Ambler Boiler House transformed from industrial icon to symbol of sustainable design

The Ambler Boiler House is just steps away from Ambler's SEPTA regional rail station. | Photo from Heckendorn Shiles ArchitectsFor generations, the towering Keasbey & Mattison smokestack on the Ambler Boiler House has been an icon in the town of Ambler. Built in 1897, the smokestack was initially a symbol of the town’s booming industry. By the 1970s, it spoke to a depressed economy. Today, the spire represents a shift to an eco-friendly future: the space is now a 48,000-square-foot, LEED Platinum office building. That’s especially good news for Ambler, considering Keasbey & Mattison was in the business of producing asbestos products.

“Ambler was a bit of a company town, and you still see some other brick structures that have a similar history,” says Mitch Shiles, a principal with Heckendorn Shiles Architects, the firm that transformed the space. Like the asbestos plant founders, the building’s current owners, Summit Realty, were drawn to the location in part because of the easy train access. The building is a short walk to Ambler’s SEPTA regional rail station. Transit-oriented development is a big benefit in the quest for LEED Platinum certification, the highest mark in energy-efficient design.

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From the Depths: Can you harness the power of the earth to heat and cool your home?

With such high-profile institutions and individuals as the Philadelphia Zoo, Friends Center and even Phillies reliever Ryan Madson all going gaga for geothermal, it looks like there may be a trend in the making for the future of heating and cooling in Philadelphia. Geothermal systems, designed to exploit the fact that the Earth maintains a near-constant temperature throughout the year, offer high efficiencies and big energy savings, but with price tags to match.
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