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The Value of Adaptive Reuse

Adapting your historic buildings for reuse can increase your campus’ energy efficiency and sustainability, ultimately saving you costs, and, demonstrate that you care about your community and environment - something Millennials and Gen Z-ers are known to look for in their institutions.


Retrofitting historic buildings is “green” in many ways, from reducing your buildings’ energy output to preserving natural spaces. At the building level, retrofitted historic buildings can be greener than even the greenest new building: when comparing buildings of a similar size and functionality, building reuse almost always yields fewer environmental impacts than new construction, according to Preservation Green Lab National Trust for Historic Preservation’s study “The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse.”



“This study finds that it takes 10 to 80 years for a new building that is 30 percent more efficient than an average-performing existing building to overcome, through efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts related to the construction process (page VIII).”


Simply, this study reinforces the old quip, “The greenest building is the one that’s already built.”


The industry-standard LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) provides a framework for creating healthy, cost-saving “green” buildings, in which it calls for the conservation of “material and cultural resources by encouraging the preservation and adaptive reuse of historic buildings…”


But: adaptive reuse needs to be done correctly, by a team of experienced professionals who use the correct quantity and types of materials to reap the energy and cost savings of reuse, “Great care is needed during the design process to minimize unnecessary additions to a building footprint through strategic space planning and the selection of appropriate materials that result in fewer environmental impacts,” Preservation Green Lab National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote in their study (page 87).”


Because retrofitting for reuse can be intimidating, many developers unfortunately choose to overlook its many benefits, “Re using buildings can be a complex undertaking, especially if you’ve never done it before,” said Stephanie Meeks, President and CEO of national Trust for Historic Preservation.


We agree. But thankfully, you don’t have to overlook the benefits of adaptive reuse. Because you can call us.


We combine our architectural and historic preservation expertise with our robust Facility Conditions Assessment and mechanical-electrical-plumbing (MEP) portfolios –all done in-house -- to provide seamless project management and to help you successfully restore and adapt your historic building, while strategically addressing both the short short-term and long-term needs of your building. Then, through the design services we offer, we can help you to implement the findings of a conditions assessment, bringing our technical expertise to help you fix the problems that we have identified together.


“Place matters! The built environment of any institution reflects and supports its mission,” said President of Entech Architecture, Lenette C. Wells, AIA, LEED AP. “We can help you answer how to best manage, fund, and improve the buildings and site assets that support your mission.”


Through our conditions assessment process, we help you answer questions like:

-Where are the deficiencies in your building and site assets?

-What systems or components will you need to anticipate addressing in the future, and when?

-How much will it cost?

-Are you protecting the important historic assets of your building or campus?


We’ll provide a comprehensive data set on the condition of the building and equipment and how those assets can be updated, manipulated and analyzed, while bringing our historic preservation expertise to help you understand how to be stewards of your historic fabric.


According to Dave Clark, vice president of the Association for Preservation Technology's Washington, D.C., chapter, strong teamwork between the architectural and MEP teams is crucial to the success of conditions assessment for adaptive reuse, “the integration of structure and mechanical systems requires teamwork from the onset of the project between the architect and mechanical and electrical engineers along with a thoughtful study of existing conditions.”


That’s why our architectural, historic preservation, FCA and MEP teams work together to give you the information and tools you need to understand your building and its parts holistically, as well as the options you have to continue caring for them in the future, and our design team can help you to implement those options.


And if you do want to build new, we can help you to do that too. We’ll bring our 30+ years of experience in energy audits, as well as our design services, to your project.


“Our mission is to provide unparalleled professional consulting services for the planning, preservation and adaptation of historic structures as well as for the design of new buildings and places inspired by traditional precedent,” said Vice President of Entech Architecture, Joshua Kiehl, AIA, NCARB.


Examples of Our FCA-With-Historic-Understanding Work:

Gaithursburg, Maryland, Harford County Historic Courthouse & Asa Packer Museum


In 1942 Otis Beall Kent purchased an estate from the Tschiffely family and renamed it The Kentlands. Kent envisioned making the estate a natural habitat refuge and model farm, and expanded the original estate by purchasing surrounding land; he bequeathed a portion of the property to the City of Gaithersburg. In 1988 developer Joseph Alfandre partnered with planners Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Andres Duany, and Mayor and City Council of Gaithersburg, to make the estate a lab for town planning. They created new zoning laws to allow for a mixture of commercial and residential uses across the property and Kentlands became one of the first successful new urbanist communities, literally a textbook case study in urban planning. A number of the original historic landmarks were donated to the city, including the Kent Mansion, which is now used to host events, and on which we performed a conditions assessment.


We performed a Facilities Condition Assessment and FUNA for the City of Gaithersburg to determine the conditions of the architecture and MEP systems of the historic Kent Mansion and City Hall building, and reviewed how efficiently departments were utilizing the buildings’ spaces. Did each department have enough space, or too much, and how could they be better organized to make the most of the available space to meet their operating needs.


First, our team developed standards for space use, then compared current floor plans with these standards. They spoke with staff, the people using the space each day, and incorporating staff feedback into the analysis. They presented the findings in a GIS-created color-coded floor plan, enabling non-architect clients to easily understand the findings. And, this approach is replicable, allowing the City to apply to its future buildings. By completing the FCA and FUNA together, the City can best apply the FUNA findings. Ultimately, the City used our report to determine that the City Hall building does not have enough space for its current departments and that it needs to find more space for its current occupants as the City continues to grow; the historic Kent Mansion provides enough space to its staff and in which to continue hosting events and community programming.


Because of our work with the City, it is able to use its important historic spaces in the best ways available to continue serving its community.


Read more about our FCA and historic building experience: Harford County Historic Courthouse | Asa Packer Museum

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