July Construction: Birthing a Vision of the Future, Building a Birth Center

Chaden Halfhill

Chaden Halfhill on the first floor during construction.

The Making of a Vision

A single wall can make a statement – a strong statement!

Yes, a single wall can outline the intent of a whole building. The plane of this wall can define an entire room – its surface and the raw material capturing the emotion of atmosphere and anticipation. This statement is especially true during construction, when architectural form comes to life in anticipation of the future, foreshadowing the beauty of the space and the celebration of its use. It is the exact moment when the inspiration of design is experienced within three dimensions, when creators step back to revel in the spirit of their making and feel the building’s potential.

The heart fills with enthusiasm! This swell of abundant potential resonates deep within our being, stimulating hope and excitement, much like hearing our children’s heartbeat at eight week’s gestation. Creation exposes our soul while it deepens our understanding of humanity; the discovery reveals our passion – if not purpose for life – and its eternal mystery.

The Making of Walls

So July was a stimulating month on the Green & Main pilot project; three definitive walls announced plans for the renovation, each one revealing a portion of the layered story behind this building’s regeneration. Three walls were built: one straight, one angled and one curved. The first honors the contrast between new and old, forecasting the initiative’s informed application of new technologies and building science design with enduring traditional practices and the preservation of original materials.

The next wall helps move people through the building, as if on a journey of self-discovery and personal empowerment, reinforcing the contractions and emotional nuances of pregnancy as they culminate in awareness for this building that will be home to a birth center. Finally, a curved wall invites mothers into the sanctity of the birth space, encouraging an inspired experience that is nestled in the privacy of the earth. Below, I elaborate on the first, describing its bold announcement.

Brick masonry wall addition, looking to the north.

Brick masonry wall addition, looking to the north.

The completion of the southern masonry wall of the addition, rising two stories above grade like a billboard along the roadside, reflects an obvious message: Full steam ahead. Not so obvious is the significance of this wall and the meaning it contains.

Driving east on Center Avenue from 20th Street, this wall instantaneously defines the scale of the rear addition, highlighting the historic massing of the original structure while providing a glimpse into the heart of the new development – the common room. Together with the first floor deck, this wall reveals what will be a flexible and collaborative space planned for community events and educational programming on a wide range of topics from women’s health and birth to environmental stewardship, green building and sustainable development. This space provides a venue for sharing new ideas and fostering market transformation, a goal of the Green & Main initiative as well as that of Healing Passages, the midwifery run free-standing birth center that will occupy the building’s first floor when done.

The Making of Sustainability

Close-up looking north at the masonry addition.

Close-up looking north at the masonry addition.

Beyond function, this wall shares a story of craft; boasting a timeless and honorable trade as it was built by four masons sensitive to the building’s heritage and dedicated to durability and environmental stewardship. With closer inspection, this wall provides the basis for one of our energy efficiency best practices: a two-inch layer of extruded polystyrene (XPS) can be seen encapsulating the foundation. The installation of this insulation will cover all the walls providing a continuous thermal break around the whole addition, allowing the interior masonry surface to serve as a heat sink to help regulate interior temperatures and climate conditions.

But ultimately, this wall is a testament to the challenges associated with the Green & Main pilot project. In particular, the challenges associated with combining traditional wisdom with green solutions to minimize or eliminate the negative environmental impacts of existing buildings. The signature identity of Green & Main is the intersection of sustainability and preservation, the corner where green design meets traditional building to celebrate the passion of main street revitalization and ecological regeneration. This wall accentuates this intersection of ideas, as it literally embodies their merger.


– Chaden Halfhill is an entrepreneur and visionary of the Green & Main Initiative. He likes to gestate ideas.

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