Renewal: Notes on APTI Miami by Salvatore DiPietro

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 5:25 PM | Ellen O'Brien (Administrator)

The sun-drenched Biscayne Bay served as the backdrop for this year’s APTI Conference in Downtown Miami. Hundreds of international preservationists congregated at the Intercontinental Miami Hotel to engage in workshops, view presentations, and connect with the global preservation community. The subtropical climate and turquoise ocean waters contrasted with some of the serious-minded conference themes this year, including climate change, sustainability, and the socio-economic challenges faced within the context of heritage sites. Heavy-handiness aside, the general vibe was upbeat as attendees explored Miami’s rich cultural history and global influence. Having never attended an APTI conference, or any conference for that matter, my arrival to Miami was met with nervousness and excitement. Not knowing what to expect, I began the conference with the mindset of meeting new people and learning from the experiences of others.

The first field session I attended was the Downtown Miami Historic Architecture Walking Tour guided by Cheryl Jacobs, Executive Vice President of AIA Miami and the Miami Center for Architecture & Design. We toured Miami’s collection of Art Deco, Neoclassical Revival, and Art Moderne styled buildings. I was most impressed by the second-floor lobby of the Alfred i. DuPont building. Brass adorned finishes with tropical motifs and an entire wood coffered ceiling with hand-painted depictions of the Seminole Tribe were the small details in a open space filled with natural light.

The second half of the conference was comprised of paper sessions typically structured with four presenters led by a session chair. I found myself checking the conference schedule and hopping between presentations of interest. The Zero Net Carbon Collaborative for Existing and Historic Buildings (ZNCC) Session led by Carl Elefante was both fascinating and shocking at the same time. Larry Strain (Siegel & Strain Associates) presented on building reuse and its role as a critical climate action strategy. He made a compelling point when he stated that any new net-zero buildings are not enough to combat climate change and if we are to make any significant progress, building reuse is the solution. This presentation changed my perspective on what it means to be a preservation engineer. I originally saw myself as structural engineer whose goal was to preserve the beauty and cultural significance of historic buildings. I now realize that I need to expand my career beyond just historic buildings and include transforming the more mundane building stock into something fresh and modern.            

I began the APTI conference seeking to connect with other preservationists and to learn more about preservation. I am leaving with a renewed energy and purpose in my career as a structural engineer. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the patrons of the APT DC Chapter who donated to make this experience a possibility for me.

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