The Sir Christopher Wren Building

The Sir Christopher Wren Building

The Wren Building was constructed between 1695 and 1700 and is the oldest continuously occupied academic building in the country. The building was constructed of mass masonry walls and retrofitted with internal steel structure in the early 1900s as part of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s effort to restore Colonial Williamsburg to its 18th-century appearance.

WDP was engaged to investigate the cause of interior plaster damage, which was observed at various locations throughout the building. Due to the historic nature of the building, WDP used historically sensitive testing procedures to investigate and identify sources of water infiltration, including strategic deployment of data-logging instrumentation and the use of infrared thermography. Traditional methods of diagnostic water testing to identify sources of water infiltration were avoided so as to limit the amount of water impacting the historic building materials.

The instrumentation was deployed to monitor temperature and relative humidity at key locations throughout the building, including within the wall assemblies, to investigate heat and moisture movement over time and to correlate the data with ambient weather conditions. Infrared thermography surveys on the interior and exterior of the building were performed over the course of several site visits and the imagery was correlated with temperature measurements at the survey locations. Through this effort, WDP determined that the condensation and elevated moisture causing damage to the ornamental plaster in the walls was a result of the HVAC systems settings.

Based on this initial study, WDP was also asked to perform a more comprehensive visual survey of the building façade, including additional water infiltration into the exterior wall and crypto-efflorescence in the masonry foundations walls. Through this follow-up study, WDP determined that the leakage into the exterior wall was caused by systematic leakage in the gutter system and the crypto-efflorescence in the foundation walls was a result of subterranean moisture transport of salts from fertilizers to the exterior walls. WDP is currently serving as the Designer of Record to develop a treatment plan and details to restore degrading areas of historic masonry, repair the gutter system, mitigate below grade moisture infiltration, restore damaged interior finishes, and other historic items throughout the building.

  • Historic Mass Masonry Water Infiltration Investigation and Condensation Analysis
  • Designer of Record
  • Building Repair Restoration