Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Meet Mr. Slim!

Hello visitors, and welcome back to the Heritage House Blog! As we continue working on the Heritage House Program please continue to visit as there will be regular updates on several projects that are currently underway.

One of the goals of the Heritage House Program is to rehabilitate and restore underused houses in order to create financial sustainability for Strawbery Banke. However, financial sustainability is not the only important aspect of this project. Strawbery Banke is also working to make sure that these houses are environmentally sustainable and efficient so as to lower the cost of bills for renters, as well as contribute to the green movement that is important to the sustainability of the environment.

As rehabilitation and construction on the Rueben Shapley Townhouse is well underway, we thought we would give you a glimpse into the to installation of the several energy efficient and cost effective HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems that will be placed into the fourteen rental units and additional common areas that will be used. Chief Curator, Elizabeth Farish met with John Schnitzler, Preservation Carpenter, to get a more detailed look into the heating and cooling systems that will be installed in mid-July.

The Shapley Townhouse will be operating with a multi-split Mitsubishi "Mr. Slim" HVAC unit. This system was chosen for a number of reasons.  First and foremost because it is a minimally invasive way to introduce heating and air conditioning to sensitive historic building material.  Its multi-split capabilities allows each unit to be heated or cooled separately from one another, creating separate electric bills per unit and a higher energy efficiency for the entire building. Each heating and cooling unit is controlled individually by separate thermostats so each room creates its own zone for complete control of the renters. This HVAC unit is electric, however it is modulated to operate only to the degree that it needs to run. The heating or cooling systems will not run at full capacity per unit if it is not needed within a rental space. One of the great advantages to this system is its cost effectiveness. Each Mr. Slim heating and cooling unit have their own meters, which means that the electric bill will be monitored individually lessening the cost for the building as a whole. Individual remote control thermostats are also placed in each rental space. As opposed to the electric bill being split twelve ways, each renter will be in control of their own electricity usage. Furthermore, if a problem should ever arise with one of the HVAC units, it can be dealt with individually and will not affect the other units in the building.

Several Mr. Slim units that will be placed outside, connected to wiring, and covered by a fence so they are hidden from view.

These wires will be connected to the individual unit meters and its Mr. Slim counterpart, providing the energy for use and monitoring the individual units' energy usage.

A fantastic advantage to using this system is that it preserves building material and the overall aesthetic of the building. Installation requires that the system simply be screwed into the wall and is then connected to two copper pipes that run inside a wooden chase to be easily hidden from sight. This system is a simple, non-destructive was of creating not only heat, but especially air conditioning. There are no holes or floor grates involved with this HVAC system, only the unit itself as it is mounted on the wall. The size of each unit depends on the size of the room. The smaller the room, the smaller the unit will be. The only invasive aspect of this system is the wooden chase that was built in order to cover the piping, however as you can see from the photo below it is located discreetly in the corner of one of the office spaces and does not detract from the attractiveness of the room. The piping in the wooden chase runs straight up into closets and behind insulation on the second and third floors, making the intrusion on those levels non-existent.

John Schnitzler, Preservation Carpenter showing the minimally invasive wood chase that hides the unit's piping. The heating/cooling unit is mounted on the wall to John's right.


In the common areas of the Shapley Townhouse, there will be a traditional radiant heating system put in place. A series of hot water radiators are heated by a natural gas boiler, keeping in line with the sustainable mission we are embracing. This system will use Runtal Radiators which are minimally invasive, just like the Mitsubishi Mr. Slim HVAC systems that are installed individually within each office space. The Runtal Radiators are flat, small, and will be efficiently flush mounted on the walls of the hallways on the first, second, and third floors.

Unlike a regular radiator you are unable to see through the grates on the Runtal radiators and they do not collect dust on the inside so there is a minimal amount of cleaning that needs to be done in order to maintain these units. This system will also be connected to a modulating boiler system so that it is not always running at full capacity when it is not needed, but if for some reason the heating system needs to operate at a higher capacity it has the complete ability to do so. This heating system temperature will be managed by the museum, and not the individual tenants.

The bathrooms, which will be common areas, will be heated electrically as well. The bathrooms have been super-insulated--meaning less electricity will be needed to heat and cool those areas as needed. In addition to the super-insulation, a space heater and fan are installed in the wall, minimizing the visibility and size of the unit. Because of the location of the upstairs bathrooms, they receive ample amount of daylight in order to keep the room warm in colder months with help from the insulation. The actual heating system will probably only need to be used at night and will be controlled by the museum.

We see these HVAC systems as an exciting opportunity for the museum because not only are we helping to create an environmentally sustainable structure, but we are also dedicated to keeping the historic feel of the house in tact. Rehabilitation and preservation are important to us as we continue with this process and we strive to bring modern comforts to the houses without compromising the historic integrity that inspires us to do our work.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Heritage House Program

Hello, visitors! Welcome to the Strawbery Banke Museum Historic Preservation blog! The summer of 2012 is in full swing and we hope you consider a visit to the museum in the coming months to witness all the wonderful opportunities and events that Strawbery Banke has to offer.

As a nationally registered historic site and museum, one of Strawbery Banke’s goals is to preserve the historic integrity of the 35 buildings located on the ten-acre property. Curators, preservationists, architects and contractors have been hard at work creating and implementing the exciting plan that will rehabilitate ten underutilized properties on museum grounds in order to lease them as residential or commercial spaces. This endeavor has been named The Heritage House Program. And through this rehabilitation program Strawbery Banke has three goals:

--The restoration of the exterior to a specific period in order for them to remain an integral part of the museum.

--To provide Portsmouth with attractive residential and office spaces for rent in these historic houses, returning underused space back into use.

--To generate an income stream that will not only help to maintain the buildings, but contribute to the long-term financial sustainability of Strawbery Banke.

As of now, the Lowd, Winn, Hough, Shapley-Drisco, Jones, Rueben Shapley and Wheelright Houses have been completed and rented. These are a mix of residential and commercial units. Among current rehabilitations is an ambitious project underway to rehabilitate the Shapley Townhouse and convert the interior to office space.

Future posts will explore the Shapley Townhouse project, as well as ongoing work at the Leonard Cotton Tenant House and the planning process for the Thales G. Yeaton House. This blog will document the progress made on current projects as well as the beginning stages of the work being done on new ones.

 While it is an expensive and time-consuming process, it is also one that will add financial stability to Strawbery Banke, and educationally enrich the lives of visitors and tenants who visit the museum every summer. The museum staff is very excited to start and finish these projects, as well as document all that happens in between!

In order to remain historically accurate, the museum will follow the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for the treatment of historic properties. There are four different types of treatment that can occur under these standards and they include preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction. They are defined by the Secretary as follows:

What is Preservation?
"Preservation is defined as the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property. Work, including preliminary measures to protect and stabilize the property, generally focuses upon the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction. New exterior additions are not within the scope of this treatment; however, the limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a preservation project." 

What is Rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation is defined as the act or process of making possible a compatible use for a property through repair, alterations, and additions while preserving those portions or features which convey its historical, cultural, or architectural values.” 

What is Restoration?
"Restoration is defined as the act or process of accurately depicting the form, features, and character of a property as it appeared at a particular period of time by means of the removal of features from other periods in its history and reconstruction of missing features from the restoration period. The limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a restoration project." 

What is Reconstruction?
“Reconstruction is defined as the act or process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location.”

Here at Strawbery Banke we work to rehabilitate and preserve historic structures and landscapes. Countless hours of research are done not only on the physical conditions of the houses, but the family histories as well. By focusing on more than just the architectural aspects of preservation, Strawbery Banke creates a learning environment for people of all ages, and visitors from all over the country. The Heritage House Program opens up amazing possibilities to locals or people planning to move to the state who wish to learn more about Portsmouth and its rich history. 

Cotton Tenant House Restoration

Grants from LCHIP & 1772 Foundation

If you would like more information you can visit or come visit Strawbery Banke and see the process for yourself! Updates on the Heritage House Program will be posted regularly throughout the process, so please come back and continue reading. We look forward to seeing you at the museum!