Historic Renovation Meets Higher Education

Historic Renovation Meets Higher Education

Thursday, January 14, 2016 - 8:15am

CAMPAIGN: Atlas Copco: Empowering Our Communities

CONTENT: Article

In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo slammed head-on into Charleston, S.C. as a Category 4 storm, killing dozens of people and causing billions of dollars in property damage. It was, at the time, the most damaging hurricane ever recorded. It also proved to be a generational storm, the kind that continues to make appearances in newspapers throughout the southeastern United States with each passing quinquennial anniversary.

But Charleston, founded in 1670, is a resilient place and certainly no stranger to beatings. It’s withstood poundings multiple times, of varying degrees, and from several sources – including the collateral damage from armies at war or whatever disaster Mother Nature feels like dealing.

However, following Hugo’s wrath, there was one destructive force that Charleston couldn’t quite escape – its efforts to fix itself. A powerhouse Atlantic port dating back 100 years before the American Revolution, Charleston’s buildings are as old as its history is rich. And through the best efforts to honor that past and repair so many damaged historic buildings, the laborers needed to help make things right again ended up doing as much harm as they did good through improper restoration techniques. This lack of qualified artisans was quickly recognized as a significant problem and a major threat to the city’s historic preservation efforts; to reverse course, a group of community leaders organized and founded the American College of the Building Arts.

By 2005 the American College of the Building Arts had officially opened and was enrolling students, operating as a nonprofit institution of higher education. Theory and practice were woven through four years of curriculum, the new school serving as a missing link that paired trade skills with academics, a new connection for architects and engineers and the skilled hands of people who do the work.

The new artisans in training were working stone and using many of the same methods and tools developed centuries before them. They did have at least one huge advantage over their predecessors; tools powered by compressed air were making the process of working that stubborn stone much easier. By 2011, the college needed a new air compressor for the stone program, and through the college’s finance director’s investigations, she discovered that Atlas Copco Compressors was a Palmetto State neighbor, its headquarters being located across the state in Rock Hill, S.C.

Through her discussions with an Atlas Copco sales representative, she explained their need for a compressor for pneumatic tools, that it was for a new college, and more specifically a nonprofit organization teaching specialized arts in the building trade. A price was discussed, but Atlas Copco decided there was greater value in making sure the students had the best. That’s why Atlas Copco donated a piston air compressor with an air receiver tank to the school. The college had the compressed air system professionally wired and located it in a building adjacent to the students’ covered outdoor workspace.

It was a fitting match given that that Atlas Copco air compressor, just like Charleston, was built in South Carolina.