Best for NYC: Best Practices

by Don Friedman on January 12, 2016

I’ve been repeating the fact that we consider our work to be beneficial to our community because we enable the preservation of cultural heritage. The fact that the heritage in question is in the form of buildings rather than art or books does not make it less important. It may in fact be more important, as the buildings we work on are the background to the lives of every person who walks by them. For example, our work at Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel is seen, invisibly, by the millions of tourists who visit downtown Manhattan each year.

There is another face to community benefit for us and that is the question of resilience. The vast majority of buildings we work on do not meet the requirements of modern codes for lateral laid, many do not meet code requirements for gravity load, and some are located in areas vulnerable to flooding.

Our responses to these conditions are, of course, constrained by code requirements. However, there are many possible code-complaint responses. Demolishing an existing building because it does not meet current code requirements is code compliant, reinforcing the structure to make it meet current code requirements is code compliant, and analyzing the building to see how its structural performance actually differs from the performance goals of current codes is code compliant. We’ve met a lot of people whose default behavior is to follow the first option and some who tend towards the second. While we recognize that those options are legitimate and may sometimes be needed, we prefer the third option. This option is most likely to preserve existing buildings and the contributions they make to the community, which is part of the goal of the Best for NYC Challenge.

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