Case Study: Historic Baltimore Mill Transformed into Energy-Efficient Apartments for Teachers


Industry case studies about high-performance buildings are compelling educators. They present instructive lessons to engineers, architects, facility managers and building owners in a kind of problem/solution format, and teach how new products and technologies perform in specific environments.

An excellent example of this is Union Mill in Baltimore, Md. Once the largest canvas cloth producer in the world, the 86,000-square-foot structure was built in 1866. With massive 26-inch-thick walls, this impressive building was in constant use for 150 years as a manufacturing facility. But it needed new life.

Evan Morville, partner, Seawall Development Company, Baltimore, has a passionate desire to revitalize functionally inoperable buildings in historic neighborhoods. He turns abandoned properties into useful nonprofit office space and apartments for Baltimore’s public school system employees. The company’s mission is to provide affordable housing and adjacent work space for new teachers coming to Baltimore to teach kids from the inner city.

Seawall’s design teams have extensive experience with LEED®, energy-efficient and sustainable development. Working closely with the City of Baltimore’s Green Building Standards for commercial and multifamily buildings more than 10,000 square feet, the design team achieved Baltimore’s first LEED Silver-certified project. In fact, the team’s energy model so impressed the local utility, Baltimore Gas & Electric, Union Mill was awarded a $164,258 rebate – the largest the developer had heard of.

Mike Babcock, managing partner of Sustainable Building Partners, LLC, an engineering firm in Fairfax, Va., said, “A utility incentive of this size is extremely rare in our business. What it all boils down to is this: Through our whole-building, hourly energy-simulation model, we were able to project for Baltimore Gas & Electric an overall annual savings of 450,000 kWh.”

Babcock explained that the baseline methodology is consistent with LEED and ASHRAE 90.1 protocols, and was based primarily on a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) zoning system from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating, as well as a high-performance make-up air system, energy recovery ventilator (ERV), high-performance double-pane low-E windows and the walls’ thermal mass.

Seawall’s managing partner was elated. “This is a fantastic system,” Morville said. “Everything in the building is electric, and thanks to the ingenious engineering of the variable speed compressors and heat exchangers, my average apartment energy use is only $50 a month. Our teacher tenants love this living concept and are most pleased with their indoor comfort.”