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An urban renewal is quickly hitting Kensington south and the Howard/Hope St. area between Kung Fu Necktie and El Bar seems to be the epicenter.  With 20 new homes going up at the other end of the block, one across the street, our 8 units  and 8 more lots recently cleared and soon to be underpinned, this block is due to become home to nearly 100+ new souls by the end of 2015. With our Duplexcellence II framed, cladded and rocked we’re more than keeping up with the pace of development here. Its an exciting thing to be a part of, although with so much construction in one area empty dirt lots still dominate the landscape.

But if you round the corner of Thompson St from Kung Fu Necktie the first thing you’ll notice is perhaps the brightest thing in Kenzo South; some awesome Graffiti work by Glossblack. We couldn’t stand the Russian winter-esque atmosphere that had washed the block due to all the construction and as the corner lot, we felt it was our responsibility to bring something bright back into the streetscape. Glossblack was gracious enough to help us out and give us the most eye popping construction fence we’ve ever seen. Not only that he did the whole fence in a day. A day! How is that even possible?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess the less time you spend with a can of spray paint on a narrow Kensington street the better off you are, even if you are a legitimate, hired artist. To thank Glossblack for his quick work in the dead of winter we made a short video showcasing his work. Check it out at the link below.

We found Glossblack as the result of a quick tweet and some well connected followers. After checking him out on Glossblack.org and instagram @glossblack we thought his legible style would be a cool treatment for our fence. The result was a collage of local street names each with its own aesthetic and layer of sprayed graphics. Naturally he nailed it when it comes to transforming the overall atmosphere of that corner. But then managed to exceed our expectations with the amount of detail and depth he was able to achieve in his lettering while maintaining that legibility.

From there we figured why not give him free reign with any surface area we had and so we set him loose on the adjacent stucco wall. Although this will be covered up by phase two of Duplexcellene II he still came through big with a pretty sick chrome “Philly”.

For now we can boast about the nicest construction fence on the block but our vision for this work has always been temporary street art for Kensington and permanent private art for the residents. Once construction quiets down we plan to move these fence panels to the backyard of our new homes as a permanent backdrop to their urban rear yards. We we’re conscious to paint with a recently treated fence which we expect to expand and contract a little as it dries and the weather warms. Likely a faded weathered, gritty look is in this pieces near future.

Hopefully we can get some pics of how it changes. For now we can thank Glossblack for his quick spraying to help us out.

For those interested in Duplexcellence II now is the time to move as these homes are about 30 days away from completion. Still plenty of customizable options to choose from. Plus if you sign on now you’ll be all moved in and ready to open a beer and relax on your roof deck as you watch your new neighbors unload their U-Haul in the oppressive summer heat! Ugh, sounds brutal.  You can check out our website for customization options and more info.

 

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The corner of 18th and Folsom had long been home to construction vehicles and storage sheds as Phase I of our Folsom Powerhouse project set 11 units in the ground. Now that those homes are home to actual people the construction vehicles have moved up the road to Phase II and we anticipate improved street life is on the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping spur that along we’ve had custom railings designed and fabricated by Jenny Sabin to enclose the upper stairway of our super-stoop. We’ve been calling it the polyvine railing. With a pretty savvy understanding of some digital fabrication techniques she was able to create an organic pattern of vines which could be CNC’d into steel sheets. It was a cool technique, something we still haven’t quite wrapped our heads around. If you’re looking for detailed info on the process of making something like this I’d recommend talking to Jenny or someone from her studio. She’s the expert there.

The design of the streetscape was something we deliberated over through the project, and it seems like we didn’t finalize something until the project was well underway. I think this worked to our advantage as we were able to use Jenny again and get her to modify her polyvine so it would hold up as the steel sheet was bent into a bench. These benches now line 18th st and add another surface to hang out on. As if that super-stoop wasn’t enough.

Thanks to Jenny and the end of Phase I we’re expecting a cool urban atmosphere along this stretch of 18th street.

With the details wrapped up on phase I were on to Phase II.  This phase adds 5 units along 18th street, one of which is a commercial corner building.  The rooftop solar panels will add the “powerhouse” portion of the project namesake as well.

These units are a bit different than those in Phase I. The overall size and shape of that corner lot gives us a more square footprint to work with. Something I’m sure our Architect, ISA was excited to design as we’ve pushed them to come up with more than enough row home designs, AKA “the Philly Special”. Hopefully we have the opportunity to get more units out that break the mold in the near future.

So far Phase II has seen foundations poured and framing begun. As the corner building takes shape the block takes on a more complete urban feel, something we hope to restore to this block.

We anticipate sales to be strong in phase II as every home of Phase I presold before a stick was in the ground. Another update will be coming as soon as we get Phase II up and running on our website and open it for sales.

 

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The goings on thus far at Awesometown can really be summed up into two categories; excavation, and pouring foundations. They may be two of the less visually exciting parts of construction but they are very critical.

As it turns out pouring foundations in the dead of winter is a less than convenient time to start. We could have told you that beforehand but start dates are start dates and if that means pouring foundations in the snow then so be it. Luckily we got the bulk of our pouring done before things got too bad. Another two foundations and we’ll be on to framing, a much less weather dependent task.

And no we didn’t find anything cool during excavation, unless you count some old concrete slabs reinforced with 3/4″ pipes cool. We certainly don’t.

With this being the first update on Awesometown it’s a good time to explain our role and goals for the project. On recent projects we’ve been doing the design and development work in house and working with partners for the construction, but Awesometown is going to be the first project we’ve built solely in house in a while under the name Hybrid Construction.

Although the prospect of 14 LEED Platinum townhomes is a little daunting at the outset, 14 more or less identical homes is something we hope to turn into a building science experiment. After the pre-construction HERS scores came back and an initial road map to LEED Platinum was determined it became clear that of the 8 homes in our first phase we have 6 with identical construction and energy usage. We could make it easy on ourselves and build these 6 exactly the same or we could make one the control home and use the other 5 to test out new techniques or materials like additional building gaskets here or a new air sealing tape there. Once the final HERS scores come back we’ll know which new technique or material gave us a better result.

It’s a little more of a challenge to coordinate but we see this as a good opportunity to obtain some quality data for the building sciences. Updates and results of these experiments to come!

For now we’re praying the snow stays away and we can pour the last of our foundations. The sooner we can move on to framing the better. 7 homes have  now been sold and move in dates are already being discussed. With the sale of one more home, prices are due to rise. Pre-construction sales come mostly from our websites customization page which has all of the options you can add to a Postgreen home. We update that regularly and have just recently added 50+ new options.

As long as these winter storms continue to be as harmless as Juno we’re looking to start framing the second week of February, another update will be on the way once that begins.

 

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Project Update: Duplexcellence II

January 27, 2015

An urban renewal is quickly hitting Kensington South and the Howard/Hope St. area between Kung Fu Necktie and El Bar.  With 20 new homes going up at the other end of the block, one across the street, our 4 homes and 8 more lots recently cleared and soon to be underpinned, we estimate at least [...]

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Postgreen Homes Home Performance Label Revised – Again

December 11, 2014

This post revives an idea that we had in 2011, revised later in 2011 and now have a renewed sense of urgency to implement. Back in 2011 Nic Darling had a brilliant plan for what we called the “home performance sticker” which was kind of like a mileage sticker you might see on a new [...]

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Earthship Biotecture – Rural vs. Urban Sustainability

November 19, 2014
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnkv_qj1xUc”

We’ve been building lean and green since the start of the “great recession” and even in that relatively short time we’ve seen a lot of change come through the green building industry. It’s been getting bigger and better every year and it looks like that trend is only going to continue. With that being the [...]

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Duplexcellence 2 Mid-Construction Event Recap

November 13, 2014

Last Thursday was a busy night for design events in Philly. Not only did we have our own mid-construction event at Duplexcellence 2, but our architect pals at DIGSAU held their annual soiree and the talented artists from RAIR held an opening at Crane Arts showing off all sorts of cool stuff made in the [...]

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