Friday, May 17 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Architecture) Climate Change and Building Gutters

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One of the generally agreed upon impacts of climate change is an increase in the intensity of rain storms. In New England, precipitation has increased 10 percent from 1895 to 2011, and precipitation from extremely heavy rains increased 70 percent since 1958. These trends are predicted to continue and so it raises the question of whether stewards of historic properties are adapting properly to account for how this rise in rain will impact the treatment and care of our historic structures. Building gutter systems, when operating correctly, should effectively capture roof runoff and redirect it down and away from the building thus reducing the exposure of the facade to water. The article “Water Management for Traditional Buildings” (The Journal of Preservation Technology, Roger Curtis, Vol 47, No. 1, 2016, pages 8-14), suggested that in Scotland historic gutters appeared capable of carrying rain from intense storms but it was later modifications and repairs to the gutter systems that might be reducing the carrying capacity and thus put the building at risk. After noting several issues with our gutter systems in rain storms of intensity, Historic New England decided that it needed to learn more. Historic New England is the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the United States. It offers a unique opportunity to experience the lives and stories of New Englanders through their homes and possessions. Of the 37 historic properties that are open to the public across the region, Historic New England has seven properties in Maine. Through a granting program sponsored by the Maine Historical Commission, the seven museums and two additional privately owned properties offered a wonderful testing ground to analyze issues relating to climate change and gutters on historic buildings. In 2018, Historic New England completed an analysis of the performance of twenty gutter systems at the nine properties. The premise of the analysis was simple: are these systems sufficient to transport the rainwater they receive today away from the building, will they be adequate for future rainstorms, and what modifications might be inhibiting water flow. The study quickly determined that, unlike the premise proposed in the article cited above, the failure point was not from changes made to the systems but rather the gutter systems as originally installed were frequently inadequate for the task of carrying rainwater today. Regardless of the amount of rain forecasted in the future, these systems are currently a failure point and therefore changes need to be made to better protect the buildings today and in the future. This paper will discuss the impact a poor performing gutter will have on a historic building, the history of calculating gutter size, the failure points of the historic gutters in the study, and potential modifications that could be considered to better protect the resource while still being sensitive to concerns of interpretation and the potential impact of the change on the historic character of the building or historic district.

avatar for Benjamin Haavik

Benjamin Haavik

Team Leader of Property Care for Historic New England, Historic New England
Benjamin Haavik, Team Leader of Property Care for Historic New England, is responsible for the maintenance and preservation of 37 historic house museums and landscapes open to the public. Ben manages fifteen full-time staff, including preservation carpenters, preservation managers... Read More →

Friday May 17, 2019 11:30am - 12:00pm
Salon A1, Uncas Ballroom Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun

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