Thursday, January 29, 2009

Roof's Going On

If I didn't have a fear of heights, I could tell you first hand about the fantastic view of the peninsula and harbor from our roof under construction. Instead I just hear from the daring carpenters that they can see all the way to downtown and then everything all around. I need to investigate adding a widow's walk to our modern lofts! 

Here are recent photos showing the roof trusses being craned into place.
This is one view out from the rear window at the top floor of the townhouses.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mixed-Use Prospects

Here is a spectacular aerial view of New Bedford's South End Neighborhood. More than 7,000 people live in the neighborhood, and more than 50 businesses operate shops providing goods and services to the community.

There's been a lot of discussion about opening a coffeehouse in this neighborhood. A venue with a relaxed open setting to meet, study, work, and access internet doesn't currently exist for the residents, students and professionals located here. 

On this blog's survey you have the opportunity to add to this discussion. We have tried to identify uses appropriate to the site. Please enter your preferences in the survey.

Below is the layout of three neighborhood commercial spaces on the ground floor of this project. The store on the corner is currently a convenience store. The center store is available for the coffeehouse and can be combined with the adjacent smaller store. Please contact if you would like further information regarding opening a business on Brock Avenue.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

SIP Assembly

Below is a sequence of photos of showing a wall being assembled as described in the shop drawings. Mark and Walter would like the manufacturer to group the panels in a wall together when delivered to the site.

Our Contractor and Local Suppliers

This recent sunny day photo was taken 12-23-08 on-site, and since then there's been just a few holidays and snow days. Given those conditions and the learning curve of installing SIPs on this project, our builder DeMaesschalck Restoration ( been doing quite well. In my experience it is best to work as a team, and over the past 6 months we have enjoyed a good working relationship with Mark DeMaeshalk and his partner Walter Collins.

Generally through the interview and bid process you find people you can have confidence in, and most folk's intentions are to do a good job. This is critical to remember, because it is easy to get frustrated during a construction project especially when it is rainy and snowy and there are plenty of details. On this project, Mark and Walter are in the process of becoming certified R-Control installers. Not only is this a smart growth project, it is a smart build project that requires the discipline of collaboration. Each member of DeMaesschalck gets this.  As designer I have seen there's a lot of detail in this project, which will be considered differently in future projects. It's a humbling experience.

Tony and I first met Fred Jacques and Kevin Arcand from Branch River Plastics ( at the Build Boston Convention. Located in the South Coast area, we contacted Branch River Plastics to prepare the first estimate when deciding to use SIPs. We looked at suppliers all over the Northeast and there are quite a few good suppliers to price panels. Branch River has a well-equipped production floor and the R Control system for producing panels. A building system should impact a design, and R Control details helped shape the townhouses.

When finalizing our construction drawings, the entire perimeter of panels in elevation was laid out. Walter and Mark made useful suggestions and pushed us to work with the advantages unique to SIP construction. The 4-foot module of the SIP panel was coordinated with the existing conditions, the intended form, and the available coastal window sizes with the intention of keeping the manufacturing and install as repetitive as possible. 3D representations tied to the shop drawings are a good idea, and even a 1/4" scale model would aid the construction process. (see model)

Our engineered framing supplier is Reliable Truss in New Bedford, who has worked very well with us. Identifying and working with Reliable Truss has been part of the strategy to support local business and support New Bedford. I really appreciate RT's understanding when our small site and trouble with the weather has delayed the shipment of our trusses. Reliable Truss and National Lumber have an extensive facility off exit 5 of Route 140.

The coastal windows arrived on-site Monday. We chose Jeld-Wen windows suggested to us by STOCK Building Supply in Lakeville. Because of the protection they offer, coastal windows cost significantly more than average windows and there are a limited number of suppliers in the Northeast. STOCK provided valuable guidance, because Jeld-Wen offers a good price, clear documentation, and availability in 3-4 weeks. The Smart Growth Residences have been designed to meet newly released updates to the Massachusetts State Building Code for 110mph windspeeds and improved energy performance; another example of smart design and smart investment.

Below is a list of other excellent subcontractors and suppliers we have used from New Bedford and the surrounding area.

Medieros Electric, Dartmouth, MA
Reliable Truss, New Bedford, MA
Beacon Sales, New Bedford
National Lumber, New Bedford
Franklin Bros, New Bedford, MA (508) 998-8270
Star Glass, New Bedford, MA (508) 995-0166
Jorge Drywall, Inc, North Dartmouth, MA (508) 999-2940
H.R. Cardinal HVAC, Fairhaven, MA (508) 995-5110
JCM Electrical Contractors, Inc., New Bedford, MA (508) 995-0165
Roger Caron II Plumbing, Fairhaven, MA (508) 991-6674
C&M Flooring, New Bedford, MA
S&L Rolloff, New Bedford, MA (508) 996-9939
Santos Masonry, New Bedford, MA (508) 997-3722
Labor Ready Systems, New Bedford, MA
Stock Building Supply, Lakeville, MA
Rivet Street Hardware, New Bedford, MA (508) 994-3211
Rogers Paint & Wall Coverings, New Bedford, MA (508) 992-2844
Blue Eagle Printing, South Dartmouth, MA (508) 994-2064
Fairhaven Lumber, Fairhaven, MA
A#1Crane Co.
South End Business Association

What's Taking Shape

A two-story residential addition is being built on top of the commercial building sometimes referred to as the olde "Crystal Market." The residences are side by side townhouses with modern open plans, and this blog has been included on website. On this site you can find information and inspiration about all things modern. 
The detailed plans are shown below, but the plan will be completely open when the SIP shell is finished being built. At this stage, the layout is adaptable to a range of alternative plans.

Below are the exterior views.

First thoughts of a student on the site

My name is Thalia Lewis, and I’m the newest team member working with Carol and Tony of effortlessdesign on the eco New Bedford/ Smart Growth on Brock Ave. project. I’m a Masters student at Boston Architectural College, and this is my first internship position in the field. I became involved in the New Bedford project (which has spanned several years) just three weeks ago, so I am climbing a steep and snowy learning curve in order to understand the ins-and-outs of this project. So far, so good. The project is incredibly exciting and unquestionably has the potential to have a profound impact on the New Bedford community. What I don’t know about Smart Growth and community building could fill volumes, but my effort as co-blogger will be to share my on-the-job learning as a participant in the project, hopefully providing some insight for others like me, who are invested in smart, sustainable community development and want become more involved and better informed.

For my first post, Carol asked me to share a bit about what I’ve learned in my initial weeks working on the project. That too, could fill volumes, but I’ll spare you the part about how I should have worn an extra set of long-johns my first day on the site (oy!).

It takes a village...
In just these few weeks, I’ve learned a fair amount about the New Bedford community: its architectural and cultural fabric, its economic triumphs and struggles. I’ve learned about the principles of Smart Growth, and how projects like Smart Growth on Brock Ave. have the potential to radically and rapidly revitalize a community like New Bedford, architecturally and economically. New Bedford already has in place the foundations of what a community needs to flourish economically in an environmentally sustainable way: limited sprawl, walkable neighborhoods, a core of thriving small businesses, a mass-transit connection to the major urban centers.

Most importantly, however, I’ve learned that in much the same way as “it takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to re-build a community. Large corporations may provide a certain kind of stimulus to a nation’s economy, but there is tremendous potential at the local level for a community like New Bedford to revitalize its own economy through small business and local investment. This understanding, alongside the notion that community development can be done in a way that is ecologically as well as economically sustainable, is at the heart of the eco New Bedford project.

The local architect has a major role to play in the re-building of a community. We are not simply designers: we are developers, planners, and master builders (as well as advocates, strategists, negotiators, politicians, publicists...). But for small-scale projects Smart Growth on Brock Ave. to have a big impact on the community, the full resources of the community must be mobilized: local architects, local contractors and suppliers, local politicians, local development agencies like the New Bedford Economic Development Council, home-grown advocacy groups like the Buzzard’s Bay Coalition, and equally, local residents (the entrepreneur, the home owner, as well as the neighbourhood kid who shovels the site when it snows). There are many roles to be played. It’s for each of us to decide what our individual role will be in the “smart” process of re-building New Bedford, and communities like it across the nation. My role, for now, is “a student on the site.”

My first day on the Brock Ave. site. Observing the installation of SIPs on the residential units. A highly educational day, which could only have been improved by wearing long-johns. For more information on SIPs, see the Dec. 27, 2008 post: SIPs - Installing Structural Insulated Panels.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

ecology – economy

When I look out over the landscape of South End New Bedford and similar urban village centers, I see plenty of untapped economic potential related to these environments. Often I see underutilized properties with investment potential particularly for the not-too-big owner-investor. Instead of building a dream home with deep impacts on its natural setting, a fascinating building project today involves adding to or rebuilding a nucleus to live. This is what we call smart growth investing. Unique to mixed-use is the ability incorporate income potential with one’s home; a new type of dream house.

Since today’s jobs often include working from home, the choice to live, work, play, and shop all within a few blocks or a very short car ride offers an authentic community lifestyle. Imagine marketing a fantastic neighborhood like the South End of New Bedford to small productive businesses involving the internet, technical solutions, research and management that could chose to locate both home and office all within a walk-able, ocean front, european atmosphere and clearly hip neighborhood. The South Coast has excellent business networks that offer venues for entrepreneurs to discuss strategies unique to the small productive business. Consider the value a bus route adds, and the need for the train connections. The village produces an exceptionally rich lifestyle; one worth serious promotion to long-time residents and newcomers alike.

It seems people seek to build their dreams, and the vision of the green home is gaining a lot of interest. The urban village center is the ideal place to work out this dream. The LEED rating system awards points for locating in established neighborhoods and reusing existing buildings. Points in the game of life are also given for contributing to a community; socially, economically, and ecologically. Construction projects are the experience of a lifetime, and precious investment dollars require a team effort and value driven plans. Be prepared that design services and consultation will reduce costs and increase value. Be inspired to do no less than take back our economy and invigorate free enterprise to restore stability and construct our future way of life.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Contribution to the Neighborhood

As someone with no formal background in architecture, I was pleased to have the opportunity to see this project in motion as it is being built. It is clear that effortless is combining innovative design with green building practices in a way that serves the community. Their commitment to keep the first floor store open during their build process shows what a contribution this project is to the neighborhood. I look forward to following the continued progress and success of this project.