Living Examples: Featured Projects from Our Conference

Our fall conference, Façade Face-Off, took a look at four very different projects with one common thread: innovative new or replacement facades. Here are the highlights.

Castle Square Apartments, Boston, MA
Presented by Darien Crimmin
Vice President of Energy and Sustainability, WinnCompanies

Darien Crimmin said of Castle Square Apartments near downtown Boston that “residents were at the heart of the vision, and they drove the decisions.” Their dowdy 1960s-era affordable multifamily building was the veritable runt of the litter on a block filled with shiny condos. It was also drafty and cold due to exposed slab edges, and interior air leakage meant tenants’ homes were often suffused with their neighbors’ cooking odors. But after sealing the air leaks, increasing external insulation by a factor of ten and covering the façade with aluminum panels, and “compartmentalizing” (isolating each apartment’s air source and leaks from all the others), residents were toasty warm, didn’t have to smell someone else’s lunch, and best yet, were proud of their building’s sleek appearance. During work, tenants were mostly able to remain in their homes, being asked to leave their apartment for just two days and never having to sleep elsewhere. Castle Square reduced energy use and cost by 60% due to the project.



Building Completion Date: 1964
Façade Retrofit Completion Date: 2012
Number of Floors: 7
Number of Units: 500
Square Footage: ~500,000
Occupancy Type: Multifamily (low-income housing)
Owners: Castle Square Tenants Organization and WinnDevelopment
Architect: Elton + Hampton Architects
Project Manager: Pinck & Co
Energy Modeler: Building Science Corporation 
Contractor: CWC Builders, Inc

215 East 68th Street, New York, NY
Presented by Eric Rudin
Vice Chairman and President, Rudin Management Company, Inc.

Eric Rudin started with a building whose façade was in very sad shape indeed. One of many 1960s brick “white elephants,” 215 E 68th Street used four-inch backup block behind façade bricks instead of the requisite six- or even eight-inch block. That saved money during construction, but as Rudin put it, “50 years later, the bills have come in.” He said units were “drafty and had a bit of a chill, and were hard to cool in summer” due to leaks to the outdoors. And the constant patching of the crumbling façade was an ongoing annoyance for this market-rate apartment complex. Because tenants couldn’t be displaced for even a day during the renovation, all work was done from the outside, including insulation and the addition of a terra cotta rain screen. Now tenants are “very pleased with the look” and thrilled to be free of the noise and dust from constant repairs. Rudin said “the project was driven by pragmatic considerations—safety, tenant comfort, ease of work, and future repairs. Green was secondary.” Even so, energy savings were more than 50% higher than predicted by project consultants.



Building Completion Date: 1962
Façade Retrofit Completion Date: 2013
Number of Floors: 33
Number of Units: 608
Square Footage: ~905,000
Occupancy Type: Mixed use (residential, retail, and medical)
Owner and Project Manager: Rudin Management Company
Architects: FXFOWLE and Forst Consulting and Architecture
Energy Modeler: Viridian Energy & Environmental
Contractor: Brisk Waterproofing Company

Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, Portland, OR
Presented by Kevin Kampshroer
Director of the Office of High-Performance Green Buildings, US General Services Administration

The Green-Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, OR, had serious façade problems.  According to Kevin Kampschroer, the steel frame of the 50-year old building literally crumbled and fell apart in places when concrete façade panels were being removed—a scary thought in a busy downtown area. Ultimately, the retrofit “allowed light penetration throughout the building—even in the basement.” This increased worker happiness and productivity “because the architect and engineer thought of the façade replacement not as just an equipment replacement, but as an opportunity to improve conditions for the people inside.” The project also added 31,000 square feet to the building’s rentable area by downsizing loads and serving what remained with less intrusive, more efficient systems. That’s of incredible value in cities like New York, where every square foot matters.




Building Completion Date: 1974
Façade Retrofit Completion Date: 2013
Number of Floors: 18
Number of Tenants: 4 major tenants
Square Footage: ~512,000
Occupancy Type: Offices
Owner: US General Services Administration
Architects: SERA Architects and Cutler Anderson Architects
Project Manager: US General Services Administration
Contractor: Howard S. Wright Companies

542 West 153rd Street, New York, NY
Presented by Justin D. Palmer
Partner, Synapse Capital

Passive House techniques are being given a shot in New York City’s multifamily apartment building sector. Synapse Capital, with architect Chris Benedict, is about to break ground in Harlem for Manhattan’s first Passive House project, which Palmer said uses insulation and air sealing technology “not drastically different from typical multifamily construction.” Also not unlike many other projects, it will use mineral wool for insulation, metal panels on the front façade, and stucco on the side and rear. Palmer told the audience that the all-in hard costs will be “typical for NYC.”

Expected Completion Date: 2016
Number of Floors: 7
Number of Units: 34
Square Footage: ~41,000
Occupancy Type: Multifamily
Owner and Project Manager: Synapse Capital 
Architect and Energy Modeler: Chris Benedict, R.A.
Contractor: The J Companies