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Tech Tip of the Month, September 2020: Preservation Briefs from the National Park Service

By John Waters, Preservation Programs Manager

The Conservancy offers a wealth of technical information and support to Wright building stewards. Each month (or as often as we are able!), we will highlight a Tech Tip of the Month featuring useful information for those who own or care for Wright’s buildings.

If you’re looking for a source of information on the nuts and bolts of working with historic buildings, a good place to start is the National Park Service’s series of Preservation Briefs. The fifty briefs are available for free download and cover diverse topics ranging from “New Exterior Additions to Historic Buildings” to “Lightning Protection for Historic Structures.” Briefs give historical background for each topic, describe approaches for addressing problems related to the topic and outline ongoing maintenance practices to minimize future issues. They also typically provide a reading list for further study.
Briefs address topics relating to a wide variety of property types, so translation to the unique circumstances found at Wright-designed properties will not always be direct, but the information they contain can assist in laying the foundation for knowledgeable investigation into an issue.

Topics that may be of particular interest to Wright building stewards include:

The briefs are also useful tools if you are seeking funding for your project. Whether you are a public site applying for a grant or a homeowner applying for a restoration tax freeze, referencing the briefs will indicate to a reviewer that you likely have a good understanding of best preservation practices.

In addition to the Preservation Briefs, the National Park Service has digitized its Preservation Tech Notes. The notes include case studies of preservation projects published between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s. While you should take care to confirm that techniques used in these early case studies are still considered appropriate, the notes present a number of interesting projects. The studies often focus on historically-significant buildings, like the Conservancy’s own home, the Monadnock Building in Chicago.

As you as you plan your restoration projects and work with contractors, architects and restoration specialists, remember that a project’s successful outcome is as often grounded in knowing what questions to ask as it is in what direction to give. As with our Tech Tips, the briefs are intended to provide pointers to questions you should ask and areas you ought to investigate further.

Posted on September 24, 2020

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