Archive for November, 2012

Once again, my CSI membership paid for itself.  This time, however, it was in a way I never would have imagined 24 years ago when I first joined the organization.

At it’s October dinner meeting, the Central Virginia Chapter of CSI hosted a program on NFPA 285 and its inclusion in the International Building Code.  More fully known as NFPA 285: Standard Fire Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components, the standard establishes the testing protocol for evaluating multi-story wall assemblies in buildings of all but Type V construction.

Here’s how I once again benefited from my CSI membership.  My design student daughter often seeks my counsel regarding her projects, at times to get an idea whether she’s going in the right direction, and others when she simply wishes to show me what she’s up to.  This morning, I received an e-mail from her asking my opinion as to whether insulated concrete forms (ICF’s) would be an appropriate material for her project on tornado resistant design.  Knowing that my firm often recommends the use of ICF’s, she knew I would have an opinion on the subject.

In this particular instance, I believe the ICF wall would not be the appropriate system.  For starters, she needs the wall to be impact resistant, so a hard, almost structural, cladding would be necessary.  Secondly, I went on to explain, the wall assembly would have to be tested under NFPA 285.  This is something I would not have been aware of had I not been an active member of CSI.  My thanks to Kirby Davis of the Dallas Chapter for making me aware of that which has been largely unenforced locally at Construct 2012 in Phoenix in September.

And so, my membership paid for itself in allowing me to pass a bit of knowledge on to the next generation.  I find this tremendously rewarding.

Membership in CSI is easy to come by.  Simply ask a current member, or contact the Institute ( www.csinet.org ).  You will be welcomed.


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Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place for all generations. – Psalm 90

In 1965, Charlie Brown declared that he would not let all this commercialism ruin his Christmas.  Fast forward forty-seven years, and they have managed to destroy Thanksgiving as well – almost.

With the help of Linus, Charlie Brown managed to find the meaning of Christmas in spite of the rest of the world.  Taking a clue from Charlie Brown and Linus, we should remember the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday.

If you will recall, the first Thanksgiving was observed by colonists who were far from home and had managed to survive the perils of the Atlantic and likewise endured a winter and summer in a strange land.  Unlike many folks today who seem to be dissatisfied with what they have and always desire more, the colonists were grateful for what they had and gave thanks to their creator for the year’s blessings, which included survival.

It is with this in mind that I have come to realize that “Black Friday” is the antithesis of Thanksgiving.  Madison Avenue, like Dr. Frankenstein, has created a monster and unbridled the avarice of the populace.  Black Friday is a success because of a desire to have the latest and greatest of everything (that we don’t need), so folks are lured into the stores for the perceived opportunity to get a good deal on something only to find that they have to settle for something else.  Even worse, it has inspired people to forgo expressing thanks for what they have to stand in line to be one of the first few into the retailer’s door.  The self centeredness that drives this desire is not what God intended for us.

So let us be thankful for all that God has given us, whatever it may be.  As for me, I will not let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas nor my Thanksgiving.

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I have posted multiple times arguments for sprinklering buildings.  Most of the time when one thinks of fire protection systems, new construction comes to mind.  When NBC 29 Television in Charlottesville recently reported that the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation installed a new HI-FOG fire sprinkler at Monticello, it dawned on me that there is a place in historic preservation for fire sprinklers.

 That said, when preserving a historic property, first priority is to preserve as much original historic fabric as possible, making “minimal change to its distinctive materials, features, and spatial relationships” 1  To a great extent, it would give one pause to go boring holes in 200+ year old plaster.  But think of the consequence of not doing this and losing a significant historic structure to fire.

 Most of the historic buildings around here are wood framed, as the colonists did not have the resources to construct stone buildings.  As such, given the right combination of ignition and a good draft, the fuel contributed by the unprotected framing would go up in flames quickly running the risk of losing the entire structure and the historic fabric.

 So given the advances in fire protection technology over the last century, it makes sense to sacrifice small amounts of historic plaster in discrete locations for the good of the entire structure.  To be sure, there may be some water damage following a sprinkler activation, but water damage is reversible.  Reducing a historic structure to charred rubble is not.

 So to the staff at Mr. Jefferson’s Monticello, I salute you for taking a stand against fire and for preserving the house for the benefit of future generations.

1.  From NPS Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation

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