Although architects, developers, conservators, scientists, historians, politicians, and city officials have been in the forefront of the preservation movement, it is the conservation engineer who possesses the knowledge and skills necessary to solve many of the special problems associated with historic structures.
Engineering services come into play when specific problems arise in a structure with reference to strength, stiffness, or stability. Engineering services are required when one or more of these three issues—all fundamental to stabilization of a structure—are involved. On the other hand, the conservation engineer may not be concerned about perceived imperfections of an historic structure if observed conditions do not indicate instability. The goal of the conservation engineer is to stabilize the structure with a minimum of intervention. Because of this special ability with older and archaic structures, conservation engineers have been able to save numerous historic buildings that would have otherwise been condemned by engineering consultants.
Case studies are presented where engineering expertise was required to address specific issues of structural stability. In each example, the investigative methodology is discussed and the degree of intervention is defined in terms of conservation as well as safety.