SHoP, the firm with a nose for opportunity, is starting the teens with a new retrofit business called G.Works and an in-house project designing solar panels. The idea is to put an emphasis on little fixes to big existing buildings.
G. Works got its start late last year, according to partner Gregg Pasquarelli, before the Bloomberg administration retooled legislation to make retrofits optional after energy audits of commercial buildings. With ten proposals out and one job underway, it is still hunting for clients.
A joint venture among SHoP Construction, engineering firm Buro Happold, and planning consultancy Hamilton, Rabinovich and Alschuler, the new outfit proposes, says SHoP project manager Dickson Fogleman, to help landlords get their buildings into the vanguard of energy efficiency in less time and at lower cost than a traditional retrofit would take.
The venture, which so far has only one engagement, for SL Green Realty Corporation at 100 Church Street, argues that the knotty problems of finding, billing, and rectifying inefficiencies in an old building demand a consultant who can toggle across design, engineering, and economic analysis. Fogleman says the project came about when Pasquarelli was out to dinner with John Alschuler and Buro Happold’s Craig Schwitter.
“The main reason to start a new company is that this process can be very intimidating, or bulky anyway,” said Fogleman, “when you have subcontractors, contractors, construction managers, government representatives, owners, and owner’s reps. A one-stop shop can make it more palatable.”
- Works proposes to walk through a building, audit it, and then master the renovation proposal and execution as a unified consultant.
But why is the firm that shadowed Richard Rogers in sculpting a new Manhattan waterfront and took over from Frank Gehry to shape a new Atlantic Yards so invested in older buildings? Pasquarelli argues that SHoP’s architectural acumen can make retrofits more compelling to harried landlords. “We are going to do everything with high design,” he told AN, calling attractive retrofits a new category that will grow with climate change and related regulations.
“I’ve heard students and governments ask when someone can tell that a building is sustainable,” Pasquarelli said. “A great answer is ‘when it’s full,’ but aesthetics also play a role.” With G. Works, argues HR&A vice-chairman Candace Damon, architects ingratiate themselves into energy fixes: “When Buro Happold says you’re going to have to replace all the lighting, and the landlord says, but the lobby is part of my marketing, and energy-efficient lighting is hideous, sthere’s an opportunity for architects to do fixture design and generate more business.”
Making retrofits attractive and economical has also steered SHoP into product design: HeliOptix is a solar panel that managers are supposed to be able to install and maintain more easily than traditional photovoltaic cells. A demonstration panel has gone into the Syracuse Center of Excellence’s new headquarters, a Toshiko Mori design that houses several experimental building technologies.
Pasquarelli says that SHoP’s established portfolio, including designs for clients at Atlantic Yards and the South Street Seaport, testify to the market value of urbanism in new projects. In light of those projects’ troubled financing and delays, G. Works looks like a commitment to green principles that also serves as a hedging strategy.