The Story

The building was built in 1894 as a private bath house and health spa since it sat upon a well that was drilled to almost 2200 feet deep. The well was drilled to provide clean water for the surrounding Belcher Sugar Refining Company, but was found to be rich in sulphur and minerals, unsuitable for sugar refining but thought to be medicinal.  After about 15 years the bath house was closed, and the water was piped to the new Belcher Bath and Hotel in downtown St. Louis.  A small warehouse was added to the east and the combined building was turned into a food processing plant until almost the end of the twentieth century.  Never totally abandoned its last use consisted of a warehouse for used paperback books and a car painting business.  All windows were covered so there was no natural light inside.  The roof leaked and the floor joists were rotted.  The heating, plumbing and electrical systems functioned poorly. Thanks to Tim Montgomery you may view a presentation about the project.

Phase I (2004-2007)

The building’s foot print is 5200 square feet, and there is an additional 20 foot wide side lot.   Over 75% of the building’s shell has been retained; some of the building’s materials have been reused or recycled; and over 80% of the demolition and construction waste was diverted from the landfill by way of local recycling centers.  Natural light was restored to all areas of the building.  Natural ventilation plus energy efficient furnaces and air conditioning systems heat and cool the building using forced air under a reused platform floor and a duct sock.  Recycled newspaper cellulose was used for insulation. Skylights and solar tubes bring in extra natural light.

The building is accessible by ADA standards.  The main area contains two offices made of remanufactured office cubes.  The carpet is made of recycled materials.  An entry area has a bamboo floor.  The paint contains no Volatile Organic Compounds.  A small catering kitchen has a cork floor, Energy Star appliances, cabinets from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, granite from a stonemason’s scrap pile, and a small counter top made of PaperStone, a composite of recycled paper and crushed stone. The bathrooms have dual flush toilets and low flow faucets.   Hot water is provided only when needed by an instant on tank-less gas water heater

The roof consists of a pitched roof made of long lasting reflective metal and a flat roof which consists of a Trex deck (recycled plastic and wood chips) and a living “green roof” consisting of five varieties of sedum, a low maintenance weather tolerant plant.  Rain barrels contain some of the rain runoff.  There are Unisolar thin film solar panels on the roof capable of generating 3.4KWatts of power. There is also a Skystream 3.7  wind turbine capable of generating 1.8KWatts of power.  These two renewable energy systems are tied into the local electric power grid, but provide 20 to 30 percent of the electricity used by the building.  There is battery backup and the essential systems can function if the building is disconnected from the grid.

On the north side of the building is a small narrow garden.  There is space on permeable pavers for parking for two cars.  The rain water that falls on the site is diverted into the garden which incorporates a bio-swale and a rain garden.  The garden is planted with native plants that require little or no irrigation.  If extra water is required, it is taken from the rain barrels, not the city water system.

The building is near the trail head of the North Riverfront Trail and convenient to the Bike St. Louis bicycle route system.  There is indoor bicycle parking and a shower for bicyclists who may commute to the building.

The process of transforming this building was most enjoyable.  The success of this project is due to the cooperative efforts and enthusiasm of the Team that did the initial work.  (See Team)    Approximate energy generation and use can be seen by clicking on the Fat Spaniel energy monitoring tab.   You can also see some pictures by clicking Pictures and some other information by clicking Media articles.  Meanwhile this is an experiment and a work in progress.  Hopefully there will be data to report on the actual functioning of this building.  Additions and changes to the existing systems are also being considered.  Stay tuned. 

Phase II (2010-2012)

A small upgrade was undertaken in 2010 to provide additional renewable energy capacity and shade and rain protection over the loading dock and by the stair tower roof door.  An Urban Green Energy (UGE-1K) vertical wind turbine has been mounted on the stair tower. Sixteen Lumos LX 200 solar panels are mounted on awnings over the loading dock and the roof’s stair tower door.  These panels are connected to Enphase energy micro inverters and tied into the building’s electrical system.  The new turbine’s 1000 watt capacity and the new solar panels’ extra 2880 watt capacity bring the buildings’ total renewable energy capacity to 9680 watts.

In addition to more generating capacity, additional monitoring systems have been added to get a better understanding of how the building performs. 

There is also a wee off the grid arrangement.  Two 68 watt Unisolar panels are connected to charge a battery which can power a dc water pump for two rain barrels and a dc LED light arrangement at the stair tower door.

Again, this is an enjoyable, experimental work in progress.  If you have any feedback, questions, or suggestions, please feel free to send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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