Sustainability / Blog

Saving a Tin Ceiling

Published November 6, 2013 in Historic, Institutional, Staff, Andy Grogan, Charles Roberts, Sustainability

We’ve been working with Amherst College on the renovation and addition to 79 South Pleasant in Amherst, MA. The building was built in the 1830s and was originally home to the First Baptist Church. KRA’s Andy Grogan looks back on how the project team saved the sanctuary’s c. 1905 tin ceiling.

Faced with a historic building that had been less-than thoughtfully renovated by a previous owner inthe 1960s, we didn’t expect much of the original interior to remain. The sanctuary’s 12’ high windows had been removed and replaced with pairs of double-hungs when a third floor was inserted into the sanctuary; the arch that stood behind the pulpit had been hacked away to make room for a staircase; and there were few traces of any original woodwork. The prospect of integrating historic fabric into the new spaces wasn’t looking good.

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Designed for Habitat

Published August 24, 2012 in Community, Modern Design, Pro Bono, Staff, Charles Roberts, Sustainability

Our collaboration with Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity and Amherst College is featured in a new book, Designed for Habitat.

Architects Tour New England Environmental

Published June 29, 2012 in Staff, Ann Marshall, Sustainability

KRA's Ann Marshall, AIA led a tour of New England Environmental's new facility. NEE's Julie Marcus helped lead the tour, which walked architects from Western Massachusetts through the new building. The center has been certified LEED Platinum, their highest rating of sustainability.

NEE Presentation

Architect’s Lecture Series

Published March 9, 2012 in Conferences, KRA Extracurricular, Staff, Ann Marshall, Sustainability, Teaching

Ann Marshall will be speaking tonight at Mount Holyoke College as part of their Architect's Lecture Series.  Starting at 6:00 pm, Ann will present a case study on our LEED Platinum building for New England Environmental.


Ribbon Cutting at Village Hill

Published November 21, 2011 in Community, Historic, Staff, Aelan Tierney, Charles Roberts, Sustainability

Northampton Acting Mayor David Narkewicz (above, left), Wright Builders' Jonathan Wright (center), and Mass Development's Nancy Howard (above, right) were in attendance at the recent ribbon-cutting for Village Hill Northampton

More information about the event and photos are available from The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Think Smaller

Published November 7, 2011 in Modern Design, Publications, Staff, Charles Roberts, Sustainability

KRA's Chuck Roberts and Rachael Chase are featured in this month's Preview Massachusetts where they discuss the value of designing and building smaller homes.

Green Tours

Published September 23, 2011 in Institutional, Modern Design, Sustainability

We are excited to be participating in the 2011 NESEA Green Buildings Open House on Saturday, October 1st. Our architects will be leading tours of three of our most sustainable buildings: the UMASS Marching Band Building, New England Environmental's headquarters, and the Ken Burns Wing of the Jerome Leibling Center at Hampshire College.  All three buildings are located in Amherst, MA.

New England Environmental recently achieved LEED Platinum for New Construction, the highest rating available to LEED-certified buildings and a distinction that is shared by only four other buildings in Massachusetts. The recently-completed UMASS Marching Band Building is on-track to achieve LEED Gold certification; the Ken Burns Wing achieved LEED Gold in 2010.

NESEA's Green Buildings Open House is the largest sustainable energy event in the Northeast. For the past 15 years, the GBOH program has inspired thousands of individuals to learn about and implement energy efficient and renewable energy solutions in their buildings. The goal of the GBOH event is to enable participants to see, firsthand, energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements in their communities and motivate them to adopt similar solutions for their own buildings.

Tours will run at varying times between 10am and 4pm on October 1, 2011. More information is available on the NESEA website.

Reduce, Reuse

Published September 9, 2011 in Education, Staff, Jonathan Salvon, Sarah Nolan, Sustainability

When it came time for the University of Massachusetts Amherst to renovate the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, they had a decision to make: replace the existing auditorium seating with new chairs, or refurbish the existing chairs that had served them so well since the Fine Arts Center opened in 1975. As we assessed the options, the choice became clear.

The existing 2,023 seats were very high quality, as evidenced by their incredible condition after 35 years of use. With metal frames, simple and effective joinery, and mohair upholstery, they easily stood up to heavy use by both students and the community. Equally important, their clean lines fit the aesthetic of the hall itself.

New chairs, in contrast, were made primarily of plastic with bulkier profiles and a more expensive price tag. A decision for new chairs would also mean sending more than 2,000 functional existing chairs to the landfill. For this reason, the move to new chairs just didn’t sit right with anyone's sustainability initiatives. Refurbishing the existing seats, however, fit perfectly with the University’s efforts to conserve their resources, reduce their waste, increase their recycling, and build sustainably. 

The finishes for the refurbished chairs were carefully selected to meet performance criteria that are specific to theater design. Mohair fabric is especially durable in this setting, as its unique construction stands up well to crushing. We chose a matte black metal finish, rather than a satin or semi-gloss finish found in most furniture, so that the seats would not catch any of the stage lighting, thereby reducing distracting points of sparkle in the audience. Finally, we chose dark colored finishes so that the seats would “disappear” when the house lights went down, allowing all attention to be directed to its intended point—the stage.

By choosing to refurbish the existing chairs, the University was able to make a sustainable decision for the next generation that would use the chairs as well. They selected very high quality materials, so that the chairs will last long into the future. With new mohair upholstery, high density foam, and durable metal finish, the University is confident that the chairs will function beautifully for the next 35 years—an economically and environmentally sustainable move that they can feel good about. 

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