Best for NYC: Best Practices

by Don Friedman on November 6, 2015

Our company, Old Structures Engineering, is based on the idea that not only do existing buildings have value in themselves, but that their structure can safely function even if it differs from modern designs. A question that we have to ask ourselves is whether or not this idea makes sense. Simply put: is it worth the effort to save old buildings that are not architectural or historical monuments? To answer this question we must decide what values we use to define “worth.”

First, it is important to mention that historic preservation is not an economic drain on resources, Studies have shown economic benefits to the surrounding community. And since community is a vital part of the Best for NYC Challenge, this fact alone helps justify the work.

Second, people seem to like certain aspects of older buildings. “Pre-war” apartment houses in New York tend to have higher ceilings and better soundproofing than more recent buildings. Older office buildings have operable windows, and light courts that reduce the distance from the innermost spaces to windows. The distance to windows matters not just for ventilation in nice weather but also for daylight: a fair percentage of the light in our office comes from the sun.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned before, preserving existing buildings preserves part of the community: the appearance of the neighborhood. The feel of a place is part of what makes it unique and so part of what makes a given community itself. Our work is centered in New York, and this is the community we spend the most time preserving.

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