As we watched in horror when Notre Dame Cathedral’s spire and roof were engulfed in flames in April, the thought “this can’t be happening to Notre Dame!” passed through the minds of many. It was a sobering reminder that the worst can happen to a beloved structure.
In November 2018 the Wright community we recently learned with sadness that wildfire decimated the Oboler Estate in Malibu, California. In response to the Oboler loss, the Conservancy provided an introduction to disaster preparedness.
While the exact cause of the Notre Dame fire is under investigation, it began at a time when major renovations were underway. This is an important reminder that renovation and restoration work can put a structure at increased risk. Some examples:
The National Trust has developed a guide for fire safety in historic buildings.
The guide notes on p.12:
The potential for fire during a building rehabilitation is greater than during normal use and occupancy. Fire protection upgrades are not yet completed, for example, and walls and floors are opened up which creates paths for fire spread. Highly combustible materials—demolition debris, crates and boxes, and so on—are left lying around. Welding and cutting operations, plumbing torches, tar kettles, temporary heating equipment, and wiring may serve as ignition sources and create a rapidly developing fire.
Restoration and renovation can impose additional stresses on a building than it was originally designed to accommodate. The Conservancy urges all building stewards to work closely with their design and construction professionals to make sure that utmost care is taken during renovation and restoration work to ensure the safety of their building and those working on and in it.
The Conservancy recommends that stewards develop a familiarity with issues relating to reducing the potential of loss at their home or site.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it gives a good idea of the many things to consider when planning renovation and restoration work. With proper planning and communication, your restoration should be the success you want it to be.
Posted on June 19, 2019