The latest news on New York architecture.

Historic landmarks are part of our cultural history and tell us a lot about the past through their characteristics. During the manufacturing boom in 19th century, building materials such as brick, hardwood, terracotta, and brownstone, became cheaper and more readily available. As a result, more and more people could afford to own a brick or stone home.

Today, we admire these historic masonry buildings because their characteristics have become less common over time and as technology evolves. The green movement has inspired owners of historic buildings to become more sustainable when it comes to maintenance.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) requires that historic buildings meet certain aesthetic criteria, while the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) requires that these buildings meet certain sustainable criteria. While LPC is more focused on the potential loss of a building’s character, the IGCC is more concerned with the reality that certain building materials have become less available and therefore unsustainable in today’s environment.

To beat this conflict, preservation architects must pay special attention to a building’s most meaningful characteristics. For example, historic windows are central in defining the character of historic buildings. Instead of replacing in-kind, architects might suggest retrofitting with insulated glass to boost their performance or incorporate weather stripping and storm windows that prevent heat loss and gain all year round.

Regarding energy, visible solar panels reduce the historical value of landmarks significantly. Preservationists prefer these panels be installed on flat roofs where visibility is minimal. Another sustainable solution currently in place is using renewable energy sources like off-site wind power and geothermal heating systems, which can be incorporated into the building system. These energy sources provide the much-needed efficiency and fulfill sustainability requirements that the IGCC, building owners and tenants desire.

For more information, please contact us.

Published in Landmarks Preservation

Commercial buildings contain everything from apartments to department stores, hotels to office space, doughnut shops to medical clinics, and sprawl over more than 80 billion square feet in the U.S. In green-speak this means each year commercial buildings are responsible for close to half of all energy consumption in the United States at the cost of over $200 billion per year, more than any other sector of the economy. And of this power consumption, nearly 30% is wasted through inefficient operations. But with measurable historical data and a long-term commitment to sustainability, we can lighten this environmental impact.

Today's progressive commercial building owners are factoring Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs) into their operations costs. By initiating energy benchmarking based on the past two years' energy usage, and by analyzing the data and upgrading inefficient equipment, a commercial building's green reputation can be maintained indefinitely. Not only are unforeseen liabilities addressed in time, but most corrective measures are inexpensive and may receive a financial payback as a bonus.

But the green building trend is not all about energy efficiency or the environment anymore. For American consumers, it means a healthy place to live, with a lifestyle compatible with nature. Sustainable architecture improves a building's resilience to climate change, including flooding, drought, and exhausted energy resources.

Adaptation to a changing climate is critical, but natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, or political actions like terrorism and cyber terrorism, also call for consideration in a resilient design. Each of these challenges can be analyzed not only for data that is historically valuable for benchmarking but also for future projections.

Resilient systems provide for basic human needs, including potable water; a conservation source such as harvested rainwater can be the primary backup. Composting toilets and waterless urinals are options for human waste disposal in the event of a public sanitation breakdown. 

To reduce a building's energy dependence, manual overrides should be in place in case of malfunctions or power outages. Elevators, escalators, and stairways should be managed for the mobility of tenants during emergencies. EMT's and firefighters need to access a building under any circumstances. If necessary, breathable air and comfortable temperature and humidity levels can be maintained with vernacular designs commonplace before HVAC systems, such as high transom windows for natural ventilation and light. And a non-perishable food supply could provide residents with adequate staples for a three to six month period.

Scott Henson Architecture integrates aesthetics, financials, and code regulations to design buildings that are both functional and attractive. Sustainability expertise includes vegetated roof systems and solar power systems. Please contact us to review your commercial building's resiliency measures.

Published in Sustainability

LEED certification: Silver, Gold, and Platinum- does it add any real value to a commercial construction project? LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Developed by the United States Green Building Council, LEED seeks to reward the design, construction, maintenance, and operation of buildings that meet standards for sustainability, performance, health, and resource efficiency.

LEED certifies over 1.85 million square feet of construction space daily, and as such, has become known as the benchmark of excellence in sustainable design and construction. Both industry professionals and consumers know LEED certification means quality, sustainability, and energy savings.

LEED boasts benefits to people, planet and profit. These profits include increased building value, higher lease rates, and decreased utility costs. By 2018 LEED certified buildings will contribute over 29.8 billion to the US economy. Value in green building accrues in two ways:

1. Sustainable design increases a building’s value up front, with an estimated 4% increase in estimated value yearly.

2. Maintenance costs for green buildings are estimated at 20% lower.

The actual cost to build green is competitive with traditional means of design and construction, with an estimated premium of only 1-3 %, which can be paid back by energy savings in as little as a year. The application process for LEED certification for commercial projects, including campus buildings, is detailed on the US Green Building Council website.

For more information on sustainable architecture, please contact us.

Published in Sustainability