Traditional Building Conference

Previous Events: Chicago 2008

Chicago’s Navy Pier was the site of the Fall 2008 Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference held September 18-20.


The exhibition hall, open on Friday and Saturday, featured 115 suppliers of historically accurate products. More than 2,500 attendees viewed these exhibits.


The Live on the Show Floor section offered ongoing live demonstrations on how to restore various elements, such as windows.


When not attending tours, conferences and seminars, attendees at the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference found time to browse through the aisles in the exhibition hall.


Attendees strolling down Navy Pier got a stunning view of Lake Michigan and the city’s skyline.

The architects, designers, builders, contractors, building owners and homeowners who went to Chicago to learn about sustainability, restoring historic buildings and wood windows, LEED, mid-century Modernism, historic bungalows and traditional products, as well as to meet and greet others in the traditional design and building industry, weren’t disappointed. With more than 65 seminars, conferences, tours and workshops, and a lively exhibition floor featuring 115 suppliers of historically accurate products, the Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference provided an opportunity to garner many CEUs, learn about new products and to talk to others about recent trends and developments. More than 2,500 industry representatives came to Chicago to see these exhibits and attend the conferences, seminars and workshops. In addition, the location – Chicago’s Navy Pier – provided visitors a chance to enjoy Chicago’s sunny fall weather and views of Lake Michigan.

Three keynote speakers – Donovan Rypkema of PlaceEconomics; Michael Lykoudis, dean of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture; and architect and author Russell Versaci – provided broad-ranging perspectives and plenty of food for thought. Rypkema, for example, talked about historic neighborhoods and called for the development of a Department of Sustainable Development along with the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Lykoudis spoke on the topic of “Building in a Time of Global Warming: Principles of Architecture & Urbanism for the 21st Century,” and Versaci elaborated on the origins of the American home as discussed in his forthcoming book, Roots of Home: Our Journey to a New Old House.

Kicking off the event on Thursday, September 18, was a workshop on the Original Green conducted by Steve Mouzon of the New Urban Guild. Like Lykoudis and others, he outlined the need for truly sustainable architecture as opposed to “gizmo green.”

“We were thrilled with the response to the educational sessions at the Chicago Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference,” said conference director Judy Hayward. “It was particularly pleasing to see the response to the programs and tours presented on the topic of mid-century Modernism since we recognize Modernism as an architectural tradition in its own right.

“The show also benefited from volunteer participation by more than 30 students from Ball State University’s Graduate Program in Historic Preservation; Belmont Technical College’s Preservation Carpentry program; the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture; Roosevelt University’s Graduate Program in Hospitality Management; the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Historic Preservation Program; and the University of Illinois School of Architecture and Planning Graduate Program,” she added. “Students were given a free, full conference pass in exchange for 4-8 hours of volunteer assistance with the conference. We look forward to the entry of such hard-working young professionals in the world of historic preservation, construction, engineering and architecture. We extend thanks to the administration at each college for supporting the students’ participation.”

Many different groups participated in the conference program, including The New Urban Guild, INTBAU-USA and the Illinois Certified Local Government program. Landmarks Illinois encouraged its members to come to Chicago in lieu of presenting its own statewide conference this fall and AIA Chicago, the Institute for Classical Architecture & Classical America and The Chicago Bungalow Initiative presented special sessions. The AIA Historic Resources Committee reviewed the entire program and earmarked several sessions as recommended for architects to attend.

For those interested in incorporating U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards into the restoration of historic buildings, the conference offered a number of informative seminars. Allen Johnson, director of the Midwest office of MacRostie Historic Advisors, talked about the use of tax credits versus LEED standards in the restoration of two of Chicago’s historic buildings – the Sears, Roebuck & Co. Power House and the 1958 Inland Steel Building.

Another project that is balancing historic preservation with LEED Gold Certification was presented by Susan Turner, AIA, of Bailey Edward Architecture, and Jessica Figenholtz, LEED AP, OWP/P Architects. They discussed Lincoln Hall at the University of Illinois, including information on LEED certification and decisions that were made in regard to energy consumption and the interior and exterior restoration.

Another Chicago historic building that was discussed at the show was the 1912 Monroe Building. Mary Brush, AIA, and Thomas Lassin, RA, of Holabird & Root, reviewed the restoration of the historic exterior terra cotta, including the problem of access. Noting the economy of restoration, Brush pointed out that the cost of the restoration and rehabilitation was less than 50 percent of what it would have cost to build a replacement building.

For history buffs, Sheldon Richard Kostelecky, principal of Sheldon Richard Kostelecky Architect, presented Classicism 101, and Thomas Gordon Smith, principal of Thomas Gordon Smith Architects, outlined Palladio’s influence on Midwestern Grecian buildings. David Mayernik, president of David Mayernik Ltd., and Thomas Rajkovich, president of Thomas Norman Rajkovich Architect, reviewed Chicago’s Classical traditions, both in art and architecture.

For those with more contemporary interests, Mike Jackson, chief architect, Preservation Services Division, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, presented a case for preserving mid-century Modernism.

The annual Traditional Building Design Competition also took place on the show floor. Four teams of designers from across the country competed for two days to design and draw a new “old” house that could fit contextually into one of Chicago's most endangered historic neighborhoods. Congratulations to Grand Rapids, MI-based Visbeen Associates, Inc., for winning first place in the competition.

Show attendees were also able to attend six free educational sessions inside the exhibit hall, on topics such as hardwood flooring, window repair, plaster and wood repair. Traditional building techniques, how-to information and old world craftsmanship came to life in the LIVE Demonstration Area, also located inside the hall.


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