El Moore Insights – Joe Gallagher

Some people have a knack for seeing treasure where others may only see trash. I like to think I am one of those people, although my adventures are usually limited to a thrift store or yard sale. When I am evaluating whether or not I need to rescue yet another piece of furniture, I am usually evaluating its bones — because this will tell the story of how well the piece will ware over time. Joe Gallagher has a similar view when looking at a building. His primary responsibility with the El Moore project is making sure that the building performs according to its sustainability goals. joe-and-jason Joe has been working in construction since taking a temporary landscaping job in college while he was studying anthropology and archaeology (handy, I think, when working with historic buildings). Having had a long career in residential construction until the bottom fell out of the luxury home industry, Joe now finds himself working on the El Moore, which he described (and I think we all can agree) as “non-typical construction.” A lot is happening behind the beautiful facade of the El Moore –let’s dig into Joe’s perspective and see what we learn.

1. What do you appreciate most about the project and the process of it coming together? It is challenging and rewarding to take historic buildings and bring them up to sustainable levels. To take a building such as the El Moore and not just make it livable but to maintain its character while making it sustainable – that is rewarding. Also, taking into account how the El Moore and surrounding properties are tied into the community is atypical for construction projects, but I think makes for a more successful project. Typically most developers are focused solely on profits – it is nice to make the link between the people who live in the neighborhood outside of the El Moore walls.

2. Do you have a favorite feature either within the bldg. or on the grounds? I take the building as a whole but specifically the legs from the water tower are impressive- take two different components and put them together for a different use. Most times the back of a building is not nearly as impressive as the front, but at the El Moore, the back is almost as interesting as the front.

El Moore Back Stair leg

3. What are some challenges/opportunities that you have encountered during this work? Initially the challenges lay in the condition of inside of building. It has sat unoccupied since 1993 – 21yrs vacant with leaking roofs. I enjoy getting into old buildings to figure out what has happened to them by digging into the history of the building. We found some interesting things, a paint by numbers Jesus, two mantle walls had the signatures of original carpenters from back in 1898 and the initial builders scratched their names in the brick on the roof.  We can also see how they dealt with the natural ventilation and day-lighting issues that they had. A trip to Greenfield Village helped to come up with some of the design elements with the window design, for instance – the taller windows on outside the further natural light penetrates into the interior of the building.

4. What are you most proud of regarding the El Moore project? So far, the puzzles that have been solved in order to maintain the integrity of original design, building with used materials while meeting modern building codes — that is gratifying. If the building envelope performs as it is designed to, that is what I will be most proud of.

5. Any advice you would offer to others who would like to take on such work around sustainable living? I would say find the projects that you like – projects that are working — and talk to those people and also find someone who has done it and will tell you things not to do.  Be willing to learn. The energy efficiency part of building was an education for me there are people who have a lot of knowledge that they are willing to share. These learning opportunities bring more fulfillment as we learn better things that will help us in the future, even if working on our own house.

My insights:

  1. Old and new can work in harmony
  2. You can discover a lot if you look at the history of people – so pay attention to what you see
  3. Historic solutions can solve modern day challenges
  4. Life is full of puzzles – that can be solved
  5. Keep learning!

Enjoy and feel free to share your insights from the El Moore 🙂