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Caples Jefferson Architects

Overview: The Weeksville Heritage Center is a new exhibition and research building, supporting the Weeksville Society and their restored Hunterfly Road house complex. Weeksville was a significant post-Civil War community, and this African-American heritage site contains historical structures original to one of the few identifiably prospering black American communities of 19th century New York. The Heritage Center serves as both a gateway structure, revealing to visitors the full experiential context, and a home for a diverse range of educational and preservation spaces, including classrooms, offices, galleries, performance and lecture venues, and a library.

Sustainable Features: The mission of the Weeksville Society and African-American heritage are celebrated in the design, and integrated with sustainable design features. Natural light not only illuminates the interior but creates geometric patterns that reference African weaving patterns, also thematically used in materials and motifs. The sustainable landscaping subtly evokes the site’s 19th Century past.

The design incorporates sustainable features in subtle ways. Significant energy savings are achieved through a geothermal system, with wells supplying heating and cooling. Controlled natural light suffuses all visitor and staff spaces. This extensive use of daylighting, as well as natural cross ventilation, contributes to the overall comfort and health of the occupants. Rich-looking and green materials include sustainably-harvested Brazilian hardwood, locally quarried mottle purple and green slate, and zinc roofing. The landscape is an important design element, not only as an exhibit, but for storm water management. Water flow is slowed and channeled into a primary bioswale to filter storm runoff. Water within the bioswale will continually drain through a spillway to feed a constructed wetland along Bergen Street; surplus water is positively drained to an existing drywell. Amended topsoils for both the ephemeral pond and lower wetland will be placed over a geosynthetic clay liner, according to standards for natural habitats and constructed wetlands.

Located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. 23,000 gross square feet / 19,500 net square feet on a 1.5 acre site. Construction cost of $14,000,000. Building completion 2009 (Design commenced 2004).

Client Agencies: NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; NYC Department of Design & Construction.

 LEED Info [PDF]      Project Team [PDF]

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Sustainable Site

Scale and character of historic complex enhanced
Open space protected, maintaining a community resource in a dense urban
Stormwater 100% retained and cleansed on-site
Urban Heat Island Effect mitigated
Nighttime light pollution reduced
Alternate transportation encouraged
Air pollution reduced during construction

Open space developed as an interpretive landscape exhibit, recalling 19th
Century setting
Bio-swale filters and channels storm run-off to constructed wetland. Surplus
water drained to existing drywell
Permeable, open-grid parking
Designated carpool parking and bicycle racks and showers
Urban setting near public transportation
Ultra-low sulfur fuel and clean technology to be used in construction vehicles


Water Efficiency

Potable water use reduced in building 30% over 1992 Energy Policy Act
Landscape irrigation does not use potable water

Low-flow fixtures, flow restrictors
Waterless urinals
Collected and cleansed stormwater used for irrigation
Native drought-resistant plants



Energy use reduced 26% over a baseline ASHRAE 90.1-1999
Lighting energy use reduced 22% over baseline ASHRAE 90.1
Annual energy savings of $19,700 (2005 rates)
Emissions reduced for NOx, SOx, CO2, PM
Peak-energy load reduced
Ozone depletion reduced
System-operations integrated

Geothermal heat pump open loop system for heating and cooling
Controlled daylighting for all spaces used by visitors and staff
High-performance lighting, with daylight and occupancy controls
CO2 sensors to limit energy used to condition unoccupied spaces
Envelope improved with insulation and high-performance glass
High-efficiency variable-air-volume system, fans and pump motors
Energy Star® appliances
Commissioning of systems


Material Conservation

Construction and demolition waste – 75% minimum target for diversion from
Recycled materials for a minimum of 5% of materials
Local products given preference – target 20% of materials
Forest Stewardship Council wood products required

Construction and demolition waste requirements in documents
Major materials targeted for recycled content, including fly-ash in concrete,
recycled glass counters, steel, gypsum board, toilet partitions
Major local materials targeted include concrete, structural steel, cast iron,
Vermont slate, gypsum board, and landscape materials
Certified wood for architectural millwork and exterior ipe wood


Healthy Interiors

Daylight is maximized to more than 75% of rooms
Views outside maximized to over 90% of rooms
Optimized fresh air quantities
Building systems and occupants required to be protected from construction
Reduced exposure to toxins, volatile organic compounds, urea formaldehyde

Daylight brought into the building through a variety of strategies
CO2 monitors control fresh air in areas of high and variable occupancy
Expansive glazing, operable windows, and occupant controls for thermal
Air quality management during construction; flush-out planned
Low-emitting paints, carpets, adhesives, sealants, non-urea-formaldehyde
composite woods


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