From Eyesore To Asset

The project team worked with Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy Program, and received $105,200 in incentives for incorporating the environmentally responsible systems, which helped on the payback side. Plus, as Steinhoff points out, “It [isn’t] going to be long before these types of green building practices are standard. We might as well start now. People are expecting it.”

Project Challenges

In addition to navigating sustainable design and working within the standards placed on historic buildings, the existing building and site presented a number of environmental challenges. Widespread contamination, dirt and grime plagued the building, including lead paint, low-level PCBs (toxic chemicals) and heavy metals in the soils. Severe maintenance issues were addressed immediately to stabilize the building. The roof structure, plumbing, electrical and fire-protection systems were inadequate for today’s code standards, and the historic brick had been covered with an “insulcrete” exterior insulation product. After its removal, the brick was cleaned with a citrus-based solution and tuck-pointed.

Replacement brick–where required–came from a demolished industrial building in Milwaukee from the same era. Inside, the wood structure was sandblasted. Paint was removed from the soft interior brick walls by pressure-blasting with crushed walnut shells, so as not to damage the surface. Basically, the building and site required extensive cleanup.

In addition, the long, narrow building made for wonderful day lighting throughout, although it presented a design challenge because everything was laid out in a linear fashion.

Typically, a community center benefits from a plan that radiates from a central gathering point.

“We couldn’t fight it, so we worked with the community to locate the best spaces for teenagers and youths, seniors and administration. There are general community-meeting rooms along the spine of the building with the large, open assembly spaces occupying the extreme ends and then connecting along the way,” says Cliff Goodhart, project architect.

Today, it’s hard to fathom the initial challenges presented by the project. The beautiful brick-and-wood structure, the great daylight, the restored structural gantry outside and overall site are clean and stunning. The center is situated along the city’s bike path, and is in the heart of the neighborhood, making it truly accessible to a variety of area residents.

Tips For Others

The Goodman Community Center is a model for other communities and design processes, especially in terms of sustainable design. As Goodhart suggests, one has to make sure the sustainable ideas are in line with the users’ priorities.

“They wanted to be very sustainable, of course, but we had to make sure that we used the systems that would perform, have long-term benefit, and give the biggest bang for the buck.” For example, fresh air and thermal comfort were a big concern, so a high-efficiency, variable-air volume system was incorporated. This sophisticated, modular system senses heating, cooling and exhaust requirements, and adjusts accordingly. “While we were somewhat restrained by the building’s envelope, we were able to compensate by using the most-efficient systems.”

Steinhoff admits that the costs involved with sustainable design presented a challenge. “How could we justify spending more?”The question was raised numerous times, so the team discussed how various design decisions would affect the end functionality.

Goodhart urges others to “seek out incentives from utilities, government agencies or banks that may assist in methods for paying back these more-expensive systems.” In the case of the non-profit Goodman Center, new market, historic and energy tax credits were sold, which reduced payback times, and contributed to the bottom line. He also encourages people to use high-quality materials that, in the long term, will be more sustainable. “Their initial cost may be more, but a community center with its high level of use really mandates that durability be considered from the outset.”

When questioned about her motivation to tackle this now-beautiful project, Steinhoff answers, “It felt like something that was doable. When looking at the schematics, people were saying, ‘Wow, this is amazing!’” She’s proud of how the community center has brought a diverse community together. Although she knows she’ll be busy for quite some time with the new center, she’s already eyeing an adjacent piece of property with the dream of one day opening a charter school.

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Related posts:

  1. LEED The Charge
  2. Breaking The Silence
  3. Spec-Rite Designs–Project Portfolio
  4. A Sustainable Milestone
  5. Williams Architects–Project Portfolio

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