This past week, I was thrilled to attend my first-ever Association for Preservation Technology (APT) conference. The conference was hugely successful, both in numbers and in the quality of information presented. We at NCPTT were happy to take part as a sponsor of the conference and a partner in some of the learning experiences there.

The conference theme was “Layers Across Time — Preserving a Diverse Western Heritage.” Sustainability played a role in many of the sessions, including a pre-conference workshop sponsored by NCPTT called “Envelope Performance Testing, Modeling and Monitoring.” The two-day workshop included a field session at the Central Presbyterian Church in Denver. It was organized by the APT Technical Committee on Sustainable Preservation, along with committee co-chairs Jill Gotthelf and Carl Elefante. In this video, Jill talks a bit about the significance of this workshop:

The sustainability track featured a group of talks titled “Where are we going?” that examined the future of the sustainability movement in preservation. Among those speaking was Robert Young of the University of Utah on “Toward a greater understanding of how preservation addresses the needs of a sustainable built environment” that examined how historic buildings are many times already built to work with their environment and how historic structures benefit when we move from the “frozen in time” house museum model to vital communities that incorporate and actively use those buildings. This concept was show in practice during a talk by Douglas Gilbert and Tina Roach about “The intersection of sustainability and preservation in Europe.” Gilbert and Roach provided fascinating (and somewhat frightening) data about Europe’s progress in making buildings more sustainable and efficient in the context of the Kyoto Accords, while the U.S. continues to increase its greenhouse gas emissions by double digits.

NCPTT’s work in sustainability was featured in “Making policy an initiative of the Friends of the NCPTT and the National Trust for Historic Preservation” by John Anderson. He explained how the historic preservation movement can embed sustainability into its way of thinking, and then become a natural leader for many other fields that are investing resources in becoming more sustainable. I have to say, I learned a few things from Anderson’s step-by-step explanation of these concepts. He explores them further in this video:

Going back to the conference theme, I thoroughly enjoyed the session on “Spanish missions in the West.” Speaker Catherine Vieth explored the layers of restoration at Mission San Antonio de Padua. She brought together the challenges of performing conservation work on structures that have survived centuries. These buildings are being lived in by people and require maintenance, which varies with economic, political and social changes that all contribute its character. This creates many difficult choices for a conservator who is trying to decide how to prioritize important architectural elements and respect the wishes of the current owners.

The next two presentations focused on Mission San Miguel Archangel in California. Douglas Porter and Kim Dugan spoke on their investigation of the decoratively painted structural wood and recommendations for conservation. This was followed by a report on the actual restoration of the ceiling by Sylvia Schweri. These echoed Vieth’s “layers” theme by demonstrating the sometimes agonizing decisions that go into a conservation plan that sometimes have to be altered by time and budgetary constraints, and unexpected complications (like termite colonies). It was gratifying to hear NCPTT mentioned in these talks as well. Dugan was part of the team that helped developed the “Wood Grading Protocol” used in the project through a grant from the National Center.

Of course, the exhibit hall was a wonderful experience. I met many new people (whose names I was familiar with by reputation) like George Wheeler and Carl Elefante. I also enjoyed seeing many “old” ones, including former NCPTT intern Jennifer Cappeto and PTT Board member Norman Weiss. These experiences are made even greater by knowing we are all passionate about a common goal: using technology to preserve the future of our heritage.

One big announcement coming out of the APT general session that I wanted to mention: The organization is creating a building technology heritage library online! Funded in part by NCPTT, the collection will include thousands of materials like the Canadian Centre for Architecture trade catalogs, house plan catalogs and many others. The site will be hosted by archive.org and keyword searchable. Excellent resources for the preservation technology community.

I have been fortunate to assist APT as part of its marketing committee, and help them establish their blog and brand new social media channels. If you have an opportunity, stop by and show your support by connecting with them.

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