For as well worn and bumper sticker-ready as it’s become, the mantra implies an unintentional duality counter to its very meaning: You can do one or the other, but attempting both would amount to tilting at windmills. become, the mantra implies an unintentional duality counter to its very meaning: You can do one or the other, but attempting both would amount to tilting at windmills.
Not if you’re Paul Fowler and Bob Cook, that is.
Despite having only recently launched their Portsmouth architecture firm, adaptDESIGN, Fowler and Cook’s involvement in two high-profile projects – one local, the other half a world away – is proof positive that giving back knows neither boundaries nor borders.
Back in October, Fowler received a call from a Cornell University representative seeking a green-minded design and architecture firm to help sponsor student efforts to construct a prototype for a new kind of sustainable housing unit in Nicaragua. The Cornell representative had gotten wind of adaptDESIGN by way of Green Alliance, the Portsmouth-based “green business union” that adaptDESIGN joined a little less than a year ago.
According to Sustainable Neighborhoods Nicaragua’s (SNN) website, Nicaragua is currently facing one of the most acute housing crises in the world, with nearly two out of every three citizens experiencing impediments of one kind or another in finding adequate housing. The goal of SNN is to construct long-term housing units that are affordable, sturdy, and sustainable as possible.
“They won’t be the fanciest houses in the world, but they will be replacing substandard housing and – in some cases – nothing at all,” explains adaptDESIGN’s Paul Fowler. “The hope is that they can serve as a sustainable and financially feasible model, not just in Central America, but all over the world.”
Back on the Seacoast, Fowler and Cook – teaming up with a number of other local builders and designers – have undertaken another, more direct commitment, this one aimed at the renovation of old building stock.
Launched in 2011, the Strawbery Banke Heritage House Program (HHP) is designed help renovate and update portions of buildings in and around the historic grounds, while providing affordable housing for area residents. adaptDESIGN became involved with HHP when the organization’s former chair, Charles Lassen – who had met adaptDESIGN’s Bob Cook through the city’s various preservation committees the organization’s former Chair – was looking for design help.
“What makes these projects challenging is that you have to design the renovations such that they can be removed and the original structure restored in the future,” explains Cook. “It becomes a very delicate process.”
According to a study conducted by Strawbery Banke, the renovated buildings are expected to generate upwards of $300,000 annually once occupied – a significant sum that could conceivably help the museum broaden the scope of its long-term renovation and efficiency efforts.
Heritage House’s situation remains an evolving one – the organization is still in need of funding, and encourages everyone to visit their website (listed below) – but Paul Fowler says he and Cook stand at ready.
“This is one project that feels really great to be a part of, because we know that the work we put in is hopefully going to help the Museum hopefully be in a better position to continue renovation efforts for years and years to come,” says Fowler of adaptDESIGN’s involvement. “And because we’re doing some actual design work, there’s the challenge of tackling it like you would any other project.”
Any other project. Judging by their recent slate of jobs – everything from gorgeous local homes to delicate historical renovation projects to far-flung advising on sustainable development – adaptDESIGN doesn’t traffic in the typical.
“Whether its right in our neighborhood or thousands of miles away, we love the idea of helping make projects as sustainable as they can be,” says Fowler. “It’s our way of paying it forward.”