The Architects Building, built in 1929, was designed by a consortium of 20 prominent Philadelphia based architects. The 26-story Art Deco high-rise located in Philadelphias Rittenhouse Square neighborhood is part of a National Historic District and the longtime home to the Philadelphia chapter of the AIA. The building was conceived to be the center for the citys architecture profession and building industry. For the early part of the 20th century, the building functioned as envisioned and housed Architecture and Engineer firms, construction companies and others in the design and construction industry.
Unfortunately, like many early 20th century urban office towers, it became obsolete due to its small floor plates, antiquated building systems and several code issues. Nearly vacant, the building was in severe disrepair. Only two options remained- raze the building or repurpose it.
Finding use for existing building stock once they have outlived the purpose for which they were designed helps maintain both neighborhood character and the city skyline. The embodied energy in an existing building of this size is significant. Energy used to forge steel, bake brick and transport materials for a new structure far outweigh any energy savings that can be achieved through other methods.
Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants has long been aware of the benefits of the adaptation of significant architectural structures. Both the B O Railroad building in Baltimore and the landmark 1839 Washington DC post office have been converted into Kimpton hotels. With an interest in the Philadelphia market, they purchased the Architects Building with the goal of converting it into a four-star Hotel Palomar. Kimpton wanted to use the artistic background and history of this building to craft the story for a new boutique hotel.
The slender tower was a challenge for programming, but provided an appropriate canvas for Kimptons intimate boutique experience. Early programming explored planning options to achieve as many keys as possible on each floor plate. This helped maximize potential RevPar Revenue Per Available Room, a key financial measure for hotels. Strategic planning and coordination accommodated 230 guestrooms, a restaurant and all the required public spaces.
Various programs used to measure sustainability were reviewed and the United States Green Building Councils Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED program was chosen for the project. The team developed a unique checklist to study the feasibility of LEED implementation and identify the constraints for design. This helped Kimpton make informed decisions on initial cost and return on investment, as well as define an ideology on sustainability for the project. The effort took place over a four-week period and quickly created an environment of collaboration. The Palomar is the only hotel in Philadelphia to offset 100 of its energy through the purchase of renewable energy credits RECs.
To ensure the building systems operate as designed and with the optimal efficiency, Enhanced Commissioning, a third party review process, was employed on the project.
A model of adaptive re-use, the interior tenant floor build-outs were completely removed and the faade underwent a partial exterior renovation to its elegantly detailed masonry, terracotta and bronze storefront and complete window replacement. A new second interior fire stair was added to meet life safety requirements. Full handicapped accessibility was provided through the rehab of existing and addition of new elevators. A redefined and appropriately styled main entrance, accompanying signature restaurant and penthouse ballrooms further transformed this formerly class C office building.
The building envelope, neglected in recent decades, needed to be more energy efficient. The historically significant single pane, steel frame windows and doors were replaced with energy efficient insulated units. The new units needed to closely match the existing windows in sight lines, composition and color as required by the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service. The goal of achieving historic tax credits mandated careful consideration and treatment of the historic elements of the building and required review and approval.
From a business perspective, this property also serves as a marketing tool for Kimpton. Its the first property that physically embodies their commitment to sustainability and will serve as their new benchmark for future projects.
Kimptons Earth Care initiative, an innovative corporate policy on sustainable operations, not only provided an additional LEED point but it inspired the design team to align Kimptons established operational practices with sustainable design goals for the hotel. Kimpton also uses the property to inform and educate hotel guests and the public on sustainable practices it employed. Sustainable attributes of the property are communicated to guests through comprehensive signage, tours and pamphlets. The Philadelphia Palomar is the first LEED certified property in Kimptons portfolio and the first LEED certified hotel in Philadelphia.
Pursuing sustainable strategies for materials and systems was at times cost prohibitive which resulted in prioritizing and developing a hierarchy in implementation of sustainable goals to meet the clients program, schedule and budget. Material sourcing presented the greatest challenge. The design team had to custom create and specify much of the furniture, window treatments and wall coverings to encompass environmentally friendly options.
Sustainable materials were infused throughout the project. Recycled glass was used extensively in materials such as the bar tops, decorative feature tiles in lobby and terrazzo tile in every guestroom bath. Sofa covers were made of recycled plastic bottles and pillows of natural fiber.
The hotel represents the successful integration of sustainable principles and practices with the clients story for the property. Kimptons Art in Motion premise is infused throughout the hotel through innovative design, respectful and responsive architecture and artwork, and is further enhanced by the projects commitment to environmental responsibility. As Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirers architecture critic, pointed out in her Proving green can be gorgeous article on October 2, 2009, The real accomplishment of the Palomar is that is proves that green design can be as stylish and plush as the less earth-friendly variety.
From inception to its opening on October 15, 2009, this 156,000 square foot project spanned 2.5 years.