Preserving New York’s Historic Architecture

Architectural restoration underway at the Fleming Smith Warehouse in New York City. Photo: Joseph Polowczuk

Architectural restoration underway at the Fleming Smith Warehouse in New York City. Photo: Joseph Polowczuk

New York City is full of aging buildings that have suffered the vagaries of time, erosion and gravity. Many of these structures have historical significance and/or are on Landmarked or National Register sites which has spurred a flurry of architectural preservation, restoration and evaluation of historic architecture.

Preservation efforts — from restoration (a process that retains and repairs materials from the most significant time in a property’s history) to localized repairs, which might include improving water tightness around the building has become a booming business. The challenge of blending old and new architecture to ensure that the historic integrity of an old building is maintained has become an art form.


The Year’s Best Architectural Photographs

"Covered Reservoir" Finsbury Park, London by Matt Emmett/Arcaid Images

"Covered Reservoir" Finsbury Park, London by Matt Emmett/Arcaid Images

Twenty finalists for Archaid Images annual Architectural Photography Awards were exhibited at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin last week, and the winner was Matt Emmett for his interior of the East London Water Works Company in Finsbury Park. An esteemed panel of judges selected the best of show in four categories: Buildings in Use, Exteriors, Interiors and Sense of Place. While photographing buildings, interiors, or any built environment is no easy task, this competition demonstrates that it is also a true art form.

Archaid Images represents nearly 200 individual photographers in more than 30 countries and has accumulated one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of architecture, interiors and design images.  Sto Group was a sponsor of the awards program as well as the World Architecture Festival itself where architects and interior design professionals worldwide come together to share knowledge and inspiration. All of the photography finalists will be featured in a 2017 show at Sto Werkstatt in London.


FAA Eases Drone Regulations for Construction Use

New rules better enable the use of drones in construction to save time and money

New rules better enable the use of drones in construction to save time and money

We have been reading a lot about how drones — also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles  (UAVs) – are being adopted by the construction industry to save time and money. Mapping a construction site with a drone can be done in minutes, whereas it could take a team six weeks to map the same site; drones with imaging technologies can produce detailed images, vastly improving efficiency and accuracy.

And now, the FAA has streamlined the licensing, rules and regulations for the use of commercial drones, further reducing the barrier to entry in this emerging field.  Exemptions to operate are no longer required nor is the previous petition process, and commercial drone operators no longer need a commercial pilot’s license to fly their eye in the sky.

The FAA’s new rules open up the industry to drone flights for surveying, project management and analysis, safety monitoring and inspection, and even materials transfer. With the regulation of this new industry continually evolving, the FAA now predicts that there will be more than 7 million drones of all types flying by 2020, indicating that “the sky’s the limit”!


A New Way to Monitor Building Code Changes

New "CodeWatcher" publication helps builders stay ahead of the curve

New "CodeWatcher" publication helps builders stay ahead of the curve

CodeWatcher is a new online and print publication that merges the complex world of building codes, standards and green certification. The publication is designed to help builders navigate the ever-changing and increasingly complex landscape of codes and regulations as well as official programs designed to produce safer, smarter, and greener homes.

In addition to addressing code trends, new regulations, safety issues, green building programs and rating systems, CodeWatcher showcases high-performance building products and best practices that not only meet, but often exceed, current codes. Kudos to the Green Builder Media Group for launching this new resource and for continuing to shape the national dialogue on green building, sustainability, enabling technologies, building science and now… code updates.


New World Trade Center A Giant Symbol of Sustainability

New York's new World Trade Center is a symbol of sustainability in more ways than one.

New York's new World Trade Center is a symbol of sustainability in more ways than one.

One World Trade Center in Manhattan, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, was recently awarded LEED gold certification for its sustainable design. Given the building’s height and its completely glazed façade, some experts consider the certification an impressive feat.

The structure, which was completed earlier this year, was built on the site where the WTC North Tower once stood and measures 1,776 feet in height – an intentionally symbolic number representing the year 1776 when the U.S. declared its independence from Britain.

Energy efficient features include the building’s glass curtain wall, which is coated so that glare, ultraviolet and infrared light is reduced while still allowing natural light through, thus offsetting the need for artificial lighting. The tower also has a special energy management system, which monitors and adjusts power consumption and indoor air quality via thousands of sensors placed throughout the skyscraper. Another system captures rainwater, which is stored and then used for cooling and irrigation.

More than 40 percent of the material used to build the One World Trade Center tower was recycled and roughly 87 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfill. Overall it’s a very green story behind a very large, iconic building.


Lessons Learned: Stricter Building Codes Minimize Damage from Hurricanes

Thanks to  stricter Florida building codes, much of the damage from Hurricane Matthew was limited to downed trees, damaged signs and piers and beach erosion.
PHOTO: time.com

Thanks to stricter Florida building codes, much of the damage from Hurricane Matthew was limited to downed trees, damaged signs and piers and beach erosion. PHOTO: time.com

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew earlier this month, it appeared that structures built in South Florida in the last decade weathered the storm far better than years past due to stricter codes and lessons learned from the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. A category 5 hurricane, Andrew, leveled more than 125,000 homes in Florida, leaving 250,000 people homeless in south Miami-Dade County.

Authorities in Florida reported that the level of structural damage from Matthew was significantly less than in previous hurricanes, and they attribute this to a single-state controlled Florida Building Code that took the place of local municipal building codes. The stricter code, which was enacted shortly after Andrew, requires that new or renovated homes in hurricane-prone coastal areas must be able to withstand three-second gusts of 160 mph winds, and sustained wind speeds of 124 mph. Exterior impact protection — such as shatter-resistant windows, hurricane shutters and reinforced doors — is now required for new construction as well.

Hurricane disaster preparedness can take many forms, and clearly better building codes have helped minimize the potential destruction.


How Virtual Reality is Revolutionizing Design

Virtual and augmented reality are dramatically changing and enhancing architectural and construction practices.

Virtual and augmented reality are dramatically changing and enhancing architectural and construction practices.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may have originated in the video game studio but these technologies are now taking the AEC industry by storm presenting huge new opportunities to improve design-phase outcomes by leveraging real time data to make more informed decisions. The result? Safer projects with higher quality and significant cost savings.

VR and AR are redefining traditional design/build processes by enabling greater collaboration and eliminating costs across the construction lifecycle. They offer far more design and construction planning flexibility; changes can be made quickly and augmented reality can provide safety, training and real-time installation guidance to jobsite crews.

In what is truly a revolutionary democratization of the design process, VR and AR allow non-design professionals and stakeholders to conceptualize and provide critical feedback on a project, without having to understand or translate 2-D blueprints or static renderings. This “immersive review” as it’s being called is evolving as a new benchmark in the design process. California software developer Autodesk has leveraged their gaming VR expertise to develop VR applications for the AEC industry and report that designers think it’s the “best tool” they’ve used in decades. It’s a whole new way to visualize design and construction.

Minneapolis-based firm Mortenson has created an entire reality-capture division numbering 60 people. This “Integrated Delivery Advancement Team” delivers directly applied uses of virtual design and construction systems, tools and processes. They claim their virtual project review translates into real world savings. Mortenson’s use of VR for the Penn State Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pennsylvania resulted in $475,000 in direct savings. An even bigger VR coup for the firm was $1.7 million in lower costs at the Atlanta Braves SunTrust Park.

The reality today? It’s virtual and it’s augmented and the construction and design world will never be the same. Game on!