44 Central Rehab Diary: April 2017

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With the League’s Conditions Assessment and the Structural Evaluation completed, it was clear that our old building needed professional help. Fortunately, unlike many nonprofit organizations housed in older buildings, historic preservation is actually our field of expertise! In fact, helping nonprofits with their buildings – especially arts and cultural organizations – is an important part of the technical preservation services we provide.

The report, however, recommended a comprehensive upgrade that remedies deterioration, corrects structural weaknesses, and updates facilities and finishes. Despite our experience, we knew we would need building professionals to guide us.

We first called on our trustees, who have a wealth of experience in working on buildings just like ours every day. Our board includes architects, developers, preservationists, and development professionals, among others, so forming a Building Committee was a logical next step. Our Building Committee will provide professional guidance throughout the rehabilitation process, starting with the selection of a preservation architect.

The Building Committee went to work creating a request for proposals for professional architecture services. Developing the RFP made staff and trustees think carefully about the project ahead, and how it could best be structured. We planned to seek complete architectural and engineering services, with specific attention given to the findings in our conditions assessment and structural evaluation.

Services requested in the RFP include:

  • Schematic Design – This is the initial design phase for the project where an architect assesses the structure and existing documentation, and interprets the wishes of their client. Through rough sketches and preliminary discussions the architect and the client agree to the scope of the project and how the building will be treated. In our case this phase will include completion of a hazardous materials survey, a property survey, building code review, and an assessment of all building systems to understand their true conditions.

  • Design Development – During this phase a clear description of all the work to be done will be developed. This includes determining areas to be restored, installation of new services, creation of new spaces to accommodate programming, energy conservation solutions, and other elements. Drafted to-scale drawings will inform the work going forward

  • Construction Documents – At this point in the project working drawings and written specifications are developed that detail specifically how the work is to be done. These documents are very important in preservation projects in that they detail how historic fabric in the building is to be treated and restored. For instance, in our case, what specific mortar is to be used in repointing the brick masonry? What technique is to be used? The construction documents are also used to obtain bids from contractors.

  • Construction Administration – Since the work of the Preservation League must continue uninterrupted, we’ll need a professional construction manager to oversee the rehabilitation on our behalf. Our goal is to hire an architectural firm with experience in construction management to be sure that all the work done conforms to the Construction Documents and follows accepted guidelines for historic preservation.

You can see how important it is to work with an experienced preservation architect in a project such as ours. Historic buildings are different from other types of construction, from the structural design, or lack of it, to the materials used. It is also important to understand how these materials and systems degrade over their long life, and how they can be sensitively restored to last another 200 years. Next time we’ll cover the selection of our architect. Stay tuned!