Weather's Impact on Buildings

Heavy rains have soaked the Chicago area in recent weeks and some long-range forecasts point to above-normal temperatures through the fall followed by a snowy, frigid winter. These weather patterns have definite impact on building performance.

As the AIA shares on their website: "Designing and building resilient buildings is not a choice, it’s an imperative." As temperatures and weather become more extreme, regular building envelope evaluation, repair and preservation become key to maintaining that resilience.

The accumulated impact of Chicago’s wind, rain and snow can present in many ways during the life of the exterior of a building. Often, deterioration may have already occurred to masonry and supporting steel by the time effects are obvious. Regular examination is one way to ensure problems are identified before they become severe.

The pictures at right show our team in the midst of a recent inspection high above downtown Chicago. Is your building prepared to stand the rigors of a harsh winter? Drop me a note if you’d like to know more.


Looking Ahead...Two Big Events This Fall

Summers in Chicago always seem too short. Thankfully, every season has its own beauty - and this fall will be no exception. Two big events occur this fall that celebrate the splendor of Chicago’s architectural treasures and promote emerging talent in architecture, design, and the arts.

'Make New History', 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Image: Chicago Biennial/Twitter.

The first, is the return of the Chicago Architectural Biennial on September 19, 2019. This year’s event (the third) will consider architecture as a field that shapes community and memory. Chicago-based curator and writer Yesomi Umolu is serving as the Artistic Director of the Biennial’s 2019 edition. More than 100 programs will take place at upwards of 50 venues over the course of the Biennial through January 5, 2020.

“Chicago is at its best when a diverse range of communities, organizations, and individuals come together to learn from one another, collaborate, and explore our shared histories and hopes for the future. The comprehensive range of programing taking place during the Biennial is an exciting example of the exchange that makes our city so dynamic,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.

The second major event is the Chicago Architecture Center's Open House Chicago, which returns on October 19-20, 2019. The event is a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 250 buildings across Chicago. Sites reflect the cultural diversity and history of Chicago, as well as the unique character of each community. Locations include private clubs, residential spaces, offices, hotels, theaters, design/architecture studios, schools and places of worship as well as manufacturing, cultural and government facilities.

I hope to share news and images from both events on Twitter.

Climate Change Mitigation

Visitors enjoying the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. (Photo: fotoluminate)

Visitors enjoying the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. (Photo: fotoluminate)

The high temperatures of recent days has, for some, brought back memories of the deadly July 1995 heat wave in Chicago that killed more than 700 people. While our recent high temperatures don’t come close to breaking records, it should prompt another conversation about our changing climate and our industry’s response to mitigating the impact of a warming planet. In recent weeks, the Royal Institute of British Architects made news by declaring a state of climate emergency.

Last December, 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA issued an open letter detailing the AIA's stance on climate change mitigation, steps the Institute has taken to confront the issue, and how architects can get involved. Here is an excerpt from that letter:

Climate change and the heightened severity of weather events will cause increased loss of human life, more frequent crop failure, and more displaced people. This will destabilize governments, increase the risk of conflict, and hurt the global economy…The science is irrefutable.

The building sector accounts for roughly 40 percent of current global greenhouse gas emissions. By achieving significant emissions reduction in our own sector of the economy, we can contribute a large portion of the solution.

As architects, we have unique skills to explain the challenge to a wide audience, and the design knowledge to find more ways to reduce building emissions. We are equal to the task. But we must not wait.

Buildings are major producers of carbon, so climate change poses both major obstacles and opportunities for architects around the world. I am proud to be a part of an industry that is taking a stand. You can read the entire call to action here.

A New Life for the Old Main Post Office

Photo credit: Liz Chilsen

Photo credit: Liz Chilsen

Twenty-three years ago, the United States Postal Service shut down operations at the Old Main Post Office at 433 W. Van Burn Street in Chicago. The well-known Art Deco building sat vacant and neglected for years until the property was acquired by developer 601W Companies in 2016. Work to bring the building back to life began shortly thereafter. According to a recent story in Curbed Chicago, the plan to transform the 2.8 million-square-foot-building “is the nation’s single largest adaptive reuse project currently under construction.”

It was built in 1921 and expanded in 1934, and designed by one of Chicago’s best known architecture firms, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. According to Landmarks Illinois, “the massive limestone façade is a mammoth example of the Classic Art Deco style, and the main lobby features lavish details like white marble and gold glass mosaics. Since purchasing the massive structure, 601W has worked with global architecture firm Gensler to restore the Art Deco icon to its former glory.”

In 1997, Landmarks Illinois had included the Old Main Post Office on their list of Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois. After more than two decades of advocating for its reuse, Landmarks Illinois can point to the building as just one of many preservation success stories.

Landmarks Illinois Names 12 Historic Sites to 2019 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois

Yesterday, at a press conference in Springfield, Landmarks Illinois announced its 2019 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, naming 12 historically, architecturally and culturally significant sites throughout the state to its annual list of threatened properties - including 6 Chicago-area buildings.

"A troubling trend with this year's Most Endangered sites is the number of historic places that face demolition despite strong and active community support for preservation," said Bonnie McDonald, Landmarks Illinois President & CEO. "People all over Illinois are working to save special places that help tell the unique stories and history of their neighborhoods despite the many challenges that stand in their way."

The 2019 list includes two sites Landmarks Illinois has previously called attention to on their Most Endangered program – the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago and the Rock Island County Courthouse. "These repeat listings demonstrate Landmarks Illinois' dedicated and ongoing efforts to help communities across the state find solutions to preserve our historic places," said McDonald.

Since 1995, the organization highlighted 242 threatened buildings and successfully preserved 113 sites and is actively supporting efforts to save 16 more.