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Retrofits Always "Greener?"

As a new study from the Preservation Green Lab [part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation] shows, the answer is “a resounding ‘usually.’”
 
Turns out, the question of building reuse is much more nuanced and interesting than can be answered with an blanket strategy – which is not at all surprising. Whether an existing building should be retrofitted or demolished is a question of use [both previous and planned], climate, construction type/materials, etc – and also a clear understanding of carbon footprinting:  “Since it can take decades for a new building to “pay back” its embodied carbon through improvements in operational efficiency (see “A 2030 Challenge for Building Product Manufacturers,” EBN Feb. 2011), this study’s conclusions about carbon emissions should come as no surprise: based on climate-change considerations alone, almost every useable building in every region of the U.S. should remain standing—even if these buildings are not retrofitted to improve energy performance.
 
Carbon payback time for the buildings studied ranged from 10 to 80 years.”  In any case, studies like this should have a big impact on how we think of using, and reusing, our existing urban fabric – both as designers, and as people with a vested interest in legitimate, effective responses to climate change.  -Marilyn.

Green - Energy, the Environment and the Bottom Line

Historic Buildings May Be Greener Than You Think

By JOANNA M. FOSTER

The Henry Street Settlement headquarters on the Lower East Side is undergoing a green retrofit.

The Henry Street Settlement headquarters on the Lower East Side is undergoing a green retrofit. Henry Street Settlement The Henry Street Settlement headquarters on the Lower East Side is undergoing a green retrofit.

Green: Living

In New York City, a conflict has long been perceived between historic preservation and urban sustainability goals. Older buildings are often seen as outdated energy hogs that can’t pull their weight, efficiency-wise, in a city that is expected to add a million new residents by 2030. About 55 percent of the city’s 838,337 buildings were constructed before 1940, half a century before the notion of green LEED building certification was even dreamed up. Estimating that the building sector is responsible for 75 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, PlaNYC 2030, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s sustainability plan for New York, made improving the performance of older buildings a top priority. To help get the process started, the Municipal Art Society announced last week that it is working on a “greening” manual for owners of historic buildings protected by landmark status that will be available online at no cost this fall.

“Greening New York City’s Landmarks: A Guide for Property Owners” is a collaboration between the society, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the architects Cook + Fox and the environmental consulting firm Terrapin. Some 29,000 buildings in New York City are now protected through designations by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Despite prevailing conceptions, said Lisa Kersavage, the senior director for preservation and sustainability at the society, many historic buildings actually already incorporate energy-efficient design features — a legacy of having been built before the advent of cheap energy and modern mechanical systems. In those days, natural ventilation and light and the collection of water in cisterns were standard in quality construction. The greening process is often more about optimizing existing elements, like ensuring that cross-ventilation isn’t inadvertently blocked, than about radical retrofits.

Many of the improvements suggested in the manual won’t even require a building permit or any special permission from the Landmarks Preservation Commission but could reduce energy use by 20 to 25 percent, planners say. “Since so many rooftops in the city are flat, we’ve even been getting approval for solar panels for landmark buildings,” Ms. Kersavage said. If you can’t see it, it can’t disturb the aesthetic.” (One tricky renovation, however, is adding insulation to older buildings, which can effectively alter the internal dew point and lead to structural damage. Energy efficiency improvements that damage the long-term resilience of the building are rarely a worthwhile tradeoff.) On another preservationist front, a report released this week by the Preservation Green Lab pointed out that it can take up to 80 years for a new energy-efficient building to make up for the carbon dioxide expended during its construction. One might also keep in mind that New York City already generates 10 million tons of construction and demolition waste annually — 60 percent of its total waste stream.

“Retaining and repairing existing buildings, rather than just starting all over again, is by far the smartest approach,” Ms. Kersavage said. The Municipal Art Society is currently working on a historic retrofit demonstration project at the Henry Street Settlement headquarters on the Lower East Side.

Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed: Preview the Historic Knickerbocker Hotel's Modern Makeover.

The Knickerbocker, the iconic Beaux Arts hotel originally opened in 1906 by John Jacob Astor IV, is set to reopen next Thursday, and we recently got a tour inside the historic building, where the construction crew is putting in the finishing touches. Though The Knickerbocker is an individual landmark, which means that the facade must be meticulously maintained down to the smallest detail, on the inside practically nothing original remains, and the hotel has received a sleek, modern renovation (to the tune of $240 million) feature a lot ofCarrera marble, gold leaf, and other very high-end finishes. So, while the hotel may not look anything like it did back when in the days when Red Sox owner Harry Frazee met the team's manager in the cafe to inform him that he was selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees, or when the house bartender invented the martini (depending on who you believe), it will be similarly luxurious. The 330 rooms averaging 430 square feet apiece, will start at around $500-$700 per night.

Hand-applied gold leaf on the ceiling.

The cafe, located on the ground floor level, is evocative of a subway tunnel.

 

The last vestiges of the original building exist in the basement, which is being used for storage. In the olden days, the space was used for illicit gambling. The subway runs right on the other side of this wall, hence the subway tunnel-esque vertical bricks. The room with the subway wall, off the main basement storage room, is technically owned by the city and the MTA, but they don't have much use for it since the connecting door is no longer functional. The famous door between The Knickerbocker and the Times Square subway station, now bricked over, permanently.

 

 

It features original "skypods," which will function as VIP areas.

 

To read the full article and see all the images click here.

Evan Bindelglass reports for Curbed: Bronx Post Office Nears Its Future As a Dining and Retail Mecca.

The Bronx General Post Office is close to getting the go-ahead for rebirth. The grand 1937-built building on, well, the Grand Concourse, was designated an individual landmark in 1976. Its lobby, with 13 lovely New Deal-era murals, was designated an interior landmark in 2013.

In 2014, Young Woo & Associates paid $19 million to the U.S. Postal Service for the site, and yesterday the developer brought his plan—which includes a total revamp of use including office space, shops, restaurants, and a rooftop terrace—before the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The commissioners were mostly supportive of his ideas, but concerns did arise: chiefly, what will go on the roof, some of the signage, and proposed new stairwells near what is currently the loading dock. The Young Woo gameplan is to convert the now largely vacant building into retail and commercial space.

There would be a market with an entrance on the ground floor (which perhaps should be dubbed the basement, due to the topographic features of the Grand Concourse) as well as accessibility from the main floor. The main floor would also be home to new retail space, and room would be allocated for a small postal facility. The second floor and penthouse floor would be commercial office space. A new rooftop addition would have a restaurant (possibly a beer garden) with a terrace complete with retractable roof. The plan was designed by Jay Valgora of Studio V Architecture along with Cas Stachelberg of the preservation firm Higgins Quasebarth & Partners.

Because it's a landmark, drastic changes to the exterior wouldn't really fly. But there would be restorations for the exterior as well as the landmarked lobby, including its 13 murals. Originally, the lobby was entered through one of three vestibules. Over the years, those were removed and two of the swing doors were replaced with revolving doors. The proposal would have the revolving doors replaced with swing doors and the center vestibule would be restored. Also, three of the windows (every other one) would be extended down to create new entrance ways along 149th Street.

 
On the main floor, there is a plinth that extends around the building. The proposal, which seeks to have more people using the plinth overall, is for a small section of it to be connected by a stone staircase to the sloping sidewalk on 149th Street. Additionally, there would be two glass-and-steel staircasesconnecting the plinth to the existing loading dock area (which would mostly morph into an entrance for the new offices) along Anthony J. Griffin Place. Both the remaining loading dock doors and office entrance doors would have roll-down gates to protect them. The canopy would be retained, with signage and an extension away from the building added. The cobblestone would also be retained.
 
There would be new signs placed around the building, some of it freestanding, Commissioners deemed most of it acceptable, except for two pieces, both on the Anthony J. Griffin Place side of the building. One big sign would be near the top of the building and some felt it was just too big and was possibly unnecessary. The other sign at issue would be the one over the loading dock and office entrance. Rendered as "BRONX GENERAL POST OFFICE," it was centered over the office entrance, not centered on the canopy. Some of the commissioners felt it should be centered on the canopy. Worth noting is that the wording of that signage is not final.
 
T

here was no objection to the new stairs being carved into the plinth to connect it to the sidewalk. The new steel-and-glass stairs down to Anthony J. Griffin place, however, were seen be several commissioners as unnecessary, given existing easy access to the different parts of the building.

Finally, there was the situation on the roof. The commissioners, who technically can't make any decisions based on use, liked the idea of a restaurant, but were concerned about the mass of such a structure. Since some of it will be visible by passers-by no matter what, it was hoped that it could be of a more uniform nature rather than a patchwork one. Simultaneously, the commissioners asked the applicant to see if it would be possible to reduce the height and increase the setback of the mechanical units. There was only one piece of public testimony delivered. A staffer delivered a statement of support from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Bronx Community Board 4 also supports the project. What happens now? The applicant will tweak his proposal and return to the LPC. At points during the two-hour-long hearing, it seemed like a decision would be made yesterday—but then chair Meenakshi Srinivasan asked the applicant to come back. In fact, she described it as a "really great project" and Commissioner Michael Goldblum, who represents the Bronx on the LPC, used the word "fantastic." Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said she had to "commend the work" and Commissioner Michael Devonshire called the proposal "admirable." So it's extremely likely the revised approval gets a thumbs up next time around. For the the full presentation to Landmarks click here.  

James Taylor-Foster reports for Archdaily: Five Teams Shortlisted To Restore Mackintosh’s Glasgow School Of Art.

It has been announced that five teams are the running to restore Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s celebrated school of art in Glasgow. UK based John McAslan + Partners (who restored Mackintosh’s last major commission), Scottish practice Page \ Park, and London and Hong-Kong based architects Purcell are all in the frame to lead the restoration of the Mackintosh Building amid a debate over how best to approach the rebuilding of the library and the areas of the building that were devastated by fire in May of last year.

The selection of Avanti Architects and LDN Architects complete the rostra. Fourteen practices, from over one hundred initial expressions of interest, formally submitted documents in the first round of the tender. The five successful bidders now have nine weeks to put forward more detailed proposals and specific costings. The brief, which emphasises the GSA’s wish to use this opportunity to create an art school which is fit for the 21st century whilst still ackowleding and respecting the original listed building, allows the practices to decide whether or not to “pursue detailed reconstruction or a more creative response.” A spokeswoman talking to BDOnline asked: “do they turn the clock back to May 2014 when the fire broke out, to 1909 when Mackintosh signed it off, or a third way?”

According to Liz Davidson, Mackintosh Restoration Project Director at the GSA, “all of the shortlisted practices have a strong record in undertaking major restoration and work in historic buildings together with an impressive commitment to the use of new technology and the finest craftsmanship. They each bring the level of experience and expertise that is vital to the restoration of Mackintosh’s masterpiece. We are now looking forward to hearing more about their proposed approaches.” The final proposals will be put to a panel of GSA staff and external specialists in March. It is expected that the winner will be announced towards the end of March.  

Camile LeFevre reports for The Architect's Newspaper: Assembly Line. Architects retool a WWII-era steel works factory in Minneapolis.

Once a steel works facility, Minneapolis' Crown Center is getting a second act thanks to local Brewers and Designers.

Tucked behind the intersection of two rebounding thoroughfares in Northeast Minneapolis is the former Crown Iron Works, a steel works and factory that bustled with activity during World War II when much of it manufactured airplane wings, bridges, and pontoons. After lying dormant for decades, the complex is now the subject of an adaptive reuse plan to house the creative industries of the 21st century: architectural offices, design firms, and a microbrewery among them. Bauhaus Brew Labs now occupies one formidable 9,255-square-foot structure measuring 200 feet long and 50 feet wide. Designed by Shelter Architecture, the space includes new glass windows and skylights. The original overhead bridge crane—now a chassis for the electrical, plumbing, and beer lines—looms above the fermenting tanks in an open, spacious taproom.

The family-owned brewery is extremely brand conscious, choosing the Bauhaus movement in the design world to exemplify the innovation and care with which they craft their beer. Shelter specified orange, yellow, and blue accents and simple modern furnishings that carry the brand forward. “Whole families are welcome to Bauhaus,” said Kurt Gough, partner, Shelter Architecture, “so we wanted the space to be inviting and cheery. We also included a large garage door that opens to an outdoor patio.” The patio—where kids cavort, food trucks line up, and families dine and drink—also connects to another outdoor space, The Shed, which is a former impound lot for a towing company. The design of the partially covered 16,000-square-foot space was inspired in part by New York City’s High Line, says Michael Roehr, principal, RoehrSchmitt Architecture, “because of the magical way in which the High Line weaves its way through and engages the private spaces around itself.”

To “introduce green space into this very hard, cold, industrial complex, and ensure the project could compete with and complement the scale of the space,” said Roehr, he included raised concrete planters, large Cor-ten steel boxes (10 feet long by 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall) and “other super-sized elements” like six-foot culvert sections repurposed as tree planters. “Placed into their context they feel appropriate to the scale of the space,” said Roehr. The architects removed selected metal roof panels to let in sun and rain. Several water tanks salvaged from a nearby factory collect rainwater and are used to drip irrigate the linear planters. Benches clip onto the garden wall. A stage between The Shed and Bauhaus’ beer garden hosts live music and other events. Meanwhile, an enclosed mezzanine space designed by RoehrSchmitt now houses Shelter’s architectural offices. RoehrSchmitt has its offices in Crown Center, as well. Adjacent to The Shed is a 15,520-square-foot industrial building that Kampa Studio is working on for modern furniture design firm Blu Dot. The revitalized space for offices and a showroom features floor-to-ceiling glass, exposed ceiling joists and trusses, a refinished concrete floor, and exposed brick. “Our destinies in this complex are intertwined,” said Roehr.

 

The building before conversion.

Marshall Heyman reports for The Wall Street Journal: David Barton Gym Finds Sanctuary at the Limelight. 

Former Church and Night Club Now Houses State-of-the-Art Workout Equipment.

A David Barton Gym member lifts weights in a lower-level weight room. 

A new gym on the border of Chelsea and the Flatiron district is giving new meaning to the idea that working out is at the intersection of a religious experience and going to a nightclub. The David Barton Gym opened last week, in the Sixth Avenue space once occupied by the Limelight.

The nightclub was previously an Episcopal church built in the mid-1800s, so in a way the gym evokes a place of worship and a hot spot from the heyday in one. The church became a drug-rehabilitation center in the 1970s and remained that way until 1982, when Peter Gatien turned it into the Limelight. In 2010, after a short-lived run as the nightclub Avalon, it was redeveloped into a Fred Segal/Ron Herman kind of mini-mall with a wine bar and restaurant.

     

Left: David Barton Gym’s new location at 47 W. 20th St. Right: The front desk at the new David Barton Gym.

There is still a small shopping area at street level, but most of the church as well as the former nunnery and the rectory have been transformed into a workout facility. As it has expanded over the years, the David Barton Gym, said its president, Kevin Kavanaugh, has been looking for spaces that aren’t “cookie-cutter.”

The Limelight didn’t immediately scream treadmills, elliptical machines and locker rooms, but, he said, “it was a nightclub, so it had the bones of a great public space. Its natural architecture and beauty is so crazy, I just had to accentuate that.” The goal, he added, is to inspire members by the atmosphere and the energy when they walk in, “so that they’re going to want to work out.”

After entering what was once the church bell tower and climbing the stairs to check in to the gym, you are greeted with a tray of votive candles. It’s a nod to honoring the gods of fitness, as well as one of the many references and holdovers from the space’s former lives. (The gym, like many of the recent David Bartons, was designed by Bill Sofield.) A safe that once belonged to the Limelight when it was a nightclub has been placed under the stairs.

A tin ceiling has been recovered and restored, and original stonework and stained glass have been retained and exposed. The stained-glass windows will also be lighted from the inside, so the effect lasts through the day and evening. Yoga is being taught in a “sanctuary” at the top of the church, while hard-core lifters can use a downstairs area that previously served as a chapel.

David Barton Gym has preserved much of the former church's original architecture.

Mr. Kavanaugh said that these days, a gym, conceptually, is a kind of “religious environment, where like-minded individuals can get healthy. We welcome everyone. It’s about coming to get the results you want and improve yourself.” Though the space has many throwbacks to the past, it is also the first gym in New York to feature Life Fitness’s Integrity equipment, which can be scanned with a smartphone to track calorie-burning and connect with other diet apps.

On treadmills, for instance, you can download new trails. The cardio machines, in particular, use a high-speed Internet connection that allows for television viewing and interfaces like Netflix. As for actually doing the workout and reps for you, “we haven’t figured that out yet,” said Mr. Kavanaugh.

Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed: Inside (and Atop) Kickstarter's Greenpoint Headquarters.

Every element of Kickstarter's new headquarters, located in a former pencil factory at 58 Kent Street in Greenpoint, was designed with sustainability in mind, architect Ole Sondresen explained to a series of Open House New York tours on Saturday morning. That the office space is built (or, as Sondresen put it, "programmed") around an open planted courtyard means that the main spaces are filled with natural light, and the additional gardens on the second floor and rooftop work to reduce the air temperature around the building.

        

 The lower floor of the building features a kitchen, art gallery, "project room," and a small theater, while the second floor has the main offices, a library, and private conference rooms, all arranged in a circular shape around the donut hole of a courtyard in the middle. On the top floor is a lounge space and the large roof garden. Practically everything in the Kickstarter offices is reused or recycled — reclaimed wood, seats from a closed theater in the midwest, roof trusses repurposed to form the framework of the courtyard, the top parts of porch posts made into the legs of a long table in the library, and more.

Sustainability, for Sondresen and his team, isn't just a means to LEED certification (in his opinion, the requirements for LEED certification are "not even close to stringent enough") but a guiding principal for every part of design and construction. He estimated that 50 to 60 percent of the materials used in construction were sourced within 20 miles. To view all the photographs from the visit click here.

Evan Bindelglass reports for Curbed: 121-Year-Old Upper West Side Church Will Add Apartments.

The congregation wanted it, and now it will become a reality: the Upper West Side's Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church will get a residential addition. The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday approved its DXA studio-designed conversion to mixed-use—hosting both religious and residential uses. (Seems to be the direction dozens of other houses of worship in the city are headed anyway.) Shockingly, Upper West Siders, who usually hate this kind of stuff, were also supportive. Located on West 81st Street between Amsterdam and Columbus, it was formerly known as the Church of Eternal Hope. Built in the Romanesque Revival style by architect John F. Capen of Newark, it opened its doors in 1893.

The plan was presented by DXA architect Jordan Rogove. The congregation will be relocated to the first floor and lower level and the back of the building will be transformed and added to, resulting in a seven-story residential building consisting of seven to 10 units. The top two floors were proposed as duplex levels. The entrances would be reconfigured to give a separate entrance for the church. New signage will be added to differentiate between the residential and church sections, though Rogove said it wouldn't be as conspicuous as some of the signage the church had used in the past. Growth on the exterior as a result of poor water drainage and interior deterioration will all be repaired. Some of thestained glass windows will be repaired in place, while others will be relocated and still others will be replaced with ordinary wood-frame windows.

 

A church pastor of over 30 years was also part of the presentation team. The congregation actually left the church over a year ago because the building had deteriorated to such an extend that the church couldn't cope financially. He said the handsome brick structure on 81st Street had once been a "beehive of activity," and hoped it would become so again. He will have his own dedicated two-bedroom apartment in the converted building. The commissioners were very supportive of the project. Commissioner Michael Goldblum wondered if it would be possible to square off the back, but it wasn't that significant.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan wondered if the top floor could be lowered, but Rogove said the existing structure dictated the floors and that it would mean losing the top floor, which he said would lead to the project having "questionable viability." In the end, Srinivasan said it was a "very nice proposal." Commissioner Frederick Bland said converting churches and synagogues was a particularly difficult task, but this was "exemplary." He did lament the loss of the full building as a church, but understood the reality of the situation. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said "reuse is clearly a sustainable model." Commissioner Roberta Washington was concerned about the color of the new terra cotta, but it was decided that that could be dealt with at the staff level. The proposal was approved unanimously.

 

And now for the neighbors' response: Community Board 7 recommended approval, though it noted concern about the too-modern rear façade. Barbara Zay of the Historic Districts Council applauded the "generally sensitive approach to a difficult problem." "In particular, the terra-cotta baguettes are a nice gesture to the church's tile roofs," she added." Our committee's only reservation about this proposal is the entirely glass rear facade, and would ask that further study be done to soften this starkly modern gesture."

The president of the West 81st Street Block Association, Donald Press, voiced his support for the project, though he also regretted the loss of the full building for church use. He said his organization was satisfied that the conversion would stabilize both the church's finances and the structure itself. American Institute of Architects New York executive director Rick Bell called the project "complex" and "very exciting." Max Yeston of Landmark West also voiced his organization's support, saying "DXA studio has developed an all-too-rare proposal for conversion of a traditional church for combined residential and religious use that is functional, appropriate and altogether architecturally acceptable."

 

Jennifer Whelan reports for Archdaily: COBE’s Adaptive Reuse of Nordhavnen Silo Marks Beginning of Redevelopment.

Danish firm COBE is transforming the largest industrial building in Nordhavnen – a silo – into an apartment building with both private and public functions. For COBE, who also created the urban development plans for Nordhavnen, this project marks the beginning of the post-industrial area’s future. Nordhavnen is a harbor area located only 4km from Copenhagen‘s city centre.

“The exciting thing about old industrial property is how to preserve their soul and at the same time use them for something else,” said Klaus Kastbjerg, the owner of the silo, commenting on the adaptive reuse project. To preserve the soul of the silo, the architects will maintain a raw industrial feeling on the interior. Each of the 40 retrofitted apartments will contain visible historic remnants such as existing concrete columns and walls.

The spatial variation within the silo is immense due to the various functions of storing and handling grain, giving rise to a unique set of apartments. The single and multi-leveled apartments range from 80 square meters to 800 square meters in size, with floor heights soaring up to 8 meters. Each apartment has large panoramic views with balconies overlooking the city skyline. The public element of the building lies in both the ground and top floors, creating a multidimensional experience for users. The silo will be used for public purposes such as exhibitions, events, and conferences. On the top floor of the building there will be a restaurant with 360 degree views of almost all of Copenhagen.

While the building interior will be preserved as much as possible, the exterior will be re-cladded in order to bring the facade up to current standards. Despite this major change, the maintenance of the building’s slender, tall shape serves to preserve the existing silo’s distinctive character and redefine it as a modern landmark. For more images of the project click here.  

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