John Felton, Vice President BRC, was interviewed by Construction Executive on historic building restoration. Construction Executive is a national publication reaching over 50,000 contractors and construction-related business owners.
By: Cindy O’Hara of Construction Executive
Below is an excerpt from the full article. To read the entire article, click here.
There was a time when the United States was beleaguered by the image of a country that had no appreciation for its history—one that would rather tear down something old to put up another office building, strip mall or housing development.
Current trends in the construction industry belie this depiction, and for those that take on the onerous and challenging work of renovating and restoring historic buildings, it is more than just a job. It’s a labor of love.
At the heart of this movement is an upsurge in the desire to move near downtown areas to be close to work and home, particularly among today’s younger generation. The result is that historical buildings—brick and granite, and all the charm to match—are in high demand. This bodes well for construction companies that garner much of their revenue from preserving buildings that are a testament to the nation’s past.
And for landowners and developers, electing to adapt and reuse existing structures—especially in urban locations where space is at a premium—makes fiscal sense.
For John Felton, vice president of Building Restoration Corporation in Roseville, Minn., restoring the masonry of historical buildings is more than a job, it’s a responsibility.
“What happens on restoration projects is that you see the exterior, but once you start working on it you typically will find additional problems to repair. With new construction, you can reliably bring it in on budget, but with restoration projects it’s difficult to do,” Felton says. “The reality is that once you discover underlying conditions that need to be fixed, it would be irresponsible to ignore them or cover them up.”
Another challenge is finding the right materials. For example, when Felton’s company renovated and restored the almost $520,000 Bayfield County Courthouse, he said the “particular color of stone used in the construction of the building is distinctive enough that there are very few substitutes available that are currently being quarried.
“Using a stone that is close would stand out and call attention to the repair,” he says. “The original stone was from a quarry that is no longer in use, so salvaging stone from demolished buildings that were built using that stone is the best possible option.”
For Felton, the greatest compliment he could receive is when people are hard pressed to tell that repairs were done.
“With us,” Felton says, “it’s artisanship to the very last sweep of the broom.”