Habitat for Humanity Build Day

February 25, 2016 by

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On a rainy day in December, we closed the McHenry Architecture office and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Rochester.

In lieu of a large Christmas Party, we came together as a team of coworkers and decided to volunteer instead. We could think of no organization better suited to our interest in architecture than Habitat for Humanity, and quickly set up a volunteer day with the affiliate in Southeast New Hampshire.

We learned more about the family that would be living in the 4-bedroom unit; about how the two parents and four children were currently living in a space that is three times smaller than their new basement. We couldn’t wait to help.

From an architect’s perspective, it’s always nice to actually get out and build something ourselves. Many jokes ensued: architects can draw, but can they build? But the conversations and observations that occur while in the field are carried back to the office and influence our designs and details. And of course, it only gives us greater respect for those that build!

Ready to Work! From left: Anne, Margaret, Sarah, Mark, Jeremiah, Mary, Steve, and Kathy


Once we arrived on-site in Rochester, we met with the Site Supervisor, Doug, and the Manager, Amanda. They gave a rundown of the tasks ahead, and we got to work! The roof trusses were being delivered that day, and we got to help a bit with that, but we spent the majority of our day working on door assemblies. Measuring, cutting, counting. More jokes ensued: how many architects does it take to create a door frame? And of course, the competition was fierce as we split into groups for their assembly. Gamesmanship comments went back and forth, and we laughed the whole time.

Even in the rain, we had an amazing time. It felt so good to give back, and to work together in ways that we don’t normally get to do. We got to work with a great organization, and Doug and Amanda were fantastic. Plus, the roof trusses went up that day, though we can’t take credit, and only one person got pegged in the head with a 2×4. Success!

SENH Habitat for Humanity “partners with families to provide safe, affordable, and sustainable housing to strengthen communities.” They partner with families who are in need of affordable, decent, and safe housing. If you would like more information regarding Southeast New Hampshire Habitat for Humanity, or opportunities to volunteer, please head on over to their website http://www.senhhabitat.org/ and check them out on Facebook. We would do it again in a heartbeat!

Shakin’ on Sneckdown Street

January 25, 2016 by

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Despite the early unseasonably warm weather and few storms thus far in New Hampshire, it’s time to bring up a dirty word: Snow. Normally acceptable only to winter sport aficionados and fans of Disney’s Frozen, snow can actually be a very useful tool, and one that we can all pay attention to and utilize.

Snow can show us how we use our city streets; more specifically, the area of our streets that are actually used by cars, despite how much space is dedicated to them. The area left covered by snow, as shown by the tracks the cars have left, is called a “Sneckdown.” According to a photo essay on www.thisoldcity.com, “if you haven’t heard of a “sneckdown” yet, it’s a clever combination of “snow” and “neckdown” – another name for a curb expansion –     that uses snow formations on the street to reveal the space cars don’t use.”

At the risk of reminding anyone of the sheer amount of snow we received last winter, we at McHenry Architecture have highlighted a few examples from downtown Portsmouth that illustrates Sneckdowns in action, and how we have an opportunity to claim more of our streets for pedestrians or other modes of transportation, and enhance the walkability that so much of our city does so well.

Outside of the areas obviously utilized by cars, highlighted in blue are areas that could be reclaimed.

Chapel Street:Chapel Street_SneckdownsHere looking up Chapel Street from Daniel Street, it is clear that only one lane is really utilized, and the more space could be dedicated to sidewalks.

Daniel Street:Daniel Street_SneckdownsOn Daniel Street, at the intersection with Penhallow, there is an opportunity to narrow the single lane of traffic (also known as part of a ‘Road Diet’), still include parking on both sides, and still widen sidewalks for pedestrians. The curb bump-outs, as utilized in other areas of the city, help protect parked cars, as well as narrow the intersection, creating safer conditions for pedestrians, as well as better sight-lines for cars. Opportunities on wider sidewalks could then be taken advantage of: mini-pocket parks, areas for street trees, outdoor seating – just to name a few!

Market Square:Market Square_SneckdownsLooking down at Market Square where Market Street, Daniel Street, and Congress Street converge, is another example of how useful Sneckdowns can be. Rethinking the large amount of space between Market Street and Daniel Street, as well as reclaiming the outside edges, could help Market Square feel as though its primary focus was on the people, rather than the cars.

As this is a city we all love, we hope to start a conversation in the comments section and see your pictures of all the opportunities out there. So the next time it snows, after we’ve all dug out, we hope you’ll join us in checking out the Sneckdowns!


McHenry Architecture: LEEDing the way in Innovative Design

September 03, 2015 by


McHenry Architecture wins AEE-NE Comprehensive Energy Project of the Year Award for Smuttynose Brewery Project

It’s hard to think about saying goodbye to the long, warm days of summer that we seem to wait so long for. Like so many, we have tried to take advantage of these glorious summer days by being out in the fresh air, in the woods and on the water as much as possible. Our team has had some great adventures this summer, both personally and professionally. One of the highlights for us was McHenry Architecture being awarded the Association of Energy Engineers of New England’s (AEE-NE) Comprehensive Energy Project of the Year Award for our work with the Smuttynose Brewery project.

“We at McHenry Architecture greatly appreciate the recognition by the New England chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers for our design of the new Smuttynose Brewery.  Our collaborative efforts with the Smuttynose team have been some of our most rewarding in our professional experience,” says Steve McHenry, Principal.

The Smuttynose Brewery project continues to receive accolades, and as a partner we can’t help but be proud. The concentrated time and effort during the design stage is reaping the benefits in energy conservation and savings, as well as being an example of a building built to the highest LEED standards, the benchmark for high performance green buildings. Smuttynose Brewery has applied for LEED certification, the results of which should be announced in the next month.

Many people are familiar with the word LEED, but don’t necessarily understand the significance of the designation. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, designed the rating system to encourage and assist the development of more sustainable buildings. The USGBC developed the LEED certification process “to enhance environmental awareness among architects and building contractors, and to encourage the design and construction of energy-efficient, water-conserving buildings that use sustainable or green resources and materials.”

There are five different rating systems that address the unique needs of a building project (building design & construction, interior design & construction, building operations & maintenance, neighborhood development, and homes). Each rating system has a different set of guidelines, which help direct decisions about design and construction. To receive LEED certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification, of which there are four (certified, silver, gold and platinum). Smuttynose Brewery is registered to be Gold LEED Certified under the Building Design and Construction (BD+C) category.

LEED uses five different categories to judge a building’s sustainability; 1) site location, 2) water conservation, 3) energy efficiency, 4) materials, 5) indoor air quality, plus a bonus category for innovation and design. In the case of Smuttynose Brewery, they were interested in using sustainable construction techniques and manufacturing practices that reduced energy consumption from the very start. They partnered with Unitil to include energy efficient technology in the new brewery. By taking advantage of Unitil’s energy efficiency programs, Smuttynose is saving more than 11 million kWh over the lifetime of its equipment, which is enough to power 1,500 homes for a year.

“The place you have to start is the building envelope,” says Smuttynose founder Peter Egelston. The design team worked to gain a thorough understanding of what would take place inside as well as outside the building (mother nature and severe weather patterns) and subsequently how these two interfaced. The goal was to work towards an integrated design that took advantage of the natural landscape of the property, as well as target different points where gains could be made. This meant everything from planning the orientation of the building to allow for solar gain in the offices and lounge to the creation of rain gardens and bio swales that allow the water to seep back into the soil gradually, while filtering pollutants and sediment.

SmuttynoseInteriorJuly2014-08Applying for and receiving LEED certification is a lengthy and rigorous process. It can often take several years from start to finish and can require a significant investment of time and money – it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. With that said, there is an ever-growing number of individuals, architects and builders who are committed to utilizing LEED as a validation tool to ensure a more sustainable built environment. As a firm this is an integral part of who we are and how we view the built world. We made the commitment to sustainable design early on and were the first LEED Accredited design studio in Portsmouth, with every team member having some level of LEED certification.

As we look ahead to the future we are committed to working towards carbon-neutral buildings and are pleased to be an adopter of the 2030 Challenge, a pledge that all new buildings, developments and major renovations will be carbon-neutral by 2030. This challenge is set forth by Architecture 2030, a nonprofit organization, in response to the climate change crisis. Their mission is “to rapidly transform the built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate crisis.”
“At McHenry Architecture designing with sustainability and high performance in mind has become a standard approach for our design process. Adopting the 2030 Challenge was a natural step to keep our practice progressing into the future while doing our part in response to the changing climate,” says Brandon Holben. “Our strengths lie in an integrated design approach that remains the key to a successful and sustainable project.”


About Smuttynose Brewery:

Smuttynose Brewing Co. was founded in 1994 and distributes beer to more than two dozen states, Europe and Asia.  In conjunction with Unitil, GDS Associates, Compressor Energy Services, Harvey Construction Company, Mechanical Systems Engineers, Electrical Design Consultants, and McHenry Architecture, Smuttynose Brewing completed construction of a new plant, using sustainable construction techniques and manufacturing practices to reduce energy consumption.

About McHenry Architecture:

McHenry Architecture, located in historic downtown Portsmouth, NH, has worked in the region on commercial and residential projects ranging from adaptive reuse of historic structures to new multi-use buildings for more than 25 years. McHenry Architecture is Portsmouth’s first LEED Accredited design studio, leading in the field of green building strategies.

For more information about McHenry Architecture and these projects please visit http://www.mchenryarchitecture.com/ or www.facebook.com/mchenryarchitecture


Photography: David J. Murray, ClearEyePhoto.com

3S Artspace is Home—Connecting Space, Connecting People

March 31, 2015 by

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Spring is officially here and while there is snow still on the ground the days are getting longer and the sun is getting stronger. Spring reflects new beginnings and so it is symbolic that on the first day of Spring 3S Artspace opened their doors and welcomed the community into their new home. The creation of this multipurpose building, with the name itself representing it’s three key spaces—performance space, gallery and restaurant—is the culmination of five years of tireless work, one that has been a true labor of love.

Chris Greiner, Executive Director of 3S Artspace, shares, “After 5+ years of anticipation, the energy here was celebratory from the moment we opened the doors. By all accounts the feedback on the space—the design, the programming, the food—was enthusiastically positive.”

The team at McHenry Architecture has been excited to be a part of the process from the start, back when the project was just the inkling of an idea. The creation of a vital community gathering space is at the heart of our mission, and the architecture, interior design, and fit-up of 3S Artspace has been developed around this principle.

From the beginning 3S Artspace has been a particularly unique and challenging project—with a change of venue and far more design iterations than we can count. With that said, there has never been doubt of the goal in creating this community gathering place. Last June the heavy machinery moved on site for the ground breaking and it’s been a whirl of activity leading right up to the opening.

The design accommodates 3S Artspace’s diverse programming, establishing a great deal of flexibility within the venue so they can grow into their needs as operations dictate. Each of the three spaces is intrinsically linked to one another, with the goal that visitors feel a sense of place, as well as a sense of connection to the other spaces and people around them. 3S Artspace is at once contemporary and warm, with simplicity in its aesthetics that embraces visitors of all ages and tastes—a place that feels truly accessible.

“3S stands for “three spaces.” explains Chris Greiner, “It’s clear that the spaces play well together. The design, which was such an incredibly thoughtful process, really shines at 3S. The flow between the spaces, the size and position of the central lobby, the transparencies between the spaces, are critical in shaping the visitor’s experience of 3S. Not only were people being guided intuitively by the architecture, but they were conscious of it and conspicuously pleased by it—I had many people talk to me about how the design felt both intentional and completely natural.”



What has emerged is an adapted reuse of a 60 year-old warehouse on the waterfront in Portsmouth’s Historic District in an up-and-coming downtown neighborhood. The building is a former food processing plant, built of concrete block, with no character or significant features to speak of. In many respects a blank slate. The team wanted to take advantage of this and enhance the building with industrial motifs that celebrate the historically industrial nature of the area, while enhancing the building with 21st century materials. “This was a refreshing opportunity to consider such a project in the City’s Historic District, offering an unencumbered approach to recladding a simple industrial building with a contemporary expression that reflects the nature of the building use”, said Project Architect Brandon Holben.

Block Six Restaurant

The exterior material pallet reinforces this ideal with the use of rusticated metal siding in alternating patterns and profiles, weathered wood boards, and translucent cladding at the entrances. The adaptive reuse of this neglected industrial building harkens to the history of the working waterfront buildings of the past, the crafted steel panels exposing riveted fasteners of the maritime shipbuilding industry, and the linear glass curtain walls of the war-era industrial buildings of the shipyard. We never would have guessed that the scrap metal piles, long a landmark along the waterfront and from which we drew inspiration, would be gone by the time 3S Artspace opens.

3S Artspace is the first truly contemporary building in Portsmouth and received unanimous approval through the Historic District Commission. We are proud to have been part of creating a thoughtful—and what we hope people find inspiring—design that had so many elements that needed to be considered. Our team hopes that this project will serve as a stepping-stone for more progressive design throughout Portsmouth, as the city explores more historical renovations. As the old adage says—from little acorns mighty oaks do grow. We are thrilled that 3S Artspace is home and rooted at last. We have no doubt they will be a congregating place for art, food and culture lovers alike – ourselves included.

Photography: David J. Murray, ClearEyePhoto.com

Architectural Design is Alive and Well on the Seacoast

February 10, 2015 by

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Amherst, NH | McHenry Architecture was recently honored twice by the American Institute of Architects New Hampshire Chapter (AIANH) as a recipient of its 2015 Annual Excellence in Architecture Design Awards, the highest recognition of architecture that exemplifies excellence in overall design. As one of eight architectural firms receiving an AIANH award, McHenry Architecture won a Merit Award for their Hyder Court Housing project and the People’s Choice Award for their design of the new Smuttynose Brewing Company in Hampton. McHenry Architecture has now received 4 design awards from the AIANH Excellence in Architecture Awards Program.

Pic-2From left: Brandon Holben, Project Architect; Jay Purcell, AIANH Vice President; Steven McHenry, Principal Architect receiving award | Photo: John W. Hession

“We are honored to be the recipient of an AIA award and to be among such good company. Our team works hard to create the best possible solutions for our clients, always taking into consideration the context and environment for each. We enjoy being presented with a design challenge, working through the process, with the ultimate reward of seeing a project through to completion. We are grateful for our professional colleagues with whom we partner, because successful architecture takes a team,” says Steven McHenry, Principal, AIA|LEED AP.

Site Plan Hyder Court Housing Site Plan

The Hyder Court Housing project is a multifamily residential development project in Portsmouth that is sited on a transitional site between a dense residential neighborhood and the mixed-use commercial zone near the Portsmouth traffic circle. The objective was to create an efficient and well-planned site and buildings that provide much-needed housing while enhancing the existing neighborhood. A comment from the AIA jury, “Hyder Court…receives recognition for an innovative open floor plan layout in a building form of a reduced scale most typical of a single family residence…The design jury felt this was a very successful architectural solution for an often difficult and challenging proposition for design professionals.”

Brandon Holben, Senior Associate, AIA|LEED AP at McHenry Architecture shares, “Our projects in Portsmouth, a city steeped in historic character with a deep interest in preservation, doesn’t typically allow us to work so far outside the box so it was especially rewarding that the City and owner were so receptive to the contemporary attributes of this design.” 

HyderCourt-PRINT 05Hyder Court Housing Interior| Photography: Carabell Photography

The People’s Choice Award is based on votes from the public and was awarded to McHenry Architecture for their design of the new Smuttynose Brewing Company in Hampton, which is a LEED-certified facility (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).   The new brewery location has been a labor of love and patience as it searched for the right place to call home. Home was ultimately found in the 14-acre property and former site of the historic Towle Farm in Hampton, which was acquired in 2008. An integral part of the design was to protect the historic nature of the site, to relocate the Victorian era farmhouse, which has been renovated for use as a restaurant and due to open this month, and to preserve the existing barn for future use.

SmuttynoseExteriorJuly2014-05 Smuttynose Brewing Co. | Photo: David J. Murray, ClearEyePhoto

About AIA New Hampshire:

Founded in 1940, the New Hampshire Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANH) is a not-for-profit professional-service association of nearly 300 architects, allied professionals, and laypeople who are committed to excellence in design and creating a sustainable environment in our buildings, neighborhoods, towns, and cities.

The AIANH Excellence in Architecture Awards Program was created in 1983 for the purpose of providing public and professional recognition for architectural projects of design excellence by New Hampshire architects. Each entry is judged on the following criteria: overall design excellence including aesthetics, clarity, creativity, appropriate functionality, sustainability, building performance, and appropriateness with regard to fulfilling the client’s program.

About McHenry Architecture:

McHenry Architecture, located in historic downtown Portsmouth, NH, has worked in the region on commercial and residential projects ranging from adaptive reuse of historic structures to new multi-use buildings for more than 25 years. McHenry Architecture is Portsmouth’s first LEED Accredited design studio, leading in the field of green building strategies.

For more information about McHenry Architecture and these projects please visit http://www.mchenryarchitecture.com/ or www.facebook.com/mchenryarchitecture