Passive House & LEED Platinum Historical Renovation and Tower Expansion. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency

This project expanded PHFA’s headquarters by nearly 40,000 square feet. The addition and renovation are designed to Passive House, and LEED Platinum sustainability standards—a first for a corporate building in the United States.

May 4, 2020

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Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) had continued agency growth which fueled a major expansion for a new 8-story tower and renovations to historic Hickok House, which occupies Locust Street frontage. Both are integrated with the original building, no small challenge given the site constraints.

This project expanded PHFA’s headquarters by nearly 40,000 square feet. The addition and renovation are designed to Passive House, and LEED Platinum sustainability standards—a first for a corporate building in the United States.

Combining Venerable and Visionary

The project protected three historical buildings flanking the new tower. The Hickok House was built in 1904 within the National Register Historic District of the City. The building was deteriorating and in 2011, the Historic Harrisburg Association Board (HARB) placed it on its list of endangered properties. PHFA purchased the building and worked with HARB for years to arrive at a design that would satisfy both parties.

The exterior facade of the mansion was restored to its former glory, but the façade was too porous to support Passive House standards. This was solved by building a new, air-tight barrier “inside” the exterior

facade that adhered to Passive House certifications. This solution allowed the historic facade to be preserved while upgrading its energy performance. Asbestos, lead-based paints and other hazards were removed and replaced with environmentally friendly materials such as low VOC paints and materials made with recycled plastic products.

On the east side of the tower are two clapboard homes that are some of the first structures in the city. The tower’s new foundation was cantilevered eastward with a two grade-beam foundation. This eliminated passive excavation and assured no damage to the stone foundations of the two historical homes.

Impervious to Pervious

The project transformed an urban “impervious” parking lot into the base for an eight-story energy efficient tower with a roof that is completely previous, assisting with stormwater run-off. The historic building’s roofing system now has a portion of a recessed “well” that utilizes a white TPO membrane providing a cool roof that reflects sunlight and absorbs less heat than a standard roof. These roofing systems will reduce fossil

fuel consumption by decreasing air conditioning and heating loads. The tower’s living or green roof also produces its own oxygen, reducing carbon dioxide emissions to offset global warming.

A Healthy Environment Inside and Out

A staff-centric work environment is the result of careful space planning as well as application of 21st century interior design principles. The program encompasses departmental office suites, breakout and flex space, and collaboration areas. Technology, ergonomics, color, texture, pattern, and lighting combine to create a lively, comfortable and high-functioning workplace. Raised flooring systems are the source for heating, cooling and fresh air. Return air ceiling plenums promote a healthy interior environment by removing all particulates from the staff areas.

The living roof system offers multiple benefits. Among them are improved stormwater management, energy

conservation, increased longevity of roof membranes, reduces urban heat island mitigation, and a higher return on investment compared to traditional roofs.

Economic Impact

This expansion project will allow PHFA to continue to grow its staff, which will also benefit the downtown

core economically. Plans are already underway to eventually have PHFA start servicing home loans for housing finance agencies around the country. That work will be possible in great part thanks to the space provided in the new tower.

Some of the space in the adjoining Hickok House, will be shared with business partners and local community

groups, which will educate more people about Passive House buildings and will bring more economic benefit to the city of Harrisburg.

The long-term savings to PHFA should be substantial as the structure is considered super energy efficient due to its design and the construction materials used.

All Photography © 2020 Don Pearse Photographers, Inc.


“Benedict Dubbs, one of the firm’s principals, worked with us for months prior to bidding developing the design. The overall concepts of form and function are his,” said Mike Kosick. “Mike Frye, the other principal and their in-field representative, was onsite no fewer than twice a week and was on call anytime we needed him. Last but certainly not least was Murray Associates’ Rob Hutchins. He was the actual day-to-day, nuts and bolts architect, who was the design team lead person. I believe we shortened his life expectancy by five years on this job! The entire design group and their consultants, we’ve been able to hammer the unforeseen situations out as they arise.”

Mike Kosick PHFA’s director of technical services May 5, 2020

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