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As winter approaches, a Philly company makes programming the thermostat easier than ever

Energy-saving systems in large commercial buildings are already commonplace -- albeit expensive to install -- and many single-family homes have power-conserving programmable thermostats. But according to StratIS CEO Felicite Moorman, over 90 percent of homeowners who install those thermostats don’t maximize their savings by actually programming them. 

The East Falls-based StratIS was founded in 2013 as an offshoot of BuLogics, which Moorman also helms. With a focus on multi-family buildings, hotels and campus residences, the energy-saving software company wants to take the intimidation out of programming a greener, more cost-effective usage schedule, and put an easy version of the technology in the hands of owners, managers and their tenants.

“In the last four months, we’ve installed [in] 40,000 apartments," says Moorman; this includes clients in 40 states. The company’s largest single deployment to date is 65,000 wireless devices in 2,700 rooms in Las Vegas’s Wynn Hotel and Casino.

"[It's] an energy efficiency, energy management and energy control app that was specifically created for multi-family and campus communities," she explains. That means a range of wireless devices connected to things like lamps, thermostats, HVAC systems and even door locks that property owners, managers, and residents can control with a simple app.

In the case of individual apartments, renters can use the StratIS technology to customize their at-home power needs. This can be done either on a timed schedule through the app (with residents programming reduced power usage during office hours, for example), or the app can connect to a door lock device which activates a power-down mode synced to the moment a resident steps out the door. You'll never leave a light on again.

Meanwhile, property managers can remotely power up or down any individual unit in the building, as in the case of empty units or an apartment they’re getting ready to show.

Hotel, campus, and multi-family complex owners and managers pay as little as $100 for the installation of a StratIS-enabled thermostat, with a fee of $1 per month per device (this flexible in the case of low-income housing due to the company’s social and environmental mission).

Moorman says the "future-proofed" StratIS system -- meaning the hardware can be easily updated as technology changes or advances -- can save users up to 20 percent on their energy bills. That’s a big selling point since many leases include electricity costs in a flat rental payment.  

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Felicite Moorman, StratIS

3.0 University Place will rise one block away from 40th Street Portal

University Place Associates (UPA), the developer behind University Place 2.0 at 30 N. 41st Street, has an even more ambitious green office building in the works. The plans for University Place 3.0 -- slated to rise at the corner of 41st and Market, just a block from the 40th Street SEPTA transit hub -- were announced in mid-October.

UPA founder Scott Mazo touts the building’s bonafides: According to UPA, it’s the world’s first commercial office building to get a platinum precertification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program before it’s even broken ground.

On October 15, a launch ceremony for 3.0 held at 2.0 University Place featured words from Mazo, U.S. Green Building Council President Roger Platt, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and Pennsylvania State Senator Vince Hughes.

The five-story building, which UPA ultimately hopes will draw one to three anchor office tenants, and retail and restaurant tenants for the ground floor, will feature the latest in green technology, from fresh-air circulation and filtration systems to energy-saving glass to cutting-edge heating and cooling systems, not to mention a WIFI-enabled green roof open to all workers.

"I realize that 3.0 is not going to be for everybody," says Mazo. "But what we really want is a company that’s trying to say not just to the world but to its future tenants and employees…'We’re living it, we want to make a statement, [an] impact to the environment, and we’re making a statement with our actions.'"

3.0 will ultimately offer almost 190,000 square feet of space, and incorporate stormwater management with a modular green roof system and rooftop garden, and common area power derived from solar and wind energy. Once completed, the building will form part of what UPA hopes will be an entire "platinum corridor" of eco-friendly Market Street buildings; its exterior will feature electrochromic SageGlass.

Embedded with tiny low-voltage electrical wires, SageGlass can respond to the rays of the sun and shift its tint to block glare while preserving or deflecting the sun's heat, depending on the season. This results in significant energy savings and plenty of natural light for the people working inside, without the help of blinds or shades.

It also means that from the outside, the building will change its shade and hue throughout the day.

"I thought that was such a cool feature that will make this building stand out," enthuses Mazo, "an iconic symbol of the transformation that we’re trying to make on Market Street."

And the timeline for construction?

Hard to pinpoint right now, says Mazo. It depends on when they can secure an anchor office tenant. That could be one tenant for all four floors, or one tenant to occupy about 100,000 square feet (three floors), with one or two more tenants using the remaining space. If plans for a full-building user don’t immediately materialize, one tenant renting 100,000 square feet would be enough to move forward with the groundbreaking. Mazo estimates that construction on 3.0 could take a year to 18 months, and it’s possible they could have shovels in the dirt by April 2016.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Scott Mazo, University Place Associates

 

Boston's Rental Beast brings the tools of homebuying to the Philly rental search

You want to buy a house. Besides your agent and a pre-approval on a mortgage, where do you start? It’s easy to get a comprehensive look at what’s available for sale through multiple listing services (MLS) like Trulia or TREND, filtered by categories such as location, property type and price. But what if you want to rent an apartment?

In Philly, you’re often doomed to crowdsourcing your social networks, hoping a friend of a friend has space to rent, or wading through the swamps of a website like Craigslist, whose listings, once posted, can’t be updated and can get buried in a matter of minutes.

Ishay Grinberg, the founder and CEO of Boston-based Rental Beast, calls the rental status quo in Philly "a nightmare," and he wants to change that. His site is an MLS for rentals, and it’s ready to put about one million listings at prospective renters’ fingertips through its network of hyper-local real estate experts.

"About forty percent of the population rents, and about forty percent of the population will continue to rent," explains Grinberg, acknowledging the boom in home-ownership that peaked in 2005  -- and, well, we all know what happened next.

"Almost everywhere you look if you drive around, you start seeing ‘for rent’ signs," he says of Philly, where a Rental Beast team is already set up in Center City, readying an official launch for early 2015. "There’s plenty of demand to be satisfied."

Rental Beast works for renters as well as landlords and property managers, from those handling just a few properties to those handling thousands. In less than five years, the company has seen huge success in Boston, nabbing 70 percent of the city’s market share. Now its sights are set on Philly, its suburbs and the surrounding area, including central Pennsylvania, and parts of Delaware and New Jersey.

"We’re completely free for landlords of any size to list with us," insists Grinberg.

That free-of-charge model for both landlords and prospective tenants is supported by large brokerages who partner with the company for access to its inventory, and provide a portion of the broker fee when a property is leased through the site.

But the service isn’t just about aggregating and maintaining the most up-to-date, customizable info from landlords, managers, brokers, neighborhood experts and wider market data. Users also have access to tools for everything from proper pricing to drawing up the lease to finding contractors for when there’s quick turnover on a unit.

"When small landlords have a unit turn over, they don’t have an armada of maintenance people like the large managers do," explains Grinberg. For jobs like cleaning, sanding or painting, Rental Beast maintains a free database of vetted service providers.

Philly’s "good startup community" is part of the reason he’s bringing Rental Beast to the area. With the growing trend of millennials staying in the city to work or launch their own ventures after graduation, he insists it’s the perfect time to simplify the rental market.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Ishay Grinberg

 

Philadelphia region will be home to the Northeast's first Advanced Data Center

Most of us can use a computer application -- from Facebook, to an insurance exchange to a data store for a research project -- without thinking about the servers where all that information actually lives. Right now, all of the U.S.’s advanced data centers (ADCs) operate from Florida or locations in the Southwest. Keystone NAP wants to change all that by opening the Northeast’s first ADC in Pennsylvania's own Fairless Hills.

Currently, the major metros in the Northeast -- New York, Boston, Philadelphia -- have what Keystone NAP founder and CEO Peter Ritz calls "plain old data centers," which were adequate as recently as the 1990s, but in today’s web-scale world can't cut it.

"In the last two years, we have created more data, more bits of data…than all the time before that," explains Ritz. He compares today’s old data centers to telephone landlines: adequate for doing business ten or fifteen years ago, but rapidly growing obsolete.

The servers at those centers don’t have the capacity and scalability that today’s up-and-coming tech giants (and local mid-sized businesses) need, and with a single connection to a traditional power grid, they’re vulnerable.

Remember Hurricane Sandy?

"People don’t think about it, but what happened there is that people had a single source of connection to the grid in their data center," he says of widespread computer system outages after the storm. "They had to pray and they had to beg to make sure they would get the diesel fuel delivery."

Keystone NAP's ADC will have the data service capacity to house the equivalent of eight Googles. It's special not just because of its location and its data capacity, but because of its innovative approach to power.

"It’s the steel-forging shoulders that we stand on," says Ritz of how the region’s historical infrastructure makes this possible. Instead of a single connection to the power grid, the Keystone NAP facility will operate with the help of five distinct power sources, including gas turbines and a nearby trash-to-steam plant burning refuse from a local landfill.

Ritz describes the individual servers as looking like rectangular pizza boxes, stacked as many as forty high in specialized shelving. It all generates enormous heat: fifty percent of any data center’s energy budget goes to cooling those servers with air or water-based systems.

Because not every business's server has the same energy needs, Keystone NAP is offering a uniquely secure and modular approach to power dubbed KeyBlocks. It’s common for a data center to host multiple entities’ servers, but bringing that eco-friendly customization to the powering of the diverse servers is another thing that sets the facility apart.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Peter Ritz, Keystone NAP

 

Penn's South Bank campus gets a new name; Pennovation Center breaks ground

The University of Pennsylvania's South Bank campus, a 23-acre swath of development at 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue (purchased by Penn in 2010), is getting a new name: "Pennovation Works."

According to Penn Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, President Amy Gutmann coined the "Pennovation" moniker, looking toward the opening of the Pennovation Center, a 52,000-square-foot three-story building, slated for renovation and re-opening in 2016.

The Pennovation Works complex will include a mix of previously existing and new buildings housing the Bio Garden of the Penn School of Arts & Sciences, UPSTART’s Novapeutics, the Philadelphia Free Library archives, KMel Robotics and much more.

On October 31, Gutmann and other Penn executives welcomed a crowd of 800 people (two-thirds of them Penn staff, faculty, and students) for a ceremonial groundbreaking and day-long seminar of tours and sessions to celebrate a wide variety of scientific, academic and commercial innovation at Penn.

The Pennovation Center concept, which includes a variety of cross-discipline co-working and research spaces, got its start within the last two years based on a need for incubator space, particularly incubators with affordable lab space.

"One of the really neat things about this project is the architects actually are entrepreneurs," says Carnaroli. "So they learned themselves that you need a space where you learn how to do your five-minute elevator pitch…they’re thinking very holistically."

That means the finished Pennovation Center, from its workshop garage spaces -- hosting prototyping gear such as 3-D printers -- to its third-floor robotics lab isn’t "just a space to do the work. It’s also about networking."

A major part of the Center’s mission will be facilitating not only research, but its application and commercialization. That means offering low-cost lab space with no restrictions on types of use and unusually broad opportunities for corporate partnerships, since the property wasn’t financed with any tax-exempt capital.

“You’re always looking for a hybrid of ideas,” says Carnaroli, explaining why it's important to house diverse thinkers -- such as life-sciences faculty alongside robotics researchers -- in freewheeling co-working spaces. He hopes this will foster "that breakthrough that no-one’s seeing until that impromptu conversation at the coffee machine." 

The Center will open in multiple phases, including a new home for Penn's GRASP engineering lab next summer, with full completion of the new complex planned for spring 2016.

Given the adjacent Schuylkill River’s place in the heart of Philly’s manufacturing history, the Pennovation Center’s location is a symbol of the shift from the industrial economy to a "much more intellectual and modern economy," muses Carnaroli. "It’s very symbolic the way this property is about to be transformed."

Author: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Craig Carnaroli, The University of Pennsylvania

UCD's annual report sheds light on development trends and the community narrative

On Wednesday, October 15, University City District (UCD) will present its annual State of University City report to a select group of representatives from neighborhood institutions, real estate development groups, small business owners and residents.

In over 70 pages worth of eye-catching charts, graphs and text, the report tells the story of a vibrant and growing submarket that continues to attract a steady stream of educated individuals, innovative startups, creative entrepreneurs and civic-minded businesses.

Some highlights of this year’s report include an explosion of multi-family residential development, an unprecedented 96 percent office occupancy rate, a growing interest in transportation and transit, investment by the University of Pennsylvania in both research facilities and community placemaking destinations, and significant growth in Drexel’s innovation neighborhood near 30th Street Station.

The report also expands on the development plans for the 40th Street Trolley Portal, including the success of UCD fundraising efforts to create a pedestrian-friendly park there.

To create the document, policy and research manager Seth Budick compiles vast amounts of data from UCD’s institutional and business partners, alongside its own in-depth studies and analysis of pedestrian counts, retail occupancy and public space usage.

"What we’re really seeing is a flocking of people and businesses who recognize the value of being close to the density of innovation that’s going on in University City," he explains.

As in previous years, printed reports will be distributed to institutional partners, real estate professionals, local organizations, government representatives and residents, who, according to UCD's Lori Brennan, "use [it] as a recruitment tool for filling office vacancies, and attracting retailers and restaurateurs to open up spaces [in University City]."

The report will be available online on October 16.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Sources: Seth Budick and Lori Klein Brennan, University City District

 

As the Science Center expands, plans emerge to upgrade the campus' livability

On September 12, the 51-year-old University City Science Center celebrated the latest addition to its ever-expanding West Philadelphia campus, now home to more than two million square feet of lab and office space.
 
Known as 3737 Science Center and located at 3737 Market Street, the 13-story glass tower was developed jointly by the Science Center and Wexford Science & Technology. The $115 million building is already at 82 percent capacity.
 
Indeed, interest in the space from potential life-science and healthcare tenants was so consistently strong throughout construction that an extra two floors (over the originally-planned 11) were added to the plan.
 
Spark Therapeutics, a gene therapy startup, is occupying the building's top floor. With Penn Medicine as the anchor tenant, other residents include the Penn Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine and, in the tower's ground-floor retail space, the Corner Bakery Cafe, which is expected to open by the end of this year.
 
3737 Science Center is the campus' 16th building. At nearby 3601 Market Street, the Science Center is currently constructing a 20-story, $110 million residential tower, which broke ground last year. That high-rise, according to President and CEO Stephen Tang, is part of the campus' current philosophy "to be a place to live, work and play," he says. "Not just work, which is quite frankly what we've been doing for most of our 51-year history."  
 
"We're trying to become a world-class innovation center across University City and not just across the Science Center's campus," he adds. "We really want to be a vibrant center. And that includes attracting smart, creative and innovative people to our campus to live, as well as to work."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Stephen Tang, University City Science Center

The University City Science Center
 has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia.

UPenn's South Bank Master Plan aims to bring innovation to the Lower Schuylkill

Last week, the University of Pennsylvania made public its plans to construct a research park on 23 acres of land formerly owned by DuPont in the Lower Schuylkill section of Grays Ferry. The parcel is now being referred to as "the South Bank."
 
Flying Kite has reported extensively on the long-range development plans for the Lower Schuylkill River, but no announcement has generated as much public chatter and excitement as the recent one from Penn; it is just one small ingredient in a much larger campus development recipe known as Penn Connects 2.0, a so-called master plan "which has added nearly 3 million square feet of space to Penn’s campus since 2006," according to a release.   
 
One of the highlights of the South Bank will be a business incubator and accelerator called the Pennovation Center. (Current tenants will remain onsite after renovations begin.) That complex will feature lab space and a collaborative technology-transfer ecosystem that Penn hopes will eventually infuse the entire South Bank campus.  
 
According to Penn's Executive Director of Real Estate Ed Datz, the campus will be available to a wide range of users, from startups that grow out of university research to those without any previous university affiliation. The master plan, designed by Philadelphia-based firm WRT, creates a framework with initial development focused on light industrial and flex-use buildings. 

"The one consistent is the opportunity to let young, upstart companies have space -- at a reasonable rate -- to gather, to share ideas, and to advance their particular discipline," says Datz.

While an exact construction timeline hadn't been revealed, the multi-phase renovation work at the South Bank site may begin as early as this fall.


Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Ed Datz, University of Pennsylvania



A Temple student's startup wants to help you discover 'Whose Your Landlord'

In a classic case of necessity as mother of invention, Temple Fox School of Business student Ofo Ezeugwu has developed a website for renters to rate landlords. He observed that students living in Philadelphia were often vulnerable in the rental process. 

"I hatched the idea in February 2012 when I was running for Temple's VP of External Affairs," says Ezeugwu. "Many of my dealings had to do with students' relations with off-campus entities and opportunities. I thought it would be great if students could rate their landlords the same way they rate their professors on RateMyProfessor.com."

WhoseYourLandlord.com launched in October 2012 with fellow Temple student Nik Korablin as web developer. The startup's unusually spelled name regularly raises questions, but Ezeugwu explains that the choice of homonym is intentional — the possessive form of the word 'who' signifies a return of ownership to tenants.

Since its launch, the website has grown to include users in multiple schools across different states. A "fall tour" of East Coast colleges promoted the site and encouraged users to rate landlords in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., North Virginia and New York. Students can also rate on-campus housing such as dorms and residential halls.

Next steps include launching a mobile app in early 2014, and incorporating a way for landlords to respond to comments users leave on their profiles. The growing company also plans to hire in the new year.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Ofo Ezeugwu, Whose Your Landlord

After successful first phase, NKCDC's Big Green Block thinks bigger

When the $43 million Kensington School for the Creative and Performing Arts (KCAPA) was completed in 2011, it became the first public school in the country to earn LEED Platinum certification (the highest designation under LEED). Fortunately, the school was just the first in a series of eco-friendly projects that have transformed nearly 20 acres of land adjacent to the Berks SEPTA stop in Fishtown.
 
Dubbed the "Big Green Block," the site is defined by Front Street, Frankford Avenue, Palmer Street and Norris Street, and includes the Shissler Recreation Center (nextdoor to KCAPA). Within Sustainable 19125 -- a New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) initiative to make the zipcode the greenest in the region -- the site was identified as a model location for green infrastructure and sustainable education.

NKCDC worked with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) to develop a green infrastructure master plan for the block. Sold on the project's potential, the Department of Parks and Recreation and Mural Arts were quick to provide additional capital support through partnerships that have resulted in $2 million worth of investment overall.

Pedestrian pathways connecting to the Berks Market-Frankford Line stop, rain gardens, tree trenches, land stabilization, an improved sports field and educational murals have all been developed at the site. According to NKCDC's Shanta Schachter, these improvements have kept "90 percent of the site’s stormwater out of sewer pipes" -- and that's just from the first round of improvements.

For phase two of the Big Green Block, more than 60 residents participated in vision sessions to identify the community's needs. PHS translated the ideas borne from that process into a landscape plan. Through NKCDC’s ongoing strategic partnerships with the city and other stakeholders, phase two construction is underway.

The improvements reflect the space's history as a former rail yard -- new benches are being made locally to reference sealed railroad ties and the long-buried cobblestones from the site have been re-exposed. The vacant lot on the south end of the block is also being reimagined as a playfield for young kids and improved dog park, complete with additional seating and plantings.

Just weeks from completion, "the space already looks really great," says NKCDC's Diana Jih. "The improvements build off how the community user groups (Palmer Doggie Depot and Fishtown Athletic Club) we partnered with were using the site and adjacent land already.”

On April 20, NKCDC will hold a volunteer day from 10am-1pm to put the finishing touches on the playground and dog park. The day's agenda includes planting native species, and spreading mulch. The ongoing maintenance of the site is all volunteer run, so there’s a need for  as much support needed as possible.

No official ribbon-cutting date has been set, but NKCDC expects it will occur in early June. "The site will be open at the beginning of May," adds Schachter. 

Moving forward, even more improvements are planned. The site's basketball court will be reconstructed to better capture stormwater runoff from the rec center's roof and an improved spray park with education elements will be built thanks to Mural Arts and PWD.  

Source:  Diana Jih and Shanta Schachter, NKCDC
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Ambler Boiler House, a former asbestos plant and brownfield, earns LEED certification

The Ambler Boiler House is a paragon of adaptive reuse. After a century as an asbestos production plant -- followed by a period of vacancy and a short stint as an EPA-classified brownfield site -- the site has achieved a complete turn around, earning LEED certification in its new life as a multi-tenant office building.
 
The transformation was 10 years in the making for the iconic structure, which sits adjacent to Ambler’s SEPTA regional rail station. After years of financial setbacks and false starts, in late 2011, the folks at Summit Realty Advisors found the final piece of a complex monetary puzzle needed to make the $16 million project a reality  -- they earned a $2.5 million EnergyWorks grant through the regional EnergyWorks program.

This was the first commercial loan awarded through the program, which up until then promoted energy-efficiency improvements in housing and urban development projects. 
 
"Ambler has experienced a substantial rejuvenation over the past 15 years," says Matthew Heckendorn, principal at Heckendorn Shiles Architects, lead designers for the renovation. "The Boiler House was an abandoned eyesore and shell with environmental contamination issues. It now has a new life as a successful commercial property."
 
The project employs numerous sustainable design strategies: it's transit-oriented, an example of adaptive reuse, a case for brownfield redevelopment and a showcase for creative financing. With its new LEED certification, energy efficiency can be added to the list. LEED-mandated features include a geothermal well, high-efficiency glass, and a reflective roof system.
 
The architects were particularly happy to preserve the plant's historic heritage. "What we take most pride in is the preservation of rough, industrial details married to a clean and contemporary office design," says Heckendorn.

Two of six tenants have already moved into the 48,000-square-foot facility, with one tenant space under construction and three others under design. The next round of tenants are expected to move in this spring and summer. 

Source: Matthew Heckendorn, principal, Heckendorn Shiles Architects
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Infill Philadelphia's Soak It Up! Competition winners announced

This past Thursday at the Academy of Natural Sciences, three teams were awarded the top prize in Infill Philadelphia: Soak It Up!, the widely publicized and much anticipated national green stormwater design competition. (Flying Kite previewed the contest in October.)
 
The event was a collaboration between the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), the Community Design Collaborative and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In all, 28 teams, 101 firms and 315 professionals from across the country submitted proposals that explored the potential of green infrastructure tools. Submissions came from places as diverse as Seattle, New York and St. Louis.  

Teams were asked to address the unique stormwater management challenges and opportunities at one of three Philadelphia sites. Each site embodied a different urban context and land-use challenge (industrial, commercial or neighborhood).

Submissions ranged from greening existing warehouse facilities to creating neighborhood-level EcoDistricts and tackling sewage overflow problems, to determining creative ways to green surface parking lots and large shopping centers.

Of the 28 entries, nine finalists were selected to present their entries to a jury and the public. The jury then selected three winners – one for each study area.
  
"We wanted projects that were innovative," explains juror Nathan Boon with the William Penn Foundation. "We also looked for submissions that could actually be implemented, ideas that can be replicated over many areas."
 
So many creative ideas came out of the exercise that PWD leaders plan to not only work with the winning teams but also the losing teams to make the designs a reality.
 
"Our expectations were far exceeded," says Joanne Dahme from the PWD. "It's given us so many new ideas for new ways to manage stormwater."
 
Over the next 25 years, PWD plans to spend $2 billion on green stormwater infrastructure improvements at varying scales across the city. Many of the competition’s ideas will be used as prototypes.

The three winners are as follows:
 
Industrial: "Leveraging Water + Plants in Zero Lot Sites," led by local firm Roofmeadow.
Neighborhood: "Greening the Grid," led by local landscape architecture firm OLIN.
Commercial: "Retail Retrofit," led by local firm Urban Engineers Inc. with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects of New York. 

Source:  Nathan Boon, William Penn Foundation; Joanne Dahme, Philadelphia Water Department
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Innovative playground installation at UArts attracts all ages

Twenty-four-year-old Temple architecture students Nick Auman and Keith Hartwig might have outgrown the monkey bars, but that doesn't mean they don't like to play.

Their exhibit, "Between Space," an interactive sculpture and installation, challenges the way we think about playground landscapes. A series of suspended nets designed to react to the presence of an individual, "Between Space" is currently on display at the University of the Arts as part of the Hamilton Hall Arts Initiative.

"Inspiration for the project came after observing the conditions of several public Philadelphia playgrounds in which static play elements were isolated in a rigid organizational grid," explains Auman. He and Hartwig concluded that a low-tech, low-cost solution was possible, and that it could improve the quality of public space in Philly while also expanding user reach beyond children.
 
In the display, a full-scale prototype of the playground piece (alongside models) shows how the net could be expanded to create an entire playground system.
 
The two young architects have been working on “Between Space” since the summer 2011. The net is composed of 560 individual knots, a process that took longer than initially expected.

"The scale of work that we proposed was difficult to complete," says Auman. "We were using third party fabricators to create specialized components that we did not have the means to create ourselves." 

Their efforts were well worth it. "We envision the project being adopted by individual neighborhood parks as a temporary event installation," explains Auman, who says they have already created a conceptual design for how the installation could be used at Penn Treaty Park.

"Between Spaces" will be on display at 320 S. Broad Street through March 22.

Source:  Nick Auman and Keith Hartwig, Designers, Between Space
WriterGreg Meckstroth

New Exton pharmaceutical plant receives international sustainability award

Thanks to innovative stormwater practices at the Water Department and the EEB Hub’s research into developing energy-efficient buildings, Philly has been generating real solutions behind the buzzwords "green" and "sustainable." Now the suburbs are getting in on the action too – the new Morphotek Inc. manufacturing plant in Exton recently received global recognition, winning the 2013 Facility of the Year Award for Sustainability.

The Facility of the Year Awards recognize state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing projects across the globe that utilize innovative technologies. Morphotek’s plant did just that, incorporating sustainable design, construction and operating features. In the coming months, the plan is expected to earn a LEED certification of Silver or higher.

"The Morphotek Pilot Plant puts Pennsylvania on the map with one of the world's first LEED-certified pharmaceutical buildings," says Robert Dick, principal with Precis Engineering out of Ambler, one of the firm’s responsible for constructing the $80 million, 60,000-square-foot facility. Precis Engineering teamed up with Arcus Design Group Architects, Inc. and HSC Builders & Construction Managers, Inc.
 
Sustainability was integrated into the plant’s design and construction process, starting with remediation of the site (a former brownfield) and ending with the installation of on-site solar panels and water and energy conservation systems.

"Our collaborative design team worked closely with Morphotek to design and execute the project…with emphasis on both sustainability and operational efficiency," says Dick. "We are honored that the Facility of the Year experts recognized our team effort and project results."

The Facility of the Year Sustainability Award will be presented to Morphotek, Precis and the rest of the design team this April in New York City. Additional recognition will come at the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) National Meeting in November and in upcoming issues of Pharmaceutical Processing and Pharmaceutical Engineering magazines.

Source:  Robert Dick, Principal, Precis Engineering
WriterGreg Meckstroth

Postgreen's Snapback delivers affordable green housing in East Kensington

It’s been a few short years since Postgreen Homes made headlines with their award-winning 100K House. Since then, they’ve held true to the project’s defining principles, delivering eco-friendly new construction housing that is also affordable. The developers are now introducing a new home model to the Philly market: the Snapback Project in East Kensington.

Designed by award-winning contemporary architecture firm Interface Studio Architects, Snapback delivers a powerful punch despite its smaller than average stature.

In Philadelphia, most new construction townhomes are three stories tall, at a minimum. The Snapback units are two stories, but with an added bonus: a basement that’s five feet higher than standard. This allows more light and air to enter and gives homebuyers more flexibility with the space.

According to Chad Ludeman, president of Postgreen Homes, the idea is to deliver a flexible house with three floors worth of potential space for the construction cost of two. "The concept was solidified when we consulted for a developer in Chicago who brought to our attention that most new homes in the Windy City are constructed this way," says Ludeman.

With a higher-than-average ceiling height, the basements offer the homebuyer the opportunity to customize the home. Ludeman believes families can grow into the house, leaving the space unfinished at first but, over time, finishing it out as a spare bedroom for children, a home office or guest suite.

The homes, which are currently being framed, are selling for $300-$350 thousand, a price tag Ludeman says would have been much higher had they built traditional three-story homes. "The buyer is probably saving forty to fifty thousand dollars with this two-story model," he explains.

Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about for Ludemann and Postgreen: building new construction units with price points attainable at the Area Median Income of a Philly household. For market rate homes in the city, that number is $200-$450 thousand.

With other projects like Duplexcellence in South Kensington selling for as low as $250 thousand, Postgreen now has 14 units of affordable market rate housing under its belt. Building where land is cheap, keeping homes small and using basic finishes keeps costs low, while still allowing the projects to have a modern feel and sleek design.

"We’re not a non-profit," says Ludeman. "We still have to make money, but we’re constantly looking for ways to pass savings on to homebuyers."

Source:  Chad Ludeman, Postgreen Homes
WriterGreg Meckstroth
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