UTSA researchers strengthen historic properties along the Gulf Coast to withstand hurricanes | UTSA today | UTSA



These nine religious facilities along the Gulf Coast are part of the Roadmap for Resilience case study.

Nine religious facilities in Galveston, Harris and Victoria counties that had already suffered hurricane damage were chosen for the case study. They are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places or eligible. Properties also provide services to their communities beyond religious needs. As experts anticipate worsening weather conditions in the coming years, historic buildings face a unique challenge: how to improve a structure’s ability to withstand disasters while retaining its historic character.

“Faith groups are often on the front lines providing aid during a crisis, but first we need to make sure their buildings can weather the storm,” William DupontConservation Society of San Antonio Endowed Professor and Director of UTSA’s Center for Cultural Sustainability, said.

The center, part of the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design, is an interdisciplinary collaboration exploring the continuity of cultural systems of human existence. Cultural sustainability includes considering, understanding and respecting the heritage, identities and values ​​that connect people to places.

Dupont believes it is important to not only protect buildings for the refuge they provide to their communities in times of distress, but also to conserve each property for the rich history it represents.

Case studies include:

  • Baytown’s K’nesseth Israel, formed by Russian immigrants in the late 1920s.
  • Trinity Episcopal Church in Midtown Houston, which dates from 1917–1921.
  • The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, built in 1875, in downtown Houston is the city’s oldest African-American church.
  • St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica in Galveston, which dates from the 1840s and has been called “the mother church of the Catholic Church in Texas.”
  • Reedy Chapel, dating from 1848, in Galveston. The chapel was one of the sites where the Emancipation Proclamation was read.
  • Eaton Memorial Chapel, which dates from 1857, in Galveston.
  • The first mid-century modern Church of Christ, Scientist in Victoria.
  • The B’Nai Israel Temple in Victoria, which dates from 1923.
  • Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, built between 1907 and 1908 in Victoria.

Dupont and a team of architects, engineers and conservators from UTSA, Eastern Michigan University, Boston’s Wentworth Institute of Technology and Istanbul Technical University, as well as Philadelphia-based nonprofit Partners for Sacred Places collaborated on the project. Funding for the research was provided by emergency supplemental funding from the Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Texas Historical Commission.

The RPI was developed by the UTSA team after a six-month data collection process that involved field visits to each of the nine sites. Using their collective expertise, the researchers carefully examined each building and noted any issues such as cracks or leaky roofs. The team used a thermal camera to measure wall heat and collected and analyzed soil samples. A structural analysis took place using SAP2000 software to assess the performance of each building in the event of high winds and/or major flooding.

Findings from UTSA’s research will be shared among the case studies and other faith groups and serve as a model for similar disaster and resilience planning efforts across the country.

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