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When building an exterior wall to replace an interior wall makes sense.
AUTHORJulie Georgopoulos, FSI Architecture
We were called in on a project down in TriBeCa. This was a mid-1800s, five-story manufacturing building that had been converted to residential lofts. They called us in because a developer was constructing a new building next door, and workers were underpinning their facade. Unfortunately, during the underpinning process, parts of our client’s foundation shifted approximately five inches. They had some uneven settlements which damaged the front facade and also damaged some of the interior finishes and parts of the western facade.
Initially, we were brought in as part of an evaluation phase, but it very quickly became apparent that they needed to fix their problems. So from the evaluation phase, we worked with the insurance company and a contractor and structural engineers in order to develop a scope of work. Or how do we fix the problem? It very quickly went from an evaluation phase to figuring out a solution. The solution that we realized had to happen was that this facade had to be disassembled and reassembled. It’s a landmarked facade constructed of marble that’s no longer available, and it’s load-bearing. So we had to work with those constraints.
Now here’s the interesting bit. This is a small building – five units – and the unit-owners did not want to leave their spaces. This project was slated to be approximately a year long. We had to devise a scheme in order to keep the building occupied while the work was ongoing. What we discussed with the contractor and the structural engineer was to essentially construct a new interior wall, which acted as weatherproofing, soundproofing and insulation to protect the residents from the exterior elements while the front facade came down and went up again. The contractors had to be able to work on both sides of the masonry wall in order to disassemble it and reconstruct it safely. There was a lot of shoring put in place and scaffolding on the exterior of the building. This temporary wall allowed the owners to maintain occupancy of their spaces while the contractors safely performed the work.
Because we were retaining all of the historic materials and we were proposing to essentially take apart all of the components and reassemble them in the same fashion that they were constructed, the Landmarks Preservation Commission was OK with it – as long as we presented a cataloging plan of all of the pieces of stone that we were retaining. At the same time, we were also repairing all of the components because, again, this material wasn't readily available. The other difficulty was that in order to do this work, we had to remove the fire escape from the front of the building, which required Fire Department approval. And the contractor very cleverly was able to reconfigure the scaffold stairs to make them the second means of egress. We filed that with the Fire Department and were able to use that as the second means of egress. It ended up being really successful, I think.