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

CS1.3 Details and Systems

8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: BNCC- 101AH
CE: 1.5

What do curtain walls, antiquated floor systems, thin-stone veneers and vernacular wattle and daub jettied buildings all have in common? Each is a building system whose building technology is obsolete, despite its age. 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.
With curtain walls, American International style glass buildings face tremendous obstacles to their perpetuity, especially considering their poor thermal performance. The non-thermally broken frames and single-pane glass conduct higher rates of heat intensity across the envelope’s section, which leads to inadequate thermal comfort, higher building operational costs, and accelerates decay through excessive expansion, contraction, and condensation. Holistically, the subsequent deterioration precipitates safety issues, higher maintenance costs, and higher building energy usage – all of which places pressure on building owners to remove and replace the old curtain wall with new systems.
The preservation of antiquated floor systems can face many challenges at the onset of a project. The decision to retain, modify, or demolish existing floors is often made early in design, when understanding of the existing systems and proposed programming are limited. The pressure to tear down and start over with a system that has known costs and risks can be strong; however, this pressure can be offset by educating stakeholders about how the system’s re-use can be validated.
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. 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.
In long-standing, time–tested vernacular building forms, particularly those in harsh climates, the practical consideration of creating shelter that used the readily available local materials, and that performed in the given climate was paramount.
By better understanding how the details of all of these systems actually work, attendees will not only better understand how to maintain and preserve them, but they will also sharpen their eye toward better understanding and deciphering the hidden logic of building details not presented that they may encounter in their own work.

This course qualifies for HSW credit with AIA and RCEP.

Learning Objectives:


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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Brittany C. Foley, NCARB, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Architect / Graduate Student
Tulane University

Brittany Foley is a licensed architect with expertise in historic building restoration, adaptive reuse, and architectural material conservation. She has extensive experience with projects utilizing the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program, which fuels her passion for urban revitalization and re-servicing historic buildings to support and foster vibrant, equitable, and sustainable communities. Brittany’s specialty interests include the conservation of modern architecture and the applied science of retrofitting historic buildings to enhance envelope performance.

Brittany recently graduated from Tulane University with a Master in Preservation Studies, where she culminated her education with the thesis: High-performance envelope rehabilitation methodologies for Mid-Century glass curtain walls.
She has returned to private practice as an associate and senior project manager with Williams Blackstock Architects.

Brittany is an active member of the American Institute of Architects, the U.S. Green Building Council, the Association of Preservation Technology International, and she serves as the chair of the City of Homewood’s Historic Preservation Commission.


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Kenneth M. Hill

Senior Engineer

Ken Hill joined Silman in 2013. His professional and educational experience emphasizes forensic investigations and façade systems. His work has included structural investigations, renovations of existing structures and stone design. Prior to Silman he received his BS in Civil Engineering from Clemson University while working at their boundary layer wind tunnel. He received his ME in Structural Engineering from the University of Florida and did a thesis in wind engineering.


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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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Matthew Bronski, P.E.

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

Matthew Bronski, P.E., is a Principal at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. (SGH), where he has practiced for the past 23 years in SGH’s Building Technology Group. He is SGH’s Practice Leader for Preservation Technology across all seven SGH offices nationwide. Matthew has led SGH’s exterior rehabilitation design or assessment projects on numerous highly significant buildings, including buildings designed by HH Richardson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph, & Louis Kahn. He has published over a dozen papers, on topics ranging from preservation philosophy and standards, to the evaluation of specific historic building materials, such as slate, clay tile, concrete and Vitrolite. He has served as a guest lecturer or guest critic at numerous universities, including Harvard, MIT, and Yale. He holds an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Tulane University, and masters degrees in architecture and historic preservation, both from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2009, he became only the second engineer in 113 years to receive the prestigious Rome Prize, which he received in the field of Historic Preservation and Conservation.


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