Traditional Building Conference

Previous Events: Boston 2009

Boston's historic Massachusetts State Capitol.


William Sloan Associates of Winchester, MA, submitted the winning drawings for the 2009 Design Challenge which called for the redevelopment of the Church Street Lot in Salem, MA.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That could be the slogan for the traditional building industry and a description of the energy and enthusiasm displayed at the recent Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference (TBEC) held in Boston, MA, March 11 – 14. More than 3,000 attendees came to the event at the Hynes Convention Center, which offered 60 seminars, 100 exhibits of historic products and a variety of workshops and tours.

The conference theme, "Smart Solutions for a Challenging Market," resonated with attendees who crowded into the exhibit hall and into the conferences and workshops, all of which offered CEUs, including the new sustainability CEUs now required by the AIA. "This recession has a silver lining," said TBEC Education Director Judy Hayward. "Traditional building market professionals have forever advocated the preservation values which are now deemed ‘strategic' by developers and building owners, especially in government and institutions. Much of the economic stimulus package, for example, is aimed squarely at the restoration and renovation of historic buildings. The adaptive reuse and ‘greening' of existing building is important to economic recovery, and it was an important topic at the show."

The revitalization of American cities was discussed in two separate keynote addresses. Governing magazine's founder and publisher emeritus, Peter Harkness, presented data showing a strong trend toward people moving back to downtown areas. "There's a new urban culture of young people," he told the group. "It's mostly about young people. Among those born after 1981, 77 percent want to live in cities. The suburban movement is reversing itself, and cities are rearranging themselves."

Harkness cited other interesting statistics, such as the fact that the top 100 metropolitan areas generate three-quarters of the economic activity and account for two-thirds of the population while taking up only 12% of the land in the U.S. He also recommended the book, Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival, by Paul Grogan and Proscio.

Also speaking about revitalizing cities were Ron Sakal and Sallie Hood, professors at University of Notre Dame's School of Architecture, and directors of the Center for Building Communities. They stressed that it's important for pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods to plan for permeable buildings, buildings with more than one possible use. "The buildings should also allow for an enjoyable experience for pedestrians to walk through," they said. "Existing ugly buildings shouldn't be torn down but rather fixed with affordable techniques for other uses."

Sakal and Hood also stressed the importance of public transportation in urban planning. "It's more challenging for less dense neighborhoods but certainly possible," said Hood. "It's also important to beautify public transportation to encourage its constant use."

The professors made the point that many inner cities have large areas devoted to on-grade parking and that these areas could be used for development or more effectively blended into the streetscape. Hood noted that generations ago many developers didn't want to put waste pipes underground—until they discovered the pipes' link to cholera. Similarly, today's developers could be convinced of the benefits of reduced on-grade parking.

Seminars on sustainability, including 25 sessions that qualified for the American Institute of Architects' new sustainability CEU requirement, were particularly well attended. "Assessing Energy Performance in Historic Buildings" (led by Mark Thaler, AIA, principal, and Peter Ottavio, PE, LEED AP, principal, both of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott) and a workshop about geothermal wells (led by Tom Perry, LEED AP and Carl Jay of Shawmut Design and Contruction and Michael Williamson, PE, LEED AP, Cosentini Associates) were standing-room only. Equally popular were craftsmanship workshops on plaster repair, window restoration, wood flooring installation and wrought-iron maintenance.

One of the highlights of the event was the presentation of the Palladio Awards at a banquet on Wednesday night. The following projects were presented at two sessions during the Traditional Building Show by the winning architects. These projects will be published in upcoming issues of TraditionalBuildingand Period Homes magazines.

Another competition, this one held during the event in Boston, was the 2009 Traditional Building Design Challenge. Contestants worked on their designs on the exhibition floor and then presented them on Saturday March 14. The project was the redevelopment of the Church Street Lot in Salem, MA. The winning design was submitted by William Sloan Associates of Winchester, MA. It will be published in upcoming issues of Period Homes and New Old House magazines.

For those interested in learning about historic preservation tax credits, the presentation by John Sandor and Jo Ellen Hensley, architectural historians with the National Park Service, was the place to be. They outlined the requirements for complying with the Secretary of the Interior's standards in a succinct and easy-to-understand manner. For more information on the historic tax credits, go to

If you were looking for ways to make an historic building green, Jean Carroon, FAIA, LEED AP, principal, Goody Clancy, and Tom Perry, Shawmut Design and Construction, had some answers at their presentation. In that same subject area, Ron Staley, Hon. AIA & FAPT, The Christman Co., gave some pointers when he discussed the restoration of the firm's new headquarters in Lansing, MI. The building was the first historic preservation project to receive two LEED Platinum certifications.

The importance of restoring historic windows was covered in a number of presentations, including "New Data on Old Windows" by Walter Sedovic, principal, and Jill Gotthelf, associate, of Walter Sedovic Architects; a workshop with the New Urban Guild and North Bennett Street School and a panel discussion with Heartwood Restoration, Olde Window Restorers, Winn Mountain Restoration, Old Town Repair and Window Woman of New England.

For those wanting to get out of the Hynes Convention Center and see historic Boston, TBEC offered a variety of options such as a tour showcasing Boston's Revival Architecture, a walking tour of the South End, and a tour/workshop focusing on restoring stained glass.


Traditional Building Period Homes rexbilt
Tradweb Palladio Awards
Twitter Facebook

Copyright 2015. Active Interest Media. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy