Author Archive

Saving Heat, Money, AND Your Wood Windows

Posted on: January 27th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 3 Comments

 

These days, “Go Green” is everywhere. Car manufacturers, cleaning product companies, the building industry, clothing, shoes — it seems like everyone is taking stock of their carbon footprint. As reported in Thursday's New York Times, even PepsiCo just completed a study that calculated how ‘green’ its orange juice is. (That’s 3.75 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per each half-gallon carton if you’re counting.) And as Bob Yapp recently pointed out in a guest column in the Des Moines Register, an April 2008 Gallup poll found that 83% of Americans have made changes — small and big — in how they live in order to help protect the environment.

Here in the Northeast, heating costs in winter are always an issue. Increasingly, we are concerned about not only how much we spend on heating our homes but the carbon footprint of staying warm. Last weekend as I shoveled snow off my driveway and into a pile that was taller than I am, I started to wonder if Mother Nature was trying to get our attention by dumping over 18 inches of snow on the area in two days. I also had plenty of time to contemplate where my own energy dollars were going.

One easy way for people to better manage their energy dollars and their carbon footprints is to have an energy audit done for their home. Many cities, state agencies, utility companies, and other organizations offer programs that enable homeowners to have an audit done for free or at a reduced rate.

In Jura Konicus’ recent Washington Post article “I Need an Energy Audit, Stat!”, the author walks the reader through the energy audit of her Washington D.C. 1937 brick Colonial.

Like many older houses, the primary areas where heat loss was happening in the Konicus’ house were in the basement and attic. Any place where air escapes, heat goes out too. Typical culprits for air leaks are gaps and holes in foundations where utility services come in, gaps around pipes under sinks, access areas to attics and basements, leaks around electric outlets and switches, leaks around recessed lighting fixtures, and up chimneys that don’t have properly fitted dampers.

Many of these areas can be tightened up by the resident for a modest investment. Using caulk and expandable foam insulation to seal leaks around plumbing, heating and cooling pipes, and utility access areas, weatherstripping doors and windows, adding door sweeps, beefing up attic insulation, making sure the fireplace damper properly fits, and adding foam gaskets to outlets and switches will make a noticeable difference in your comfort and your wallet. The company that did the Koncius’ energy audit reported that investing $150 in caulk would save their family about $300 annually.

One recommendation that appeared in the Koncius’ report that is particularly noteworthy was that replacing their original wood windows was not the best place for them to start in order to improve the energy efficiency of their home. This is supported by an ever-increasing body of research that has found that a properly maintained wood window with a storm window can be just as energy efficient as a new replacement window. The easiest wood window maintenance tip? Make sure that the sash lock is tight. Not just for security, the sash lock helps seal out leaks where the top and bottom sash meet.

The Konicus’ windows had already served the house well for over 70 years. Typically, wood windows made before about 1940 — like the Konicus’ — are built with old growth wood. The tight grain of old growth wood makes them far more durable and rot resistant than newer wood. The energy audit company estimated that if they spent $12,000 replacing their windows, they would save $600 a year. However, that means it would be 20 years before they started to recoup what they spent to replace the windows. And chances are, in 20 years or less, those new windows would need to be replaced by new windows. Some calculations have shown that it can take as much as 240 years to recoup in energy saving what was spent on installing new windows. Weatherproofing the original windows is a much better — and much greener — approach. For more tips on wood window maintenance and for links to articles and studies on improving the energy efficiency of historic wood windows, click here for a tip sheet. And if you don’t want to repair your wood windows yourself, you can feel added pride in supporting your local economy by hiring a trades person to do the tune up for you.

Simple actions such as switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, turning down the thermostat on water heaters to 130 or 140 degrees Fahrenheit, installing Energy Star-rated appliances, making sure your furnace’s filter is clean, and using insulated curtains on your windows will help lower your energy bills and reduce your carbon footprint.

More information:

-- Rebecca Williams

Rebecca Williams is a field representative at the Northeast Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Boston, Massachusetts.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Live Online Now: Plight of Mid-City New Orleans Comes Before LA House Committee

Posted on: January 22nd, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

The Louisiana House of Representatives Appropriations Committee is meeting today to discuss the possible reuse of Charity Hospital as a medical facility. The Foundation for Historical Louisiana and the National Trust for Historic Preservation will present a plan that would transform Charity Hospital into a state-of-the-art medical facility, spare demolition of the historic Mid-City neighborhood, and return medical care to New Orleans more quickly and at less cost less than constructing a new hospital. Visit the Louisiana House website to watch live online. (RealPlayer plugin required.)

If you're not able to tune in, today's New Orleans Times-Picayune has a good article about the hearings: LSU-VA Hospital hearing set today at state Capitol.

Check back later today for a full report later from our New Orleans Field Office staff.

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Learn more about our ongoing efforts to save Mid-City.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

My Historic Washington: Mt. Vernon Square

Posted on: January 20th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Construction cranes.

"Transitioning neighborhood." I was introduced to that concept six years ago as I sat in my partner's rowhouse in the historic Mount Vernon Square section of Washington, DC. It was a gorgeous and peaceful spring day, so we had the front door open. The sounds of a nearby church's jazz band drifted in and out, in between dog barks and car horns. Then, a sudden loud and crackling rumble. Jerry jumped out of his chair.

"The crackhouse fell down," he said.

My response was simply: "What?" I'd heard his words, but--what?

We ran to the door and saw a rising pillow of dust rolling towards us from the end of the street. What had been an abandoned two-story brick rowhouse in an empty lot was gone. In its place, a pile of bricks and splintered wood at the base of a house seemingly cut in half. Neighbors slowly began to file into the street, calling the police or taking photos on their cellphones. It was so surreal.

"Wow," I said, "The crackhouse really...fell down."

This neighborhood and the areas surrounding it are no strangers to sudden changes. Wedged between Shaw to the north and Chinatown/Penn Quarter to the south, Mount Vernon Square transformed from a mixed working and merchant class commercial district to a solidly middle class African-American residential neighborhood by the middle of the 20th century. In April 1968, the riots that devastated large portions of Washington also severely crippled much of the neighborhood for much of the next 30 years. The crack epidemic of the 1980s did even more damage to the social and economic fabric of an already vulnerable part of the city. But long-time residents persevered, and newer residents moved in or opened businesses.

In my teens and twenties, I had no idea of the history of this place. I came to this part of DC to hang out in the underground punk and gay clubs. Much of the building stock was abandoned or empty, especially at night, and the streets weren't terribly safe. But the scene was unpredictable and cool. What else did a bored suburban kid like myself need?

Scenes, of course, cool down. We grow up. Neighborhoods keep changing. In Mount Vernon Square and Penn Quarter, new subway stops brought new development. The Verizon Center arena opened. A new convention center was built. Highrises and the chain stores popped up one after the other. And Gallery Place gradually became DC's "Times Square."

Honestly, I'm ambivalent about the path this part of DC has taken. It is ironic that I decided to settle down in the very place where I'd misspent so many of my formative years. And we live here now, so it seems a little silly to complain about the streets being too safe or the grocery store being too convenient.

Still, there's a part of me that misses the old 'hood. Ms. Tao, the Chinatown restaurant where I had a first date, is now a CVS. The 930 Club where I'd spent my youth losing my hearing to Fugazi or the Mekons is now a realtor's office. AV Restaurant is gone. The Warehouse Stage looks like it's gone. The DC Eagle may be next. Then what?

Two years after the crackhouse fell down, Jerry and I attended an open house on that exact spot for a row of five, brand new $1 million condominiums. They were beautiful. If we'd had a pile of money, we may have even bought one.

Obviously, neighborhoods aren't the only things that transition.

-- Warren Shaver

Warren Shaver is director of online communications at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This is our final post leading up to the inauguration from National Trust staffers telling their stories about the greater D.C. area. Coming to town for the historic event? Be sure to visit our new Preservationist’s Guide to Washington. And when you're done, share your photos with us.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

My Historic Washington: Southwest

Posted on: January 19th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

For some reason, I always knew I wanted to live in Washington, D.C. It was probably my early interest in politics that brought me here or maybe it was a sense of needing to move to a big city that wasn’t too big. Either way, in August of 2003, I found myself renting a house in American University Park, which is located in Northwest near Tenleytown. Its a wonderful neighborhood, designed and developed in the 1920s, with lots of families and beautiful historic houses. It was a great place to start out in Washington because it offered not only the small neighborhood feel I was accustom to but also a great deal of accessibility to other areas of the city via the metro. The Tenleytown Historical Society has an excellent series of photographs and background information on Tenleytown if you’re interested in reading more on this area.

After living in Washington for two years, I knew that I wanted to call this place my home. I still find it hard to describe why I feel at home here, but I do. In 2005 I decided it was time to begin the house hunting process. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best time to be looking for houses since it was the peak of the housing bubble and affordable housing, already limited in D.C., was even harder to find. While I love the more traditional historic districts like Logan Circle and Capitol Hill, I was drawn to Southwest where housing was somewhat more affordable, and to my surprise, the neighborhood was distinctively different.

River Park, Designed by Charles Goodman

River Park, Designed by Charles Goodman (Photo: Ross Bradford)

I’ll never forget the first time my realtor took me to Southwest. I visited a cooperative known as River Park. As we drove through the neighborhood I quickly realized this place was like no other in the city. Filled with an abundance of mid-century architecture, I was quickly captivated by the area. It had a totally different feel from other places, due in part to a radical and controversial urban renewal plan that occurred in the 1950s which brought in architects such as I.M. Pei, Harry Weese, Marcel Breuer, Charles Goodman, and Chloethiel Woodard Smith to design open space areas, federal office buildings, and residential housing complexes.

Southwest’s story doesn’t begin in the 1950s; instead, it begins as early as the late 1700s with one of the city’s oldest sets of buildings, known as Wheat Row, and Fort McNair. The area slowly developed into a thriving residential neighborhood for both African-Americans and European immigrants during the turn of the 20th century. Like other residential areas in the district, Southwest’s streets were lined with rowhouses of varying sizes. Over time, however, overcrowding in the area led to deteriorating housing conditions and the construction of numerous alley dwellings. In the 1950s Congress and city planners decided that Southwest should undergo a huge transformation, which resulted in the eviction of the area’s residents and the demolition of most of the buildings. While the displacement of the area’s residents and the loss of community that occurred in this area was devastating, it’s an important part of my neighborhood’s history that shouldn’t be overlooked or forgotten.

Maine Avenue Fish Market (Photo: Ross Bradford)

Maine Avenue Fish Market (Photo: Ross Bradford)

With the expansive redevelopment underway, only a few historic buildings were saved, these include Wheat Row, the Thomas Law House, Saint Dominic’s Church, and selected row houses on Half Street. The Maine Avenue Fish Market has also survived, in one form or another, since the early 1800s. Aside from these destination points, there are a variety of interesting mid-century housing developments, like Tiber Island and River Park, and the L’Enfant Promenade, which also includes a park dedicated to Benjamin Banneker.

Southwest Waterfront (Photo: Ross Bradford)

Southwest Waterfront (Photo: Ross Bradford)

As the first decade of the 21st century quickly approaches its end, Southwest is again experiencing another renewal with the nearby construction of the National’s baseball stadium and a second redevelopment of the Waterfront area, both are attempts to make this area a destination point for visitors and residents. As these plans move forward, it’s important that that the area’s history is not forgotten, but it’s also equally important that we protect and preserve the community that developed over the last fifty years.

Benjamin Banneker Park (Photo: Ross Bradford)

Benjamin Banneker Park (Photo: Ross Bradford)

I hope you’ll take some time to visit Southwest; it’s included in Cultural Tourism DC’s Neighborhood Heritage Trail system.  A map of the trail, which is lined with poster-sized street signs telling the neighborhood’s story is available along with a walking tour brochure.

-- Ross Bradford

Ross Bradford is an Assistant General Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Stay tuned leading up to the inauguration as more National Trust staffers share their stories about the greater D.C. area. Coming to town for the historic event? Be sure to visit our new Preservationist’s Guide to Washington.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

World Trade Center Model to Get New Home

Posted on: January 16th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 2 Comments

 

Tthe last authentic 3-dimensional representation of the World Trade Center complex. (Photo: Lee Stalworth)

The last authentic 3-dimensional representation of the World Trade Center complex. (Photo: Lee Stalworth)

This past week, the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) announced it will loan its iconic architectural model of the World Trade Center to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. This original presentation model was built by the office of project architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) between 1969 and 1971 to provide the Port Authorities of New York and New Jersey a to-scale sense of the planned project. It is the last authentic 3-dimensional representation of the World Trade Center complex—the only other that remained was on display at the bottom of the Towers and destroyed with the buildings. Like most architectural models, it was not built with the intention of a permanent existence, but rather, to temporarily illustrate the scope of Yamasaki’s controversial yet extraordinary architectural and engineering feat. This model, more than any other, symbolizes the skyscraper, a building style indigenous to America-- but while architecturally and historically valuable on its own merit, its significance and symbolic importance dramatically increased following the events of 9/11.

The Memorial and Museum will remember and honor those who perished in the horrific attacks of 1993 and 2001. Through a sensitive presentation of artifacts and intimate stories of loss, compassion, recovery and reckoning, it will communicate key messages to tell the story of September 11th and its aftermath. When the museum opens in 2012, the World Trade Center model will be an integral component and serve as a visual reminder and emotional symbol for all people and nations around the world of the tragedy that occurred on 9/11.

Like historic photographs, drawings and scrapbooks, architectural records are an important part of America’s historic legacy. They help trace the architectural development of our nation’s cities and towns, and reflect contributions of American ingenuity, creativity and innovation. This World Trade Center model is huge. Measuring eight feet by ten feet at the base, with the twin towers rising over seven feet high, it vividly demonstrates the sheer size and mass of the original site. Built to accurately resemble the towers, every detail was considered. The model was even painted with a special gloss to produce a shiny appearance and illustrate the towers’ extraordinary and unique cladding system. Primarily made of wood, plaster, plastic and paper, tiny, finely crafted pieces were cast from specially designed and milled brass molds and injected with special plastics. Each piece was designed to fit a specific area and was individually painted and affixed by hand. The model is testimony to the extraordinary talent and craftsmanship of the art of model fabrication thirty years ago.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.