This Week

A weekly round-up of my favorite preservation related stories from around the web and in the newsClick on the title of each story to jump through to the original article/blog post.

How to Live without Air Conditioning – Boston Globe

Using AC has huge environmental costs. While the idea of using less has not become a “touchstone for environmental enlightenment” yet, someday it will be the new hybrid car or recycling. Luckily, we can fall back on traditional construction methods (and historic buildings!) to keep our homes and businesses cooler naturally. In particular, we can look to the historic South for help. Raised foundations, long central halls and strategically placed windows for cross-ventilation, strategically planted shade trees, wide eaves, awnings, high ceilings, sleeping porches etc. are just some of the tricks that kept people cool despite high temperatures and high humidity before air conditioning.

Miami Beach Preservationists Battle Glitterati Over Homes – NPR

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“This house owned by a plastic surgeon and his wife, a cast member on The Real Housewives of Miami, is the poster child for efforts to stop runaway demolitions in Miami Beach.” Image via NPR

The demolition of historic homes along Miami Beach’s waterfront has skyrocketed in the last few years, and huge McMansions are springing up their place fundamentally changing the look and feel of the community. At the center of a current preservation battle is a 1925 mansion purchased by The Real Housewives of Miami stars Dr. Leonard “the Boob God” Hochstein and his wife, Lisa.  They want to tear down the 88 year old house designed by one of Florida’s first architects in favor of a 20,000 square feet compound. As the battle over a moratorium on demolitions in the city heats up, it will play out in courts and TV!

The Mad Hatter Approach to Development – Rustwire

This is brilliant! “I call this type of [no-growth] sprawl [typical of rust-belt cities], in which the wealthiest keep moving further out in search of something newer and better, the ‘clean plate’ theory of urban development, after this exchange in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: ‘I want a clean cup,’ interrupted the Hatter: ‘let’s all move one place on.’ He moved on as he spoke, and the Dormouse followed him: the March Hare moved into the Dormouse’s place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare had just upset the milk-jug into his plate.'”

Traditional Building Materials Are Still the Best Choice for HP – Preservation in Action

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Image via Preservation in Action

Beware of PVC composite replacements on historic homes!  “In the limited instances where wood-meets-earth or the worst precipitation (window sills, balustrades and stair treads), PVC composites may appear to be an attractive alternative. But its use should be considered with caution; new composite risers, fascia plates and sills will not show signs of degradation, but they will conceal what’s happening to wooden structural members behind them.  So, when it fails, be prepared for wholesale failure of the system.  (‘Gee, the stairs looked great … who knew the stringers were rotted?’)”

Baltimore Activists Use Art and Web to Fight Blight – NPR

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“Street artists Nether (top) and Tefcon install a mural in the Johnston Square neighborhood of East Baltimore.” Image via NPR

In Baltimore, an activist and street artists have joined forces to fight blight and poor planning policy in the city.  First Carol Ott, who runs the website Baltimore Slumlord Watch, identifies a vacant building and its absentee owner, then she makes the information public on her website. She’s cataloged hundreds of buildings this way. Then, a street artist uses the building as a blank canvas.  S/he  creates a mural that includes a QR code that takes you to Slumlord Watch, a step that  “fuses public art and public shaming.” Click through to find out how landlords and neighbors are responding!

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