Engineers + Architects

14 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005
(212) 505 1133

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    SuperScript is a quarterly newsletter from SUPERSTRUCTURES. Founded in 1981, we are a firm of architects, structural engineers, and conservators dedicated to the art and science of exterior restoration.


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      November 4, 2021

      Measure Twice, Cut Once

      “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.”

      Attributed to Albert Einstein, this may sound like a lopsided approach to problem solving, but it’s relevant to SUPERSTRUCTURES’ method. It’s not that our restoration solutions don’t get due diligence; it’s about a “measure twice, cut once” philosophy in reaching those solutions.

      Forty years of experience has taught us not to jump to conclusions, even when restoration challenges appear cut and dried. We believe that an open-minded approach and meticulous preparation is key, focusing on thorough investigation and precise documentation and drawings.

      Part of our approach happens in the studio, analyzing existing drawings and reports through the lens of our extensive experience with similar building types, materials, and issues. At the same time, tried and true methods such as visual analysis from scaffolding or lifts and sounding of concrete or terra cotta provide important evidence from the field.

      L: Using a borescope to perform a cavity wall probe. R: An example of our restoration assembly detail drawings.

      When we need to see what’s beyond the surface of a building’s envelope, our robust capacity for Non-Destructive Testing and Evaluation (NDT&E) is instrumental. With an in-house NDT&E lab and experts in the use of tools like infrared imaging, electrical impedance scanning, and borescopes at our disposal, we have state-of-the-art capacity to diagnose building issues with empirical precision. In short, we’ve never seen a leak we haven’t been able to track.

      High-resolution detail of a facade from SurfaceCapture showing a masonry defect in an inaccessible location.

      We also employ custom software as a powerful preparation tool. Our Asset Information Management (AIM) system and SurfaceCapture technology allows us to inventory hundreds of thousands of locations to track building envelope conditions, a detailed “roadmap” to take the building from investigation to restoration design to completed restoration. We continue to refine AIM to make it more nimble as a documentation tool and design resource.

      While we’re not dealing with problems of theoretical physics, we do take Einstein’s observation to heart. Unlike Einstein, we know we’ll never find a single, unified theory to apply in the field. The greatest wisdom is in realizing that every building is different and no pre-determined menu of solutions will fit the bill.

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