In 2013, business partners Justin Doyle, Harry Doyle, Ryan Doyle, TJ Jacobs, and Hugh O’ Hagan formed Blackbird Investments. As a real estate development company, Blackbird believes that buildings have the power to change the surrounding community. Their projects are located throughout Iowa and range from new construction to adaptive reuse and historic renovation.
Like architecture, developer work requires lasting relationships with local governments, engineers, and contractors. To develop these relationships and make a lasting impact on the community, Blackbird Investments sought a project that would invigorate neighborhood revitalization. Eventually, they chose to develop a turn-of-the-century building located in the heart of the Des Moines’ Market District (Lower East Village).
At the project’s inception, the Market District was a neglected industrial area that had been largely overlooked by investors. However, Blackbird appreciated the building’s historic significance and character and saw its potential to spark revitalization in the Market District. As the first to invest in the area, Blackbird capitalized on the opportunity, setting a high bar for surrounding development and paving the way for impactful designs.
The team planned to convert the former manufacturing hub into a 54,948 square foot commercial space. They prioritized sustainability and set the goal of earning a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status. However, these sustainability efforts were complicated by the building’s historic significance; the design had to adhere to the National Park Service’s guidelines for historic preservation. For Neumann Monson and our engineering partners, our challenge was to balance these two sets of guidelines and create an ultra-energy-efficient building that preserved historic character.
Des Moines, Iowa
55,000 SF (renovated)
2021 COTE Top Ten Award
2018 AIA Iowa Craft Award
2016 AIA Iowa Design Award
2016 IIDA Great Plains Chapter Award
2015 AIA Central States Design Award
Where We Started
The building was nestled in a prime location in the city's master plan. A planned green belt and pedestrian trail passed by the building’s main entry to the north, balanced by a proposed civic building and park to the south. Additionally, the city's master plan included a proposed Amtrak Station in the Market District.
What We Did
There is no more sustainable act than breathing new life into an existing structure, which is why we repurposed many of the building’s existing elements. 97.7% of the building’s original materials were reused during construction. This diverted an overwhelming number of materials from the waste stream and fostered a high-quality environment with a long-term positive impact. At the same time, reusing materials helped maintain the building’s original character and appearance, preserving its history for generations.
To achieve the project’s LEED Platinum status, we integrated technology such as solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems, and a ground-sourced variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system, which allows energy to be transported efficiently through fluid pipes, rather than large air ducts. We also implemented water conservation strategies, including a green roof that prevents rainwater run-off and reduces heat in the building’s industrial setting.
Energy conservation efforts were often counterintuitive to historic preservation guidelines. For example, historic guidelines dictated that we maintain the building’s original, single-pane windows, which compared to modern windows, have no insulating value. Historic guidelines also favor exposed brick, exterior and interior, leaving no opportunity for additional insulating. With no insulation, energy efficiency was of the utmost importance.
In the interiors, we used historic preservation guidelines to our advantage and achieved a rich, nuanced dialogue between new and old. In some locations, the two are carefully delineated. In others, modern interventions blend in and take a backseat to historic character. Throughout the building, transparent and compatible finishes allow the space to flow freely. To maintain spatial continuity, we located new enclosed areas at the building’s core, stopping the walls below the ceiling plane. Extensive glass and polycarbonate finishes allow light to reach deep into the building and maintain an open visual connection throughout each floor.
How it Works
Market One demonstrates that historic preservation and environmental sustainability can coexist. Since the project’s completion, Des Moines’ Market District has experienced increased investment, and many developers have followed Market One’s lead by respecting the fabric of the neighborhood. Within a half-mile, there are many retail, dining, and park offerings.
Although many of Market One’s sustainable features are seamlessly integrated into the building, making them unnoticeable, the public’s positive perception of the building’s solar panel array has sent a palpable signal to other developers. The success of this project has led to many awards and accolades, including state and regional design awards and a national American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Award. Ultimately, Market One sets an example for future sustainable architecture and proves that, in terms of design, sustainability does not mean sacrifice.