Editorial: Looking Back Toward the Future

July 1, 2008

Breathing new life into an old building always makes for a good story. Not only does adaptive reuse extend
the life of a space and contribute to more sustainable communities, but also, it can transform a bleak, decrepit building into a beautiful, hospitable place to be.

That was certainly the case with Boston's newly renovated Liberty Hotel, the subject of this issue's cover story. Once a 19th century prison, the aptly named Liberty Hotel stands in stark contrast to its previous life as the Charles Street Jail and artfully blends historic architecture with a contemporary design aesthetic.

Although it's typically a more costly approach than new construction, adaptive reuse seems to be catching on in many parts of the country. "People are beginning to value historic buildings," says the Liberty Hotel project's principal-in-charge, Gary Johnson, AIA, of Cambridge Seven Associates in Cambridge, MA. "In Boston in particular, due to the historic fabric of the city, there is interest in maintaining existing building stock, bringing these buildings to current standards." And as contributing writer Elzy Kolb notes, with the current interest in the greening of America, the rest of the country is likely to follow suit with adaptive reuse projects such as the Liberty Hotel.

I hope she's right, because there is a much greater opportunity to make an impact on our national environmental footprint with existing buildings than with new ones. According to a recent New York Times report titled, "Green Buildings Don't Have to Be New," new buildings "represent a small fraction of the nation's estimated 4.5 million commercial properties, many of which were erected decades ago before sustainable, or green, designs became de rigueur."

In fact, combining preservation and sustainability is a key mission for practitioners like Whitney Powers, AIA, principal of Studio A Architecture, who says "the sheer number of older, existing buildings represents a much larger opportunity to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions that contribute to global warming than the comparatively small number of new structures erected each year."

Powers explains in a recent press release that "the real challenge for LEED® in the future, especially with regards to historic preservation, comes with recognition of the nuances that relate to regional differences in construction and the use of natural energies. Knowledge of these differences in energy demands, materials and durability will spell the maturing of the LEED system with regards to historic preservation," she adds.

In our ongoing effort to help design practitioners better understand and identify green materials and products, Interiors & Sources, in partnership with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), proudly announced the introduction of The Bloom Awards at the NeoCon® World's Trade Fair in Chicago this past June. The Bloom Awards will recognize products that exemplify sustainability and innovation in the interior design of commercial spaces. Submissions will be judged by a panel of distinguished industry professionals comprised of ASID members and Interiors & Sources editors. The winners will be announced at Greenbuild in Boston, November 19-21.

Speaking of great products on the market, don't miss our NeoCon Product Wrap-Up. This section features several of the many fantastic products at the show that caught our attention. As you might expect, NeoCon was brimming with an array of new product offerings that were truly outstanding, and green products continued to flourish throughout the Mart.

Trends we noticed here in the editorial department included a distinct influence from the residential sector in healthcare environments (and even in corporate environments in some cases); a rethinking of the way we interpret collaborative work with an emphasis on more relaxed and flexible seating and teaming areas; a continued move toward lower panel heights in workstations to allow for daylight; and innovative uses of space and technology to optimize comfort and productivity. While nature-inspired patterns were still prevalent, we noticed a more literal interpretation of forms this year in various products, including fabrics and carpet.

Lastly, I would like to thank those who have expressed concern for us here at Stamats Business Media following the recent flooding in Iowa. Despite the physical damage to our headquarters in Cedar Rapids, the extraordinary dedication and unwavering resolve displayed by Stamats employees has ensured that all daily business operations continue to perform at optimal levels. We are already rebuilding what has been lost—preserving what we can from the past while looking toward a positive future.

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