Track 1: Decline vs. Revival: Tempering the Impulse to Tear Down and Start Over

General Abstract

Thin-Stone Veneers: When Performance, Preservation, and Public Safety Are at Odds

Tuesday, September 25
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: BNCC- 101AH

Obsolete building technology is a common challenge for aging buildings, especially when the preservation of those technologies and life safety requirements are seemingly at odds. Historic facades are increasingly under scrutiny as potential sources of serious overhead hazards, and fatality incidents due to failures – even in those areas with façade inspection legislation in place, continue to occur.
Midcentury modern buildings added extraordinary complexity to façade systems with the introduction of new wartime materials and untested technologies. Even today, the building envelope is the most experimental building system, continually tweaking assemblies to push buildings taller, lighter, faster, and cheaper. Thin-stone veneer, a façade system of stone panels typically less than 2-inches thick, were introduced in the late 1940s; this system reduced weight and cost while playing into the mid-century aesthetic of sleek surfaces and planar architecture.
Widely adopted and still in use today, thin-stone veneers were not without high profile and well published failures. Poor understanding of stone behavior in thin panels has been a key issue, as well as failures of panel anchorage systems, both resulting in catastrophic collapse of thin-stone veneers.
Using several case studies, including the Dental Branch Building, a 1951 thin-stone veneer designed by architects MacKie and Kamrath, this presentation will discuss key issues relating to the “hows” and “whys” of failures of historic thin-stone veneers. The impact of detailing, stone behavior, climate, and installation will be covered, in addition to the impact of both changing building codes and our evolving understanding of how façades behave. This presentation will further review the conflicts between preservation of an obsolete but technologically important system and modern requirements for life safety of building enclosures.

Learning Objectives:

Lurita Blank, AIA, REWC, RRC

Senior Associate
Walter P Moore

Lurita McIntosh Blank, AIA RBEC, has been a practicing building enclosure consultant for over a decade, specializing in masonry conservation, façade restoration, roofing and waterproofing, and enclosure commissioning with a special insight into the integration of waterproofing with vertical enclosure systems. She is deeply involved with the Association for Preservation Technology, currently serving as director and committee co-chair.


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Sue Ann Pemberton, FAIA

Assistant Professor in Practice
University of Texas at San Antonio

Sue Ann Pemberton, FAIA, has straddled between private practice and academia for more than thirty years. She holds a Master of Architecture Degree and Bachelor of Environmental Design from Texas A&M University. Her focus of practice, study, and teaching includes design, materials research and technology, inner city development, and historic preservation of buildings, neighborhoods and communities. Sue Ann leads the Historic American Building Survey program in the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning at the University of Texas at San Antonio.


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Thin-Stone Veneers: When Performance, Preservation, and Public Safety Are at Odds

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