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.
: Matthew Heckendorn, principal, Heckendorn Shiles Architects
: Greg Meckstroth