|14 Aug 2023
|2023 Home Tours
Being a homeowner contemplating the decision to hire an architect unveils a series of pivotal questions that underscore the benefit of collaboration. With our upcoming Home Tours | by local Architects, we would like to educate the public on the value of architecture. For this particular home the architect was also the client, which creates a unique perspective. Check out these personal questions answered by a homeowner who hired an architect.
1. How or why did you decide to hire an architect, and what were your initial expectations before starting the project?
2. How well did the architect incorporate your preferences and lifestyle needs into the project?
3. What is something that surprised you about the process of working with an architect?
4. What was a challenge while working on the project, and how did you and the architect collaborate on a solution?
As architects AND clients, we love to design for ourselves, whether furniture, lighting or a building. We like to take the opportunity to learn about materials and technology and apply the knowledge we have accumulated to our own projects. We see our projects as opportunities to practice on ourselves. By understanding what works for us, we gain insight into what drives our decisions and what may work for clients. Every project and situation is unique, so there's always something new to learn. We also want to push the practical boundaries of building science and aspire to lead by example. Our financial limitations require us to carefully consider and balance the value proposition of each design decision. We also get to have fun personalizing our spaces and stretching our design chops. For example, we designed our sofa, dining room chandelier, coffee table, stool, and console table. We look at our buildings as ways to support and encourage our behavioral transition toward a more sustainable lifestyle.
This particular home is a 4-unit apartment building we've owned for a quarter century. When we started the project, we examined our long-term goals keeping the big picture in mind. In addition to upgrading the outdated systems and tired, worn finishes, we wanted to reconfigure some apartments and add and enlarge bathrooms and kitchens to improve rental income. We also wanted to gut rehab and convert the ground floor offices into a bilevel Owners' unit and professional office, leading us to underpin and finish the basement.
Renovating a four-unit historic masonry rowhouse in Center City, Philadelphia, is ambitious. Overlaying Passive House, the world's most rigorous energy standard, challenged us in many ways – financially, constructionally, and logistically, through design, building science, and aesthetics. We are lucky to have a robust, sustainable community in the Delaware Valley to share our triumphs and stumbles. We designed it with Passive House performance in mind. We wanted to provide a great living experience for our tenants (and ourselves) by giving them energy-efficient, comfortable, and healthy places to live. We also wanted to meet both our sustainable financial goals and environmental goals.
We previously designed several major renovation projects for ourselves: we gut-rehabbed a South Philly rowhouse twenty-one years ago, and six years later, we repurposed a mixed-use building to house BluPath's architecture office and a rental apartment. The rowhouse was wonderfully daylighted, a better-than-average energy-efficient home, with hot water radiant floors tied to a hot water solar panel system
(great for drafty buildings), rainwater barrels, and a permeable backyard. We look back on it as our 'green dinosaur'- we know so much more today! We learned about Passive House's best practices. We employed our new knowledge in renovating our mixed-use building, using spray foam to improve air tightness, insulate, and install a high-efficiency heat pump HVAC system for the office project.
We recognize that design and construction, and all the supporting trades, is a collaborative effort. The whole team that makes any building possible takes a range of skills, expertise, experience, and effort. We had setbacks, lessons learned, and victories too. We're excited to grow into our next challenge!
Check out more about the upcoming Home Tours (Oct. 14-15) and register here: https://aiaphiladelphia.org/event/2023-aia-philadelphia-home-tours-homes-by-local-architects
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