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The latest news on New York architecture.

  • The Very Best in Preservation

    Recipients of the 2011 National Preservation Awards include individuals and projects epitomizing ...

    By Magazine Editors | From Preservation | November/December 2011

    Pamela

    Pamela Bates Credit: Matt Teuten

    The Peter H. Brink Award for Individual Achievement: Pamela Bates, Lowell's Boat Shop

    Pamela Bates grew up landlocked in Longmeadow, Mass. But as the daughter of an accomplished fly-fisherman, "I was always gravitating toward the water," she says. In the 1970s, she and her husband moved to the Massachusetts coast and discovered Lowell's Boat Shop, then a commercial boat-building operation: "I would just go to the boat shop for the joy of purchasing oar locks," she says. 

    The country's oldest continuously operating boat shop, Lowell's was founded in 1793 on a stretch of the Merrimack River about 40 miles northeast of Boston. Known for its wooden dories, the shop remained in the Lowell family until 1976, when it was sold. Lowell's changed hands again in 1992, when the Newburyport Maritime Society acquired the property and committed to preserving the boat shop as a working museum. But little more than a decade later, its commitment was imperiled. Unable to support the shop financially, the society was forced to sell. With developers eyeing the prime waterfront location, Bates assembled a coalition (later called the Lowell's Maritime Foundation) which purchased the landmark.

    The nonprofit took title in 2007 and has operated Lowell's ever since. Bates serves as the foundation's executive director. In that time, says her colleague Graham McKay, the number of employees grew from zero to three, the shop received grant funding for a new roof and windows, and boat production increased from one boat per year to eight. Lowell's, he says, "has gone from being quiet and unwelcoming to a vibrant and inviting working museum.

    For all this work, Pam Bates has not received one penny." Focused on preserving and perpetuating the art and craft of wooden boat building, Lowell's remains "a well-kept secret," Bates says, but she is determined to change that. She hopes to expand existing dock space to accommodate more waterfront programming and start a rowing program for patients recovering from serious illnesses or those with special needs. Because every boat assembled at Lowell's is handcrafted, she has a particular interest in establishing an apprentice program. Bates has dedicated herself to Lowell's for almost a decade but has no plans to retire. "The boat shop has a way of capturing people," she says. "It's a piece of living history … part of my heart."    

    American Brewery

    As seen from the back seat of George Holback's family station wagon more than 50 years ago, the American Brewery building in East Baltimore was "a place the Addams family might have lived." The five-story, Victorian-era structure, built in 1887 for the J.F. Wiessner & Sons Brewing Co., "was a big, scary, intimidating building," Holback says. "But I knew it as the building I wanted to work on." Holback got his chance in early 2008, when Humanim, a nonprofit social services agency, chose his architectural firm, Cho Benn Holback + Associates, to design the rehabilitation of the building, which is located in one of Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods, north of the Inner Harbor. A $375,000 loan from the National Trust Loan Fund was used to stabilize the brewery, and the National Trust Community Investment Corporation pitched in $5.4 million in historic and new markets tax credit equity. Holes in the mansard roof, broken windows, and an interior filled with pigeon droppings at least six inches deep were just some of the challenges that work crews had to address during the 16-month, $24 million adaptive use project. Humanim moved into the old brewery in April 2009.

    Offices and meeting spaces now fill rooms that once contained conveyor belts and grain chutes, and a new lighting system reveals architectural and industrial details obscured for decades. Last year, the Maryland Historical Trust recognized the success of the rehabilitation with its Project Excellence Award. "You can see this building from all over the city, poking up over Clifton Park," says Holback. "Now knitted into the old industrial relic is the story of a nonprofit trying to bring change to that area."  

    Acworth Meetinghouse

    For nearly two centuries, a beloved icon known locally as the Church on the Hill towered above the rooftops of Acworth, N.H. When residents noticed in 2005 that the steeple atop Acworth Meetinghouse was leaning, they sprang into action to save the 1821 building. In January 2006, the steeple was removed and lowered onto pylons on the town common. Following recommendations from the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources and using a grant from the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, members of the restoration committee worked with timber-frame preservation specialist Arron Sturgis to complete a project assessment. With grants and private donations forthcoming, they initiated a five-year restoration. Crews repaired water damage in the church basement and stabilized the bell tower from the bottom up, replacing rotten wood and bolstering posts. They also rewired the building, added exterior storm windows, repaired the shutters, and repainted the walls. (The renovated church also has accessible bathrooms and a much-needed kitchen.) In June 2009, the people of Acworth watched as the historic steeple was hoisted back into place. By the time the restoration committee disbanded earlier this year, members had raised more than $330,000 for the nearly $640,000 project. Sturgis calculates that, by relying on local craftspeople, he cut projected costs by as much as 30 percent.

    Engaging the community in both grassroots fundraising and restoration earned the project high marks in the eyes of Preservation Awards judges. Kathi Bradt, who worked for the Meetinghouse Restoration Committee, says that the fully restored building is "remarkable … it's like a wedding cake sitting here in the middle of town."  

    Downtown Women's Center

    The residents of the Downtown Women's Center in Los Angeles have found a fresh start in their new home on San Pedro Street. And the same can be said of the center's 1926 Gothic Revival structure, which reopened last December after a $26 million restoration. Pica+Sullivan Architects transformed the space into a full-service facility for homeless and low-income women living on Los Angeles' Skid Row. Per their plans, crews repaired the crumbling facade, updated all mechanical systems, and completed seismic work to bring the building up to code. They also created 71 new residential units with private baths and kitchenettes. Each residential floor features common areas, including computer and exercise rooms. There is also a library and a rooftop garden. The ground floor of the LEED Silver-certified building now houses a six-room health clinic, a small pharmacy, offices for a psychiatrist and social workers, and a mammogram room.

    Forty local designers donated time and resources to decorate the apartment units and common spaces, creating an environment that CEO Lisa Watson calls a source of pride for the women at the center. And the residents were consulted every step of the way to ensure they had a voice in the creation of their new home. "It's a great example of how good design makes such an impact on our lives," says Site Director Joseph Altepeter, echoing the thoughts of the Awards jurors who recognized the center for its ambitious restoration of a historic building.  

    Seashore Farmers' Lodge 

    The Seashore Farmers' Lodge on the tiny barrier island of Sol Legare, S.C., was erected in 1915 to serve freedmen and their families who could not secure loans or insurance policies at white-run banks and firms in the segregated South. "This was our community center, this was our church, it was our school, it was our funeral home," local resident Ernest L. Parks says. "It was everything." The site has a distinguished history. The famed 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first official black unit to fight in the Civil War, camped there before the Battle of Sol Legare and the assault on Fort Wagner (made famous in the film Glory) in 1863. The building was constructed by residents who collected contributions toward the cost of materials. But by the 1960s, limited funds, tropical storms, and the northern migration of many African Americans had nearly doomed the structure. After residents built a new community center down the road in the 1970s, the lodge was left abandoned for almost 30 years. In 2005, Parks returned to his hometown after years away and joined Bill "Cubby" Wilder, a former town councilman, in trying to save the deteriorating lodge. At Wilder's urging, the Town of James Island (which had authority over Sol Legare) offered $55,000 to jump-start restoration work in 2006.

    The lodge's appearance on the A&E program Flip This House, and a 2007 listing on the National Register of Historic Places, attracted additional volunteer attention and funding. Starting in March 2009, workers shored up the side of the building; removed, cleaned, and replaced pine siding; hand-dug continuous footers where the lodge's original palm trunk foundation had rotted; and replaced a hurricane-damaged balcony. Members of the Concerned Citizens of Sol Legare Foundation's Ad Hoc Committee and other volunteers collected furniture and heirlooms to display inside.

    Innovative educational programming is one reason the project was recognized by Preservation Awards judges. Initial estimates to rescue the lodge neared $400,000. Yet when the lodge reopened in April, total costs were less than $140,000. "There's nothing like this," says Corie Hipp, the project's marketing coordinator. "Nothing like this anywhere."

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  • New Research Reveals the Safety Hazards of Green Building

    By Katie Frasier

    This article originally appeared in ENR Mountain States.

    During the past several years, the green building trend has soared, with an increase in government incentives and availability of affordable supplies driving a huge growth of U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified buildings. With the LEED program ambitiously hoping to certify one million commercial buildings by 2020, it’s no surprise that this trend has come under some scrutiny. And while most great rewards often have a price, in this case it could be at the expense of the safety of construction workers on the job.  

    When Matthew Hallowell, assistant professor in the Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering Department at the University of Colorado Boulder, became aware of a study that found evidence of a nearly 50 percent increase of injury rate had occurred in LEED-certified projects over traditional construction, he found himself wondering about the cause. “That original work was the catalyst,” Hallowell says. “What we proposed to do was a comprehensive analysis where we looked credit by credit at the construction and design for this type of building and how that compared to what we traditionally do. LEED is growing very quickly, but prior to this, no one had paid much attention to the safety involved.”

    The team’s greatest challenge in conducting the study, titled “Identification of Safety Risks for High-Performance Sustainable Construction Projects,” was gathering empirical data rather than opinion-based anecdotes. To do this, Hallowell says the student researcher conducted site visits, observed construction processes, obtained and analyzed project documentation and reviewed job-hazard analyses and injury reports—in addition to conducting interviews at multiple organizational levels. With the information gathered, Hallowell and his team of researchers were able to identify 14 LEED credentials that may create heightened risks to construction workers.

    Most notable risks include a perceived 41% higher risk associated with installing sustainable roofing, a perceived 37% increase in risk from installing PV panels for on-site renewable energy, a perceived 36% additional risk of cuts, abrasions and lacerations from construction waste management and perceived 32% heightened risk of falls from installing skylights and atriums to meet the daylight and views credit.

    “I was very surprised when I read the conclusions,” says Brendan Owens, vice president of LEED Technical Development at USGBC. “LEED buildings are substantively different than non-LEED buildings and while there are risks in all construction, we did not expect green-building construction would have higher incidence of accidents. I don’t know that a lot of people would have held an opinion that was different than mine prior to this report.” The fact that the LEED rating system had yet to identify how to improve workers’ safety was something the USGBC had already been working closely with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for several months to evaluate.

    “We understood there were opportunities to learn from the safety community and help take their expertise to understand where we could create LEED credit language that inherently values the mitigation of risks to the constructors,” says Owens. “Still, it’s helpful and important that people are studying these issues and identifying opportunities to get better.” One question that arose from these studies was whether a building could truly be considered sustainable if the health and safety of its constructors were at risk. “Worker safety and health must be considered as an integral component of sustainable building design, construction and operation,” says Hallowell.

    He reasons that adding LEED credentials based on safety measures would be beneficial to maintaining worker safety. But Owens notes that rather than putting in place a credential that recognizes regulations contractors should already be complying with, LEED officials are looking to evolve the rating system as a whole. “Right now we’re trying to understand where the leverage points are within the rating system for opportunities that will allow us to make it better,” says Owens. “If we can become better informed about risks involved, we can improve the requirements of the rating systems and enhance safety. This study is an initial step in that direction.” Whether the findings of this study have surprised or validated opinions of individuals around the industry, Owens asserts that the information is useful for everyone to consider. “I really hope that people will be looking at this study and learning from it.

    That’s certainly what we’ll be doing.”

    Examples of Identifying and Reducing Risks

    In addition to identifying the increased risks in building for LEED certification, Hallowell and his team followed up with a study (due to publish in February) that found suggested mitigations for the added risks. It’s important to note that though these are listed under the LEED credential the construction methods meet, many of these risks are not unique to green building. Prevention efforts can also be applied to construction of traditional buildings that might incorporate one or more of these elements.

    LEED Credit: Brownfield Redevelopment

    Identified Risk: Extensive earthwork operations create a higher risk of falling or collapsing and hazards from the disposal of contaminants. Suggested Mitigation: Workers could use impermeable plastic liners in the beds of heavy equipment and thoroughly wash all equipment at the end of each workday to reduce contamination.  

    LEED Credit: Stormwater Quality Control

    Identified Risk: Workers have an increased risk of falling from increased excavation and trenching.

    Suggested Mitigation: Designing detention ponds with gradual slopes to avoid steep embankments may help reduce risk of falling. Contractors could plan concurrent tasks away from the excavation. LEED Credit: Heat Island Effect—Roof Identified Risk: White roofing options can be heavier and slipperier than traditional black roofing material, which increases the risk for overexertion and falls. The bright material can interrupt line of sight and increase the risk of slips and falls during installation.

    Suggested Mitigation: Tan or light gray membranes could be used to decrease reflectivity, or contractors could require tinted eyewear. Rubber walkpads could be provided for added traction, and contractors could purchase a greater number of smaller rolls to avoid overexertion from weight.

    LEED Credit: Innovative Wastewater Technologies

    Identified Risk: Risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals comes from construction a dual waste water system from installing additional piping.

    Suggested Mitigation: Contractors might require non-polyester gloves and respiratory protection and employ extensive quality-control measures.

    LEED Credit: Optimize Energy Performance

    Identified Risk: An increased risk of falling comes from a more ladder time installing added wires and controls, and double caulking.

    Suggested Mitigation: Designers could incorporate prefabricated panels of the exterior skin system, framing, structure and vapor barrier, and contractors could caulk from the building’s interior before installing finishing materials. LEED Credit:

    On-Site Renewable Energy

    Identified Risk: Falls and overexertion are more likely from installing heavy PV panels, usually on the roof.

    Suggested Mitigation: Designers could place PV panels closer to the ground or keep them as far from the edge of the roof as possible. Higher parapets and designed tie-off points may also lessen the risk of falling.



    LEED Credit: Enhanced Commissioning

    Identified Risk: The presence of commissioners distracts workers, increasing risk of falls and injuries.

    Suggested Mitigation: Commissioning agents could receive a site-specific orientation and be provided with personal protective equipment. Agents could be required to pass an OSHA safety course.

    LEED Credit: Construction Waste Management

    Identified Risk: “Dumpster diving” to retrieve mistakenly trashed recyclable materials increases risk of sprains and cuts.

    Suggested Mitigation: Suggested solutions include utilizing a third-party, local waste management company to sort the recyclable material offsite, using multiple, smaller waste receptacles around the construction site, or creating an industry-wide, color-coded labeling system to differentiate recycling from trash.

    LEED Credit: Outdoor Air Delivery Monitoring

    Identified Risk: Time spent at heights to wire and mount the permanent monitoring system increases risk of falls.

    Suggested Mitigation: This risk may be eliminated by incorporating the monitoring equipment into the prefabrication process.

    LEED Credit: Construction IAQ Management Plan Identified Risk: A higher risk of falls and overexertion occurs from increased ladder time maintaining ductwork.

    Suggested Mitigation: Using different materials for the prefabricated “caps” on the ends of the duct, such as a universal magnetic cap, may make installation less awkward and therefore quicker and easier. Also suggested was the off-site fabrication of ductwork for longer sections to decrease time spent on the ladder.



    LEED Credit: Low-Emitting Materials—Adhesives/Sealants

    Identified Risk: Oftentimes, “rework” is needed due to the lower quality low-emitting adhesives and sealants used. The added time spent at heights, performing overhead work and exposure to construction dust creates a heightened risk for workers.

    Suggested Mitigation: Designers and contractors could work together to find available products that meet Rule #1168 while also standing up to expected temperatures and compatibility to other construction materials used. This would eliminate the need for added “rework.”

    LEED Credit: Indoor Chemical and Pollutant Source Control

    Identified Risk: Workers have a heightened risk to fall hazards due to overhead work and working at heights during piping and ductwork installation.

    Suggested Mitigation: Designers could install HVAC systems under the floor so they’re easier to install and maintain.

    LEED Credit: Controllability of Systems—Lighting

    Identified Risk: Complex wiring associated with occupancy sensors and timing controls increase risk of electrical shock to workers. Additional time spent wiring these systems at heights increases the risk of falls.

    Suggested Mitigation: Some elements of the systems could potentially be prefabricated, decreasing time spent working with the wires onsite. Designers might locate sensors at reachable heights rather than on ceilings to eliminate time spent of ladders.

    LEED Credit: Daylight and Views: Daylight 75% of Spaces

    Identified Risk: Large skylights, windows or atriums increase time spent working near large, exposed openings at great heights.

    Suggested Mitigation: Designers could create a courtyard to meet the requirements or minimize the depth of the building as an alternative to atriums and skylights. If these elements are included, additional precautions could be taken, such as blocking off areas below overhead work, using equipment such as man lifts and scissor lifts when possible and using tie-offs and barriers near exposed openings.

    Katie Frasier is a freelance construction writer and social media specialist in charge of promoting jobsite safety. She has a background in magazine journalism and has previously written for a number of national publications. Reach her at  www.workboots.com or e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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