Summer 2010 Internships

One of the most common pieces of advice I’ve heard lately for internships is to record your daily activities, to document as you go. Otherwise, you will forget. Like those road trip pictures from three years ago you were going to label and never did — where was that particular “middle of nowhere” shot? — well, sort of like that, but you know what I mean.  Most of all, it’s practical. Whether you have an internship report requirement or whether you want to make sure you can identify your new skills, records are important.

Of course, a fun way to document highlights of your internship is through a blog. Share with classmates, friends, family, and fellow preservationists what your day-t0-day internship is like.  If you have an internship blog, let me know so PiP readers can read about it. Or consider guest posting your experiences like Lauren McMillan’s summer 2009 archaeology field school posts or Nicholas Bogosian’s monthly preservation trades posts. Either way, I’m sure a lot of people would love to hear about it. Think about it, ask me about it, let me know.

Readers, if you have a preservation blog that isn’t linked here, comment below — share the wealth of blogs and spread the word. The more people who read about preservation and learn what others are doing, the better!

Happy Birthday Sarah!

Happy 21st Birthday to my sister Sarah! This is a picture of us during our Midwest road trip in August 2006 with a fabulous display of roadside architecture, a GIANT prairie dog, near the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. We also fed prairie dogs behind the parking lot. They were so cute!

Preservation Photos #29

A house in Walnut, Iowa as seen in summer 2006 that I really wanted to buy (it was for sale). Sadly, I do not remember the address, but I encountered it while browsing the Walnut Antique Show.

New Lead Regulations

On Earth Day (April 22, 2010) the EPA set into effect new regulations concerning the testing of and removal of paint that may be contaminated with lead. Not to alarm anyone, but lead was used as a pigment in commercially available house paint until 1978. By then the paint industry had substantially reduced the percentage (by volume) of lead in paint, but it was still used.  The short, basic version of these new regulations is that anyone working with potential lead paint must be certified and licensed. Only those certified and licensed are legally able to determine if there is lead in your paint and/or legally able to conduct lead abatement. Certification will cost the contractors more money, but it helps homeowners and renters in the long run by making sure the forms are not being tampered with by someone not wanting to deal with lead abatement. Federal law mandates that sellers and landlord disclose any information about lead paint.

Here is part of the EPA press release:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that renovations and repairs of pre-1978 housing must now be conducted using safe practices to protect children and pregnant women from exposure to lead-based paint. Almost a million children have elevated blood lead levels as a result of exposure to lead hazards, which can lead to lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and behavior issues. Adults exposed to lead hazards can suffer from high blood pressure and headaches. Children under six years old are most at risk.

“Our lead-safe program will protect children and families from lead-based paint hazards associated with renovation and repair activities in houses built before 1978,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “This rule requires contractors to follow some simple and effective lead-safe work practices to prevent children’s exposure to dangerous levels of lead. Lead poisoning is completely preventable.”

In addition to the rule becoming effective, EPA has issued three additional actions:

o A final rule to apply lead-safe work practices to all pre-1978 homes, effectively closing an exemption that was created in 2008. The rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

o A notice of proposed rule making to require dust-wipe testing after most renovations and provide the results of the testing to the owners and occupants of the building. For some of these renovations, the proposal would require that lead dust levels after the renovation be below the regulatory hazard standards. EPA will take comment on the proposal for 60 days. The agency expects to finalize the rule by July 2011.

o An advance notice of proposed rule making to announce EPA’s intention to apply lead-safe work practices to renovations on public and commercial buildings. The advance notice also announces EPA’s investigation into lead-based paint hazards that may be created by renovations on the interior of these public and commercial buildings. If EPA determines that lead-based paint hazards are created by interior renovations, EPA will propose regulations to address the hazards.

The moral of the story? The EPA is stepping up regulations to make living conditions safer for everyone. You can help. Don’t panic about lead; be aware and know what you can do. Check out the EPA’s basic information about lead and the Lead-Free Kids program.  And most importantly, do not let anyone who is not newly certified tell you if you have/do not have lead in your home. For example, as a preservationist I can tell you the facts about lead added to paint with years and percentages, but I cannot professionally or legally confirm or deny that your pre-1978 home has lead paint. Got it?

A Dog & A Solar Panel

Every day is Earth Day! A photo from reader and fellow preservationist, Jen:

Jen says, “I don’t know if it is entirely preservation related, but this is a picture from when we lived in our camper in Colorado. Bomber is sitting on a solar panel, which we hooked up to our parked camper. It is a reminder that we can live with a lot less. We lived like this for almost six months and I’d do it again!”

Love Your Earth

Get ready, tomorrow is Earth Day! Other than an image of a globe, what do you think of when you think of Mother Earth and Earth Day? Do you have a particular landscape that makes you realize how important the environment is or the true connection between historic preservation and environmentalism? Here’s just one of mine:

The South Dakota prairie, where you can appreciate the size and beauty of the earth. Kaitlin O'Shea, 2006.

Eco-friendly House

Consider this: mom, dad, 2 kids, + 1 dog live in a house (in the United States). What would you figure to be the square footage that they need? Would that change if they were building an “eco-friendly” house or would just the materials change?

The Burlington Free Press ran an article over the weekend about a Waitsfield, VT family who built their dream home, which they labeled eco-friendly. The specifics include: 5 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, and about 3100 square feet of living space plus the garage and basement. The eco-friendly factors come in with the materials, generally all local : Vermont slate and marble, local timber, on site fieldstone used. And, of course, the mechanical systems are environmentally friendly: a geothermal heating system, solar panels in the yard to provide electricity, and a passive solar hot water collector, triple pane windows, energy star appliances, and LED bulbs.

Still, the house is 3,100 square feet. Isn’t that too big for a family of 4? But, is that a fair judgment? Should I separate green and size? Is there a fine line between reconciling large buildings and houses and making them green? I don’t want to imply that the Waitsfield family did a horrible thing, they should be commended for their efforts; but I think it brings up an important question of size and space and truly being eco-friendly. My scale for houses is a bit skewed because I grew up with 2 parents, 3 sisters, and multiple pets in a 990 square foot ranch house; we eventually finished part of the basement but that only increased the size to somewhere around 1400 sq ft. (That was awesome because I finally had my own room — which is what every teenage girl dreams about.) And now, as mentioned before, I live in a 350 sq ft. apartment with Vinny and our cats. Anyway…

Thank goodness people who are building homes, large and small,  are considering ways to go about reducing the environmental consequences and reliance on fossil fuels, but perhaps the article stands as a reminder that we still have a long way to until we’re successfully practicing what we preach? Perhaps this relates to LEED? What do you think – about all of this?

Society for Industrial Archeology 2010

Preservation friends: will anyone be attending the Society for Industrial Archeology 2010 conference in Colorado Springs this June? I will be there talking about the Lake Champlain Bridge, so if you’re thinking about going, let me know! We can do lunch or coffee or any of the spectacular tours. The conference theme is Industry on the Frontier so some of the tours include Pike’s Peak, gold mining towns, steel mills, and the royal gorge. (I’m psyched — I’ve never been to Colorado.) I hope to see some of you there. Thanks!

Free Advice?

A confession of sorts: I read a fair number of blogs, including historic preservation blogs, wedding planning blogs, home design blogs, running blogs, and blogs of friends. I’m not a prolific blog commenter, particularly on extremely popular home design and wedding blogs. There are already hundreds of comments, so I do not feel the need, particularly if I’m in disagreement. (After all, if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to read it.) But last week I couldn’t help myself: I had to comment on something appalling.

A home design/DIY blog was writing about the decision to paint or not to paint a brick house. Seeing as I’m currently studying architectural conservation in school and we thoroughly discussed bricks, their function, moisture levels, and the consequences of poor alterations, I suddenly had this terrible image of some paint-happy-home-owner slapping paint on a beautiful historic house with a load bearing brick wall. Or someone who hated paint deciding to sandblast the entire brick exterior. And I panicked! Of course, I do not know the number of readers who have a historic house, but I figured the odds are pretty good. So I gave into the urge and briefly mentioned how sandblasting or painting may not be a good idea, how the brick functions to let moisture in and out, and I added some links from the National Park Service Preservation Briefs series. Maybe no one read my comment or people thought I was crazy, but at least I felt better about the situation. I didn’t receive any comments directed at mine, so maybe people did think I was crazy. But hopefully some people checked out the NPS. After all, we preservationists all know how bad sandblasting is for buildings. There are very few instances in which is a good idea.

Fellow preservationists, how often do you find yourself inserting your historic preservation ethics into general conversation? I mean, when you are outside of your work circle or your circle of like-minded thinkers? Not everyone you know will be willing talk about the relationships between quality of life + historic buildings + local buildings + zoning laws all at once or as often as you’d like. Or what about your friends and neighbors who own a historic (or old) home and are voluntarily sharing their “renovation” plans with you? What if the ideas are atrocious in the sense that they go against all preservation ethics? Are you morally/ethically required to teach preservation whenever possible? Have there been times when you wish you said something or wish you hadn’t said anything?

I’ve pondered this question here and there. Probably, the socially acceptable thing to do is to casually bring up historic preservation whenever it seems appropriate. Obviously, jamming ideas down someone’s throat will not help your case.  But, if we do not take a risk once in a while and introduce preservation and its resources to new people, then our uphill climb will be even steeper and farther. Would I have brought up paint + sandblasting in a conversation rather than on the internet? Well, probably.  With my family and friends? Most definitely. My family is used to me inserting preservation related discussion into everything.  Then again, sometimes it’s harder to teach family than it is to teach strangers. No matter with whom, it is a delicate balance of introducing preservation and not appearing too-high-on-your-horse, so to speak. (Or maybe too-high-on-your-house? haha.) So, what do you do? How often do you talk preservation outside of your preservation circle? What tricks of the trade work best for you? Are you more likely to discuss the economic benefits of preservation or architectural conservation?