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This year’s conference avoided some of the terrible winter weather that plagued our 2010 meeting in Memphis.  Although cool, South Carolina offered an interesting venue to NABIE members, guests, and presenters.  Our facility was directly on the beach, overlooking the ocean with our conference facility equipped with full glass permitting a fantastic view of the sea.
Speakers delivered interesting material, with the top three presenters being those whose topics focused on Building Pathology, the National Fire Protection Association, and Historic Buildings.
In the coming weeks look for some of the meeting materials to find their way onto NABIE’s website in the current members section.  Most of this material will largely be the slide materials used by speakers during their presentation.  None the less, the material will be useful to refresh your memory if you attended, and give you an idea of the subject matter if you were unable to make this year’s conference.
Sam Harris, P.E. (our Ted Sigman Memorial Lecture presenter) brings a unique perspective to building inspection engineering.  He is the author of a fine text on the subject and his methodologies parallel aspects of medicine.  Sam is also a certified building inspection engineer and has applied to NABIE for membership.
Randy Safer, a regional representative for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), gave a very well received presentation on Sunday morning.  In part, Randy’s presence was requested to help acquaint NABIE members with the work of the NFPA.  But the NFPA can offer insights into fire investigations and presented an overview of such work by specific examples of fire disasters.  The NFPA is also working to mitigate wildfire damage to buildings.  As building inspection engineers we may not always consider the environment of buildings as part of our inspection domain.  However, buildings situated in high fuel load zones (e.g., dry, wooded areas) can be as much at risk as buildings in hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood, and high snow load areas.  Learning to evaluate those conditions, and knowing means to reduce fire risk in such areas, was the focus of the presentation.
Marie Ennis, P.E. joined us from her New York City based consulting firm to help us understand Tools for Historic Building Investigations.  Marie’s toolbox is not one filled with meters and gauges.  Her’s are the tools of web and printed references, repair and alteration documents, interviews, and original plans and drawings.  Her presentation also focused on the reasons for evaluating older buildings: building envelope safety, structural stability assessment, feasibility studies that can lead to adaptive uses and renovations, and forensic failure investigation.  Understanding and using these tools effectively can help building inspection engineers preserve buildings that may still have considerable value and historical significance.
Although Sam, Randy, and Marie were our top presenters, all sessions were well received and contained material that attendees could take home to their practices and find useful.
Another aspect of this year’s meeting focused on standards and guidelines used by building inspection engineers.  That particular session was handled as a forum chaired by NABIE’s new president, Peter Schkeeper, P.E., F. NSPE, and will help NABIE gauge the applicability of revising our standards for examining buildings, as well as including more generalized guidelines that can better accommodate professional judgment and experience.
Our Saturday evening banquet offered and opportunity to honor the work of out-going president David Carlysle, P.E. by naming him an NABIE Fellow.  The Fellow distinction is reserved for only a very few NABIE members who, over the years, have demonstrated a unique contribution and dedication to NABIE and the science of building inspection engineering.  It was also an opportunity to honor Dave’s wife, Gwen, for the dedication and support she has embodied over many years.
Entertainment this year again came from the Heavenly Blues Dixieland Band.  Heavenly Blues regularly perform at our banquets because they are not only entertaining and talented, but NABIE member Dave Carlysle, P.E. plays trumpet and coronet with them.  Listening to them – and Dave – is an opportunity to keep in mind that there is more to life than engineering.
Thanks again to all those who participated and attended, making this year’s conference among the better ones NABIE has had.  If you could not attend this year’s, start making plans for 2012 when we will be meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
*This article had been posted in the Spring 2011 edition of The Examiner.