a brick building with many windows and stairs

Henson Intern Dispatch #3

By: Grace Cheng

The climate crisis is more tangible than ever. Recent floods in Europe destroyed homes, and the heatwave in New York broke a 50-year record. The only way to reverse climate change is to stop emitting greenhouse gas. Given that over 70 percent of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, architects bear a heavy responsibility. Retrofitting is one method to reduce emission because it reduces virgin material usage, lowers energy consumption, and increases user comfort.

I have been working on a passive house retrofit project in Brooklyn. Guided by Jane and Marc, I put together a set of drawings that convey the scope of work to the Department of Building who reviews and offers feedback on the filing. The scope of work includes a new basement and first-floor rear yard addition and interior renovation for the three-story townhouse, so plans, elevations, sections, and details that demonstrate what will be demolished and built are effective.

The majority of my time was spent drawing window details. Because the building has landmark status, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will need assurance that the building’s original character and style will be preserved. So, I was tasked to document every window in the plan and section, and the existing details are shown alongside details of the replacement windows for comparison. When producing these sheets, I am reminded that architectural drawing is an act of communication, and the information should be presented in a manner that conveys Henson’s preservation and sustainability effort. I have also learned that openings are extremely important in building construction. Understanding how to properly seal the edges not only saves energy on heating and cooling but also protects the building from weather, allowing it to last.

Stay cool!


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