Articles

Many Ways to Save

Many Ways to Save

With the end of Epiphany this past week, the Christian church has entered into Lent, a period of 40 days of reflection and self denial. With the cold winter we have had here in Rhode Island and the dramatic climate events occurring around the world with increasing and alarming frequency, there is much to be reflective about. More

Newport: 375 Years of Great Architecture

Newport: 375 Years of Great Architecture

As Portsmouth ends the celebration of its founding 375 years ago, Newport’s celebration of the same birthday is just beginning. There are very few communities in America that have been around longer than Newport and none that are better preserved from an architectural standpoint. Since its founding in 1639, Newport has gone through an amazing number of phases: from early colonial settlement to major port to war-ravaged wasteland to Victorian Era watering hole for the wealthy to naval station to it its complex present day configuration. At each step in this evolution, Newport’s transformation has been marked by strategic additions to its architectural fabric and the city remains one of the most remarkable intact collections of historic buildings anywhere in the United States. Since the time of the American revolution to the present day the city has neither grown so quickly nor grown so poor that the old structures were lost and our town could easily be called the “America’s Last Wooden City” as so many of our structures are still the old balloon frame structures of more than a hundred years ago, which is a form of construction abandoned elsewhere for stone, brick, concrete and steel.  More

Choosing an Architect or Contractor

Choosing an Architect or Contractor

The last five years have been a quiet time for building construction and design in the United States. According to the US Census Bureau, the volume of construction in the last 5 years is nearly 30% less than the previous five years and is still lower today than it was 10 years ago, despite inflation (http://www.census.gov/construction/c30/historical_data.html). But buildings are still getting older and families are still growing so much of the work that wasn’t done during the “Great Recession” still remains to be done at a future point. The past several months have seen an uptick in inquiries to both architects and contractors alike, so if you are among those who have deferred dreams or maintenance on your home or business, what should you be looking for? More

Undoing Suburban Zoning

Undoing Suburban Zoning

For nearly forty years Middletown has proscribed to zoning that requires businesses to set back from the street and encouraged parking lots to be placed in front of buildings. The end result, not surprisingly, was a sea of strip malls and an ocean of pylon signs along West Main Road that created a visual cacophony. In 2008 the town revised its commercial design guidelines to move buildings to the street line and to better conceal parking but this past month, the Middletown Town Council advanced this concept further by unanimously adopting a new master plan for the area between Two-mile Corner and the intersection of Valley Road and West Main that would try to reverse the Suburban / Strip Development precedent over time. More

“A Brief History of Insulation”

“A Brief History of Insulation”

As the leaves turn brilliant colors and the evening temperatures begin to fall, it is time to think about the value and many advantages of good insulation. Insulation is meant to keep heat out in the summer and in during the winter and is measured in “R-value” (with the higher the value the more resistant to heat transfer is the material). No other construction project works twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year from the date of the project to the last day of the building’s life. More

“Understanding Complete Streets”

“Understanding Complete Streets”

As we approach the one year anniversary of the Washington Square Charrette it is useful to revisit the primary recommendations and review what developments have occurred and what other complementary efforts are underway. Change comes slowly and sometime the most important change is the education of the community and the evolution of their thinking. More

Preservation and the Secretary of Interior Guidelines

Preservation and the Secretary of Interior Guidelines

 

This past year has seen many instances where the issues of preservation and rehabilitation have been in the news and on people’s minds.  For those who have not been through the procedure of presenting before the Historic District Commission (HDC), the process is shrouded in mystery and fear.  But Newport HDC, like most similar commissions around the state and country, operates on a relatively concise and straightforward set of rules.  Because there are often tax and rehabilitation credits at stake, the government has established a set of standards to determine whether work qualifies as a proper preservation effort.  These are the Secretary of Interior Standards of Rehabilitation (designated “36 CRFR 67” for federal tax incentive programs), comprised of ten guidelines: More

“Doris Duke Preservation Awards to be Presented”

“Doris Duke Preservation Awards to be Presented”

Newport Rhode Island is fortunate to have one of the most intact collections of important 18th, 19thand early 20th Century buildings anywhere in America. But these buildings have not survived to the present day simply by not being torn down (although that was a useful starting point). For the most part, they are here because individuals and institutions took on the difficult and expensive task of preserving them and adapting them to be useful and relevant to present times. More

Zoning

Zoning

Before one can build in Newport, every project must pass zoning review. Zoning regulations are rules adopted by governments to control the use, density, height, setbacks and a myriad of other aspects of building. Starting in New York City in 1916, the use of “Zoning Ordinances” has spread outward until almost every jurisdiction in the United States had some form of zoning in place by the mid 1970’s. Newport’s zoning ordinance was adopted such that every lot created after April 13, 1977 is supposed to conform to the current regulations. More

‘Historic Tax Credit’ Revived

‘Historic Tax Credit’ Revived

This past week has been a notable one for historic preservation, as the long-idled Historic Tax Credit for restoring historic buildings was passed by the state General Assembly. The new program is a modification of an earlier one that was in effect prior to 2008.  Grow Smart Rhode Island, an organization dedicated both to encouraging the preservation and development of urban areas and the protection of rural farmlands, lobbied for reviving the program under which any individual project will be limited to $5 million in credits, and the program’s total pool funds will be limited to credits left unused from the previous program. More