This last weekend I had the pleasure of representing the Preservation Trades Network (PTN) as a guest speaker at a hands-on historic window restoration workshop in San Antonio, TX. I shared the guest speaker role with Walter Sedovic, AIA, LEED, who gave a very concise presentation about the research he has been doing on performance and investment return of modern replacement windows. His presentation was eye opening and appropriate to kick off the workshop, which took place at historic Fire Station #11 in San Antonio.
Fire Station #11 is a 1924 building that was built on land owned by the Steves family. When the fire department decommissioned Fire Station #11, it was returned to the family per terms in the 1892 deed. The Steves family is currently working with the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) to turn it into a preservation lab and office space for the newly established preservation program in the architecture department. This concept will allow for its adaptive reuse to both restore and preserve its historic character while guaranteeing its usefulness for decades to come.
The workshop was the brainchild of Bill Dupont, professor of architecture, who heads up the preservation program at UTSA working in concert with San Antonio’s historic preservation office. Bill and I had worked together involving PTN in the Historic Green conferences, which have taken place for the last two years in the Holy Cross Historic District in New Orleans. We were invited to assist in bringing preservation programming into the conferences, and during this year’s conference, we had introduced historic window restoration.
Hands-on workshops involving historic windows are not a new idea, as many such workshops have taken place over the last few years as awareness grows of the critical need to save historic windows and stem the relentless marketing efforts to sell the idea that old, ”drafty” windows need to be replaced with modern, energy- efficient “green” windows. The historic wood windows have performed well for a century and often more, historic metal windows for nearly as long, and both the historic wood and historic metal wnidows are restorable. For the most part the modern “replacement” windows are not.
What was refreshingly new was the degree of networking that took place.
Among the partners who where involved in presenting the workshop were the City of San Antonio Department of Historic Preservation,National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), San Antonio Conservation Society (SACS), UTSA College of Architecture, AIA Center for Architecture, Alamo Hardwoods and ARTchitectural Interiors who’s principal, Victor Salas, acted as instructor to the students during the workshop. This diverse cross-section meant that a city government (San Antonio), a state university (UTSA), a local preservation non-profit (SACS), national educational non-profits (AIA & NTHP) and local business had all partnered to provide an educational opportunity in historic preservation and good maintenance practices to both university students and the general public.
When I had the pleasure of being involved in ITES/IPTW 2009 in Tallberg Sweden, one thing that really struck me about our collaboration in developing the program was the fact that in Sweden, government, industry and the public education system work together. Ever since that event, I have posed the question, when presenting and lecturing at events and conferences, as to why this doesn’t happen in America. The logic involved in this collaboration appeared so obvious, and yet it would seem to be quite uncommon in the United States. This weekend’s workshop in San Antonio showed me that there may be an opportunity for change. To me, it was a window to networking opportunities that more of us need to look through.