62 Spring Street Approved for Low Income Tax Credits

62 Spring Street Approved for Low Income Tax Credits

“We’re thrilled that this project is going ahead,” said Ethan Boxer-Macomber of Anew and Brian Curley of PDT Architects, “and we’re delighted to be partnering with Auburn Housing to provide much-needed family housing in the heart of Auburn.”

Photographing the Capital Judicial Center #1

Beautiful September Saturday morning, early, walking out over the Kennebec on the pedestrian walkway of Augusta’s Memorial Bridge. The bridge isn’t vibrating nearly as scarily as it had during the scouting trips. There’s a barrier between us and the cars and trucks, which is good because they’re whizzing by only a few feet away. I’ve explained to Sandy, the photographer, and Justin, her assistant, that we don’t have to use a ladder to shoot over the chainlink fence, and we don’t have to shoot through the holes. We can just shoot under the fence.

What is a Green School?


PDT recently led green schools presentations for each of our two newest school clients, RSU 39 in Caribou and MSAD 75 in Topsham. The presentations were educational, inspirational, participatory, and the beginning of our green schools goal setting process for each of the projects.

What is a Green School?

A green school is healthy, comfortable, energy efficient, material efficient, and easy to maintain and operate. A green school is located on an environmentally responsible site, is adaptable to changing needs, is safe and secure, and is a building that teaches. The design, construction, and operations of a green school are based on long term, life cycle costs that result in minimized environmental impact, improved occupant health and productivity, and reduced long term operational costs.

Benefits of a green school

Benefits of a green school

How do we design a green school?… With an integrative design process.

An integrative process encourages project teams to identify shared goals early in the design process, analyze synergies between all parts of the project, and explore multiple strategies to meet project performance goals. The process embeds the value and meaning of sustainability into how we work on our projects.

What this means for our work in simple terms is that we frontload the design process. • We holistically understand the existing context. • We set shared goals with the owner prior to design. • We bring all team members to the table early in the design process. • Applying systems thinking, we set up feedback loops and other collaborative procedures to optimize all the decisions we make.

We will take the conversations from each of the green schools presentations and begin to prioritize unique sustainability goals for each project. We will carry those goals throughout each project - weighing our options, considering life cycle costs, looking at synergies between systems, and making sure both clients end up with a cost effective, healthy, and environmentally friendly building that can truly enhance productivity and make education enjoyable and rewarding.

Healthy Materials

Pam Anderson, Joan Klein, Suzanne Morin, and Allison Zuchman of PDT attended the Healthy Materials Summit in Boston in November. The Healthy Materials Summit, the first to be held in New England, was a giant leap in broadening the dialogue about making a greater positive impact when choosing building materials and products. By requiring full disclosure and transparency of material composition for each product that goes into our buildings, we can challenge manufacturers, designers, specifiers, and end-users to make informed decisions not only about the environmental qualities of materials but also about how materials we choose impact human health and comfort. At the Summit, industry leaders Nadav Malin (BuildingGreen), Bill Walsh (Healthy Buildings Network), Denis Darragh (Forbo Flooring Systems), Tracey Powel (ASSA ABLOY), Heather Henriksen (Harvard Office for Sustainability), and Melissa McCullough (Environmental Health & Safety, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) spoke about where the market is now, the opportunities and challenges around driving the marketplace toward health product declarations, and the branding of their own organizations around material transparency and sustainability.

Twenty years ago the industry started promoting green materials. That translated into a myriad of products with varying degrees of recycled and regional content. Toxins were addressed most commonly with low- or no-VOC products. Today a more holistic approach is needed to also address life-cycle costs and the health impact of materials. EPD’s (environmental product declarations) and HPD’s (health product declarations) are two tools being adopted by the industry that move us in that direction.


An EPD is a summary of the environmental characteristics of a product based on its life-cycle assessment. The life-cycle assessment is based on information from sourcing and transportation of raw materials, to product installation, durability and maintenance, all the way to repurposing, recycling or disposing of the material at the end of its life.

A health product declaration (HPD), the focus of the Summit, is a nutrition label for a building product. A HPD reports a product’s contents and each ingredient’s relationship to the bigger picture of human and ecological health. A HPD increases transparency by disclosing ingredients and their potential health hazards and reduces redundancy by referencing existing hazard lists, EPD’s and other information that is available industry-wide. Unlike the EPD, the HPD has a standard, fixed reporting format which creates consistency, makes clear which information is reported and which is not, and is free to use.

For more information see the following resources: Health Product Declaration Collaborative Perkins+Will Transparency List Pharos Declare

Passive House: Keeping it Simple

The North American Passive House Networks’ 2014 Conference and Expo was in Portland, Maine on September 22nd and 23rd. Brian Curley, Bob Curtis, Marilyn Leivian and Chelsea Lipham attended from PDT Architects. To say the least, this was a cool conference to have in Portland, Maine. A few highlights from the conference can be found below. Ideas related to building science and the irrational complexity of some of our building systems were distilled into a lot of the passive house ideas – if you superinsulate the exterior envelope in a cold climate, do a proper job of sealing and eliminate thermal bridging, accommodate ventilation and corresponding heat recovery you need a much smaller (if any) heating system. I am a multifamily housing guy so I loved seeing the retrofits of the existing housing stock in the UK, Germany, Austria, Belgium, etc. be transformed into passive house standard housing for regular people - and the best part, truly using our resources properly for the greatest good by creating both comfortable and affordable housing.  --- Brian Curley, PDT Principal

Keeping it Simple

The primary objectives in creating a passive house, repeated throughout the conference, are user comfort and keeping it simple. A few strategies to achieve that are:

  • Design and construct a high performance envelope by minimizing (and eliminating) thermal bridging, super-insulating walls and ceilings, and sealing every hole!
  • Optimize indoor air quality by using HRV’s and ERV’s for ventilation, fresh air supply, and humidity control, and use low and no-VOC interior finishes and products.
  • Primary Boiler = Triple glazed windows + insulated “heat sink floors” + supplemental heat gain from occupants. (Shading devices and overhangs are critical to manage warmer weather month heat gains.)

LifeCycle Tower

Perhaps one of the most interesting presentations was given by Nabih Tahan of Cree Buildings. His presentation outlined a prefabrication process for an eight story office building in Austria that meets the passive house standards. The concrete core was built first onsite. The wall and floor assemblies (wood structure with thin concrete floor slabs) were built offsite and then assembled onsite in only 8 days.

A video of the process can be seen here:

Additional Resources

The conference was full of many other interesting presentations and ideas including panelized construction, real time temperature and humidity sensors in walls, the introduction of the PHPP (Passive House Planning Package) modelling software, and a Portland area PassivHaus tour. For more information, see the links below.


North American Passive House Network

North American Passive House Networks’ 2014 Conference and Expo

International Passive House Conference 2015

Design and Health Initiative

The AIA (American Institute of Architects) recently released two resources around their design and health initiative: the AIA Design and Health Research Consortium initiative and the document Design & Health Topics.

AIA Design and Health Research Consortium

The AIA Foundation, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture is establishing the AIA Design & Health Research Consortium to advance revolutionary, university-led research in the area of design and health. The consortium will be comprised of teams of experts in architecture and public health.

For more information and to join the consortium (submissions Due October 15th), click here.

AIA Design & Health Topics

Design & Health Topics is a document developed by the AIA's Design and Health Leadership Group, made up of nationally recognized public health officials, planners and architects in the field, to describe the scope of the architect’s role in design and health. This document outlines a framework for enhancing the health and well-being of all populations through built environment design and policy.

The World Health Organization constitution (1946) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Well-being includes social connectedness, spiritual fulfillment, life satisfaction, and happiness. These conditions depend in part upon health, and in turn contribute to health.

The built environment has an important impact on health and well-being. However, these links to health—compounded by unique cultural, demographic and geographic considerations—often extend beyond the workaday practices and vocabularies of design professionals.

The Design and Health Leadership Group recommends six evidence-based approaches to health that architects can control through design practices and policies: environmental quality, natural systems, physical activity, safety, sensory environments, and social connectedness. These approaches suggest a new minimum standard of conscientiousness as practicing architects, educators, and interns consider the implications on health outcomes.  (Source: AIA Design & Health)

To download the document, click here.

Backpacker or Urban Condo-Dweller?

At the end of July, I attended the Sustainable Design Leaders’ Summit in Seattle with 50 sustainability directors from architecture firms across the country. The discussions varied from specific project tasks such as material choices, building performance analysis, and post-occupancy evaluations to overall firm sustainability strategies and the role of the architect in advocating for sustainable practices, choices and policies in the AEC industry. Some of my favorite quotes from the conference are:

  1. The nature of all things is cooperation.
  2. We reorganize ourselves almost daily.
  3. Create bumpers, not bunkers.
  4. Are you a backpacker or an urban condo dweller?

The last two quotes are the most compelling, and curious.

Create bumpers, not bunkers

Two things come to mind.

  1. Too much uncertainty creates instability.
  2. Develop a shared baseline of knowledge.

On a design project, or any project actually, it is important to manage the uncertainty. Create enough structure for team members to move forward, and also be comfortable taking risks. Institutionalize transparency in information sharing and team process (rather than working in bunkers or silos). What are your design bumpers? What are the criteria that inform your project? Establish your playground early on. Set clear intentions and boundaries for the team to bump up against along the way to guide the creative process, but not stifle it. (Important to note: You can’t trust the process if there is not one.)

Are you a backpacker or an urban condo-dweller?

Zyliss garlic press
Zyliss garlic press

What is the tool of choice for a backpacker? A Swiss Army knife. A Swiss Army knife is a tool that does a lot of things fairly well to complete simple tasks, but does not do any one detailed task exceptionally. An urban condo dweller, on the other hand, has many specialized tools (a food processor, a coffee machine, a garlic press) to complete specialized tasks.

How does this relate to sustainable design?

Use the right tool at the right time.

During concept design analysis we use simple box models to compare various solutions. We study big-picture concepts to determine good/better/best scenarios. We compare a variety of scenarios quickly using simple tools to set the direction of the project.

We are all backpackers in concept design.

Farther along in the design process, once we have narrowed our choices to the best solutions, we start to dig deeper with more specialized tools. We are urban condo dwellers at this point—we forgo the Swiss Army knife and use specific tools to study certain technical concepts very well.

This is an important distinction. If we jump ahead to the specifics without setting goals, comparing big-picture strategies, or looking at system synergies, we are likely to miss opportunities.

Questions to consider early in your project:

  1. What are the Owner’s and the team’s values and intentions for the project?
  2. Have project goals and team processes been clearly stated to all team members?
  3. Is the project team comparing various options before jumping ahead to the details?
  4. Are team members using the right tools at the right time?

Concept Design Principles

  1. Determine project values
  2. Set clear intentions
  3. Define process, roles and tools
  4. Compare options
  5. Use the right tools at the right time

That sets us all off to a good start.

Allison Zuchman Sustainability Director

P.S. If you are in Seattle, it is worth your time to check out Islandwood (outdoor learning center) on Bainbridge Island and the Bullitt Center (net-zero, Living Building Challenge) in downtown Seattle.

Bullitt Center
Bullitt Center

Getting Down to Business on Climate

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) and the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted "Getting Down to Business on Climate: A panel discussion with Senator Angus King" on Friday, June 6 in Portland. Senator King could not predict the outcome of what he expected to be “a helluva fight” in the Senate over new rules proposed by the EPA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the country. Maine is already ahead of the game as a participant since 2007 in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has reduced our own emissions and generated $257 million in cost savings. King moderated a panel of local experts­­—among them PDT Principal Alan Kuniholm, president of the Portland Society for Architecture (PSA) —each contributing an industry perspective on the proposed rules.  Kuniholm told the crowd that Portland’s design community is actively seeking solutions for the effects of climate change, specifically PSA’s work with rising sea levels and increased occurrence of severe storm events.  PSA has sponsored a number of conferences related to this issue along with independent risk assessments studying how rising sea levels will affect the City of Portland.  (Commercial Street is especially at risk.)

Kuniholm also noted that reducing demand is key to reduce Maine’s fossil fuel consumption and power usage in general. Maine’s first school of architecture at the University of Maine at Augusta and the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code are essential resources in educating and setting standards for demand and emissions reductions.  Kuniholm invited the attendees to visit Architecture 2030, an initiative started by noted architect Ed Mazria, to learn more about how architects are at the forefront of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Bob Perciaseppe, deputy administrator of the EPA, pointed out that the government does regulate a range of unhealthy chemicals but until now has done nothing to regulate carbon. He congratulated Maine on its efforts to date and reminded us that our air, water, farms, and forests are affected daily by power plant emissions drifting east.

Economist Charles Colgan of USM debunked the notion that capping power plant emissions would harm the economy, though he noted that electric bills might rise in some parts of the country in the short term.  He cited a January 2014 report by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection indicating that Maine’s GDP did not decline as a result of the drop in emissions after 2005.

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network is likely to run a segment of Friday’s event on Speaking in Maine in the coming weeks.

The event’s keynotes and panel discussion can all be watched (Part 1 and Part 2) below:

Part 1

Part 2


Portland’s Disposable Bag and Foam Packaging Ordinances

June 17th Update: Portland council adopts fee for bags, bans foam containers (Portland Press Herald) Portland city councilors voted late Monday night to charge consumers a nickel for every disposable shopping bag they get and to ban foam containers for food and beverages in an effort to reduce trash that pollutes waterways. Both ordinances are effective April 15, 2015.

Portland’s disposable bag fee and foam packaging ban ordinances will be up for a vote by the City Council this Monday, June 16th beginning at 7pm. Supporting these ordinances will encourage people to use reusable bags and eco-friendly packaging, and will help clean up Portland’s neighborhoods, streets, and Casco Bay.

Summary of Foam Ban Ordinance: No vendor in the City shall serve or sell prepared food or packaged meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in expanded polystyrene containers . No city facilities or city sponsored events are permitted to use food service ware made from Expanded Polystyrene foam

Summary of Bag Fee Ordinance: All supermarkets, grocery, convenience and drug stores are prohibited from distributing single use disposable carryout bags (paper or plastic) to customers, but they are permitted to sell these bags for a minimum fee of 5 cents.

If you are a Portland resident and cannot attend the City Council meeting in person, you can testify by calling or emailing the city councilors.

For more information:

NRCM (Natural Resources Council of Maine): Five Cents for a Disposable Bag? No Thanks, I’ve Brought My Own!

Ecomaine: Plastic Bag Fee Moves Forward in Portland, Maine

Surfrider website that lists ban/fee structure of other cities:


ULI Strategies for a Resilient Portland Waterfront

Alan Kuniholm, PDT Principal and Portland Society for Architecture's President, is participating in events this week that are part of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Advisory Service visit to Maine. ULI is here to advise Portland and South Portland on urban design and development practices that are more resilient and adaptable to the impact of climate change.


WASHINGTON (May 8, 2014) – A group of nationally renowned land use and urban planning experts has been convened by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to make recommendations to the cities of Portland and South Portland on developing strategies for a resilient waterfront.

Conducted through ULI’s advisory services program, the panel, which will be visiting the cities May 11-16, will be evaluating many aspects of waterfront resilience, including the impact of sea level rise and storm surge on real estate values and infrastructure systems.

For full press release, click here...

The ULI panel’s recommendations will be presented at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, May 16th, at the Jewett Auditorium on the campus of Southern Maine Community College. The event is open to the public.


Sustainability Initiatives in Healthcare

Healthcare Principal Ann Fisher introduces Walt Vernon, principal and CEO of Mazzetti. Vernon spoke on "Sustainability Initiatives in Healthcare."

Walt Vernon, principal & CEO of Mazzetti, based in San Francisco, California, visited PDT last Friday to give a presentation "Sustainability Initiatives in Healthcare" to the Maine Healthcare Engineers' Society (MEHES) focused on the FGI white paper "Sustainable Design Guidelines for Hospitals and Outpatient Facilities", the ASHE Sustainability Roadmap, and the Energy Efficiency Challenge (E2C).

Sustainability Facts for Healthcare from the Sustainability Roadmap

Waste and Recycling

Vernon's talk centered around the ASHE Sustainability Roadmap and E2C.

Materials consumption in health care facilities costs health care consumers $10 billion annually in waste disposal costs. 80 percent of this waste is no different from that generated by a hotel, up to 60 percent of which is either recyclable or compostable. A standard recycling program in a hospital can reduce waste by 30–40 percent.


A hospital uses an average of 139,214 gallons of water per day. Water conservation can be achieved by using less waste through better technologies in systems and fixtures and by capturing rainwater and other “used” water for other purposes.


Hospitals consume 2.5 times more energy than other commercial buildings, spending more than $8.7 billion per year according to the EPA Energy Star program.

The Reality

Hospitals must make cost cuts to survive and thrive in the new health care reality. Facilities management is expected to contribute to cost cutting efforts. There is huge potential to generate savings through energy and resource efficiency by implementing a comprehensive sustainability program. (Source: Mazzetti)

The good news is that there are tools that can help:

FGI Sustainable Design Guidelines for Hospitals and Outpatient Facilities

This white paper provides baseline requirements for the building site, energy use, indoor environmental quality, water supply, emissions and pollutant controls, materials and resources, and waste reduction. Additional performance and prescriptive requirements are also listed for facilities desiring to reach above and beyond the baseline minimums.

ASHE Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals

The Sustainability Roadmap provides resources on best practices and low- or no-cost building tune-up strategies that can support your efforts to reduce energy use and save on energy costs

The Energy Efficiency Challenge (E2C)

Participating facilities begin by benchmarking their buildings using Energy Star Portfolio Manager and work to implement low- and no-cost energy efficiency improvements that can reduce energy consumption by at least 10 percent. E2C provides participants with real data, proven strategies, financial tools, local success stories, and fundamental concepts for saving energy.

The Lean Process in Healthcare

At the Maine Hospital Association (MHA) Conference in February in Newry, Maine, PDT designer Joan Klein attended educational sessions about how the lean process can help transform healthcare. Lean Specialist Mark Graban, along with representatives from various hospitals, spoke about what lean is and how it is helping improve their working environment. According to Graban, lean is a technique that grew out of Toyota’s business model in the 1980s to increase customer value by maximizing the flow of products and services. The process begins by identifying the value of a product or process and then identifying the steps needed to create that value. Lean looks at the whole organization as a system and looks at all the steps individuals are taking to solve a problem.

A popular misconception is that lean is only suited for manufacturing. Not true. Lean applies in every business and every process. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organization. (Source:

A few key principles of the lean process are:

  • Look inside the box first. (Collect data. Ask why.)
  • Identify what the problem really is. (Avoid jumping to conclusions. Add value.)
  • Communicate clearly. (Avoid silos. Set clear goals.)
  • Each situation has its own unique solution. (Lean is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The most obvious solution may not be the correct one.)

Solving the spaghetti diagram (aka, The answer is not always what you think.)

Source: Redington-Fairview General Hospital

At the MHA conference, John Comis of Redington-Fairview General Hospital talked about how the hospital staff used the lean process to improve patient wait time in the emergency room. The average wait time was almost three hours. The original proposed solution was to add more exam rooms.

The hospital staff decided to step back and think in a lean way to assess the problem. They analyzed a patient flow diagram (see spaghetti diagram above), which showed that patients were seeing a nurse, a physician, and the head RN in three different locations, and giving their information several times before being given a diagnosis and being treated. They were able to simplify the flow so that the patient gives the information only once to the physician and RN, who are in the same room (spaghetti diagram solved).  The waiting time for patients was reduced to less than 1 hour without adding any additional rooms.

Highlights from Building Energy 14

Five of us from PDT headed down to the NESEA Building Energy 14 conference earlier this week for all-day workshops. Read below for some highlights from our sessions, and see future posts for even more detail.

Green Firm Boot Camp

Barbara Batshalom from the Sustainable Performance Institute (SPI) talked about how AEC firms can effectively institutionalize sustainability throughout all aspects of their business – from office culture to operations to project delivery methods. Random acts of sustainability that meet some level of sustainable metrics are nowhere as important or impactful on the environment than a portfolio of projects that come from a common commitment and an information rich process. Clearly defined and articulated goals that are at the core of a firm’s best practices have much greater impact on the social, economic and built environment.

The Science and Implementation of High Performance Building Assemblies

Peter Yost from Building Green talked about the need for architects and builders to manage both energy and moisture equally in the design and construction of buildings. Managing moisture as intensely as we manage energy is key to building durability and indoor air quality (source: Building Green). Selection of materials is the crucial first step in managing bulk water, capillary action, air transport of water, and diffusion of water vapor in building assemblies. How we bring materials together into wall, floor, and roof assemblies determines building performance and the quality of human comfort.

Adventures in Building Science:  Multi-Family New Construction

Joe Lstiburek from Building Science Corporation talked about how the perfect wall needs to address four principle control layers. In order of importance, those layers are: the water control layer, the air control layer, the vapor control layer, and the thermal control layer. A building is an environmental separator – it has to keep the outside out and the inside in (source: Building Science Corporation). Just as Peter Yost stressed the importance of water management, Joe Lstiburek summed it up: Buildings get wet. Design buildings to dry.

Building Assemblies
Building Assemblies

Introductory and Advanced Multifamily Auditing and Retrofitting

This session included a panel of experts from the Community Preservation Corporation, Steven Winter Associates, Efficiency Maine, and NSTAR. The morning presentation began with the basics of how to audit an existing multifamily property - what to look at and how to analyze the infrastructure to determine the effectiveness of the existing systems.  As far as energy use analysis, some good questions to ask are: What uses energy in my building? What energy use cost me the most in my building? How energy efficient could my building be? Which building components and systems interact with each other? In the afternoon, the experts, all from different parts of New England, reviewed case studies of various types of multifamily buildings to answer detailed questions on specific buildings, specific retrofits, and specific problems.