the energy efficiency of your historic building that won’t compromise its architectural integrity.

 

Number 6

Use Shading Devices to Increase the Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings

There are several ways you can make use of shading devices in ways that are historically compatible to increase the energy efficiency of historic buildings.  Many historical homes made use of exterior awnings and if there is evidence your home may have originally had awnings you can consider installing them again.  Some homes may still have their awnings on them – if yours does, maintain it well for maximum benefit.  Trees, bushes, and other foliage are another good way to shade your home during the summer to increase energy efficiency if you have the space.  As is hanging drapes and curtains on any windows receiving direct sunlight  and keeping them closed during the sunlight hours.

 

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″]

The Technical Preservation Service at the National Park Service offers Preservation Brief #3: Improving Energy Efficiency in Historic Buildings that provides an in-depth look at this topic.  You can read the brief online at: nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm

[/sws_grey_box]

 

 

 

 

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

INTRODUCTION
Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.

 

1998 – Hazleton High School, Luzerne County

Hazleton High School, Luzerne County

 

• SAVED!•

Hazleton High School, affectionately known as “The Castle on the Hill” to local residents, is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks.  Built in 1926 in the collegiate Gothic style with elaborate medieval-=style towers and concrete parapets, the building was later converted for use as a junior high school.  Despite its continued use, the school suffered from years of deferred maintenance.  Serious structural problems resulted from water penetration; outdated heating and cooling systems resulted in broken pipes that damaged the wood floors.  When a section of the concrete parapet above the building’s main entrance fell and struct a parent, the school board voted to demolish the historic school.

With vocal opposition from the community and support by a mayor who refused to issue a demolition permit, local residents rallied and called for funding to repair and rehabilitate the building.  Following changes in the composition of the school board, claims that the building was beyond repair were questioned and its condition was reassessed.  When the building was listed in the Pennsylvania At Risk in 1998, the board was divided, and the community was polarized over the issue; many saw preservation as counter to the school’s need for improved technology and other upgrades to the educational curriculum.  After much public debate, the school board voted in May of 2004 to renovate the building for use as an elementary and middle school rather than demolish it.  Renovation of the school occurred relatively quickly, with the new Hazleton Elementary/Middle School opening in the old High School in 2007.

During this renovation, the auditorium was stabilized but not rehabilitated.  Members of the community worked to preserve the auditorium and raise funds for its rehabilitation.  Using a variety of funding sources including grants, private donations, and a large contribution from the school district, the auditorium was fitted with new seating and reproduction aisle standards, digital theater lighting, theater rigging, audio and visual systems and more, and opened as the Alice C. Wiltsie Performing Arts Center in 2011.  The facility, which is owned by the school district and leased to a nonprofit organization that operates the auditorium, received a preservation award in 2012.

To support the Wiltsie Performing Arts Center at the Hazleton School, please visit www.wiltsiecenter.org.

 

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″]

In 1998, Preservation Pennsylvania dedicated its entire At Risk list to endangered schools.  With help from Arthur Ziegler at the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Preservation Pennsylvania brought attention to the fact that the Pennsylvania Depart of Education’s policies for reimbursement encouraged the construction of new schools over the continued use and preservation of existing and historic schools and began working to improve the situation.

Since 1998, Preservation Pennsylvania has continued to focus on the school issue, working with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and other partners to keep the issue of retaining historical school buildings as schools in the forefront and to encourage the smart siting of new schools in locations where at least a portion of students can walk or bike to school.  Preservation Pennsylvania just completed a policy recommendation on Capital Maintenance Reimbursement and the Joint Use of Community-Centered Schools in Pennsylvania.  The Community-Centered Schools page on our website has the most up-to-date resources and success stories. [/sws_grey_box]

 

 

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

INTRODUCTION
Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.

 

1996 – Walnut Street Bridge, Dauphin & Cumberland Counties

 

Walnut Street Bridge

Photo by origamidon on flickr

• SAVED (Partially) •

Erected in 1889-1890 and comprised of 15 wrought-iron, steel pin-connected Baltimore truss spans, the 2,850-foot Walnut Street Bridge (or People’s Bridge) was one of the largest multi-span truss bridges ever fabricated by Pennsylvania’s nationally significant Phoenix Bridge Company using their patented Phoenix column.  By 1893, the toll bridge carried trolleys that transported passengers between the west shore of the Susquehanna River and the state capital, as well as foot traffic and horse-drawn vehicles.  The bridge also enabled recreational development on City Island in the early 20th century, including baseball, football and track, as well as picnicking, swimming and boating.

With evolutions in popular modes of transportation and periodic damage from storms and floods, owners of the Walnut Street Bridge have dealt with minor structural problems since about 1910.  After overcoming resistance by the private property owner, the Commonwealth finally acquired the toll bridge in 1954.  They continued to collect tolls on the bridge until 1957.  The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.  That same year, flood waters from Hurricane Agnes caused severe damage to the bridge, and it was closed to vehicular traffic.  However, the bridge survived as an important pedestrian link between the west shore, City Island, and Harrisburg’s downtown commercial district.  The Walnut Street Bridge was one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.

In January of 1996, the Walnut Street Bridge was again seriously damaged by ice-dammed flood waters.  Three metal trusses were destroyed, and the piers that had supported them were removed.  Overwhelming local support and extraordinary stewardship by the Commonwealth resulted in the rehabilitation of the remaining eastern spans, which provide pedestrian access between downtown Harrisburg and City Island facilities.  The bridge is used by over one million visitors, tourists, and residents each year.

There are no plans to replace the three missing spans to reconnect the Walnut Street Bridge to the Susquehanna River’s west shore.  The City of Harrisburg, which is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge, is currently unable to devote financial resources to this project.  Fortunately, a coalition of residents, area businesses, and other partners, known collectively as Lighten Up Harrisburg, is working to illuminate the historic Walnut Street Bridge and address other urgent safety needs.

To support this project, please visit Lighten Up Harrisburg.

 

In 2008, metal truss bridges statewide were recognized by Preservation Pennsylvania as an endangered resource; many truss bridges were at risk for replacement due to strength deficiencies, size limitations, deferred maintenance and the high cost of repairs.  In 1996, 328 truss bridges in Pennsylvania were eligible for or listed in the National Register.  Following the Commonwealth’s “Accelerated Bridge Program,” that number was expected to decline to 237 by the end of 2008 and just 184 by the end of 2012.  While not all metal truss bridges can and should be saved, some may be strengthened to continue to serve the community.  

In reaction to concerns about the shrinking population of metal truss bridges in Pennsylvania, PennDOT is currently working to develop a management plan to help maintain the bridges and prioritize select bridges for rehabilitation rather than replacement.  The plan seeks to balance sound engineering with historic preservation considerations in evaluating the level of significance and the rehabilitation potential for each bridge.  PennDOT anticipates that the plan will be an invaluable tool to be used throughout their planning and project development process.

Preservation Pennsylvania has released their “Pennsylvania At-Risk: Twenty-Year Retrospective of Pennsylvania’s Endangered Historic Properties, Where Are They Now” edition. It’s a fascinating look at preservation in action and we’ll be posting a look at each property in a series of posts over the next several months.

INTRODUCTION
Preservation Pennsylvania established the annual Pennsylvania At Risk list in 1992, making us the first statewide preservation organization in the United States to have an annual roster of endangered historic properties. Since 1992, we have listed and worked to
preserve more than 200 endangered historic resources, including individual buildings, historic districts and thematic resources statewide. For 2012, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our organization, we are presenting a 20-year retrospective edition of Pennsylvania At Risk. In this issue, we revisit some of the amazing historic places across the Commonwealth, some of which have been rescued from extinction through preservation and rehabilitation efforts, and others that still need our help.

Approximately 18% of Pennsylvania’s At Risk properties have been lost, having been demolished or substantially altered. Another 32% have been saved or are in a condition or situation where the identified threat no longer poses a problem for the historic property. Approximately 50% of the 201 At Risk resources remain in danger, or we have not been able to confirm their current status as either saved or lost.

By monitoring these properties over the past 20 years and working with individuals and organizations trying to preserve them, we have learned many valuable lessons. Those lessons are called out throughout this publication.

 

1995 – Leap-the-Dips, Blair County

 

Leap The Dips

Photo by  Inferno Insane on Flickr

 

• SAVED •

Amusement parks first appeared in the latter half of the 19th century and quickly became a common and significant form of popular recreation.  The development of the roller coaster occurred parallel with the development of the amusement park and was signature attraction at nearly all parks.   Erected in 1902, Leap-the-Dips is the oldest standing roller coaster and the last known example of a side-friction figure-eight roller coaster in the world.  In its heyday, it was one of approximately 250 of its type.  Because of this remarkable significance, Leap-the-Dips was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1996.

Leap-the-Dips was closed in 1985.  It was listed in Pennsylvania At Risk a decade later, its condition having deteriorated significantly as a result of insufficient maintenance.  The nonprofit Leap-the-Dips Preservation Foundation, Inc. formed to preserve and restore the coaster.  They began fundraising in 1995, raising more than $100,000 in donations and approximately $225,000 in grants, including $100,000 from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  The remaining $650,000 needed for the restoration of the roller coaster was borrowed from 10 different sources.  Restoration began in 1997 , and Leap-the-Dips reopened at Lakemont Park in 1999.  Today, the Foundation and owner Leap, Inc. work together to operate the ride from May through October and preserve it for future generations.  Proceeds from ridership, fundraising and merchandise sales are used first to pay the debt and then to support operation and maintenance of the historic roller coaster.

To support the Leap-the-Dips Preservation Foundation and Leap, Inc., go to Lakemont Park and ride the roller coaster! 

 

In honor of the ever-approaching spooooooooky Halloween holiday, we’ve been highlighting haunted historic buildings (or historic buildings that by all rights should be haunted) for you to virtually explore so you don’t have to meet the ghosties face-to-face.

One of our recent blog posts was about the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia – the state’s first attempt at humane treatment of prisoners that opened in 1829.  After implementing Penitentiaries as prison management reform, the state then turned its eye towards reformation of the way the mentally ill were treated with the opening of the Harrisburg State Hospital in 1850.

Haunted Historic Buildings

The History Behind these Haunted Historic Buildings

Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital, as it was then called, was also built by architect John Haviland (who built Eastern State Penitentiary, another haunted historic building in Pennsylvania)  The cost for patient housing (paid for by families of the patients or the county in which they lived before admission to the hospital) was $2.50 per week and the facility used an adjoining 130-acre farm for work therapy and to grow food and provide other necessities for the hospital’s operation.

Originally, the hospital was a single structure that housed all administration, staff, and patients.  In the late 1800’s and very early 1900’s, the hospital was rebuilt in the increasingly popular “cottage plan” style.  At its peak, the facility had 70 buildings spread out over 1,000 acres and was completely self-sufficient with its own farm, power plant, and stores.  This “City on the Hill” as it became known, operated as a hospital facility for mentally ill patients until 2006 and has been housing various government administration offices since then.

The Hauntings

Since the closing of the insane asylum the place has been haunted. Noises, screams, shadows, apparitions, and footsteps have all been heard and seen within this place. The basement, morgue, and the tunnels underneath the basement are the areas of heightened supernatural interest.  Blood like stains are sometimes found on the floor of the exam room in the morgue and poltergeist activity runs rampant on the property.  Paranormal activities are reported by visitors, staff, maintenance crews, contractors working on the property, etc.

So rampant that the Everyday Paranormal and Ghost Lab television crew from Discovery Channel came to investigate the building for one of their episodes.  The Ghost Lab show explores haunted buildings, which are often haunted historic buildings.  For this episode, they explored a private residence in Arkansas and the Harrisburg State Hospital.

NOTE: The segment on the Harrisburg State Hospital starts at about 6:42 in the first video.

Readers beware: this is some spooky stuff, please watch at your discretion.

httpv://youtu.be/oV_dCRVO_3c

httpv://youtu.be/1h1VZ7tb6kI

 

Kitchens are more than just a place to cook our food.  They are usually one of the main family living areas where we gather, commune, play, break bread with family and friends, and sometimes even work with laptop and files plopped on the table so we are sure to stay abreast of all the family’s happenings.

But they weren’t always this way.  In fact, in the late 1700’s and throughout the 1800’s – kitchens were more or less viewed as necessary evils to be tolerated and tucked away as unseen, unfelt, unheard, and unknown as possible.

In the very earliest Colonial America houses, this was accomplished by building kitchens in the basement of homes to keep the hardworking class that worked in the kitchen, as well as all of a kitchen’s rubbish, odors, soot, and smoke as far from the dining and living areas as possible.

Somewhere in the beginning of the 1700’s, kitchens began to be removed from the home and housed in small buildings located a short distance from the main house – something we usually refer to as a “summer kitchen”.  We’ve heard these kitchens were built to save the main house from the extra heat of a kitchen during the hot summer months.

This was, no doubt, a consideration, and probably the primary one for most households.  But as it turns out, it’s not the only one, and probably not the primary one for more well-off households.  This new kitchen architecture in wealthier households seems to have had more to do with race, gender, and social space than it did with the practical considerations of meal preparations for those in the middle to upper classes, as it reflected the growing custom of separating guests and family from slaves and cooks.

While energy efficiency was a dominant concern for one demographic in early America, and a strong sense of social order and place for another demographic, both demographics had one major reason for keeping kitchen spaces tucked away by the late 1700’s.  In the 19th Century, the “Miasmatic Theory” was the dominant disease theory and promoted the belief that offensive odors of decaying materials transmitted diseases, and by the mid-1800’s experts were campaigning to eliminate the causes of foul smells from housing in order to improve public health.

But keeping a house cooler in the summer, keeping the help away from the family and guests, and keeping sickness at bay by not exposing the house to offensive odors weren’t the only things that helped shape the history of our kitchen architecture.   The changing roles of women too.

Women played the role of providers of preventative medicine in their role as housewives, and the new focus on public health and disease prevention propelled women into a new role: domestic scientist.  Early feminist leaders advocated the use of a scientific approach to home management, cookery, and kitchen maintenance – especially as it related to maintaining good health.  The kitchen became viewed as a workshop to be designed and maintained for optimal work quality instead of the utilitarian “evil necessity” they had been as the housewife found that she had a higher calling in the battle against disease.

This new “professional housewife” had a new role, and needed a new kitchen environment to match.  Kitchens were pulled back into the home and placed squarely into the center of family function, as housewives tackled kitchen tasks in this new professional and scientific manner.

And so the modern kitchen was born, as by the turn of the 20th Century the loss of domestic help and advances in time management and public sanitation techniques shaped a new kitchen architecture for America.

Our Philosophy

Using a holistic approach when approaching work on your older building helps to ensure that the repairs, reconstructions, or maintenance activities we perform are a long-term solution rather than a temporary fix. Our understanding of how the various building systems interact helps us to ensure that the project we complete is not simply a band-aid solution but rather that the sequence of repairs we suggest ensures that the work that is completed is protected from future damage from the underlying problem.

Preservation (maintaining what is existing) is the original green building solution.
  Many new products are being introduced as green building – we would argue that existing buildings are inherently green and have many sustainable features, such as, durable and repairable materials not found in modern construction.  The embodied energy within an existing building is lost when we tear-down to create a new green building.  The reuse/repair of buildings also creates a smaller carbon footprint than building a new green building.  Many of the modern building solutions retro-fitted into older buildings have caused our older buildings to become less efficient by reversing these modern changes (using the traditional building features in the manner in which they were intended) we can help rethink the assumptions generally made about older buildings and their efficiency.

Restoration activities (recreating what has been lost through neglect, damage, or modernization) can also be a green activity by reusing materials that have been salvaged from buildings being demolished.  
Many of the visible features we use are salvaged materials from wide-board flooring with its original patina to the first growth White Oak used to create our reproduction window and door frames.  Using these materials in our restoration projects helps to ensure that the building materials have been kept out of the land-fill and are reused as the ultimate form of recycling.

The architectural design and essence of the home when it was built should not be, and does not need to be, compromised to enjoy modern materials and conveniences. Our complimentary approach using traditional building methods together with modern materials and current problem solving methods (when appropriate) are the best of what our built heritage and modern progress has to offer.

An exchange of ideas between all parties in a project is the fertile ground needed to nurture the best solutions.   Whether you choose to work with your own architect for the design of your project or use our own Design/Build system, we have the ability to carry out your vision for your space.  And we believe that the flow of ideas between everyone in your project is what will produce the best end result.

Our homes are more than mere shelter, where and how we live reflects who we are. Homes much like our personal lives change and evolve. Architecture is the snapshot of place and time past and present. As good stewards to our environment our duty is to establish, where needed, and retain practices that will allow us to enjoy the heritage of those who have come before us.

We believe that restoration of our vintage homes is a necessity if we are to thrive as a nation and that the past is our legacy to the future.

in    0

Services

Keperling Preservation Services is a full-service company and we offer the following range of services to help you complete your project and maintain your historic property.

Restoration Consultation

You might have an idea of what you want to do with your historic building, but aren’t sure how or what is historically compatible.  You might only know that something needs to be done, but have no idea what or how.  Either way, our restoration consultations are the perfect solution. Our restoration consultation services including meeting with you at your building to go over the ideas and goals you have for the building, to evaluate the stability of the structure, alterations on the property, any changes you are proposing, the uses and possibilities of the property, historical research into accurate treatments of your project, and historically appropriate and compatible approaches to your project.

Custom Design Services 

For those times you need someone to take the rough idea you have of what you want and shape it into a solid design that incorporates modern functionality while honoring the historic integrity of your building, Keperling Preservation Services can provide custom design services to provide you with the visual guide you need.  Whether your project is a small remodel, large overhaul, sympathetic addition, adaptive reuse, purely a preservation project, a greening and sustainability renovation, kitchen makeover, or something else entirely – we can create a design that meets your needs and pleases the eye.

Project Development

We’re all familiar with the old adage of “Expect the best, Prepare for the worst”, but it turns out you don’t need to live by it – at least not for your preservation project.  Our Project Development services can help you realize the best and prevent the worst with solid project planning.  From measuring spaces to pre-project/design meetings, to providing samples, to deciding on custom finishes and color choices, to providing drawings and obtaining building permits and approval from historical and/or planning boards, to material submittals and acquisitions – our detail-oriented approach will help ensure a smooth project from start to finish.

Maintenance Plans

Make sure the investment you’ve made in your historic property is well taken care of – Keperling Preservation Services can work with you to create a Maintenance Plan that insures the historic elements of your building are preserved based on your goals and priorities.  Maintenance Plans are also a good way to budget your projects into manageable pieces rather than looking at all of the work to be completed at one time.  Click here to view our Maintenance Plan brochure.

in    0

2. 10 Common Mistakes People Make While Working on their Historic Building.
        Structures are historic because the materials and craftsmanship reflected in their construction are tangible and irreplaceable evidence of our cultural heritage. Substitute materials subtract from the basic integrity, historically and architecturally, of buildings. Historic materials should be retained whenever possible. Since wood has always been present in abundance in America, there is a richness and diversity of wood sidings in America. Therefore the wood sidings become a recognizable part of the historic character of a building.
       Often, during a restoration project, the replacement of wood siding is deemed necessary because it has deteriorated beyond repair. The concern with using vinyl or other synthetic materials to replace the original materials is a loss or severe diminishing of the unique aspects of the building. Applying synthetic material to a historic building can damage or obscure historic material, and more importantly diminish the historic identity of the building.
     Though installation of artificial siding is thought to be reversible, often there is irreversible damage to the historic materials during the installation process. Furring strips are used to create a flat surface, “accessories” are needed to fit the siding around architectural features, and the existing wall fabric is damaged from the nailing necessary to apply the siding.
       In addition, aluminum and vinyl siding is often applied to buildings in need of maintenance and repair, thereby concealing problems which are an early warning sign of deterioration. Cosmetic treatment to hide difficulties such as peeling paint, stains or other indications of deterioration is not a sound preservation practice.  In addition, artificial siding makes it impossible to monitor the condition of the building because it is hidden from view.
     The questions of durability and relative costs of aluminum or vinyl siding compared to the maintenance cost of historic materials are complex. One consideration is repair cost. All siding materials are subject to damage and all can be repaired. However it is much easier to repair wood siding, and the repair, after painting , is generally imperceptible.
      Because aluminum and vinyl can be produced with an insulating backing, they are sometimes marketed as improving the thermal envelope. In reality, the thickness of any insulating backing would be too small to add to the energy efficiency of a historic building and should not be a consideration when choosing synthetic siding.
      Finally, artificial siding removes the unique details and distinctive qualities of your building and can reduce its value in the marketplace by making it look like every other house.
      Historic Building materials, when properly maintained, are generally durable and serviceable materials. Their existence of tens of thousands of historic buildings is proof that they are the good selection.     

I was reading the July/August 2010 Preservation magazine which features the 2010 list of America’s Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places. Some of the places featured on the list include natural landscape preservation.

One theme that stuck out to me was the fact that all of the buildings listed as endangered are being demolished by neglect. The two reasons all the buildings are endangered were neglect and deferred maintenance – something we see in all communities – proving once again that preservation is maintenance.

These buildings are from all across the country and include privately and publicly owned buildings. I was surprised that the majority of the buildings have suffered water damage leading to the reason for them to be slated for demolition. These are common problems in all historic buildings – preservation is inexpensive – what becomes expensive is when a historic element on a building needs to be rebuilt because of damage from the elements. After making sure the structure is sound, the next most important thing, is keeping the weather out of the building.

To read the article and learn more about the 11 endangered historic places visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website at http://http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/11-most-endangered/.