2015 Bmore Resilient Design Competition: Honorable Mention – Entry #1530

Team: Richard Thurmond, Lauren Thurmond, Dirk Geratz, Jens Geratz, Zarena Thomas, Linda Conrad, David Pindell | School: Salisbury University
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Project Narrative


Our design objective was to create resilient solutions that could be applicable to any typical Baltimore rowhouse.

Our sustainable approach is to maintain and celebrate the good qualities of a Baltimore rowhouse block. These include preserving the simple brick facades and beloved marble steps as well as the street grid pattern and rear alleys. Our team visited the block and spoke to several neighbors who informed us of their issues, concerns and hopes for their community. The team members felt it important that current residents are included in the revitalization process.

Key principles that guided our ideas include these three “C” concepts:

  • Comfort – create energy efficient and attractive homes out of the typical Baltimore rowhouse;
  • Community – create a sustainable infrastructure in the streets and alleys that promote community engagement and safe public spaces;
  • Continuity – use cutting edge materials and systems that can be adapted to the typical rowhouse.

The following recommendations could become part of a living “how to” document that can be used throughout Baltimore to create sustainable communities.

Co-ops or strong community associations could be a tool to help promote and maintain our team’s recommendations.

Comfort | Rowhouse Resiliency

Our team is focused on rehabilitating existing rowhouses where possible. The team proposes the following:

  • Backpack – Create a backpack approach whereby several energy efficient elements and systems (such as ventilation and rainwater pillows) are incorporated into one rooftop component that can be used to retrofit or replace existing roof structures. The backpack creates the space necessary to mount the whole house fan between the living space and attic as well as increased insulation.
  • Ventilation – use whole house ventilation for cooling an entire house, since heat is the number one natural hazard killer in many cities. Openings can be located in in basements to draw air flow from lower floors through the stairwell and out through the roof.
  • Green walls or living walls – use on exposed walls resulting from adjoining vacant lots. This can protect buildings and reduce temperature fluctuations of the envelope, primarily for west and south facing walls. Greenwalls can improve air quality, acoustics, and support energy savings.

Community | Streetscape Resiliency

The team’s focus is on enhancing the livability and the environmental conditions of the streets, alleys and vacant parcels through the following proposals:

  • Energy Co-ops – optional co-ops could share and manage neighborhood-wide energy systems such as solar farms, wind power and rainwater collection for irrigation.
  • Streets – manage rainwater through pervious paving material for the on- street parking lanes, capturing a significant volume of rainwater which gets treated through sand filters. Existing brick gutters are preserved and repaired or reconstructed to complement the pervious pavement and preserve the existing character.
  • Rainwater bump-outs – install at street intersections to capture rainwater run- off. The bump-outs are landscaped using water tolerant plants and contain engineered porous soils to provide filtration. These bump-outs have the added benefit of traffic calming and creating safer pedestrian crossings.
  • Trees – shade trees or fruit trees are recommended along street frontages with an emphasis on south and west facing facades to cool the streets and homes. Trees are planted in continuous tree trenches for healthy root growth.
  • Alleys – redesign alleys to facilitate social interaction and sense of identity, community pride, as well as providing a greenway connection between communities. We recommend creating a meandering greenway with parklets on either side. Rear yards would be reduced to 10 – 15 feet to increase the alley space to 20 feet or more. An optional co-op could manage and maintain the alley. This car-free space would allow for community picnics, seating areas, and safe places for children to play and ride bikes. Pervious pavement is used to reduce rainwater runoff and green the alleys while still allowing service and emergency vehicles.
  • Vacant Lots – Vacant lots can be used for larger park areas and community gardens. Communal storage space for covered bike storage and trash can be established to address concerns identified by neighbors.

Continuity | Materials/Systems Resiliency

The team is specifying a variety of optional materials and systems to include:

  • Whole house ventilation and dehumidification – more than an attic fan, a whole house ventilation unit draws air out of the entire house by drawing air from throughout the house to keep it cool. These systems use energy equal to a light bulb, significantly less than air conditioning;
  • White roof – a “cool” roof using a single-ply membrane that reflects 85% of sunlight, thereby keeping the rowhouse cooler;
  • Green roof – as an alternative to a white roof a “living” or green roof would work well with the flat roofs, typical of the rowhouses. Green roofs are known for their insulating efficiencies;
  • Solar panel farms – use the rowhouse’ flat roofs to create large interconnected solar farms;
  • Redundant electric systems – use of multiple stems such as wind and solar to limit the occurrence of power outages.
  • New windows – use double insulted windows with argon gas and low E coating. The team recommends a casement window with traditional mullion pattern to preserve rowhouse character. Casement windows are especially effective for ventilation because they tend to direct the greatest amount of airflow into the living space;
  • Whole house denim insulation – or natural cotton fiber insulation result in higher insulation efficiencies and have the added benefit of providing a 30 percent higher sound insulation rating than traditional insulation.
  • Rainwater harvesting – use a customizable rainwater storage system or pillow that can be incorporated into our roof backpack. The filtered rainwater is collected off the roof and channeled to the pillow where it is stored. The water can then be used for non-potable uses or for potable use with additional EPA approved filtration.
  • Wind turbines – this technology continues to evolve creating smaller systems suited for residential installations.
  • Composting toilets – a great way to reduce water use and the average water bill. The waste can be collected and used to create fertilizer.

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