Across the country, urban decay leaves hollowed out landmarks, abandoned apartments and crumbling ruins to fall apart with the passage of time. Unfortunately, these structures are only as sturdy as their building materials allow them to be. Without adequate and consistent upkeep, even once-indestructible brick and concrete architecture will succumb to erosion and deterioration. As populations move in and out of city centers, building ownership and responsibility grows vague – bringing a downtrodden building back to life can seem a daunting task.

What many architects and contractors now realize, though, is that building restoration is not as difficult as many believe it to be. There are modern, widely available techniques that builders can use to upgrade a building facade, provide an air and moisture barrier, offer continuous insulation and improve overall building performance. These methods are minimally intrusive and can do wonders for old buildings.

City planners, architects and building owners should work together to maintain older buildings – especially in urban areas. A revitalized building has a positive impact on the entire neighborhood and can reinvigorate an area. Using such beneficial systems as liquid-applied exterior coatings or stucco finishes, building restoration can have a wide-reaching effect.

“A revitalized building has a positive impact on the entire neighborhood.”

Brooklyn building gets a make-over
In the heart of Park Slope, Brooklyn, a landmark building has fallen on hard times, according to the New York Times. At 187 Seventh Avenue and Second Street, the brick building that once offered a popular bar called Landmark Pub has stood since the early 1920s. Now, the brick facade is crumbling and the structure was deemed a safety hazard, according to Craig Hammerman of Brooklyn Community Board 6. But tearing it down was an unpopular idea.

“The building had been a large reflection of the character of the past owners, and there’s an element of that that resonates with many of our long-term residents,” Hammerman told the New York Times. “So there’s a touch of nostalgia, a touch of whimsy, and there’s some architectural significance all whirled into one.”

As a result, the ownership group, Sugar Hill Capital Partners, elected to restore the building using as much of the original materials as possible. When all is said and done, the Park Slope building will have four multiple bedroom condos – one for each floor – in addition to an elevator, lobby and retail space. That faulty brick facade will be restored, and the architects could protect the new exterior with a barrier membrane that would provide a sealant against moisture and air flow, while maintaining the overall aesthetic appeal.

“We really appreciated the architecture of Park Slope and didn’t want to knock down this building to build some glass tower or structure that stands out,” Jeremy Salzberg, a partner at Sugar Hill, explained to the New York Times. “We wanted to restore it and bring back the original beauty of the building.”

Sustainable restoration can liven up a city.
Sustainable restoration can liven up a city.

Sheboygan home receives sustainable restoration
The Prange home of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, was built to last back in 1923, reported the Sheboygan Press. Eliza Prange enlisted a construction team that built with brick, 6-inch wall studs and lead glass windows. While the building has indeed remained standing for the better part of a century, new ownership has decided that it could use a sustainable upgrade.

Jennifer Lehrke of Legacy Architecture now owns the Prange home and believes that “historical preservation is the ultimate form of recycling.” She also maintains that razing a building not only destroys the “embodied energy” of that location, it also promotes the use of more “energy-consumptive” materials like plastic and steel. Restoration, on the other hand, protects a building’s identity and wastes fewer resources.

Lehrke opted for all-LED lighting, low-flow faucets and zoned air condition and ventilation. The building would also benefit from the application of an air and moisture barrier to eliminate unwanted air and moisture flow and reduce energy loss.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn