Considering the Environmental Value of Existing Buildings

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guest post: Scott Whipple

Last Wednesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation released a report demonstrating something some will find counterintuitive or even dubious, but which many of us in the historic preservation field have thought for years: reusing existing buildings almost always offers more environmental savings than demolition and new construction.

The study, The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse, includes some interesting findings: A new, high-performance building needs between 10-80 years, depending on the building type and where it is built, to offset the environmental impact of its construction. In comparing new and retrofitted buildings ofsimilar size, function, and performance, energy savings in retrofitted buildings ranged from 4-46 percent higher than new construction. The benefits of retrofitting … Continue reading

Superblocks in Palm Beach

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On a busman’s holiday, I had a chance to bicyle around Palm Beach and noticed that, not surprisingly, the one percent get some pretty nice urban design.

But what is surprising is that whether you’re in the one percent or the 99 percent, the bones are the same. Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue was created very much the way Federal Realty does a Bethesda Avenue or Foulger Pratt does an Ellsworth Avenue.

Worth Avenue, Bethesda Avenue, and Ellsworth Avenue are all parallel or perpendicular to the main traffic artery. You get onto Palm Beach island via Royal Palm Way, a spectacularly landscaped boulevard with green median and four travel lanes. But make no mistake, shopping and strolling are a few blocks to … Continue reading

Sycamore Revisited

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guest post: Scott Whipple

Back in June I wrote about the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval of a proposal to install solar panels on the roof of the Sycamore Store, a historic site designated in the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation. 

The panels have been installed.  Have a look. 

As discussed back in June, putting solar panels in a highly visible location on a historic resource is not the preferred alternative from a historic preservation perspective, and it is not appropriate in many instances. But sometimes, as with the Sycamore Store, it may be the only place on a site where solar panels will operate effectively. And, given … Continue reading

Duany is in the Details

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Part of what makes Seaside and its ilk so successful is their attention to detail. And by detail I don’t mean what one observant designer called “frosting”– banners, lamposts, and fountains.

A more structural approach to designing a space or place begins with elements that are obvious in plan view–terminated views, street grids, and a central square. That initial street grid is punctuated by a square, then further embroidered with paths and smaller spaces.

But even those public spaces and paths are treated with varying levels of complexity. The formal public lawn is neatly mown and edged, but other spaces are more casual.

The path in front of your house is paved and raked, the one behind a barefoot … Continue reading

It’s a Seaside World, We Just Live in It

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This year, Seaside is 30 years old and whatever you think of Andres Duany and the Congress for New Urbanism, any observer of urbanism must admit that Seaside has changed the vocabulary.

The pattern of main street, grid streets, mixed facades, and public space is part of every Federal Realty project and appears on our own Ellsworth Street.

Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Seaside neighbors Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, and the Watercolor resort have picked up the vocabulary and created a sense of place, community, and style along the coast road, 30A.

Duany etal have identified a fundamental human pleasure in strolling a certain type of built space, and have, most importantly, made that space marketable. From Seaside to Kentlands, … Continue reading

Albert Ledner and Organic Modern

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In an interview for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Albert Ledner, a 2009 AIA Medal of Honor winner, discusses his fascination with Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, the influence of nature on his designs, and the approach of blending Organic design with Modern architecture. Ledner said, “If people can understand the principles and relate that to architectural design, maybe it will begin to open some doors to them appreciating these designs.” Opening doors for people so they can understand and appreciate the architecture of the recent past is exactly what we are trying to do with our Montgomery Modern initiative.

The Modernist Flag Building at White Oak Professional Center (1965), 11161 Lockwood Drive

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The White Oak Professional Center (1965), at 11161 Lockwood Drive, is a contemporary office building that features bannerlike vertical panels rising like flags above the roofline and dipping like pennants from the wall surfaces.

This Montgomery Modern building was designed by architect Vincent A. DeGutis of Silver Spring. The four-story structure is located near the SE corner of New Hampshire Avenue and Lockwood Drive.

The exterior panels are composed of aggregate stones with peach-brown tones.

The developer was Realty Investment Company, which built a headquarters building the sameyear at 11315 Lockwood Drive. The chairman of RIC was Stewart Bainum who lived nearby in Burnt Mills Hills.

Looking Good and Working Good

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by Scott Whipple

At Wednesday’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting, the HPC completed their review of the calendar year 2010 historic preservation tax credit applications, recommending approval of a total of 59 applications.  The projects represent nearly $1 million invested, much of which went directly into Montgomery County’s economy in the form of maintenance to and rehabilitation of historic properties designated in the County’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation.  And the credits put $98,344 back in the pockets of county property owners.

A study of the Maryland rehab tax credit program, prepared by the Abell Foundation in 2009, called historic preservation tax credits a “community revitalization engine.”  The Abell report found that the state program stimulated investment, created jobs, and improved economies.  In … Continue reading

High Line Part Two

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The second half of the High Line opened this summer and even though it’s a one-off, not likely to be funded in these straightened budget times or replicated in less dense environments, it’s still intersting to think about making parks out of places that are not traditionally green.

Enjoy the pictures.

 

New Technology in Old Buildings

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guest post: Scott Whipple

Sustainability and historic preservation are at odds, right? Well, not so fast. Here in Montgomery County, and in many places across the country, people are discovering that historic preservation and sustainability goals can and do coexist.

Wednesday night, the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) unanimously approved a proposal to install solar panels on the Sycamore Store, an individually designated County historic site. The HPC found that the installation of the solar panels was consistent with the County’s historic preservation review criteria and appropriate for this historic resource, which had been vacant and is now used as a residence. According to the property owner, the solar panels are expected to provide between a third and … Continue reading