Big sustainability ain’t hard

One of the main arguments for adaptive reuse is sustainability, by extending a building’s life you save its embodied energy, and the bigger the building the more you save. If the building is in the US and you can achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification as a sustainable building you gain other advantages as some US states now provide additional tax incentives.

The Montgomery Park adaptive reuse of a 1925 Art Deco style warehouse is a typical example. The 1.3 million square foot Baltimore building had been abandoned for 15 years when it was purchased by developers Himmelrich Associates and converted to offices. The State of Maryland came to the party with tax credits worth 40 cents in the dollar that ensured its financial viability.

LEED certification came through a range of strategies. The most important in adaptive reuse terms were

  • the redevelopment of an existing urban site.
  • it involved remediation of a brownfield site (although contamination was limited).
  • The site’s easy access to the city’s major bus lines enabled a public transport strategy.

Other sustainability techniques included retention of stormwater on site and some used in greywater system, partial green roof to minimise heat island effect, waterless urinals and energy efficient ice storage air conditioning system, recycling of building waste as paving, reuse of existing carpet tiles, insulated glazing with minimum perimeter offices to maximise daylight combined with energy efficient motion controlled lighting and low formaldehyde interior finishes and materials.

The finished building demonstrates how a considerable degree of sustainability can be achieved fairly simply.

The fact that the developer seem to have developed a taste for adaptive reuse projects is probably proof that sustainability pays. Montgomery Park is their second project, they have another smaller development nearby of Mt Washington Mill, Maryland’s oldest surviving cotton mill, dating from 1811, now housing retail and offices.

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