July 20, 2018 // Recognition, Historic, Senior Living
Historic preservation is itself, a practice of sustainability that benefits communities and our environment. The demolition of a building uses a lot of energy and releases large amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Additional energy is expelled during construction of a replacement facility.
On the flipside, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2016 report “The Greenest Building,” saving a historic building for adaptive reuse “almost always yields far fewer environmental impacts than new construction when comparing buildings of similar size and functionality.”
We can see sustainable adaptive reuse in action in the renovation of the historic Circleville High School in Circleville, Ohio. Built in 1916, the high school eventually become the Everts Hill Middle School. When Everts Hill Middle School relocated to a new facility in 2016, the century-old school sat empty and was almost torn down.
The City of Circleville had a demolition contract for the property in place when our historic architecture team put them in contact with the developer, Woda Cooper Companies. Perspectus Historic Architecture, Chambers, Murphy & Burge Studio and Woda Cooper Companies worked together with the city to save the historic high school and rehabilitate it into an affordable senior living community by creative use of the land and existing facilities. The property is now known as Everts Hill Apartments.
“We’re able to place tenants into a building that was about to be torn down, that’s pretty amazing,” says Principal Elizabeth Corbin Murphy, FAIA, Perspectus Historic Architecture, Chambers, Murphy & Burge Studio. “That’s a victory for the city as well as for the developers.” Murphy also stresses that by saving the building from demolition, we have a measurably reduced carbon footprint.
Meeting Green Standards
The project was primarily funded by the developer’s private funding and through federal and state historic preservation tax credits. One of the chief funding sources comes from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which will reward restoration housing projects that meet the sustainability standards outlined by the Enterprise Green Community program. The Enterprise Green Community program aligns “affordable housing project investment strategies with environmentally responsive building practices.” To qualify, the sustainable restoration must meet a certain number of points in a required and optional set of standards for certification.
Perspectus Historic Architecture, Chambers, Murphy & Burge Studio and Woda Cooper Companies worked closely to ensure the design of the new Everts Hill senior living community met all Enterprise Green Community certification requirements, even going above and beyond in certain areas, as a sustainable building. Some of the measures taken to meet green living standards include recycling above the required amount of post-industrial waste, using materials that are manufactured and transported from within 500 miles to reduce CO2 emissions associated with transportation, using low VOC materials, as well as efficient heating and cooling systems.
Everts Hill must additionally meet requirements that holistically benefit the health of the tenant through implementing universal design in which the design decision was made to make the building accessible and visitable, a completely non-smoking environment, connected to the community, and available to open space. Residents have access to half the original football field for outdoor leisure and the restoration preserved the historic configuration of the site.
Ultimately, earning Enterprise Green Community certification means the building will cost less to operate and maintain, use fewer resources and contain fewer toxic materials.
Historic restoration projects also achieve sustainability from a cultural perspective. The buildings are given a new use while the design must respect its past and its emotional ties with community members. The new Everts Hill complex is tied to the community, especially among the older community because they remember going to school there.
Many of the building’s unique features were restored and creatively incorporated to serve the building’s new function while also created to be distinctly reminiscent of the building’s original purpose. Murphy explains that for a restoration architect, “the biggest challenge in these types of projects is that you want to save everything, and you want to restore everything. But you must remember that people are the clients, not the buildings. And that to make affordable housing, we have to be careful not to go overboard.”
The goal of the design was to maintain the charm of the historic high school, says Dalton Kline, Interior Designer, Perspectus Historic Architecture, Chambers, Murphy & Burge Studio. “We have design stylistically compatible apartments in this historic building.”
Old classrooms are now apartment units, complete with the original slate boards. New unit entry doors were reconstructed to resemble the classroom’s original doors. Plumbing and other apartment amenities were configured along the corridor wall with the living space along the windows, which were restored to their original size allowing for more natural light in the units.
The building features the original corridors and flooring. The historic auditorium retains the original proscenium arch and is now home to the complex’s gathering area for families and parties. At the rear of the historic high school, the original greenhouse that was converted to a fieldhouse has been reborn as a greenhouse for tenants. Also remaining are the corridors built-in lockers that currently serve as tenant storage.
Previously hidden by drop ceilings, contractors discovered the original skylights, that once again provide another source of natural light.
The existing cafeteria is reimagined as a café open to the public. Creating this space increases the quality of life and provides a community connection between the senior residents and the public.
When asked how the Everts Hill was received by the Circleville community, Murphy explained that during the construction phase of these historic adaptive reuse projects, people tend to be unsure since they’ve grown used to the building as part of the city’s landscape. “But once it opens and has a little life pumped back into it, everyone is thrilled.”
Historic preservation provides sustainability for our environment and our communities. Projects like Everts Hill Apartments at the historic Circleville High School demonstrate that preserving the past can go a long way towards preserving the future.