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Spring Cleaning for Building Facades

After the gray snow piles melt and the temperature rises, building owners seek out the help of licensed professionals to give their buildings a Spring Cleaning. Aesthetic improvement is typically the chief motivation behind façade cleaning, but buildings also need to be cleaned to reduce the risk of damage to the exterior surfaces from environmental contaminants. The type of atmospheric and environmental contaminants that buildings are exposed to in an urban environment must be removed in order to prevent further deterioration, accurately diagnose surface conditions, and prepare the building surface for paint and coating applications.

Modern cities produce a great deal of acid rain that helps the contaminants in industrial and traffic fumes stick to the surfaces of buildings.  Lead and other heavy metals blow around in the dust, and stick to rough surfaces like concrete and brick. Smoke, soot, biological growth and other forms soiling can stain a building and obscure elements in the façade that need inspection.

Evaluating and repairing the structural integrity of buildings is critical for their safety. Masonry and brick mortar can easily deteriorate in the presence of moss and lichen, acidic surface dirt and contamination, and other chemicals present on the surface. Inspecting and repairing the mortar and repointing is critical for the integrity of the building envelope. In many cases a thorough inspection isn't possible until after cleaning.

The goal of a cleaning project is to clean the masonry while causing little or no damage to the façade surface. Several cleaning methods exist, however the correct method must be chosen to avoid overcleaning. Selection of a cleaning method depends on the nature of the façade materials, and the identified contaminants. The first step of any cleaning program is to characterize the soiling and identify its origins because soiling can often be a symptom of ongoing conditions which should be addressed before cleaning.

The methods for cleaning are broken down into three categories: water washing, chemical cleaning, and abrasive cleaning.

Water Washing

The simplest and safest method of cleaning is washing with water. Water often softens soiling deposits. Water can be sprayed or misted continuously or intermittently with alternating wash cycles. Water pressure and steam are also popular methods of façade cleaning, however they require more sophisticated equipment and should be employed cautiously. 

Chemical Cleaning

When water is ineffective, a variety of chemical cleaners can be used. Detergents used in combination with water washing provide the gentlest cleaning. For heavier soiling, acidic cleaners can be used on materials such as sandstone and unpolished granite. For acid-sensitive materials such as limestone, marble and occasionally brick, Alkaline cleaners help to facilitate the removal of deposits, however a neutralizing acidic cleaner must be applied  before a final water rinse removes all cleaning residues. When used inappropriately, chemical cleaners can result in irreversible damage to the façade. Precautions must also be taken to protect workers from potential health hazards.

Abrasive Cleaning

Absrasive cleaning removes soiling by mechanically scraping, grinding or blasting the surface with a dry or wet medium. Abrasive cleaning methods are harsher than water and chemical cleaning. Common techniques include Soda blasting, Pelletized carbon dioxide blasting, Façade Gommage, and the Jos cleaning process, to name a few. Most of these methods require specially trained professionals and sophisticated equipment. The use of abrasive cleaning methods should be limited to prevent damage to the façade surface as dirt is removed. These cleaning methods can rough stone surfaces, remove decorative detail from carvings, loosen mortar, and etch unprotected metal and glass.

Spring cleaning of building facades brings a beauty and sparkle back to city buildings after the gray of winter, allows for repair, and preserves historic facades. For more information on façade cleaning, please contact us.

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Skyscraper Curtain Wall Replacement

Photo credit: AP Photo/Alan Welner
 
When Philippe Petit walked a high wire strung between the World Trade Center towers, the world was amazed by his grace and daring as he walked on air nearly a quarter-mile above the ground. Today a different kind of dare-devil can be seen hovering above the sidewalk: the crane operators and construction crews that replace curtain walls on skyscrapers in New York.
 
A curtain wall system is an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural, but merely keep the weather out and the occupants in.  Typical curtain wall infills include stone veneer, metal panels, louvres, and glass windows.
 
Several critical environmental and structural challenges come into play when replacing elements on skyscrapers. Wind is the primary natural force that affects both the structural specifics of the materials and the challenges that come with replacing curtain walls. While replacing windows, wind pressures can make the interior uncomfortable and noisy while the work is ongoing, and even dangerous for the construction crews performing the work. Glass elements must be designed with both wind and load limits in mind, and are often laminated and tempered as a result. 
 
Unusual shapes in buildings also cause areas of stress and increased pressure in the materials that must be taken into account when finding structurally appropriate replacements. The shape of the building can also create a wind tunnel, channeling outside air in dangerous ways along the building exterior. The taller the building, the greater the wind pressures affecting both the performance of the building materials and the safety of workers. 
 
To compete with increased natural forces at great heights, modern construction crews must have the reflexes of a trapeze performer while they skillfully work high above the city streets. Contact Scott Henson Architect for more information on curtain wall replacement for your building.
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The Minimalist Interior

The minimalist interior balances simplicity with symmetry, and neutral colors with natural light. The ideas behind the design aesthetic are stillness, harmony, and balance. Spaces designed with minimalism are quiet, rather than energizing.

In many design plans, color is used to delineate, energize and enliven a space; they are to more approximate natural environments. Color schemes can include sand and shell, with a touch of sky, or the colors of a bird's nest, with tiny blue speckled eggs inside. Natural wood, with textured linen and cotton accents provide subtle detailing.

One of the hallmarks of a minimalist interior is warmth. While the popularity of the industrial loft concrete finishes is sometimes confused with minimalism, the true minimalist interior has a timeless warmth from the use of natural materials for flooring and materials. Subtle patterns and textures, such as wood grain, provides interest without being static or busy.

Another hallmark of minimalism is the lack of fussy accessories. Many minimalist interiors confine color and movement to art pieces, leaving the rest of the walls and table tops clean. Especially with small spaces and working spaces, clutter and too much pattern can raise the noise level of a room to shouting. With minimalist interiors, the rooms should whisper, or at the least, speak in a calm, quiet voice. This is especially critical for rooms with multiple purposes. It is easy to transform a minimalist space from office to boardroom to living room.

Minimalism is a design aesthetic with classic, timeless features. It works well for both personal and work interiors, and allows spaces to change function easily. It is design that works especially well with an art collection, as the art can take center-stage.

(Image © Alexander Severin)

For over 16 years, the editors of Traditional Building have resolved to give historically influenced architecture its due respect. In naming the award after Andrea Palladio, they commemorate the master teacher and architect whose principles of clarity, simplicity, proportionality, and originality remain relevant today. Each year, the Palladio Awards honor both individual designers and design teams whose work enhances the beauty and humane qualities of the built environment with Andrea Palladio’s principles in mind.

We are honored to announce that Scott Henson Architect + Stephen B. Jacobs Group have been awarded The 2017 Palladio Award for Excellence in Adaptive Reuse for their collaboration on The Knickerbocker Telephone Company Building! To learn more about the award winning project visit our company page!

The redevelopment of the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport is a recent example of adaptive reuse in New York City which highlights the endless opportunities for repurposing the region's abandoned commercial spaces.

Beyer Blinder Belle’s recently unveiled restoration and extension proposes 505-room hotel which reuses the shell of architect Earo Saarinen's iconic mid-20th century airport terminal - considered state-of-the-art, even futuristic in its prime. Unfortunately after Trans World Airlines went bankrupt in 2001, the terminal was closed and remained in a state of abandonment for over 15 years. In 2005, the National Park Service added the TWA Flight Center to the National Register of Historic Places, providing the opportunity for a new chapter in the terminal’s life.

Once completed, the new TWA will be the airport's only full-service hotel, and will provide a host of amenities including an observation deck, bars and restaurants, and a museum showcasing Mid-Centuury Design as well as 40,000 square feet of event space.

The TWA Flight Center is scheduled to open in late 2018.

If you would like to restore or repurpose an existing building in the area, contact us to see how we can help.

Commercial buildings contain everything from apartments to department stores, hotels to office space, doughnut shops to medical clinics, and sprawl over more than 80 billion square feet in the U.S. In green-speak this means each year commercial buildings are responsible for close to half of all energy consumption in the United States at the cost of over $200 billion per year, more than any other sector of the economy. And of this power consumption, nearly 30% is wasted through inefficient operations. But with measurable historical data and a long-term commitment to sustainability, we can lighten this environmental impact.

Today's progressive commercial building owners are factoring Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs) into their operations costs. By initiating energy benchmarking based on the past two years' energy usage, and by analyzing the data and upgrading inefficient equipment, a commercial building's green reputation can be maintained indefinitely. Not only are unforeseen liabilities addressed in time, but most corrective measures are inexpensive and may receive a financial payback as a bonus.

But the green building trend is not all about energy efficiency or the environment anymore. For American consumers, it means a healthy place to live, with a lifestyle compatible with nature. Sustainable architecture improves a building's resilience to climate change, including flooding, drought, and exhausted energy resources.

Adaptation to a changing climate is critical, but natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, or political actions like terrorism and cyber terrorism, also call for consideration in a resilient design. Each of these challenges can be analyzed not only for data that is historically valuable for benchmarking but also for future projections.

Resilient systems provide for basic human needs, including potable water; a conservation source such as harvested rainwater can be the primary backup. Composting toilets and waterless urinals are options for human waste disposal in the event of a public sanitation breakdown. 

To reduce a building's energy dependence, manual overrides should be in place in case of malfunctions or power outages. Elevators, escalators, and stairways should be managed for the mobility of tenants during emergencies. EMT's and firefighters need to access a building under any circumstances. If necessary, breathable air and comfortable temperature and humidity levels can be maintained with vernacular designs commonplace before HVAC systems, such as high transom windows for natural ventilation and light. And a non-perishable food supply could provide residents with adequate staples for a three to six month period.

Scott Henson Architecture integrates aesthetics, financials, and code regulations to design buildings that are both functional and attractive. Sustainability expertise includes vegetated roof systems and solar power systems. Please contact us to review your commercial building's resiliency measures.

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An Overview of Construction Management

Construction management encompasses all aspects of a construction project, from bid through completion, including:

  • Staffing
  • Construction
  • Oversight
  • Documentation
  • Permits
  • Quality control/quality assurance
  • Drawing preparation

Based on a client’s desired level of control, a skilled construction manager is responsible for, first and foremost, acting as the owner’s representative throughout the course of the project and providing cohesion from bid through delivery. Additional duties include preparing drawings to technical specifications and coordinating and overseeing scope, special conditions, documentation, and pricing considerations. The manager also examines contractor and material supplier pre-qualifications and ensures that projects meet all specifications and requirements.

There are two broad phases involved in construction management in which construction managers involve themselves: pre-construction and construction/delivery.

Pre-Construction Phase

During the planning, design, and pre-construction phase, the manager works with the client and architect in order to define the project’s scope, budget, and other preparatory factors such as energy efficiency, design, structural integrity, market value, space used, and mechanical and electrical systems before construction begins. The manager also ensures that materials adhere to specifications and fall within the desired budget.

Construction/Delivery Phase

As would be expected, this phase addresses the actual construction based upon the specifications, plans, and budgets discussed in the previous phase. The construction manager coordinates and oversees:

  • On-site construction supervision and coordination
  • Scheduling
  • Cost accounting and other financial records

With respect to cost control records, the construction manager is responsible for:

  • Evaluating actual versus proposed costs
  • Adhering to the budget
  • Developing and maintaining the construction schedule
  • Monitoring construction progress
  • Arranging inspections
  • Dealing with any change orders by the owner
  • Coordinating product delivery, storage, and security
  • Obtaining the necessary equipment
  • Assisting the owner with occupancy, systems operations, and any other post-construction concerns.

Quality Control

During and following the project’s completion, quality assurance and control is critical to ensure that the finished product meets the original requirements, specifications, and subsequent performance expectations. Construction managers make sure that the project not only falls within the proposed budget but that the finished project is structurally sound and adheres to all specifications and codes.

For more information about the construction management services we provide, please contact us.

 

When considering more sustainable practices for design and construction, adaptive reuse architects first consider their choice of site. Instead of building on “new” land, they often choose to clean up existing land known as “brownfield sites”.

A brownfield is defined by the EPA as a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. There are over 450,000 brownfields in the United States, which presents immense potential for improving the health of people, nature and the environment.


Brownfield sites typically exist within the industrial section of cities on sites with abandoned factories or commercial buildings, which not only reduce property values but encourage pollution and unsafe conditions. . Urban environments like New York City have a long history of industrial development, and as a result, a long history of heavy metals, pesticides, hydrocarbons, solvents, and other human health hazards in the soil. The rough appearance of these sites and the mere mention of hazardous materials often scares off developers, even though they may be in locations of great value. Though the remediation and development of these brownfield sites may be an expensive and lengthy process, the benefits to the community, environment and even the investor’s wallets, often outweigh the risks.


The land remediation process depends heavily on the intended use of the property. For example, a more extensive remediation program will be required if the lot is being converted into a residential site or community garden, as opposed to a parking lot. The more extensive the remediation program, the longer it will take and the more expensive it will be to treat. Regardless of the future plan for the site, the first step of land remediation usually starts with looking at a property’s past uses and identifying possible contaminants, called a “Phase I Environmental Site Assessment”. While the hefty cost of remediation is a huge factor in the decision to reuse a brownfield site, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offer grants to encourage developers to heal and reuse formally contaminated sites.


Brownfield remediation and redevelopment boasts a number of benefits including the removal of harmful substances, increased area property values, less land use than greenfield developments, avoidance of urban sprawl, increased economic value and return on investments and a boost in community pride and vitality. One developer’s trash may be another’s treasure if he’s willing to invest time and money into brownfield sites.

For more information on adaptive reuse in New York City, please contact uss.

LEED certification: Silver, Gold, and Platinum- does it add any real value to a commercial construction project? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Developed by the United States Green Building Council, LEED seeks to reward the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of buildings that meet standards for sustainability, performance, health, and resource efficiency.

LEED certifies over 1.85 million square feet of construction space daily, and as such, has become known as the benchmark of excellence in sustainable design and construction. Both industry professionals and consumers know LEED certification means quality, sustainability, and energy savings.

LEED boasts benefits to people, planet and profit. These profits include increased building value, higher lease rates, and decreased utility costs. By 2018 LEED certified buildings will contribute over 29.8 billion to the US economy. Value in green building accrues in two ways:

1. Sustainable design increases a building’s value up front, with an estimated 4% increase in estimated value yearly.

2. Maintenance costs for green buildings are estimated at 20% lower.

The actual cost to build green is competitive with traditional means of design and construction, with an estimated premium of only 1-3 %, which can be paid back by energy savings in as little as a year. The application process for LEED certification for commercial projects, including campus buildings, is detailed on the US Green Building Council website.

For more information on sustainable architecture, please contact us.

Historic preservation societies are the advocates, guardians, and staunch defenders of the historic built environment. They keep long-standing buildings and neighborhoods safe through advocacy for landmark designation and zoning changes that monitor and regulate new development. These organizations provide not only leadership and education, but resources, support, and expertise to the architects and builders who preserve historic structures for the next generation to use and enjoy.

These societies often provide source material such as photo archives, blueprints, and historical records that are critical to developing a restoration project that is true to the spirit of the original while incorporating changes that modern living demands. The rigorous work of balancing the desires of owners, developers, and the community with the goals of historic preservation societies is a feat that requires a unique architectural disposition and a specialized skill set.

In New York City, the  NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission is the government body that designates buildings or neighborhoods as historic, culturally significant, or part of the heritage of New York City that need preservation and protection. The Commission also approves all requests for renovation, repair, or retrofit of such structures.

Privately operated preservation and historical societies work with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to provide expertise, and, in many cases, advocate for historically significant buildings through the lengthy and detailed process of landmark designation. Private societies also manage and administer funding for restoration and repair work through a system of loans and grants. Through their work, these societies directly impact community revitalization and the economic health of their neighborhoods.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation , for example, not only works directly on the designation and restoration of historic buildings in i neighborhood, but is also active in the community’s economic development. It supports small business and retail diversity and offers a number of educational and outreach programs.

The following references are links to some of NYC's historical preservation groups.

Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation

Historic Districts Council

The New York Landmarks Conservancy

The Preservation League of NY State

For more information on New York City building restoration, please contact us.

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