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Welcome to the Philadelphia Pennsylvania blog. This blog contains a wealth of information about Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Apartment living, and housing opportunities in our great city and other metro areas of the U.S.. Learn about efforts at restoring architectural relics of the past - former factories, warehouses, schools, hotels, hospitals, train stations - into first-class houses and apartments, and in preserving these distinguished residential communities for future generations. Please enjoy your stay on our Philadelphia apartments blog and feel free to share your stories on life in Philly and the city of brotherly love. In addition, we welcome all commentaries regarding building remodeling, home remodeling, kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, and house hunting. Thank You!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Range Resources plans to add staff, build office complex in Pennsylvania

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Range Resources Corp. plans to more than double its regional headquarters staff in the Marcellus Shale natural gas field to about 500 employees "over the next several years" as it moves into a new $30 million office development in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Fort Worth-based company said Monday.

Range, a leading producer in the Marcellus, has 225 employees in its regional office in Canonsburg, Pa., said Ray Walker, senior vice president for Appalachia operations. The new facility will be a quarter-mile away in Canonsburg, 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.

Most of the new jobs "will go to local residents, demonstrating the positive impact that Range is having on the community," Walker said.

Range said it has contracted with Horizon Properties Group of Pennsylvania to develop and lease its new headquarters. Construction is to begin immediately in the Southpointe II development and is expected to be finished by November 2011.

Canonsburg has become a hotbed for dozens of energy companies operating in the Marcellus, a geological formation thousands of feet beneath large chunks of Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio.

The initial phase of Range's project calls for construction of a five-story, 180,000-square-foot Class A office building on 13 acres. The facility is to include a 225-seat auditorium, cafe and outdoor event plaza.

The second phase calls for a building expansion of up to 100,000 square feet.

Walker said Range has authorized Horizon to develop the project for designation under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program, certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

"Our plans call for a state-of-the-art 'green' facility, designed to accommodate what is anticipated to be dramatic growth in our office staff, while incorporating the latest in energy-efficient technologies to help us minimize our environmental impact," he said. The building will feature reflective roof material, energy-conserving glass, recycled waste material and advanced energy-management systems.

Kyle Poulson and Jack Huff of Huff Partners in Fort Worth represented Range in the selection of Horizon Properties for the project and in contract negotiations.

Range is producing the equivalent of about 160 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in the Marcellus, "which is ahead of its midyear target," company spokesman Matt Pitzarella said Monday.

Range said in late July that it plans an additional $210 million in capital expenditures in the Marcellus this year.

With the spending boost, the company said it expects to double its net production from the equivalent of 200 million to 210 million cubic feet of gas per day by year's end to 400 million to 420 million cubic feet by the end of 2011.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Philadelphia Inquirer Buyer Said to Cancel Purchase, Forcing New Auction


A deal to sell the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper fell apart, forcing the publisher operating under bankruptcy protection to consider putting itself up for auction, a company attorney said today.

Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, the company that controls the Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, is negotiating with the group of lenders who backed out of a contract to buy the newspapers today, Lawrence G. McMichael, a lawyer for the company, said in an interview. The company can continue to operate because it has enough cash and is approaching the busiest time for advertising sales in the newspaper industry, McMichael said.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said McMichael, with the law firm Dilworth Paxson LLP. Fred Hodara, an attorney for the lenders, declined to comment.

Under the company’s plan to exit bankruptcy, a group of the newspapers’ lenders, including hedge fund Angelo Gordon & Co. and a unit of Credit Suisse Group AG, had until noon today to complete the purchase of the company.

The sale collapsed after members of the Teamsters union refused to agree to change their pension plan, a person familiar with the standoff said today. Under the contract to buy the newspapers, the lenders had the option to back out if they failed to win support from all of the unions.

Frank Sabatino, a lawyer for the Teamster Pension Trust Fund of Philadelphia & Vicinity, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

‘No Worries’

Philadelphia Newspapers had planned to file court papers this afternoon seeking a new auction, McMichael said. Those plans are on hold while the company talks to the lenders and the lenders talk to the Teamsters, he said.

“There is no reason for panic by anyone,” McMichael said. “There are no worries about shutting down.”

The newspaper company filed for bankruptcy in February 2009, blaming the recession and a slowdown in advertising.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How Philly's Navy Yard will become Mini-City of Energy Innovation

Philadelphia Inquirer

Congratulations. You've blown some insulation into the attic, screwed in some compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Perhaps you replaced those old, drafty windows.

Energy-saving moves, all of them.

But that's nothing compared to what is coming at the Navy Yard.

Pennsylvania State University and a slew of partners plan to implement and develop the very latest in eco-friendly technologies at the South Philadelphia site, with the help of $159 million in federal and state grants announced last week.

"Dynamic" building facades that adjust in response to changes in outdoor temperature and sunlight. High-tech materials that remove humidity from the air without cooling it to the bone-chilling level of the typical air conditioner. Electronic sensors that perceive harmful particles in the air and activate filters when needed.

Some of this is still in the concept stage, while other elements are on the market. But they are rarely implemented as parts of a system in which buildings - even entire neighborhoods - can slash energy costs by engaging in a computer-controlled give-and-take with the environment and the electrical grid.

So-called smart buildings have been built here and there, but not in a way that can be replicated at low cost for a mass market, said James Freihaut, a professor of architectural engineering at Penn State. The goal is to develop technology that will pay for itself within five years, cutting energy costs by at least 50 percent.

"It's not rocket science," said Freihaut, the technical lead on the project. "It's actually a lot more difficult."

But he thinks it can be done, starting with several of the Navy Yard's redbrick structures as guinea pigs. Among the site's benefits is that it has its own power grid, said engineer Satish Narayanan of the Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp.

"It's sort of a mini-city," said Narayanan, whose employer is a project partner.

UTC makes Carrier air conditioners, among many other products, and this expertise is expected to be a big source of cost savings.

Today's air conditioners cool the air well below room temperature in order to remove humidity. In a typical commercial building, the air must then be reheated - a significant waste.

In a home with central air, the machine comes roaring to life every so often, emitting air at 55 degrees until the overall temperature is brought down to the desired level.

If the humidity were removed from the air in some other way, the air would not need to be cooled as much, and the machines could be smaller - saving energy and capital costs, Narayanan said.

Humidity could be lowered with some sort of membrane or chemical dehumidifier, perhaps by mimicking processes found in nature, said Penn State's Freihaut. For example, certain desert toads have skin that can capture water from the air, he said.

Other technologies that will be studied at the Navy Yard include window glass that can be electrically manipulated to admit different amounts of light depending on the time of day. Such a system would be automated to anticipate and respond to weather changes and how many people are in the building, said Narayanan.

The project's biggest recipient of federal funds is Penn State, with $34 million. UTC will receive $10 million for research and will chip in $5 million of its own, while Bayer MaterialScience is to get $2.5 million and contribute about $3 million. The partners include 11 universities and five corporations.

Several buildings at the Navy Yard will be retrofitted, among them Building 661 - a 30,000 square-foot edifice that once housed a gymnasium, swimming pool, and offices. A separate laboratory facility will be built from scratch.

Various forms of high-tech insulation will be used, but that requires more focus on indoor air quality, said Mike Gallagher, director of the government services group for Bayer MaterialScience. The air in a tightly sealed building can suffer from "off-gassing," chemicals emitted from synthetic materials.

So the company, part of the German-based Bayer Group, has developed eco-friendly urethane coatings and other materials with negligible levels of volatile organics.

Still another technology involves impregnating concrete or another rigid building material with a second substance, such as a waxlike polymer, that has a melting point near room temperature.

Called phase-change materials because they change back and forth from liquid to solid, melting or solidifying depending on the temperature, they serve as a sort of insulator.

They rely on the principle that a substance requires energy to change its phase - to melt (or boil, for that matter) - energy that is absorbed from the surrounding environment without changing the material's temperature.

The melting point of the substances used in building materials is typically above room temperature. So when the outdoor temperature exceeds that melting point, a certain amount of the heat is absorbed for the purpose of melting. Similarly, when the outdoor temperature comes back down at night, the heat from the material is released.

While these and other green materials already are available, rare is the building that has them all working in concert, said Thanos Tzempelikos, an assistant professor of architectural engineering at Purdue University - another project partner, which is getting $6 million.

A building has many complex subsystems, and they are generally designed and installed by different people. Unlike with say, an automobile, these professionals do not necessarily communicate with each other - from the developer to the architect to the subcontractor.

And the project leaders acknowledge that all the gee-whiz gadgetry in the world will not make a difference if no one uses it. The project officials will visit schools to describe their work and encourage people to enter the green-building field.

Business owners will be able to follow their work on an interactive website.

And some research will look at policies to encourage adoption of the technologies, such as incentives or regulation.

Still others will study energy generation and storage - for example, batteries to capture excess solar or wind energy for later use, when it is not sunny or windy.

Then there's a concept called combined heat and power - generating electricity on or near the site, perhaps with a gas-powered microturbine. Large power plants lose much of their energy in the form of waste heat, whereas the excess heat from a small, on-site plant can be used to heat the buildings.

The bottom line, said Freihaut, is that there is a lot of innovation to be done:

"I tell my students, 'Look, you can be richer than Bill Gates.' "