Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Building green at Miller's Court

Tonight I toured a fine example of historic preservation and green building at Miller's Court:  this former tin box factory run by the American Can Company in south Charles Village has been reborn as a hybrid office/apartment building that houses non-profit organizations and young teachers enrolled in the Teach for America program.  Marks Thomas Architects collaborated with local developer Manekin on this socially conscious real estate project.  The LEED gold-certified building houses 40 apartments and 30,000 square feet of office space, arranged in a U-shape around a grassy courtyard within walking distance of Johns Hopkins University.

One aspect of the building I particularly like is that the design was intended to encourage social interaction between residents:  historically there is a high dropout rate from the Teach for America program (I've heard teaching in Baltimore City schools compared to trench warfare), but the community spirit fostered in this building gives the residents a sort of support network that has improved program retention.  The easy camaraderie between them makes the place feel a bit like a college dorm, if you overlook the trendy exposed-brick walls and bamboo flooring.  The courtyard, fitness room, and open lounges facilitate gatherings, as well as the copy room that the architects designed in lieu of the laundry room idea rejected by potential residents.

The engineer in me likes that the mixed-use building program is mutually beneficial to office and residential occupants:  this combination optimizes the limited city parking by allowing daytime office users to share parking spots with the apartment dwellers who only park there on evenings and weekends.  Another plus is that the air conditioned by the building's commercial-grade high-efficiency mechanical equipment often spills over into the apartments, thus reducing their heating and cooling bills.

Speaking of savings, the apartment webpage mentions $300-600 discounts for Baltimore area teachers.

This tour was sponsored by the USGBC Maryland chapter's Young Members group.  Ask me about joining their email list.

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