Monday, June 28, 2010

Why understanding Old Buildings is important

Port Townsend School of Woodworking
We were extremely privileged to have Mark Liebman present "Getting Under the Skin of Old Building at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking on June 17th. Mark's talk was primarily on the tools used for non-intrusive methods of assessing old buildings. These methods allow the forensic preservationist to get a much better idea of the state of an old building. Mark illustrated how these tool have helped in a series of case studies.

There were some real Aha! moments for me:

  1. Keeping an old building (or any building for that matter) in good condition is all about managing water and moisture. If you change the permeability of the walls, restrain ventilation or add insulation you can cause the moisture in the building to find a new path through the building. The new path may not be where you wish it to be and can cause rot or other damage.
  2. If you replace materials in a building it is vital to keep the same physical properties of the material - ideally using the original material. See case study on the Cotton Building (the slide on material degradation) in Port Townsend. Adding an impermeable mortar when repairing the masonry caused the bricks to disintegrate when the water moved through the bricks instead of through the mortar.
  3. Buildings adapt. A building settles, this can changes the forces on different parts of the building; load can be transferred to unexpected parts of the building. Windows can be become load carrying - not the adjacent columns (as originally designed). One thing Mark has noted is that the greater the variety of materials in a building the more the building changes! Metal, stone, concrete and glass do not mix well. Some of our new buildings are going to set serious challenges for preservation in the future
We're delighted that Mark has generously shared his presentations. We share his belief that more people - especially architects and contractors need to more fully understand the materials in old buildings. Using new (or rather modern) materials is not necessarily the best way to fix an old building.- these may introduce more problems than they solve.

 We hope this will encourage old building owners to seek advice; ask questions  before making changes. We plan more courses to help you understand buildings next year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fort Worden Windows Restoration Project

Port Townsend School of Woodworking
We're just coming to the end of the first set of classes on the Fort Worden Windows Restoration Project. The Port Townsend School of Woodworking has partnered with Fort Worden State Park and Peninsula College to offer an innovative way to get energy conservation projects completed. Prompted by the reciept of an ARRA (Stimulus) grant Kate Burke asked us to put on a series of courses to get the work completed. These courses have been free to the students. We've has some great crews from State Park Construction and Maintenance teams, the Washington Conservation Corps and the Veteran's Conservation. Local contractors and homeowners (from around Puget Sound) have added to their skills too.

This slideshow should give you an idea of the professionalism of the work and the enthusiasm of the students. Our thanks to Al McCleese for these great images.

You can learn more about the project here

Windfall Forestry - the best in local lumber production

Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Windfall Forest is a small family run sustainable forestry and milling operation on the outskirts of Port Townsend. Robin McKann and his family have set up a very impressive operation. Theirs is a multi-part operation - part of a carbon offset program (NW Neutral), part a certified felling and lumber preparation (FSC certified forestry); part furniture making.

The thing that really impressed me was the quality of the wood they are producing and the deep care and concern they show for the forest. Matthias's knowledge of the woodland - the interaction of all the different parts of a forest that make a healthy forest, differences in growth rates of healthy and less healthy trees and more was willingly shared. I'm planning to go back and buy wood from them soon. Plus get another lesson on forestry.

I'd strongly recommend checking out the McKann's if you are looking to buy lumber locally.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Curious Cabinets and Elated Students

Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Garrett Hack (note two T's) just finished teaching "Cabinet Curiousities" at the Port Townsend School of  Woodworking. Nobody finished a cabinet but there was no expectation of doing so - Garrett is much more concerned (we fully support him here) in ensuring that the students fully understood the techniques and processes he was teaching. I'm really impressed with the quality of the work and the confidence of the students with their tools at the end of the six day class. Garrett is teaching again on Monday. We've currently booked him to return in September 2011.

(Students - you can click through on the slideshow below and down load larger images from the Picasa gallery. Plus if you'd like to post comments that would be great!)