The Whitaker building has been a timeless architecture in the area of Savannah, Georgia. It battled the effects of time through different processes of maintenance like restorations, renovations, and improvements—in terms of materials used so it can be more stable. The Melaver Building Properties handled the restoration of the historical Whitaker building with a help from Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED), later on certifying the structure for being environmental friendly. Now that the Whitaker building is more eco-friendly and efficient, it is a possibility that the structure will last longer. The paper will be separated in three parts: (1) the historical context of the building and some information like its architect, its structure, and the materials, (2) its sustainability during and after the Melaver Family Properties’ restoration project and LEED certification, and (3) the building’s location and area, probably the context of the area and the structures that surround it.
A Historical Place: 109-119 Whitaker Street
Whitaker Street is a known shopping district in Savannah, Georgia. It boasts an array of shops, some of which still have the same facade and structure that is somewhat modified. Most of the buildings now used environmental efficient materials that could save its owners some expenses. One such building is the Whitaker building which is the highlight of the district—has the same name as that of the street. It is a landmark that has been there for over a century now that experienced a disaster, disrepair, and different owners.
The current building is said to have been built in 1890, after the original building was brought down by a fire in 1889 (Wissmach Architects 2008). The severe damage forced its owners to demolish the original structure and rebuild everything from scratch; although, some improvements also had to be made like the straightening of the streets. The building experienced a number of changes throughout the years as the available building materials continued to improve. The original cast iron from the façade of the building was modernized in 1951, as well as the ornate cast-iron was replaced an aluminum canopy. Aluminum plated glass also replaced the stained glass windows (Wissmach Architects 2008). These were just some of the changes that the building underwent.
When the Melaver family bought the building in 1999, they already had the intention to renovate the structure, making it more eco-friendly; committed to “sustainable development.” Dawson Wissmach, of Wissmach Architectural Firm, was the architect behind the historic preservation project of the Whitaker building. Alongside him was the contractor and Melaver Inc.’s construction branch, MFI Construction, LLC. Following LEED’s standards and historic requirements, the Project was mobilized in the summer of 2002 and was completed on August 2003. The Whitaker building won the award for outstanding rehabilitation in 2004, and also became the first LEED certified building in 2005. .
Sustainability: Meeting LEED and historic requirements
An article about the Whitaker building mentioned, “Historical Preservation is a form of sustainability” (Eco-structure magazine 2004), which is one of the aims of the Melaver group. The building has supplied the durability which was good since the rehabilitation and preservation team could maintain the building’s original design (Koch 2004). It enabled team to concentrate on other areas of the building like the façade, lighting, roofing, walls, pipes, and wiring.
The Sustainability scheme had to deal with the LEED’s environmental guidelines combined with the historic requirements needed. So the team reused some of the materials. The original historic windows were refurbished and applied film on the glass to keep the heat out, as well as other UV rays. In turn, this lowers energy usage. The flooring of the original structure was reused. However, if it could not be salvaged, flooring from other buildings within the area was used. The stair treads and handrail caps on State Street were milled using the wood from the building. The finishing materials applied on the building where made from low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) products, which decreases the potential danger or threat towards the people inside the building. For cooling or heating the building, high efficiency HVAC systems were installed which uses less energy (Melaver Inc. 2007). The Freon used for cooling is a product called Puron, which is environment friendly; ozone-friendly. R-30 insulation was used in replacing the roofing. This minimizes hit transmission towards the indoor environment, especially during the hottest days. It also provides warmth—due to trapped heat—during the winter season. Agricultural wastes like WheatBoard were used to construct cabinets. It has been said to be more durable than the particleboard. Both the binders and the adhesives used on the WheatBoard were made from low VOC products (Melaver Inc. 2007).
The project entailed a lot of highly efficient materials that are eco-friendly.
The City of Savannah: 109-119 Whitaker Street
The city of Savannah is the largest in all of the state of Georgia. It can also be considered as a great tourist attraction in the south—other than New Orleans and cities in Florida. It is a city filled with history as most of its structures have not been changed or modernized—like in other cities. The reason may have been that the city’s government wanted to sustain its rich historical context. Nonetheless, this plan worked for the better as tourists flocked to Savannah in order to witness the city’s old structures and history.
The Savannah historical district, wherein Whitaker Street can be found, has been preserved to serve the city government’s purpose. The city government also served a purpose for the environment as all of the restoration and preservation projects have been inspected and applied for LEED certification. The historical district binds with its environment, and does not overshadow it. The Whitaker building, which was the first to building to be certified by LEED in Savannah, became the district’s forefront for its preservation and compliance with pro-environment standards. This preservation scheme became the city’s imperative goal.
The Whitaker building is located on Whitaker Street corner State Street, respectively. It is located in historic district’s retail section—most of its neighbors are street level shops with offices on the succeeding floors. It is quite near the Broughton Street shops and the city Market, which is approximately one block away from the Whitaker building. It is also quite accessible from all convention hotels. The building has also been flocked by students from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Since it acted as the forefront for the district’s preservation, this gives it the right to receive such audience and attention. The nearest highway that would enable access to this place would have to be Highway 80 in Georgia.
The Whitaker building has acted as the key for the preservation program of Savannah’s historical district. It is also accessible from hotels—a short distance walk. It is also quite near to different retail stores and the public market, which can be good for tourists.