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Researchers discover modern method to preserve historic S.A. Missions

Researchers discover modern method to preserve historic S.A. Missions

UTSA’s Antonio Martinez-Molina is expanding his research on missions preservation.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2020 — Assistant professor Antonio Martinez-Molina of UTSA’s College of Architecture, Construction and Planning has been awarded a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Interior to expand his research work to include San Antonio’s historic Mission San José, Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission Espada.

Funded by the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the grant is part of the National Park Service’s efforts to create new technologies and training opportunities to preserve historic and cultural resources.

“The primary innovation of this project is to simultaneously pursue multiple HVAC design priorities: building and collection preservation and improving indoor environmental quality for occupants,” said Martinez-Molina, who has been collaborating with the university’s Center for Cultural Sustainability on this initiative. “Our goal is to adapt historic buildings to current indoor environmental quality standards without damaging their integrity, allowing them to be admired by present and future generations alike.”


“Our goal is to adapt historic buildings to current indoor environmental quality standards without damaging their integrity.”



Most historical buildings in the south of the nation require HVAC systems to maintain necessary indoor conditions for artwork preservation and occupant satisfaction and health. These structures were not designed to sustain “forced” indoor environmental conditions, such as temperature and relative humidity that mechanical systems create and could contribute to the deterioration of the buildings.

The UTSA research team is comprised of architecture students Kelsey Williamson and Mayra Landin. The students will examine the potential impact of automated heated and cooling systems on historic stone buildings.

“When we think of historic buildings, the words sustainable or energy-efficient usually don’t come to mind, especially for a 300-year-old building,” said Landin. “Being able to work on this preservation project has allowed me to have a clearer vision and understanding, and with thorough research the merger of sustainability and preservation is achievable.”

The first step of the research will focus on conducting a holistic analysis, using state-of-the-art technology and combining the objectives of collections conservation, building preservation, and indoor environmental quality. Work on the project is expected to begin late this year.

Williamson, who was recently named one of 18 student scholars by the Association for Preservation Technology and National Trust, will present the research findings during the association’s conference in October in Canada. Her presentation will demonstrate the team’s research assessing the impact of the HVAC system on moisture levels on Mission Concepción’s wall surface.

Ingrid Wright



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