Peak sustainable living: Aubertine & Currier designs unique straw bale house

Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors has designed a unique straw bale home in Henderson with a variety of other sustainable features as well. Straw bale insulation dramatically cuts heating costs. Rendering courtesy Aubertine and Currier

Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors has designed a unique straw bale home in Henderson with a variety of other sustainable features as well. Straw bale insulation dramatically cuts heating costs. Renderings courtesy Aubertine and Currier

Melanie D. O’Brien, originally of Staten Island, acknowledges that both she and her husband Robert M., “by our nature think very long-term.”

Coupled with the pair’s environmental consciousness and intrepid spirit, it’s a patience that will serve them well as they reap the energy savings on what could be the north country’s first ever straw-bale home on Route 3 in Henderson, which they plan to start building this spring.

That’s straw, not to be confused with livestock-edible hay, and lots of it. Five hundred, 18-inch thick by 14-by-36 bales of straw, to be exact.

“Straw is basically rot resistant, insect resistant, moisture resistant,” said Brian A. Jones, one of two architects at Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors, Watertown, who have spent the past three months designing the house for the O’Briens, researching innovative techniques and soliciting their input on aesthetics.

Straw bale houses are popular in drier climates particularly in California and the Southwest. In the north country’s wetter climate, the design required careful position of the straw bales above the floor, insulation that the designers say is likely to slash heating costs at least in half. Straw will rot if left directly in water for extended periods of time. [Read more...]

Taking a green path: From Watertown to Massena, businesses design to LEED

The new performing arts center at SUNY Potsdam, slated for completion in December, is one of many buildings in the north country that was designed to LEED specifications. The firm Pfeiffer Partners Architects used a special insulation technique to achieve maximal energy efficiency. Melanie Kimbler-Lago/ NNY Business

The new performing arts center at SUNY Potsdam, slated for completion in December, is one of many buildings in the north country that was designed to LEED specifications. The firm Pfeiffer Partners Architects used a special insulation technique to achieve maximal energy efficiency. Melanie Kimbler-Lago/ NNY Business

In recent years, a crop of green buildings has been sprouting up in the north country. From Watertown to Massena, environmentally friendly buildings are incorporating the latest in sustainable technology and achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the process.

This designation, established in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council, recognizes sustainability and efficient use of resources by building designers and owners. And according to area architects, it’s becoming increasingly common in Northern New York.

“We are definitely seeing more people interested in it,” said Brian A. Jones, LEED-certified architect and partner at Aubertine and Currier in Watertown. “I believe it’s going to be a wave of the future and eventually a requirement for all buildings. Energy’s not going to get cheaper, and it’s going to be more vital to conserve our resources. People are realizing they’re going to have to live and build differently to afford living here.”

Aubertine and Currier’s most recent LEED-certified project was the 7,800-square-foot Land Port of Entry facility at Cannon Corners for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs, and Border Protection. This $7.5 million building, located in Mooers Forks, achieved silver certification after it was completed in January 2012. It includes a rain catchment system that collects rainwater for reuse in toilets and washing machines, solar panels that provide energy for hot water heating and a variety of green materials in its construction. [Read more...]

Building activity shows uptick in ’13

After a somewhat sluggish 2012, construction activity in the Watertown area has picked up through the first half of 2013 but still lags in comparison to the past five years, building permits show.

Total declared value in construction permits filed in the City of Watertown Bureau of Code Enforcement, including new structures, additions, alterations, repairs and maintenance, totaled 3,278,356 over the first two quarters of 2013, while that figure was 1,942,067 through the first half of 2012. Total declared construction value for 2012 reached just 16,326,074, down about 63 percent from a high over the last five years of 43,882,327 in 2011.

Major projects including renovations at Samaritan Medical Center and the construction of the Creek Wood Apartments off Mill Street contributed to the spikes in the third and fourth quarters of 2011.

So far in 2013, the largest single building project in declared value according to permits filed was the addition of a 60-by-100-foot shell at 1340 Washington St., North Country Neurology, valued at $800,000. The practice expanded from about 3,600 square feet to just over 10,000 square feet to accommodate an expanding pool of clients and additional neurologists, a project begun in late spring and completed this fall by Lunco Corp., Carthage, which also designed and built the original structure. [Read more...]

Despite dip, commercial sales steady: Realtors say tapering off not a definitive trend

From January to July this year, only five units of commercial and industrial real estate have been sold in Jefferson County, compared to 11 units during the same period in 2012, but north country real estate agents say the commercial market has been relatively steady in recent years and that the apparent tapering off isn’t evidence of a definitive trend.

In Lewis County, only one unit of commercial property has been sold in the same period of 2013, compared to three over that period in 2012. In St. Lawrence County, however, nine units have been sold in that period of 2013, compared to seven in 2012.

St. Lawrence County is also the only of the three counties to see the average price of commercial real estate increase over the six-month period, from $133,814 in 2012 to $159,055, with the range increasing from $15,000 to $400,000 in 2012 to $24,500 to $780,000 in 2013. In Jefferson County, the range over the six-month period shrunk from $20,500 to $730,000 in 2012 to $65,000 to $335,000 in 2013. [Read more...]

Home sales strong in first quarter

North country home sales made a strong showing in the first quarter of 2013, as median prices jumped from last year in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.

A total of 165 houses in Jefferson County were sold at a median price of $152,000 in the first quarter. That’s an increase of $12,250, or 9 percent, from last year’s median price of $139,750, based on 166 houses sold in the same quarter of 2012. In St. Lawrence County, 108 houses were sold compared with 101 during the first quarter of 2012; the median home price increased $1,000 year to year, or about 1 percent, from $75,500 to $76,500.

In contrast with Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, Lewis County saw the median home price drop from last year by $20,000, or 17 percent, from $117,500 to $97,500. Thirty units were sold, up from last year’s 26.

[Read more...]

COR Development dropped Carthage apartment plan due to poor market study

General manager of COR Development Co., Steven F. Aiello, at the construction site for Beaver Meadows Apartments, Watertown. Photo by Norm Johnston/NNY Business.

Plans for a 364-unit apartment complex in West Carthage were scrapped in January because a market study commissioned by COR Development Co. created serious concerns for financiers, according to COR General Manager Steven F. Aiello.

“We would have been pleased to have done the project there, but the market study didn’t support it. There were financial challenges getting the project built there,” Mr. Aiello said. “We have an obligation to the state to make sure the project had the best opportunity to be successful.” [Read more...]

Growing into a new century: Ambulance service’s new facility honors late owner Wright

Guilfoyle Ambulance General Manager David C. Sherman shows one of the large new conference rooms in their new headquarters. Photo by Norm Johnston/NNY Business.

The north country’s newest conference center has some empty space to thank for its existence — 13,000 square feet of it, to be exact.

In July 2012, Watertown’s Guilfoyle Ambulance Service decided to move operations from its Newell Street facility to the former Covidien building, 1291 Faichney Drive. While the new space was ideal in many ways, Guilfoyle quickly realized that there would be room to spare in the 77,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

“We looked at several commercial locations throughout the city to try to relocate the Guilfoyle business, and this one had been on the market quite a long time,” said Jeffrey J. Call, director of operations for Guilfoyle. “When we looked at this one, it was the perfect setup for our administrative and business needs, but it had a lot of extra space.” [Read more...]

Beaver Meadows Apartments to open at Towne Center Plaza on Memorial Day weekend

Construction workers wrap up for the day Friday at one of the Beaver Meadows apartment units behind Target. Photo by Justin Sorensen/Watertown Daily Times.

Memorial Day weekend will mark the grand opening of the first of seven four-story apartment buildings at Beaver Meadows Apartments behind the Target store off outer Arsenal Street in the Towne Center Plaza.

That 40-unit building — almost fully spoken for with tenants who already have signed leases — is part of the 296-unit project being completed by COR Development Co., Fayetteville. Three more apartment buildings will open in June, July and August, while the final three should be done by November. [Read more...]

JCC feasibility study: multipurpose facility will add value to county

A proposed $44.5 million multipurpose facility may replace the county-owned Whispering Pines nursing home on Coffeen Street.

Jefferson Community College’s highly anticipated multipurpose facility feasibility study, outlining the potential project’s risks and rewards, has finally been unveiled.

According to the study, a new $44.5 million facility where the county-owned Whispering Pines nursing home stands on Coffeen Street would be financially feasible and add value to the area, good news to the county and the community college. [Read more...]

California developer plans to submit townhouses proposal in LeRay

A development with 150-plus rental townhouses will be built off Route 11 outside Fort Drum if LeRay town officials approve a California developer’s plan.

The Common at Fleming’s Farm may be built on the parcel north of Eagle Ridge Village. Fidelity American Holdings Corp. bought 347 acres of property for development in 2005, but it now has the pieces in place to move forward with its project, said principal Linda W. Luther. [Read more...]