To the general public, the image of buildings, especially those with historic significance, is often one of permanency. Yet, those involved in building design and construction and, to some extent, building owners, understand the relative nature of this word. Building owners and managers must continually maintain their building envelopes so that function, durability, and safety can be achieved. This is increasingly important as building stocks get older. The rise in the number of cities adopting facade inspection ordinances indicates that maintenance is often differed.
Several cities in the United States have enacted facade inspection ordinances that apply to all types of buildings. These ordinances are largely in response to the declining health of historic masonry buildings. These buildings often exhibit conditions that require immediate attention to remediate potentially “unsafe ” conditions. This paper briefly describes historic masonry construction, explains architectural details and materials that are often problematic, identifies unsafe conditions, discusses temporary stabilization techniques, and explores issues of owner responsibility in pursuing the discovery of potential unsafe conditions until final repairs are made.