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GREEN RENOVATION: Developer creates model to renovate historic buildings across the state in a sustainable way

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It may seem easier to tear down an old building to make way for a new energy efficient model. But, one metro developer says that’s not the most sustainable way to build a green future.

This building at 800 19th St. in Des Moines isn’t just any old building for developer Chaden Halfhill. He says, “It’s a demonstration building.” It is an old grocery store in the Sherman Hill Historic District.

The two story building will soon be a green classroom. The project is called Green & Main. Halfhill says, “Learning not only to do this, but then how to simplify it so that these methods can be easily applied, hopefully across the state in projects similar to this because every small town has brick masonry buildings from the turn of the century.”

Halfhill says the goal is to find the best ways to rehab a building in an earth friendly way. He says, “Renovations are challenging.”

He says it’s especially challenging when you’re trying to place a green roof on an old structure. A green roof features plants and grasses to soak up the rain. Halfhill says, “This will help infiltrate the water into the soils up on top. It will slowly disperse the water as it filters through to help clean it.” But, before the roof can be built, crews have to place steel rods through the building. Halfhill says, “That will support the walls that are above that beam, which then carry the load of the roof.”

He says construction will take at least another year. The $2.3 million project will also feature solar panels and a low energy lighting system. Halfhill says that will make existing building more sustainable. He says, “Existing buildings are really important in terms of environmental impact because we’re keeping things out of the landfill because we’re protecting cultural heritage of building and the character of communities.”

It’s a community Halfhill says could serve as a model for future renovations. Green & Main will feature classrooms and a women’s holistic health clinic on the first floor. An apartment will be upstairs. Halfhill says they’ll apply for platinum LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.