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Buffalo firm to receive awards for preservation projects

Upgrading a building’s energy efficiency is a daunting project for any property owner.

Imagine tackling those jobs on cavernous old buildings, especially to the exacting standards for structures with historic designations or for projects seeking federal historic tax credits.

Next month, a Buffalo-based firm will be recognized by the Preservation League of New York State for overcoming such challenges in renovating three properties: the Tishman Building and the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, both in Buffalo, and the former Remington Rand factory in North Tonawanda.

Carmina Wood Morris, an architectural, engineering and interior design firm, will receive three of the league’s eight awards for 2014 that highlight the best preservation development projects in the state.

“This recognition is so rewarding because we had three different projects with three different sets of challenges,” said architect Steve J. Carmina, who oversaw the Lafayette Lofts project. “We have been working with enlightened development partners that allow us to bring forth our special expertise to keep Buffalo’s historic past alive.”

Built in 1894, the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church still holds Sunday services, although its massive sanctuary was downsized for a smaller congregation, with part of the sanctuary converted into an assembly hall. Elsewhere in the complex, the renovations include 21 residential units and a commercial kitchen under the redevelopment by Port City Preservation.

Architect Jonathan A. Morris oversaw the Tishman and Remington projects.

“I would say the biggest challenge was trying to bring a 1959-era building up to current standards for office and residential space,” Morris said of the Tishman project.

Redubbed 10 Lafayette by the developer, the building’s exterior curtain wall – single-paned glass with aluminum framing – is a nod to its mid-century modern pedigree. “We had to leave that in place and restore it,” Morris said.

Current energy guidelines for the skin of the building also had to be met. That was accomplished by adhering new panels of double-paned glass to the interior glass. “From the outside, it didn’t change the look,” Morris said.

Inside the four walls of the 20-story building, Morris said, there was plenty of flexibility for laying out hotel rooms, luxury apartments and three floors of office space for the developer, Hamister Group. The tricky part was the mechanicals.

“Before, it was a central system and everyone got the same heat and cooling,” said Morris. “Now we’ve got all sorts of individualized systems.”

Mechanical systems were installed in the existing foot of space between the ceiling and floor slab above, Morris said.

The challenges at Remington Lofts included a structural issue dating back to an early 20th century addition to the circa-1890s building.

Typewriters and motors for carousels, among other things, once were made at the former factory on Sweeney Street. Redeveloped by The Kissling Interests, it’s now home to 81 luxury apartments, a restaurant and other commercial tenants.

“The biggest problem with this building was the section they built in 1917,” said Morris. All of the steel-reinforced concrete floor slabs in the middle of the building had to be reconstructed, without rebuilding or changing anything on the exterior.

The windows that stretch almost floor to ceiling was another. The structure was built in an architectural style known as “daylight factory,” designed to improve the work space and environment.

Those original windows had single panes of glass in steel frames. “They were all in very poor condition. There was no energy performance on the skin of the building at all,” Morris said.

The restoration had to keep the building’s appearance the same as it was in the 1920s. Morris said it took almost a year of back-and-forth with state and federal historic preservationists to design new energy-efficient windows with aluminum frames.

“We came up with an entirely new window system,” said Morris. “We designed all the mullion profiles to match the original steel ones.”

That window system now is used on similar projects elsewhere.