“Green” Charleston House Featured on “Architects + Artisans”

Detail. © Richard Leon Johnson

February 4, 2010 (CHARLESTON, SC) – A modern, “green” house on Johns Island, designed by Charleston architect Whitney Powers, AIA, of Studio A, Inc., is featured on Architects + Artisans: Thoughtful Design for a Sustainable World, a new blog written and edited by J. Michael Welton.

The 5000-square-foot house rests along the edge of Penney Creek. Working with clients who wanted to make the house as “green” as possible, Powers specifies a host of “green” features, including a geothermal heating and cooling system, a vegetated roof, recycled materials wherever possible, and rain water collection cisterns to provide irrigation for the landscaping.

Architects + Artisans’ article primarily focuses on Powers’ use of  “new and old materials, inside and out, in unexpected, innovative and subtly surprising ways,” Welton writes.

One of the new exterior materials is Eternit, rain-screen panels that, along with large expanses of glass, cover the creek-facing façade. The panels prevent moisture buildup – an important asset within Charleston’s humid coastal climate. Welton spoke with Powers about the material, which architects concerned with sustainability consider a high-performance envelope.

“It’s been used in Europe for years,” Powers told him. “It extends the life of the siding and everything behind it. It keeps things dry and allows the air space to breathe.”

An interior material that caught Welton’s attention is century-old white pine salvaged from the homeowners’ barns in Kentucky, which Powers says were milled specifically for this application.

Welton praises the architecture of the Charleston house as “a design that responds sensitively to its low-country site and reaches back gracefully to its bluegrass roots – while binding all together with materials meant to please the eye.”

To read the entire article, visit architectsandartisans.com and click on the headline “Kentucky Roots, South Carolina Charm.”

For more information on Studio A, Inc., go to www.studioa-architecture.com.

About Studio A, Inc.:

Founded in 1989 by Whitney Powers, AIA, Studio A, Inc. is an award-winning, full-service architecture firm located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The firm proposes that the responsibility of architecture is to cultivate a language of form that promotes a sustainable culture and landscape, and that touches the emotions of delight, surprise and wonder. From cutting-edge contemporary architecture to the preservation and restoration of historic homes, structures and sites, Studio A is committed to an interactive relationship between the natural and built environments, conservation of energy and natural resources, and an appreciation for a “sense of place” where living, working and playing are connected with the specific idiosyncrasies of culture, climate and natural landscape where they take place. The firm includes Heritage Strategy Group, a planning initiative that elaborates upon issues of the natural landscape through the lens of recreational resources and scenic byways.

About Architects+Artisans:

Architects + Artisans is a sophisticated, well-informed provider of content, images, and knowledge concerning excellent architecture, artisanship and sustainability for the 21st century.  It is not just about designers – but about the people and products that make a well-designed place ring true. It is written and edited by J. Michael Welton, whose work on architecture, design and travel has appeared in The New York Times, Interior Design, Dwell, Green Source and Travel + Leisure. Visit http://architectsandartisans.com.

Charleston Architect Named “Green Goddess”

August 20, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) – Whitney Powers, AIA, president and principal of Studio A Architecture in Charleston, SC, is featured this month in Skirt! Magazine as a “green goddess.”

“Whitney Powers…has pushed the green edge of sustainable design for over a decade, creating award-winning buildings in and around Charleston that treat lightly on the landscape,” according to Skirt!.

Calling Powers’ work “fresh, urbane and beautiful” the articles describes her green designs as “capitalizing on natural breezes and daylight to conserve energy, using locally sourced or recycled materials as much as possible.”

Of her work, Powers told Skirt!, “Sustainability is about acknowledging the rituals of living and honoring place. If you can capture the poetics of a building and its place, you’re on your way to being green.”

Whitney Powers’ work in sustainable design has received numerous design awards and has been featured in local, regional and national design magazines and journals. One of her “green” houses on South Carolina’s Dewees Island, will be showcased on HGTV’s new “Extreme Living” show on Thursday, August 21, at 9:30 p.m.

To see more of this “green goddess’ ” work, visit http://www.studioa-architecture.com.


Bringing “Green” To Bear On Historic Structure

“The real challenge for LEED in the future, especially with regards to historic preservation, comes with recognition of the nuances that relate to regional differences in construction and the use of natural energies.” — Whitney Powers, AIA

June 19, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) – Whitney Powers, AIA, principal of Studio A Architecture in Charleston, Recently completed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) for Historic Structures Workshop held at the Charleston Maritime Center.

The workshop helped participants understand how they can implement the LEED® High Performance Rating System into historic preservation, restoration and adaptive re-use projects. It identified ways to apply “green” building practices to historic rehabilitation projects within the LEED® framework. It also addressed elements of sustainable design in historic preservation that are not identified by LEED® and may not be quantifiable.

Whitney Powers is a recognized leader in both sustainable design and historic preservation/adaptive re-use. Last year she was instrumental in bringing “green” elements to bear on the renovation of the historic Lance Hall at the Circular Congregational Church on Meeting Street, among other projects.

In fact, combining preservation and sustainability is a key mission for Powers, she said, since the sheer number of older, existing buildings represents a much larger opportunity to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions that contribute to global warming than the comparatively small number of new structures erected each year. (A recent New York Times report entitled “Green Buildings Don’t Have To Be New,” noted that new buildings “represent a small fraction of the nation’s estimated 4.5 million commercial properties, many of which were erected decades ago before sustainable, or green, designs became de rigueur.”)

Powers noted that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the organization behind LEED, has been slow to acknowledge the inherent sustainability in historic buildings. Only recently has the USGBC opened discussions with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to incorporate preservation goals into the LEED ratings system — a fact she learned when she participated in the seminar “The Sustainability Initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation” at GreenBuild 2007 in Chicago.

An outgrowth of this dialogue includes workshops like the one in Charleston where actual case studies illustrated how the existing LEED system can apply to renovations and adaptive reuse of historic buildings.

“The real challenge for LEED in the future, especially with regards to historic preservation, comes with recognition of the nuances that relate to regional differences in construction and the use of natural energies,” Powers said. “Knowledge of these differences in energy demands, materials and durability will spell the maturing of the LEED system with regards to historic preservation.”

The USGBC has opened the comment period for LEED 3.0, “and this is a real opportunity for architects and engineers working in the preservation field, particularly in the South, to help underscore the regional differences so that the USGBC can effectively address in the new rating system due to be released in 2009,”  she said.
Whitney Power’s work in sustainable design and historic preservation/restoration at Studio A Architecture has received numerous design awards and has been featured in local, regional and national design magazines and journals. For more information, visit http://www.studioa-architecture.com.


Studio A Reinvents “5 College Way” for College of Charleston


May 22, 2008 (CHARLESTON, SC) — With architect Whitney Powers’ guidance, a 19th century house at 5 College Way will assume a 21st purpose by the end of this year as it is transformed into offices and seminar space for the College of Charleston’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The building will also house the College’s Writing Workshop under celebrated author and professor Bret Lott.

According to Powers, principal of Studio A, Inc., in Charleston, the challenge with this and any other adaptive reuse project is to make sure 21st century needs do not compromise the house’s historic character.

“We intend to restore many of the building’s historic features and finishes,” she said, while the design and engineering team also installs a high efficiency HVAC system, infrastructure data and communications systems, and new lighting.

The 4,821-square-foot house dates back to 1826, Powers said, when the small, private College of Charleston was forced to raise operating funds by selling off land adjacent to the campus’s historic center, which is now known as the “Cistern.” The College reacquired the house in the late 19th century.

Like the nearly 100 historic buildings on campus, 5 College Way experienced plenty of wear and tear from students and faculty over the years. Good paint jobs and routine repairs have kept it in generally good condition, Powers noted. But her plans call for exposing, repairing, and restoring details that give the house its personality, including the exterior “piazza.”

Working with Studio A on the project are structural engineers 4SE, Inc., and mechanical/electric/plumbing engineers CRG Engineering, Inc.

For more information on Studio A, Inc., visit http://www.studioa-architecture.com.