September 2017

Planning For Future Floods

by Don Friedman on September 30, 2017

The South Ferry subway station after Hurricane Sandy, courtesy of the MTA:


Here’s a good article on infrastructure improvement, specifically on repairs to mitigate future disasters: 6 rules for rebuilding infrastructure in an era of ‘unprecedented’ weather events.

The third rule, “Design for climate change” jumped out at me as it’s something we see every time we file drawings with the New York Department of Buildings. The DoB requires that we provide two FEMA flood maps of the area in which a project building is located. The first is the map that is officially in force, dated 2007. Here’s the map for lower Manhattan:



The second is the “future revision” map, dated 2013:



There are two obvious lessons to be learned from looking at those maps. First, the areas most at risk are where landfill was created in between 1700 and 1900. (Battery Park City is landfill, but was built to a better standard and is higher than the older landfall.) Second, the design flood shown in the 2013 map is significantly worse than the flood shown in the 2007 map. I expect that future revisions will be still worse. This has a real effect, as the DoB rules for design are different in the flood zone than elsewhere; as the maps evolve over time, more buildings will be designed for the effect of flooding.

Jack Arches Are Arching Action

September 29, 2017

That’s my artistic photo of two windows in an 1880s building in upstate New York with jack-arch heads. The term “jack arch” is variously defined but usually means a flat or low-curvature segmental arch. There’s a fanciful story that the name comes from the resemblance of the arch to the hats that the jacks in […]

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Patterns of Damage

September 28, 2017

João Carlos Souza has a primer up on ArchiNet on how to identify problems in concrete buildings based on crack patterns. Putting aside some bad translation from Portuguese to English* it’s quite good and can help identify damage when used as intended. Mr. Souza does not explicitly state the assumptions that went into his visual […]

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Not Amenable To Easy Analysis

September 27, 2017

Not our project: While discussing a project recently with our client, it became clear that part of our work was going to require arch analysis of a masonry lintel. (The project is a bit sensitive, so I’m going to be vague about the specifics of the location and owner, which fortunately does not require being […]

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A Rebus From 135 Years Ago

September 26, 2017

The engineering magazine ENR used to be called the Engineering News-Record. It was created in 1917 by the merger of two long-time rivals, the Engineering News and the Engineering Record. The Engineering Record went through a series of names early in its history, as it absorbed some other small magazines and searched for an audience. […]

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Arching Action Visible

September 25, 2017

I’ve talked before about the phenomenon called “arching action” but you’ll never see a better demonstration than this. Ignore the wood “studs” in that picture, they’re just supports for the now-removed plaster and lath. The real story here is a brick wall, two wythes/8 inches thick, with no lintel at the door. The thin wood […]

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A Cliche For A Reason

September 24, 2017

The combination of the Empire State Building’s height, its setbacks, and the narrow side streets in Manhattan makes for some nice angled photos.

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Halfway There

September 23, 2017

I have finally found the perfect apartment. Now I just need $110,000,000.

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Architectural Nostalgia

September 22, 2017

  Michael alerted me to the existence of 80s.NYC, a website that gives street views of buildings as photographed by the city government some 35 years ago. It’s fantastic if you want a sense of what the city was like then and how different it is from today. I am a bit disappointed that the […]

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Better Than The Alternative, If You Squint

September 21, 2017

Richard and Anne Dickey, a wealthy couple of the era, had a house constructed for them in 1809-1810 on then-fashionable Greenwich Street. This was before rowhouses were being built in New York and long before the craze among the wealthy for ridiculously large mansions. Their house was about 40 feet by 60 feet and there […]

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