September 2016

Not How It’s Supposed To Work

by Don Friedman on September 30, 2016

This is not good (click to play video):


That’s steel sheet pile that was installed a few years ago to reinforce a bulkhead. It’s supposed to be capable of withstanding the pressure of earth trying to slide into the water, the pressure of water trying to move landward, and the pressure of waves hitting during a storm. It’s not supposed to move from a few pounds of force applied by foot.


Historic Non-Structural Detail: A Terrible Mistake

September 29, 2016

Kids, don’t try this at home: That’s a picture taken during brick replacement at a small 1870s building. As was common during the late 1800s and most of the 1900s, the roofing was flashed to the now-removed brick parapet with a heavy application of tar. In the picture above, you see the roof-joist ends at the […]

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September 28, 2016

The white stripes show the gaps between the now-removed lath: Structural engineering is about structure, right? A while ago, while looking at a historic house upstate, we ran into a problem. The building had wood-stud bearing walls sheathed with clapboard and we ran into an obvious problem: the bearing walls were not performing properly. The studs were buckling, […]

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Bannerman Island, Again

September 27, 2016

Bannerman’s Island in 2003: This article in Brownstoner is a nice description of the history and buildings of Bannerman Island, even if we’re not mentioned. Our first phase of bracing for the arsenal and the flagpoles for the Constellation art installation are quite prominent in the top photo. Given that this is the third time […]

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The Shoe’s On The Other Foot

September 26, 2016

The current view out of my office window: There’s fairly extensive pointing of the limestone exterior of our building going on, and our windows have been taped shut. It’s noisy, and annoying that we can’t open our windows, and distracting to have swing-stages going by on a regular basis. I guess this is what it’s […]

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For The Weekend: Picturesque

September 25, 2016

The description of this photo, from 1906, is that it’s an abandoned farmhouse in Red Hill, New Hampshire. My first reaction was “that is a perfect stereotype of an old farmhouse.” Then I realized: we think of buildings like that as being stereotypes because there were, once, so many of them.

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For The Weekend: Statistics

September 24, 2016

An interesting report on transportation in New York: here. The city’s population, number of people employed, and number of tourists are at all-time highs, but the number of vehicles crossing into Manhattan is relatively stagnant. Cycling trips are at a high, and subway ridership is at its highest point since the 1940s, when car ownership […]

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Structure and Technology

September 23, 2016

I’ve used the word “technology” in a number of recent posts, including yesterday’s riff on Viking longboats. Today, I want to ask a simple question: why isn’t building structure discussed as “technology”? High-tech: Structural steel work in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge subway station, circa 1904. There are similar questions that can be asked. […]

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Vikings And The Challenge Of Old Technology

September 22, 2016

That red ship moored in the North Cove at Battery Park City, the one that doesn’t look like the surrounding yachts? She’s the Draken Harald Hårfagre, a replica Viking great ship. Draken recently sailed across the Atlantic from Norway and is here for a few more days before heading up the Hudson, through the New York State Barge […]

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Failure Portrait: A Little Off The Top

September 21, 2016

There’s a lot going on in this picture, and much of it is not good. The center of the picture is a girder* with joists on both sides framing in. (The joists on the left are mostly hidden below the plywood.) The fact that we see the tops of the joists inset past the edge […]

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