When buildings fall into disrepair, the effects are multifold. The building's facade decays, the interior is exposed to the elements and total building performance suffers. When the building in question is in any way historic or iconic, any restoration becomes even more complicated. In these cases, not only must the integrity of the building and quality of the exterior be improved, the look and feel of the building should also remain intact.
This level of meticulous reconstruction requires a team equipped with not just the necessary knowledge and attention to detail, but the right tools and systems to effectively implement the appropriate restoration approach. Depending on the job, these systems can range from fresh exterior coatings or finishes to completely revamped wall cladding.
The levels of restoration
In building restoration, there is no single solution that can cover every possible scenario – there are too many variables at play. However, there are techniques that exist at each level of building restoration that should address the majority of the issues that arise.
"There are techniques that exist at each level of building restoration that should address the majority of the issues that arise."
Freshen up the facade
Buildings in urban areas are often the recipients of exhaust, dirt and other debris that latch onto the facade and give the appearance of being unclean and un-cared for. Appearances aren't everything, but they send a message – tenants would likely prefer a spotless apartment exterior to a dirty one and consumers will choose the well-maintained storefront to the unkempt one. According to a study from Morspace Omnibus, 96 percent of customers found a store's external appearance to be either "very important" or "somewhat important." A majority said appearance was the primary factor in their decision not to go in.
Building owners should consider an exterior coating that can act as a dirt and moisture barrier, mildew retardant and help protect against cracks.
Halt cracks in their tracks
Over time, building exteriors degrade. It's the result of stress from the environment, wear and tear, and the quality of the materials themselves. Building managers should take note of small cracks and fissures, because these minor deficiencies will soon get worse. Plus, even small gaps in the building exterior can damage performance.
Particularly in historic buildings, it is necessary to prevent cracks from spreading. In Boston – a city known for numerous structures that date back well over a hundred years – specialists take extra care to make preventative repairs. Carl Jay, historic preservation specialist, researches the original materials and techniques used in order to frame the way he executes restorations.
"My degree is in wood science, and I like collecting antique construction tools," Jay told the Boston Globe. "I'm very interested in the actual tools that initially did the work that I am charged with replicating and restoring."
Bring new life to brick through reclad and repair
In some cases, a brick facade is leaking air and moisture and providing little to no exterior insulation. Here, the most cost-effective option may be to overclad the brick with robust exterior wall systems, providing the best insulation and an aesthetically attractive facade.
However, for extensive damage, leaks or particularly poor performance, it is more effective to strip the brick or other cladding off completely and start new with a more modern EIFS. In that case, it is best to use a layered wall cladding system that includes all of the aforementioned traits – air and moisture barriers, dirt repellant, insulation and improved air quality.
When recladding or repairs are necessary, it might come at the expense of a building's original appearance. That's why it's important to perform regular maintenance – especially on landmarks – so that architects can avoid having to replace the exterior of a building for the sake of good performance. But for residences, offices or other non-iconic structures, these cladding systems are both visually appealing, long lasting and highly effective.