SoHo Loft by Gabellini Sheppard Associates

Amazing 8,300 sq ft loft designed by Gabellini Sheppard Associates, located in New York’s SoHo Cast Iron Historic District.

Description by Gabellini Sheppard Associates

Located in the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District, this 8,300 sq. ft. loft was designed to preserve the character of the building and its intrinsic spatial continuity and generous proportions while fulfilling the programmatic needs of the client: a professional couple, American and Danish, and their three children. The design reflects a balance between American and Scandinavian sensibilities, functional preferences and models of domestic living. By incorporating the unused roofscapes as a series of urban garden terraces, the project becomes an extension of the entire neighborhood.

The continuously open floor-through space has been punctuated by two vertical light wells. The existing storage mezzanine was reconfigured to allow the master suite to become a floating platform that defines the public and private areas. With a sensibility to lightness and openness, the new design emphasizes spatial fluidity, permeability and flexibility and influenced by the client’s programmatic requests, blurs the lines between public and private, children and adult.

A proportional and functional logic among the interior spaces was considered to provide a variety of spatial options to satisfy the diverse needs of each family member. Spaces have been arranged and developed to enhance the spatial performance for the clients’ desired home life.

The vertical light wells create a volumetric way to travel from inside to outside, from public to private spaces and allow a relationship to the city through defined views. The Light Apertures emphasize a unique urban interaction with nature, where changing skies are brought inside the home, visually and conceptually.

Light is the premise on which the spatial and programmatic organization is based. The existing loft’s asset of uninterrupted daylight streaming from the East, South and Western exposures and the panoramic views of Lower Manhattan were enhanced by adding a series of light apertures throughout the space. The two existing skylights were reconfigured into stair atria with clear glass clerestory windows, acting as triple height light wells connecting the roof terraces and mezzanine. A series of operable, translucent glass skylights and clerestory windows were inserted through the office and children’s bedrooms allowing diffused light into the Family Room and Playroom. Thresholds between public and private areas are defined by sliding translucent doors, which act as light filters and provide flexibility of use. The contrasting and harsh glare typical of punched windows was resolved with the use of technical fabric scrims to diffuse light. These light apertures balance and diffuse daylight throughout the loft, and reinforce the concept of enhanced perception of light cycles from day to night. The Lighting concept complements the natural light with artificial lighting after dusk, including ambient light slots, glowing glass volumes and planes and carefully orchestrated accent and task lighting for the display of art.

The design of the loft acts as a spatial backdrop and frame to daily activities including art collecting. The concept of developing walls as planes for its display layered with ambient natural light, fuses the integration of art within an enhanced spatial environment.

The sustainable design intent of this residence was guided by the principle of a ‘less is more’ approach to construction and material selection. The quality of simplicity in this space actually results from a meticulous layering of lighting, materials, and technical infrastructure. We look more deeply into the basic and cutting edge technologies and properties of water, air, light, and sound in order to elevate the level of everyday comfort. Through a seamless sleight of hand, machinery is concealed out of sight and out of mind. No ductwork interrupts any surface; climate systems were carefully designed to disappear beneath the raised floor platforms, wall volumes and floating ceilings. The main features include:

a. Increased daylight throughout the loft, by the creation of new operable skylights and added clerestory windows which minimize energy usage during the day

b. Superior glazing performance through high performance glazing assemblies, energy efficient window films to historic windows and operable shading devices throughout.

c. The existing masonry shell was fully insulated for both maximum energy conservation and thermal comfort throughout the year.

d. Creation of roof gardens with more than 720 sq. ft of permanent and loose planters with indigenous or well adapted species, which require minimum irrigation while attracting local fauna. On the upper terrace, a planned irrigated organic vegetable garden in planters including composting bins, and rainwater collection will complete the roof terrace design.

In collaboration with the engineering team, low flow fixtures were specified through, exceeding the local water conservation requirements. The air and heating equipment was selected to exceed energy conservation requirements, while energy saving and dimmable light fixtures were implemented throughout. All appliances were selected based on Energy Star ratings.

Materials and finishes were carefully selected to be inert, so off-gassing issues were avoided. Wherever paints were used, zero-VOC formulas were specified (Benjamin Moore Natura and / or ECO-Spec.) Mastics, sealants and caulks were also selected based on lowest levels of toxicity commercially available. The Douglas Fir wood floors, provided by Dinesen, a four generation family sawmill, are FSC certified, and were specifically finished in a lye and soap solution which does not require refinishing with floor stains or sealers in the future.

Air quality was carefully considered, so operable windows and skylights provide the loft with fresh air, weather permitting. Artisan Veneer Plaster over imperial board used a mix of Lime and Plaster of Paris mixture, which helps promote clean indoor air through its innate ionization process. Man-made materials, such as glass and steel were selected, which continue to promote post-industrial recycling through continuous manufacturing cycles.

During construction, waste was recycled and diverted from the landfill, including glass, scrap metal and gypsum.

Designing with energy efficiency in mind has become a top priority for our offices and for our clients. When designing a residential project, energy efficient design methods can be integrated into various features throughout. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) concluded that in 2011, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,280 kWh, an average of 940 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. One of the more subtle, but of utmost importance, is including energy efficient mechanical equipment. By doing so, the home will be more efficient, affordable, and comfortable for the occupants. In 2009, the average home in the United States air conditioning demand resulted in 6.2% of the total household energy consumption. By installing the most efficient air conditioning systems, this percentage can be decreased significantly.

This project was designed with a 4 ton Carrier High Efficiency Gas/Electric Packaged Rooftop Unit. This unit has an ARI SEER of 15.6. This exceeds the ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2007. In ASHRAE’s table 6.8.1, Electronically Operated Unitary Air Conditioners and Condensing Units – Minimum Efficiency Requirements for air-cooled air conditioners less than 65,000 BTU/hc single package systems, the minimum efficiency requirement is a 13.0 SEER. The ENERGY STAR qualified Central Air Conditioners must have a SEER of at least 14, thus the Carrier unit installed also surpasses the minimum requirements of Energy Star, further demonstrating the efficiency capabilities. The project also installed Daikin VRV units that comply with ASHRAE 90.1 standard, also located in Table 6.8.1.

Located in the Soho Cast Iron Historic District, considered a walker’s paradise, the building has a WalkScore rating of 98. The neighborhood of Soho has a rating of 100 and the 2nd most walkable neighborhood in New York, outranked only by its adjacent neighbor, Little Italy. The Transit Score is 100, served by numerous subway lines and bus routes. There are over 600 restaurants, bars and coffee shops, shopping, culture, parks, and schools as well as three Citi Bike docking stations one to three blocks away. There are zero parking spaces per occupant.

For this project, dual flush water closets and low flow fixtures were installed throughout, which enables the user to select a high flush for solid waste or a reduced volume, low flush for liquid waste. This is important because the toilet can often account for as much at 40% of indoor water consumption. Dual flush toilets are not a new concept, but they are gaining popularity as sustainability is brought to the forefront of many American’s lifestyle choices, and designers are able to incorporate them into projects. Using a single dual-flush toilet can save a family of four over 7,000 gallons of water per year.

The New York City water efficiency standards require a dual flush water closet where one third of the sum of the high flush volume, plus twice the low flush volume, be less than or equal to 1.28 gallons per flush.

Geberit concealed dual-flush technology tanks and Carrier systems for wall-hung washdown toilets were specified and installed. The water consumption for this dual-flush system allows a range of 1.6/0.8 GPF (6/3 LPF), giving an effective flush volume of 1.1 GPS (4 LPF) per unit. This GPF consumption is less than the New York City water conservation standard, thus it will continue to conserve water over the lifespan of the fixture, exceeding the code requirements.

In addition to the water conservation from the dual flush and low flow fixtures, the project also implemented green infrastructure elements, which contributed to alleviating a portion of the stress caused by storm water runoff by incorporating vegetation onto the roof deck. Storm water management is crucial, especially in an urban environment. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates every year 10 trillion gallons of untreated storm water runoff from roofs, roads, parking lots, and other paved surfaces enter waterways that may be used for drinking water supplies and recreational activities. It often is carried to these water ways via sewage systems and can lead to health risks and the degradation of ecosystems.

The new rooftop vegetation, which currently covers more than a 700 square foot surface area, with a planned vegetable garden of 200 sq.ft, prohibits runoff pollution by capturing rainwater and consuming it before it can enter sewage systems. This benefits cities in particular by alleviating sewage over flow problems and saving the city money on remediation efforts. Furthermore, the presence of vegetation, especially in a city setting, has additional benefits of cooling and cleansing the air, countering the heat island effect.

The interior of the loft is unified by a reduced tonal palette and edited material selection. The sustainably harvested Danish Douglas Fir wood flooring is featured on floors, walls and ceilings, including the floating staircases and the mezzanine level Master Bedroom Suite platform. Washed in a lye and soap solution, the natural colored wood lends warmth to an otherwise graphically white interior, avoiding harsh synthetic chemicals. This simple indigenous wood was chosen for the emotional connection the client has to the traditional and vernacular Danish residential interiors. The quality of the interior environment is enhanced by artisan plaster walls, selected for their artisanal beauty as well as operating as a breathable material, which absorbs humidity in summer and releases moisture in winter. This neutral material palette is complimented by the natural stone hearth and bench in honed Pietra Cardosa. Honed Sivec white marble and plaster bathrooms create a harmonic counterpoint to the more embellished palette which lies adjacent to it. Translucent light diffusing glass is used as sliding doors and partitions allowing for the separation of space as needed, and clear low iron glass used on stair and balcony railings throughout. Gypsum board ceilings are painted in zero VOC paints. Built-in millwork is finished in VOC-free, non-toxic water based paint.

The exterior palate is also carefully edited to create the twin urban garden roof terraces. The Ipe hardwood, selected for all deck areas and walls, was chosen for its longevity, durability and weathering to a gray color aesthetic, so refinishing with sealers will not be necessary. Oxidized steel planters and clear glass railings complete the material selection.

Photography by Gabellini Sheppard

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- by Matt Watts