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PHILOSOPHY

Ensuring the Future of Masonry: The Urgent Call to Train and Empower the Next Generation

In the echoing chambers of history, masonry graces the pages of civilization’s oldest stories. It’s a craft that’s etched into the very stones of our most enduring monuments and a foundation upon which architectural prowess has been built. Yet, as the sun sets on the era of our seasoned masons, a twinge of urgency grips us – a critical juncture where the future of masonry teeters on the edge. How can we secure and transmit the irreplaceable artistry embedded in the creases of a weathered hand to the impassioned apprentices of today?

This is more than an intellectual exercise; it is a rallying cry for the guardians of this ancient craft. As custodians of lineage, we face an immense challenge — ensuring the flame of masonry is not extinguished but rather, that it illuminates the path for a fresh generation. Our skylines, cloaked in the shadows of towering structures, depend on this unbroken chain of capability and, more significantly, the passion to learn and perpetuate the craft.

Beyond the Foundations: Intertwining Experience With Modern Education

The journey of a mason isn’t just about stacking bricks; it’s akin to an artist’s life, blending meticulous technique with the deep-rooted understanding of materials. The calluses on senior masons’ hands tell tales of patience, resilience, and the heartfelt commitment to erecting structures that stand the test of time. It’s no wonder that we feel the weight of transition as we witness this experience, seemingly anchored in a past era, robust and unmovable.

We stand on the precipice of a generational shift, with the older guard on one side, engrossed in their silent symphony, and the young on the other, craving a precious heritage. Transitioning from these experienced hands to the eager ones calls for more than a mere handover of tools; it necessitates the formalization of education, structured training, and the heartfelt mentorship that these veterans embody.

The educational realm must thus expand and evolve, intertwining traditional methods of passing down knowledge with contemporary instructional approaches. It should encapsulate the timeless techniques of stone, brick, and mortar preparation and application – all the while staying abreast of technological advancements that could enhance precision, safety, and efficiency.

A Renaissance of Craft: Encouraging Practical and Theoretical Excellence

Theoretical knowledge, while essential, remains incomplete without the practical experience that embeds the heart and soul of masonry craftsmanship. This duality of education requires hands-on projects, job-site experiences, and an amalgamation of history-rich restoration projects and modern construction necessities.

As we prepare the curriculum that will shape the masons of tomorrow, a holistic approach is necessary. The theoretic underpinnings of the craft – including structural principles, architectural history, and material science – need to be rigorously taught alongside real-world applications. The classroom and the construction site must thus become symbiotic environments, nurturing both depth of knowledge and breadth of experience.

A renaissance in masonry education also calls for regulatory bodies and institutions to set and maintain high standards. These benchmarks would serve as compasses, guiding both educators and students towards excellence. Furthermore, partnerships with existing structures and initiatives, be it historical societies, preservation consortia, or architecture firms, could provide invaluable resources and opportunities for aspiring masons to refine their skills.

The Legacy of Lifelong Learning

The art of masonry is as rewarding as it is intricate, as demanding as it is beautiful. It is a craft that, by its very nature, calls for lifelong learning and the willingness to adapt to new challenges. The next generation must be primed not just for the current landscape but also for the unknown terrains of the future.

Implementing a culture of continuous learning is, therefore, as critical as the initial stages of education. Here, mentorship programs shine, offering an active setting for seasoned masons to pass on insights, wisdom, and problem-solving approaches to the fresher faces. It’s in these contexts that apprentices not only refine their techniques but also cultivate the ethos of masonry – one that champions meticulous detail, patience, and the quest for perfection.

This lifelong learning can be operationalized through structured experiences that include internships, on-the-job training, and participation in specialist workshops and forums. Such engagements not only reinforce classroom teachings in practical settings but also open doors to networking and exposure to diverse projects. Moreover, instilling this learning culture early ensures that the art of masonry continues to evolve and innovate, adapting to the complexities of modern architecture while remaining rooted in its historic charm.

Bridging the Gap: Funding, Facilities, and the Future

To spearhead this renaissance in masonry education, we need more than passion – we need support. Investment in state-of-the-art facilities, access to quality materials, and financial backing for educational programs are not mere luxuries; they are the scaffolding upon which the edifice of masonry’s future will rise.

Funding must come from not only the public sector but also from private entities that recognize the intrinsic value of this craft. Philanthropic initiatives, grant programs, and corporate partnerships can fuel the development of schools, workshops, and research centers dedicated to masonry. Such establishments serve as beacons of knowledge, attracting talent and fostering innovation in a domain that is often undervalued and underfunded.

These facilities should not only be equipped with the latest tools and technology but also staffed by an experienced faculty deeply committed to the masonry cause. The upskilling of educators is as crucial as that of the students, and investment in professional development programs for instructors can catalyze a ripple effect of excellence.

The Vibrancy of a United Community: Collaboration as the Cornerstone

The preservation and exaltation of masonry as an art and science do not belong to any single person, institution, or generation. It is a communal endeavor, a shared pursuit that seeks to elevate all who are part of it. Collaboration thus emerges as a central tenet in this journey to revive and reinvigorate the masonry craft.

Here, local, national, and international masonry communities can play a pivotal role. Sharing best practices, lessons learned, and new discoveries can accelerate progress, fostering a spirit of collective advancement. The solidarity of the masonry community becomes a source of strength, encouragement, and fertile ground for collective problem-solving.

Furthermore, partnerships with trade unions, professional associations, and industry stakeholders can provide a wide-reaching platform for advocacy and mutual support. This unified front can bring issues to the forefront, such as the pressing need for skilled masons, and work towards solutions that benefit all parties involved.

The Empowerment of a New Generation: Call to Action

The hour is late, and the task before us is daunting; yet within this challenge lies an unparalleled opportunity. By investing in the training and empowerment of the next generation of masons, we not only secure the future of an ancient craft but also invigorate it with the youthful torch of innovation and passion.

Every stone placed is a testament to the mason’s skill, every arch an echo of a legacy that demands perpetuation. Will you answer the call to mentor, to teach, to fund, or to learn? Will you, in your own capacity, contribute to this collective ambition to carve our continuity in the annals of architectural history?

As we stand at the cusp of this transformative juncture, our collective actions will define the course of masonry’s legacy. Let us then, as stewards of this timeless craft, pledge to train today, to safeguard tomorrow, and to elevate the masonry restoration profession to new heights. The stones are waiting, and the future masons stand at the gates, ready to carve their mark. It is time to take the first step towards embracing and empowering the next generation of masonry’s finest. Are you with us?

The resonating sound of the laying trowel is a percussion to this timeless symphony of transformation. Let the clinking chorus of each brick laid by an apprentice be a hymn to the craft’s perpetuity. Together, let us construct a legacy even the ancient builders would marvel at. The future of masonry awaits. Let’s build it, stone by stone.

Alarming Trends in the Masonry Repair Industry

Written by Alan Pettingale in 2009 – and still relevant.

Over recent years I have been investigating current industry trends. In the course of this work some alarming statistics have come to my notice. Recent surveys have shown that seventeen billion dollars are spent on Foundation Repair, in the United States each year. Seventeen billion dollars constitutes more than twice the amount spent on the remediation of damages, caused by floods, hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes combined. 

At the same time a very limited amount is spent on masonry restoration. This trend is very surprising to me as I have seen that foundation damage rarely occurs, without affecting the supported masonry above in some way. To aggravate the situation, foundation problems are not the only source of masonry damage in buildings. 

Other factors that are to blame are shoddy workmanship in new structures. For example, I have personally found wall ties corroding with red rust after just one year, and wall cavities blocked with mortar up to 8 courses high, blocking the weep holes. This is coupled with the fact that many historic buildings are beginning to show their age, and now need urgent repairs. 

Many historic small towns are intent on revitalizing their old town squares, yet while they attract tourists and residents, these towns do not take measures to avoid exposing these visitors to the hazards of falling masonry and collapsing structures. In addition, the results of masonry problems, such as the health hazards of black mold, or the damage caused by interstitial condensation and termite infestation, are widely discussed in local and national media, and pose a serious business risk to both Insurance Companies and owners. 

No one seems to tie this back to the pragmatic steps that could be taken in the area of masonry inspection, and cost-effective repairs that could prevent them. With the way failing masonry impacts the safety and quality of our lives, in both private and public buildings, an epidemic is hitting America.  Sadly, we are ill prepared, having few provisions and guidelines for much-needed specialized masonry repair techniques. Furthermore, decision makers from private investors, to insurances, to public safety officials, are not adequately advised to make the right restoration decisions.

During a conversation with Professor Tom Grimm, he once told me that approximately 12,000 papers have been written on masonry, but nearly all are about new construction. I believe that economic and effective methods of masonry repair are already a matter of record in other countries around the world; their suitability should be investigated and appropriately implemented to the benefit of all. With the many recent building collapses in the news and media, I feel there is an urgent need to look further into this problem, and then to share findings with Engineers, Architects, Insurance Companies, and other professionals in the field, as well as to educate the stakeholders. 

In my opinion The Masonry Society and the APTI are going to play a crucial role in meeting the challenges ahead, and position themselves as vital resources. They will coordinate between all the practitioners in the field to bring both theoretical and practical knowledge, along with application into play. Ultimately there will be a new building industry that is not erecting new structures, but that has the knowledge, and insight, to preserve the existing building resources in America. 

This is in addition to protecting the assets we already have, from the investment in a family home, to our national heritage, enshrined in our court houses, city halls, churches, and Town Squares.

You can also listen to my philosophy.