Challenges to Tackle in Restoring Buildings

Challenges to Tackle in Restoring Buildings

Older properties that have outlived their purpose still have value to the surrounding community. Many of these properties are historic sites with cultural significance, places which deserve respect and fair treatment. Their restoration is a serious responsibility, honoring the heritage and beauty of an area.

Beyond this, the restoration of historic buildings can act as an anchor for the redevelopment of a block, street or district. It's part of a "smart growth" approach, preserving the infrastructure of existing properties to reduce energy consumption. With time and effort, workers can repurpose these buildings for new uses.

The process of retrofitting an older building for new uses is known as "adaptive reuse." With this approach, a structure can retain its historic integrity while providing for the modern needs of its occupants. Of course, adaptive reuse is different from restoration or preservation projects, but the point remains the same.

Returning an older building to its former glory is a critical job, and it demands a unique approach. Those involved in the restoration process will encounter many difficulties and challenges along the way. Even so, they can overcome obstacles and risk fewer setbacks if they know what to expect from their duties.

So what should they expect as they move forward? What should a crew anticipate if they intend to restore or rehabilitate a property in disrepair? This article seeks to answer those questions, providing actionable advice for professionals who plan to tackle a restoration or rehabilitation project on an aging building.

Review the Established Standards for Preservation

The Secretary of the Interior has a list of established standards for the preservation of historical buildings. If the structure set to undergo restoration is a historic property listed in the National Register of Historic Places — or is even eligible for that status — the crew will have to conform to specific guidelines.

Restoration professionals should take time to review the standards that are relevant to their project. These standards cover the proper treatment of materials like stone, wood, glass and other features of a historic building, like paint and coatings. With all these minutiae, it's essential to study the details.

As an example, a crew shouldn't remove wood features when they can stabilize, repair or conserve them. Replacing an entire wood feature, such as a balustrade or cornice, is also against the standards if the limited replacement of the components is feasible. The restoration process is complicated.

Concerning the standards, they may or may not apply depending on the status of the building. Even so, restoration professionals in charge of a project need to learn the required procedures for the historic buildings they intend to reconstruct. All these rules and regulations can feel like a challenge, but they're essential.

Consider the Financial Implications of Restoration

When deciding to adapt an existing building for reuse, the budget is a significant consideration, regardless of whether the owner is private or public. With the substantial costs of restoration and rehabilitation, money is a subject of discussion. The reconstruction of an older property is a significant undertaking, after all.

Fortunately, the challenges of budgetary restraints aren't as pressing, given the cost advantages. With lower establishment costs, little or no demolition, less expensive land acquisition, connected utilities and services and tax credits for historic properties, the initial investment is far easier to justify.

These efforts are ultimately worth the time and money. Placing the value of adaptive reuse in perspective, a green office building that includes as much as 40 percent recycled materials would still take around 65 years to recover the energy lost in the demolition of a comparable existing building.

Search for Damaged Masonry and Concrete

A diverse range of factors can cause the deterioration of concrete. Temperature changes, exposure to industrial chemicals and the corrosion of internal reinforced steel bars all lead to concrete damage. With the many ways concrete can break down, a restoration crew should pay close attention to concrete components.

If a crew doesn't take the time to address a small issue when they first find it, that issue has the potential to escalate into a far more substantial problem. Damaged masonry and concrete can result in flooding, mold, mildew and even foundational damage, risks restoration professionals want to avoid.

On the subject of upkeep, the professionals in charge of maintenance should include a periodic checkup of all concrete building components as part of their routine. It's a small, but crucial, preventive measure that will ensure the structural integrity of an older building after a restoration project concludes.

Once a crew finishes work on a historic building, the property owner should seek an experienced team for concrete restoration. Exterior repair work is an indispensable element of preserving a property's appearance, a fundamental part of maintenance that will keep the building looking its best.

Restoring Buildings is a Worthwhile Effort

Older properties which no longer serve a purpose still have value to the surrounding community. Restoration crews can emphasize this value, as long as they consider the challenges of their profession and take the proper precautions. In doing so, they'll respect the buildings they restore, preserving the beauty of the area while protecting themselves.


This post was written by Holly Welles. She is a real estate writer and the editor behind The Estate Update. She’s passionate about the ways in which the industry is changing and loves to stay on top of millennial market trends. You can find more of Holly's thoughts on Twitter @HollyAWelles.

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