An Affordable Housing Agency Retrofits a Historic Building and Builds a New Addition to LEED Platinum and Passive House Standards

Typical office spaces use high amounts of energy with their elevator, equipment, appliances, computers and monitors. To meet LEED Platinum and Passive House criteria, the following systems were integrated to offset energy consumption while maintaining a comfortable corporate environment:

  • PHIUS-certified double-hung windows and a 129-panel curtainwall system maintain the insulated airtight envelope.
  • AN ELECTROCHROMIC SHADING SYSTEM reduces energy consumption through programmable tinting, managing solar gain and light harvesting.
  • SELF-SHADING DESIGN maintains the building’s thermal envelope by decreasing its solar gains.
  • VRF MECHANICAL SYSTEMS provide comfortable, efficient heating and cooling zones, consume low energy and track energy usage.
  • A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM of 77 solar panels creates renewable energy.
  • A LIVING ROOF manages stormwater runoff, extends the roof life and reduces the addition’s carbon footprint.
  • STORMWATER MANAGEMENT utilizes collected rainwater that is treated and reused onsite in lieu of potable water. This enables the addition to reduce its potable water use by 20 percent.
  • OCCUPANT DAYLIGHT ACCESS is available in 75 percent of the occupied spaces with views of at least 25 feet.
BEFORE: PHFA spared the historic Hickok Mansion, circa 1904, in favor of a more creative plan to integrate the historic structure with a new high-rise tower. PHOTO: Murray Associates Architects P.C.

This was an ambitious and unique project, and the extreme energy-conserving design and systems have impacted the city’s environment, economy and community, plus define future office design practices on a global level. The historic retrofit significantly reduced the carbon footprint of this project and a Whole Building Life Cycle Analysis was conducted on both the historical building and tower addition.

The Benchmark Energy Use Intensity is 56.3 kBtu per square foot per year, and the addition’s predicted energy use intensity is 30.3 kBtu per square foot per year. The level of building embodied carbon is 69 pounds per square foot, which is less than the national benchmark. Local and/or recycled materials were utilized to the greatest extent, and most of the interiors can be reconfigured or reused for longevity with key components protected from hazardous risks.

Since its completion, the addition uses 49 percent less energy than similar code-compliant office buildings and returns 20 percent of its solar panel electricity production back to the city grid. PHFA’s addition reduces its operational energy and improves performance in energy savings, water efficiency, carbon-dioxide emissions reduction, indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources—defying global warming. This project proves an inviting, beautiful and comfortable office/work environment requiring minimal energy is possible.

Economic Impact

During the three years of multi-phased construction, the job averaged 30 to 40 construction workers onsite each day, benefitting the local economy. The agency made a concerted effort to use Pennsylvania firms on the construction project as much as possible so that the greatest benefit would go to in-state businesses. The addition permitted PHFA to stay within the city limits, instead of moving to the suburbs, allowing its employees to continue supporting downtown businesses. Plans are already underway to increase the agency’s affordable-housing services to the Commonwealth. This continued growth will maintain PHFA’s positive impact on the city’s economic wellbeing and Pennsylvania’s growing affordable housing needs for years to come.

PHOTOS: DON PEARSE PHOTOGRAPHERS INC. unless otherwise noted

Retrofit Team

PROGRAMMING, INTERIOR DESIGNER AND ARCHITECT: Murray Associates Architects P.C.

  • Benedict Dubbs, AIA, LEED AP, principal
  • Kirsten Watts, LEED AP, interior designer
  • Robert Hutchins, RA, project manager

PASSIVE HOUSE CONSULTANT: PassivScience

  • Prudence Ferreira, CPHC

PHIUS+ VERIFIER, LEED CONSULTANT: Steven Winter Associates

  • Scott Pusey, senior sustainability specialist

SITE/CIVIL AND STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani LLC

MECHANICAL, ELECTRICAL, PLUMBING ENGINEER: Bruce Brooks & Associates

CONSTRUCTION MANAGER: SitelogIQ

GENERAL CONTRACTOR, PHASE I: J.C. Orr & Son Inc.

GENERAL CONTRACTOR, PHASE II: Lobar Inc.

Hickok Mansion Materials

A new entryway was constructed between PHFA’s original building and the residence. This new entrance is adorned with a canopy of fritted laminated glass and exposed galvanized steel, which juxtaposes the heaviness of the cast stone.

PHIUS-certified Double-hung Replica Windows and Doors: Klearwall

Structural Thermal Break: Armatherm

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Heat Pumps: Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US

PHIUS-certified Energy Recovery and Dedicated Outdoor Air Units: Swegon

Exterior Insulation System: Techna-Duc from PTM Manufacturing LLC

ERV Duct Sealant: Aeroseal

Brick Pavers: Glen-Gery

Bullet-resistant Doors: U.S. Bullet Proofing 

Cast Stone: Arriscraft

Insulated Barrier Wall Panels: CENTRIA

Liquid Vapor Permeable Air Barrier: R-Guard from Prosoco

TPO Roofing: Johns Manville

Simulated Slate Shingles: Eco Slate from Eco Roofing Systems

Snow Guards: Alpine SnowGuards

GREENGUARD Thermal Insulation: Rockwool, CertainTeed and Kingspan

Resin: 3Form

Glass Film: Fasara Glass Finishes by 3M

Raised Floor System: ACS/Uni-Fab  

Ceiling Systems: Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions and Fellert USA

Metal Ceilings: Hunter Douglas Contract

Interior Lighting: BEGA, ConTech Lighting, Dual-LiteFinelite, HE WilliamsLSI Industries Inc. and USAI Lighting

Solid Surface: Corian

Linoleum: Forbo

Decorative Glass: Goldray Glass

Carpet: Interface

Furniture: Knoll

Grout: Latricrete

Wall Base: Roppe

Porcelain Tile: Mosa and Garden State Tile

Paint: Sherwin-Williams

Plastic Laminate: Wilsonart

Quartz: Corian Quartz

About the Author

Benedict Dubbs, AIA, LEED AP
Benedict Dubbs, AIA, LEED AP, president of Murray Associates Architects P.C., is passionate about new sustainable spaces, adaptive reuse and diminishing urban sprawl.

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