Historic Resources Committee

Renaissance Schallaburg Figures in a facade

Quick Links

Who we are

The mission of the Historic Resources Committee (HRC) is to identify, understand, and preserve architectural heritage, both nationally and internationally. HRC is engaged in promoting the role of the historic architect within the profession through the development of information and knowledge among members, allied professional organizations, and the public.

Expand all | Collapse all

AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

  • 1.  AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

    Posted 03-31-2019 20:03
    How do members of the HRC feel about the following post that I found in my Linkedin feed this morning?

    The American Institute of Architects (AIA) on LinkedIn: "SALA Architects is known for its uniquely designed and energy-efficient structures. Read how the company utilized siding to achieve net-zero energy consumption while preserving the historic beauty of a Minneapolis home: http://bit.ly/2HsrgEy #partnercontent "
    Linkedin remove preview
    The American Institute of Architects (AIA) on LinkedIn: "SALA Architects is known for its uniquely designed and energy-efficient structures. Read how the company utilized siding to achieve net-zero energy consumption while preserving the historic beauty of a Minneapolis home: http://bit.ly/2HsrgEy #partnercontent "
    March 31, 2019: The American Institute of Architects (AIA) posted an article on LinkedIn
    View this on Linkedin >

    In Texas, this is not historic preservation. While it makes no direct claims that equate the substitute siding materials to proper preservation practice, I find it highly suggestive of just that, and think it would likely be very misleading to practitioners who are not familiar with the provisions of the Secretary of the Interiors Standards. We've seen this for decades from the window replacement folks. I looked for a note that it was a sponsored post. It is not. However, the link clearly identifies "partnercontent", which I take to be just one small step removed from a sponsored post.

    Were it posted by LP, I wouldn't think anything of it. The fact that our professional organization posted it is an entirely different matter and gives it credibility that I think it does not deserve.

    The perspectives of others in the HRC is welcomed.

    Norman Alston, FAIA
    Norman Alston Architects
    Dallas, Texas
    20.09.24 John Parkinson AIAU course

  • 2.  RE: AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

    Posted 04-01-2019 17:50
    Norman, I have to agree with you. Even in Pennsylvania this is not historic preservation. Many of us have to wrestle with the goals of reducing energy and preserving original building materials or "fabric". For these folks to say they needed to "rip off" the old wood siding to put up improved insulation is just not the proper direction for preservation. And the post that I am looking at via the link you sent is clearly from the website of LP the manufacturer, and is one of their "case studies".
    Other questions are even more in need of clarification. The "before" and after photos show an original building that is much simpler, plainer looking, though not very handsome. The "after" photos show many features that were added and "look" historic but apparently were not there before this year. Is that correct, or did they restore an earlier version of the house that did have the tri-partite windows with the center arch, etc.?
    Thanks for bringing up the issues.

    Sherman Aronson AIA
    BLT Architects
    Philadelphia PA

    20.09.24 John Parkinson AIAU course

  • 3.  RE: AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

    Posted 04-01-2019 18:21
    Edited by Marsha Levy 04-04-2019 11:16
    I watched the video that went with the advertising "sell sheet," and I've edited my original post...    I didn't watch the video at first, but only read the text from LP.   The video made it all clear.   At first, I thought that the project might have included reconstructing elements that may have existed in the past.  However, in the video it is made clear that the project created new, more elaborate decorative elements that hadn't existed before.  Also, the construction drawings were briefly visible in the video (starting at :34), and I could see that the project doubled the thickness of the exterior wall with a new building envelope designed to accommodate a thick layer of spray foam insulation.   The architect stated that the design for the house was "more detailed that it was originally," and the owner said it was a new 1907 house.  The project does not reconstruct any historic elements - it creates a "false" historical past for a much simpler older building.   What we see in the photos is essentially a new building designed to look old, as there likely no original fabric left except the original framing.

    This is not historic preservation at all, and LP is misleading at best.

    Marsha Levy AIA
    Boca Raton FL

    20.09.24 John Parkinson AIAU course

  • 4.  RE: AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

    Posted 04-01-2019 21:48
    While I agree this is not representative of a historic preservation project, it seems that was not really the project intent. They claim to seek "to maintain historic beauty," which I would argue is a different thing, and can certainly be obtained with composite materials, especially if their primary goals are performance based instead of historical based.

    Jessica Miller AIA
    President | Architect
    Lark Architecture
    Chicago IL

    20.09.24 John Parkinson AIAU course

  • 5.  RE: AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

    Posted 04-02-2019 12:01

    We agree, Norman.

    This is not Preservation...it's the Disneyfication of our heritage.

    It should not be held up as a model to emulate, and here's why:

    • Wholesale removal of early growth wood siding (where did it go??...the dumpster??) that has been performing under local climatic conditions since 1907 is not just wasteful.  It's fallacious to believe this produces a genuine energy conservation benefit.  It's long been known that the vast majority of heat loss is through the roof, not the walls.  Even if walls were a legitimate concern, the principal issue would more likely relate to infiltration at seams, not through lapped & painted siding.  If, after addressing specific sources of infiltration, the decision remained to insulate, there are myriad solutions and materials available to install from the interior with minimal selective removal required.

    • The cost of manufacturing, transporting and establishing the logistical arrangement (scaffold, hoists, pneumatic fastening equipment, disposal) will likely never be offset by the wasteful wholesale removal of a existing passive natural envelope in service for over 111 years.  I for one would like to see the energy cost reductions actually achieved presented in context to verify -- or not -- what benefit was derived.  Zero Net Energy approaches to historic structures need to model calculations in a similar fashion to Lifecycle Cost Analysis (LCA), predicting performance over the long term, not just relating to energy costs, which are highly variable and market driven.

    • Without sounding disparaging, this siding project also reshaped (and eliminated) authentic stylistic elements of this lovely vintage home; "gussied up" in some parlance.  Whether or not casual viewers like the change that has ensued, this should never be touted as preservation.

    Call it what it is: redesign, makeover, deep energy retrofit.  We can accept that.

    But those of us who have dedicated our careers to Sustainable Preservation cannot accept mockery.  Our professional representation should, likewise, be unequivocal on this...vigilantly guarding against watering down the message until it becomes so thin as to be unrecognizable.

    Walter & Co.

    Walter Sedovic FAIA LEED
    Founding Principal & CEO
    Preservation with Passion®

    (212) RESTORE | NewYork NY

    (914) 591-1900 | Hudson Valley
    (973) 977-9097 | Paterson Falls
    (914) 490-7777 | Mobile & Text


    20.09.24 John Parkinson AIAU course

  • 6.  RE: AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

    Posted 04-02-2019 18:00
    All, just to be clear: this does not constitute "historic preservation" in Minneapolis, either, despite what the marketing materials might suggest. The property is not locally landmarked (and to my knowledge does not have any other historic designation). To be fair, the property would not likely be eligible for historic designation, but if it had come before the heritage preservation commission a design like this would have been a very tough sell.

    In reality, though, remuckings involving older building stock are quite common in Minneapolis (and elsewhere) regardless of historic designation. Every property owner is looking to add some sort of value to their properties (real or perceived) and the market is ripe for designers, architects, and contractors attempting to sell their skills with "historic fabric" even when they have never even heard of the SOI Standards. I'm not saying SALA falls into this category, as I'm not overly familiar with their portfolio and this really seems to be a "green" project, but I could walk down my residential street and take a dozen photos of design details meant to capture "historic beauty" that would make your heads spin.

    Thankfully, there are several architects and contractors in the metro who take their work with our local landmarks to heart. And, although our HPC members don't always agree with each other when it comes down to the design details of a true rehabilitation, we do our best to follow the SOI Standards or our local design guidelines whenever possible.

    Barbara Howard

    Barbara Howard Assoc. AIA
    Minneapolis MN

    20.09.24 John Parkinson AIAU course

  • 7.  RE: AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

    Posted 04-02-2019 18:18
    Norman's concern needs to be addressed: "that our professional organization posted it." I suppose the project could be a good example of a few things, but it does not revive the original beauty and does not represent proper practice of historic preservation. The posting is really an advertisement for a product guised in a case study on how to care for a historic resource. The AIA organization needs to be informed that his isn't right, and some new policies may be needed to prevent future use of the AIA as a means for product suppliers to show treatments that are not appropriate examples of historic preservation design.

    William Dupont FAIA
    The University of Texas-San Antonio
    San Antonio TX

    20.09.24 John Parkinson AIAU course

  • 8.  RE: AIA and Historic Preservation Best Practices

    Posted 04-04-2019 01:52
    Further, in support of Mr. Alston’s post, the “before and after” facade photos show alterations that are picturesque Victorian and not historically original to the house. And the owner speaks proudly in the video of these details having been added on.

    Preservation Brief 16 discusses “The (possible) Use of Substitute Materials on Historic Building
    Exteriors,” and possibly this was a legitimate use of the substitute siding material. We don’t know. However the added faux Victorian detailing is clearing violating The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. The Standards warns against this practice.

    It’s flashy whether it’s called advertising or sponsored content or whatever. Regardless, this is not historic reconstruction of details That is a serious discipline, and not exterior decoration as we see here. It’s unfortunate that there is confusion about the term, that can be misleading to the public.

    (BTW it’s not historic preservation in California either, and the commission of which I am a member would never grant this a Certificate of Appropriateness.)

    20.09.24 John Parkinson AIAU course