November 7, 2011
By Mike Carson, The Guardian
Rebecca MacInnis and Ian MacDonald, students of the
new Holland College Heritage Retrofit Program, hone
their carpentry skills for working on heritage homes.
Saving heritage homes is saving a community's identity. Now, a new course at Holland College marries the art of restoring heritage properties with the economics of retrofitting the structures as a means of dealing with the high cost of repairs.
Red Seal carpenter and instructor, Josh Silver, is the learning manager for Holland College's Heritage Retrofit Carpentry Program that gives carpenters the special skills required to work on heritage buildings.
"The market research we did showed that it's very difficult to find a carpenter that's suitable for doing heritage carpentry - the skill level to do that, and when they're found they're very expensive," Silver said.
"We wanted to help bridge that gap.
"The first half (of the program) is traditional carpentry. The second half is energy efficiency. We'll come in and do an audit to a home.
Silver explained that, "In times of financial crisis, basically like what we're in, those heritage homes are the first to be abandoned.
"They're the hardest to heat. They're the hardest to repair. And, of course, they're the jewels of our community. They're what make our Island what it is. So we wanted to help save that with this program."
The instructor said the program teaches carpenters how to retrofit a heritage property through the use of blueprints.
Another component of the course involves producing blueprints and reading them. In some heritage carpentry, "They do a heritage recording. They would go to the home and record the home as it stands, and then retrofit the blueprint to be as it should be.
"So, you're doing both collection of data and then the computation of what it should be, so you're making a drawing to retrofit the home.
"We're also taking that basic carpenter and making him or her a fine carpenter," added Silver.
"They're building cabinetry and finished moldings, and learning how to install moldings and how to hang doors and windows - a real high-end level of carpentry."
The Island's two cities are a haven for heritage properties that illustrate the province's past.
"There's a great mix because we have one of the highest per capita ratios of heritage homes in both Summerside and Charlottetown in the whole country," Silver said.
"The reason was the shipbuilding industry and then, right after that, we have the fox industry so there was always a tremendous amount of wealth right in that heyday of building grand homes. So we've been able to, luckily, thus far, hang on to those homes."
Interest in the new carpentry program is high, he said.
"We've had a huge interest both in the community and then in the micro-community of carpenters.
"It tends to be a natural progression where carpenters will want to get all the basics, learn framing, roofing, foundations, that sort of thing, then as they mature, they don't really want to do that hard grunt labour type of work," he said.
"They want to fine tune, plus they appreciate the historical aspect. It's a growing time for the carpenter as well."
On Saturday, Nov. 19, at 1 p.m. the public is invited to the Lefurgey Cultural Centre at 205 Prince Street, Summerside, at 1 p.m. to talk with Silver about the preservation of heritage homes in these times of high-energy costs.