The historic renovation and restoration of buildings offer an opportunity to restore the purpose of a space, through the introduction of current technology, to ensure not only its preservation but also its future conservation. Working with historic projects requires expertise and experience. Structural Focus has successfully worked on over two dozen buildings listed on the National Historic Register. Because of archaic construction materials and special requirements, engineers must understand and comply with the California Historical Building Code and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.
“The preservation of an existing structure and its embodied energy is the single most effective step in supporting sustainability.” – David Cocke, SE, Structural Focus President
Currently working with Caruso Affiliated, Gensler and W.E. O’Neil Construction, Structural Focus is performing the structural engineering services for the renovation of The Masonic Temple in Glendale, California. The temple is a designated landmark on Glendale’s Register of Historic Places. Designed by architect Arthur G. Lindley, the nine-story art deco building opened in 1928 and has housed six different Masonic organizations. Having been vacant for decades, the design team is working with the new owner, Caruso Affiliated, to revitalize and repurpose the property into creative office space. Structural Focus Project Engineer, Brendan Ramos, SE, shares the top challenges the design team encounters in historic projects and how The Masonic Temple’s team is managing these unique tasks.
1. Unique Characteristics. Historic projects are always different; there is not one project that is identical to another. The unique characteristics of each historic project, including archaic construction materials, hidden details, and “uncommon” original construction techniques require thinking outside of the box and coming up with approaches that are not obvious at first glance. While there may be some ideas that can be used from project to project, each project’s analysis and detailing differ greatly.
2. Limited Documentation. Due the historic nature of The Masonic Temple building, there was limited access to original documentation; surprises in the original structure were bound to arise. It was essential to understand the characteristics of the existing structure and ascertain the behavior of the building during a seismic event; therefore, Structural Focus performed complex modeling of the structure to obtain a level of confidence in the building’s behavior and how our retrofit measures would affect that behavior.
3. Historical Significance vs. Safety. One of the biggest challenges of a historic project is to maintain the historic significance of the structure while improving its performance and safety. The beauty of a truly successful structural rehabilitation is the ability to meet a performance goal without impeding its original and unique character.
4. Unforeseen Conditions. The constant interaction between the design team members is necessary in order to deliver a successful project of this complexity. We understand that surprises will arise during construction and we must have the flexibility to reassess the original design based on those surprises in order to move forward.
A successful historic project is accomplished as the team overcomes the distinctive complications presented by the structure. We are proud to say, Caruso Affiliated, Gensler, W.E. O’Neil Construction and Structural Focus have made this project a complete success. Caruso Affiliated will manage The Masonic Temple as Class A office leasing with a re-invented twist: office leasing with the personalized hospitality of a 5-star hotel. The project is expected to be completed by December 2015.