True Green Cities / Renewing Buildings and Energy in Alaska

The Jesse Lee Home in Seward Alaska - a rendering of its original form.  Image courtesy Friends of the Jesse Lee Home.

The Jesse Lee Home in Seward Alaska – a rendering of its original form. Image courtesy Friends of the Jesse Lee Home.

The Jesse Lee Home in Seward, Alaska was a boarding school that housed children who were displaced by the epidemics that swept across Alaska in the early 20th century. The Home closed after the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake and has remained vacant since then. The Friends of the Jesse Lee Home is renovating this historic structure with a sustainability purpose that is true to its original mission.

The Jesse Lee Home for Children opened in 1926. Many Alaska Native children orphaned by epidemics, particularly devastating in western Alaska where medical care was extremely limited, lived at the home. It was one of the largest and most stable institutions to care for and educate the hundreds of orphaned children. A number of Alaska’s outstanding Native leaders were raised and educated at the Jesse Lee Home during its Seward years. John Ben “Benny” Benson, Jr., from Chignik, was one of the children who lived at the Home. In 1927, his design was selected for Alaska’s territorial, and later state, flag.

The Jesse Lee Home in Seward as it looks today.

The Balto Building of the Jesse Lee Home in Seward as it looks today.

The Jesse Lee Home was built between 1926 and 1937 and its historic period of significance has been identified as 1926-1942. The complex was comprised of the Jewel Guard Hall, Balto Hall, Goode Hall, Mission Territorial School and various outbuildings. Following the devastating 1964 earthquake, the Methodist Women’s Home Missionary Society, who ran the home, decided to close it. Goode Hall was severely damaged by the earthquake, and the other buildings needed major repairs.

Today only Jewel Guard Hall, Balto Hall, the foundations of Goode Hall and their related arcades remain. Designed by architect, Stanley Shaw, the buildings are representative of the less ornate versions of the Tudor Revival Style popular in the 1920s and 1930s. The style is warmly vernacular; presenting a mix of late medieval English inspired building elements. The site was listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1995.

Rehabilitation

The sustainability team evaluating the building's foundation.

The sustainability team evaluating the building’s foundation.

The Friends of the Jesse Lee Home is a nonprofit organization committed to launching and sustaining an Alaskan leadership school at the historic Jesse Lee Home. They are working to preserve Alaska’s past and ensure its future by refurbishing the historic Jesse Lee Home into the home of a statewide public residential leadership charter school, called the Balto School.

The goal of the rehabilitation project is to retain as much of the original exterior as possible, while adapting the remaining buildings for a new leadership school. Much of the original stucco remains and is in excellent shape. The roof and its materials are in very poor condition and virtually none of the original windows, door or trim remain. Since the buildings have been vacant for over 40 years, nearly all interior finish materials, stud partitions, doors, trim and mechanical/electrical components are missing. The major objective for the rehabilitation of the Jesse Lee Home is to sustain the existing form, integrity and materials of this historic property.

The Sustainability Team met with agencies in Seward to review current renewable energy approaches.

The Sustainability Team met with agencies in Seward to review current renewable energy approaches in the region.

Funded by a grant from the State of Alaska, the Friends of the Jesse Lee Home are working with Kumin Associates Architects and their consultants to design the rehabilitation. Barbara A. Campagna/Architecture + Planning, PLLC and Apollo BBC, experts in integrating sustainability practices with historic preservation, are supporting the team and client as the sustainability consultants. The project is targeting LEED Platinum (for Schools) and is focusing its innovative sustainability approach on developing a comprehensive energy use plan that integrates renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal in order to use locally available resources and remove the Home from the grid. Sixty-five % construction documents have been completed.

The glorious view of Resurrection Bay from the 2nd floor of the Jesse Lee Home.

The glorious view of Resurrection Bay from the 2nd floor of the Jesse Lee Home.

This past July, the sustainability team conducted an eco-charrette with the client team and toured local renewable energy projects (wind turbine, solar arrays and geothermal projects) in Seward, also meeting with the City to discuss the potential of creating an eco-district. Stay posted for updates as the project proceeds in 2015.

And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities, please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.

 

True Green Cities / Why is Recycling So Hard?

A visit to St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai in 1995 initiated by environmental concerns.

A visit to St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in 1995 initiated my environmental concerns.

I know exactly when I became an environmentalist. My sister and I were traveling in Egypt in 1995. We took a journey to the monastery of St. Catherine’s on Mount Sinai, and as I walked back a bit to get a good overall photographic view of the monastery, I looked behind me over a ridge and was flabbergasted by what I saw – a mountain of garbage – and the most prevalent item was the aluminum Coke can. One of the most sacred sites in all of the world (the location of the “Burning Bush”) and it was an island in a sea of refuse. I remember calling my sister and friend over to look and we all stood there speechless. Several days later I was horrified again by the idling tourist buses parked nearly up against the pyramids. Horrified by the pollution, the waste of gas, the damage it must be doing to the sandstone of the pyramids and equally horrified by the visual pollution.

Recycling Isn’t As Easy it Seems

Town of West Boylston, MA aluminum recycling center. Photo courtesy Town of West Boylston website.

Town of West Boylston, MA aluminum recycling center. Photo courtesy Town of West Boylston website.

In presentations I give I used to show a photo of a recycling can and a building and ask, “We all recycle now. Why is it so easy to recycle cans but not buildings?” Well the reality is, it is not that easy to recycle cans or other items either. As many people and places that do recycle, there are probably as many that don’t. Case in point, my apartment building in Buffalo. When I moved in two years ago I asked the door man where the recycling bins were. He told me the building didn’t recycle! WHAT, how could that be? I called the property manager and she told me, “We’ve tried to start recycling twice but the residents just wouldn’t…?!” So, two years later and every week I take my cardboard and paper to a public recycling location at a school near me and then I take the rest of my recyclables to my sister’s. As a residence in the city of Buffalo, recycling is picked up every week. It is not easy, but one thing I insist upon doing. Although I have wondered if the gas I used to drive my recycling to recycling locations is just negating my efforts anyhow. In the City of Buffalo it appears that commercial buildings and multiple-unit residential buildings are required to make arrangements with private companies for their recycling, but who is monitoring it? In 2011, the “Green Cart Recycling Program” was unveiled which provided residences with larger recycling bins in an effort to increase the amount of items recycled.

I know small businesses who also want to do the right thing but the cost for paying for garbage pick-up, let alone recycling pick-up, precludes them from arranging for it. Some folks bring their garbage and recycling home. Yes, you pay for it at home too, but since it’s built into your annual taxes, it isn’t really noticed. It’s like the airplane luggage conundrum. We were all much happier and would still be happier if the luggage cost were just built into the airfare. Instead, on nearly every plane, we have the last people on struggling to put oversized luggage into the overhead bins or under the seats.

New York City Has Been Recycling Since 1989

Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility in Brooklyn, where FIT an much of NYC's recycling goes.  Photo credit Nikolas Koenig for OHNY.

Sunset Park Material Recovery Facility in Brooklyn, where FIT and much of NYC’s recycling goes. Photo credit Nikolas Koenig for OHNY.

I spent a little time searching recycling laws online. They were not easy to find for some cities, and for others like New York City, there were so many links and pages I got lost half-way through. In NYC, the Department of Sanitation picks up recycling along with garbage from residential buildings, schools, institutions and agencies. Private and commercial buildings are required to contract with private carters. It would be really interesting to conduct a study to determine how many actually do. (If such studies have been conducted, I wasn’t able to locate any online during my 30 minutes of research.) Several of my students were recently evaluating the sustainable practices of their firms and were told when they asked, “we don’t recycle because the building doesn’t recycle.” By law, the businesses are required to recycle but how can they individually manage it in a building which isn’t providing the service? But once again who is really monitoring? The staff in one student’s firm have taken it upon themselves to take turns taking the recycling to their homes and even collecting compostables and taking them to the Union Square Market where a vendor provides free composting. Fortunately my school, FIT, is well ahead of the curve with recycling and one of the writers in our alumni magazine, Jonathan Vatner, recently received a grant from our Sustainability Council to trace our garbage and recycling. It was quite an amazing and inspirational article, “Where Does FIT’s Trash Go?”

Other Big Cities Have Recycling Laws Too

All residential buildings, including new residential towers like this one in Long Island City receive recycling pick-up from the Department of Sanitation.

All NYC residential buildings, including new residential towers like this one in Long Island City receive recycling pick-up from the Department of Sanitation.

Having lived in Seattle and Washington DC also, cities with similar laws to NYC, I’ve just gotten so used to the city handling all residential recycling that I still find it shocking that multiple-unit dwellings in Buffalo are not apparently covered by the city sanitation laws. My offices in both Seattle and Washington recycled. Under DC law all commercial properties or establishments located in the District of Columbia must maintain an active commercial recycling program. A commercial recycling program includes separation of recyclables from other solid waste, ensuring an adequate number of containers for separated recyclables and hiring a licensed, registered recycling hauler to regularly pick up recyclables.

Do We Need a Recycling Czar?

May everyone find recycling easier to handle in the coming year.

May everyone find recycling easier to handle in the coming year.

I am no expert obviously on recycling. But since most of us aren’t, it is a big problem. I’ve anecdotally been asking friends and family and they all have similar stories. One family member’s residence doesn’t recycle but work does, so she takes her recycling to work with her and is constantly frustrated as I am every time I load of up my car and start driving around with it.

So, is this an appropriate topic for an end of the year blog? Well it’s something that is constantly on my mind. I’m sure we are doing much better than we were in 1989, but we could do so much better, like just about everything in the sustainability world. We’re just not doing it fast enough.

And that’s one of my wishes for the new year. May recycling pick-up soon become something we never have to think about, let alone strategize about, in our daily lives.

And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities, please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.

 

 

 

 

 

True Green Cities / Documenting Buffalo’s Modernism

HSBC Center, now One Seneca Tower, on Main Street in downtown Buffalo was recently submitted to the DOCOMOMO US historic Registry.

HSBC Center, now One Seneca Tower, on Main Street in downtown Buffalo was recently submitted to the DOCOMOMO US historic Registry.

Buffalo has long been known as the home of iconic works of architecture by H. H. Richardson, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. But Buffalo’s architectural legacy did not end with the demolition of Wright’s ill-fated Larkin Administration Building in 1950. It has an incredibly rich modernist heritage, and some of that heritage is now under siege. As a way to begin to counteract misconceptions about Buffalo’s modernism and bring awareness to the rich sites that dot Western New York, I taught a graduate seminar, “Preserving Modern Heritage,” last spring in the University at Buffalo School of Architecture & Planning. The students’ semester long project was to choose a Buffalo Modern and document it for the DOCOMOMO US Registry. Until this year, only two buildings in Buffalo were listed in the Registry, and one of those had been demolished in 1950! (The New York Central Terminal Railroad Station, an Art Deco masterpiece from 1929 and Wright’s 1906 Larkin Administration Building, demolished 1950, were the only two Buffalo buildings listed.) Seven modern sites were ultimately listed as part of the class, with several more in the wings for later this year.  (Excerpt from the DOCOMOMO US Newsletter, special edition entitled “Modernism in the Rust Belt.”)

For the full article, click on this link, Documenting Buffalo’s Modernism.  

And if you’d like to “subscribe” or follow my blog, True Green Cities, please sign up through the “Subscribe” button at the bottom left of this page. You’ll receive a daily recap when new blogs are posted. Or Sign up for the Feed.

 

© Copyright Barbara Campagna – True Green Cities - 2011-2013