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Historic Masonry Retrofit Details and Notes (cold/mixed climates)

February 20, 2013

Historic masonry building retrofits offer unique opportunities and challenges.  There is a tremendous existing stock of relatively well built buildings that are often in need of significant renovations and therefore are also suitable candidates for a full low-energy/Passive House type retrofit. However, often they are also in historic districts or simply do not lend themselves to exterior insulation approaches – thereby requiring a more demanding, delicate and in some ways more intrusive – if publicly less obtrusive – handling of the exterior assemblies and connections.

Let’s optimize many of the old buildings to meet today’s high performance standards while not necessarily sacrificing their historic character.

While too often viewed in conflict, those advocating for historic preservation and those working for a more energy efficient future should logically work together.  We outline some of the particular misunderstandings to be addressed to facilitate this, in my article for the Sallan Foundation, titled  Historic Preservation and Passive House Working Together in NYC.  The article provides a good introductory background to some of the initial conceptual issues.

We should note that some in the historic preservation community have been “getting it” more and more of late – most notably with the NYC Municipal Arts Society’s (MAS) release of the Green Rowhouse Manual – which we’re honored to have contributed to.   Download the MAS manual here.

Window Section

So if we are setting off to do a responsible and forward looking low-energy renovation – substantially from the inside – the questions arise:  what might be appropriate construction details to consider and what are some of the issues surrounding this approach?

Below is our initial offer of answers in both construction details and construction issues.   (Note:  To launch this particular blog post we will start with abbreviated lists.  Going forward we will be elaborating in descriptions and documentation.   However, this should give a decent starting point.)

Exterior Assembly/Connection Details:

Downloadable Construction DWG file drawings:  We have a variety of free DWG files available in our Quality Control section. (Note these CAD drawings can be copied edited and customized for your particular project needs and are meant for use by professionals.)

Construction Issues and Descriptions:

We hope you found these useful.  Note that they are not meant to be final details – you must consider all the particulars of your project.  These details and issues are just the starting point.  Let us know if you have any questions.

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