DC's Rooftops (continued)
We asked our readers for reactions to our report, A Very Ugly Situation, about mechanical penthouses that seem out of sync with DC's architectural beauty. GW's John Huennekens (pictured tubing in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.) comments that District policy already requires that ugly ducts, pipes and other equipment be hidden from view by screens. As for regulating their aesthetic, “Do you really want to put some bureaucrat in the position of regulating whether enough money and effort has been expended at beautifying the rooftop penthouse?”
O’Neil & Manion Architects’ Sara O'Neil-Manion (working on-site) says part of the problem is the larger size of air-handling units as codes have changed to include things like heat exchangers, increased outside air and larger filters. Plus, mechanical penthouses have to provide access for replacing the systems. She believes zoning changes could incentivize developers to integrate the penthouse with the building design. She’d also like to see better-designed back-of-house areas to reduce, say, restaurant waste and grease on sidewalks and delivery trucks blocking streets and sidewalks.
If the view looking up is bad, try the view from above, says a land-use planner who wished not to be named and who snapped this picture of the Metropolitan Club at 1700 H St NW and the AKA White House at 1710 H St NW. He points out that there’s a public hearing coming up at the Zoning Commission, where the Office of Planning is proposing rules that would enable property owners to develop rooftops and allow people to “occupy” portions now used for mechanical equipment, stairways and elevator overrides. The hope is for a cleaner skyline without adding bulk. The Height of Buildings Act of 1910 is more restrictive than the zoning code, he says, but Congress made amendments in May.
Pratum Greenroofs founder Mehr Pastakia (pictured at a cousin’s wedding in India) was a fan of the green screen that obscured the rooftop mechanicals at the American Chemical Society’s building at M and 16th last year and would love for that to be restored and replicated down Mass Ave toward the circle.
Green roofs also can do the job on smaller buildings, she says, like this one in Chinatown.