This presentation was part of A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.

By Tanya Wattenburg Komas, Ph.D.


Dr. Komas discusses the Concrete Preservation Institute’s preservation-first approach to the care and treatment of historic concrete. The presentation goal is sharing technical information within the motivational context of CPI’s Preservation Field School that educates, inspires, and develops the futures of military veterans and students while preserving landmark concrete structures and site features at Alcatraz Island.

The importance of this discussion is revealed by the increased recognition of the need to preserve modern heritage and our country’s aging infrastructure that has motivated a dramatic growth of the concrete repair industry – now arguably one-third of the overall concrete industry – which directly impacts heritage preservation in ways important for preservationists to know.

Dr. Komas directs the Concrete Preservation Institute (CPI), a non-profit educational foundation, and their Preservation Field School at Alcatraz Island offered in partnership with the National Park Service at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Through the Field School, CPI provides hands-on and leadership training during their 12-week program, preserves concrete structures and site features as the outcomes of the training, and assists their alumni transition into internships and careers in management and skilled trade positions as well as college programs across the country. Alumni are proudly working in preservation, architecture, engineering, all areas of concrete & construction, and other related areas with some alumni seeking future careers with NPS. In addition to the Field
School, CPI leads applied research & technology innovation, provides development opportunities for professionals, and engages their participants and staff in local youth mentoring.

Dr. Komas’s message is illustrated by powerful imagery of the meaning and memory associated with the sites where she has worked; the effects of time, use, and the environment on concrete – the most consumed material on earth next to water; and CPI’s unique results in appropriately preserving concrete for the long term. Her presentation is educational and highly motivational, drawing on her boots-on-the-ground experience and nationwide leadership in concrete repair, preservation, and teaching, her passion for history, and stories of amazing people moving forward in their lives.

Within this context, Dr. Komas addresses the technical and philosophical challenges of preserving concrete given difficult logistics, unknown conditions, the contentious legal environment, and the often conflicting priorities of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and required building codes (including the upcoming new Concrete Repair Code soon to be released by the American Concrete Institute, and the parallel upcoming Concrete Surface Repair Technician Certification that she has co-authored for the International Concrete Repair Institute). Examples will show CPI’s considered approaches that meet the needs of this complex reality including design (defining character defining concrete features?), demolition (minimal preservation vs. optimal accepted practice?), surface preparation (cleanliness and moisture condition of substrate?), reinforcement (measuring section loss on reinforcing steel?), material selection & placement (so many choices…), aesthetically and historically appropriate finish treatments (developed by CPI with internationally recognized decorative concrete experts), and long-term inspection and maintenance to optimize durability (just do it…).


Tanya Wattenburg Komas, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor, California State University, Chico and Founding Director, Concrete Preservation Institute, Alcatraz Island

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
Fax: (318) 356-9119