Chad Pfohl and his wife are planting roots on Plymouth Avenue. And he’s quick to point out why he is undertaking the innovative restoration project on what is called a critical block in the Kleinhans neighborhood.
“It is one of the prettiest blocks in the city with tremendous potential,” says Pfohl. “I’m a big supporter of the revitalization of the city’s center as this is where we will need to be in the future. Urban not suburban.”
Pfohl was introduced to the neighborhood by Joe Delaney, a long-time friend whom he met years ago at the UB School of Architecture where they were both students. Many credit Delaney with helping kick-off the restoration of the street and he, at one time, owned the house across the street on Plymouth with John Gulick and local architect David Stieglitz. Delaney passed away in January, but the work he started continues and is gaining momentum.
“When I saw 25 Plymouth on the market, I knew it was what we wanted,” says Pfohl. He and his wife paid $74,900 for the house and adjacent vacant lot, a considerable sum considering the house was in Pfohl’s words, “pretty wonky.” They will be moving from Mariner Street where they currently rent.
Pfohl is completely restoring the the circa-1863, 2,000 sq.ft. house and creating a sustainable landscape on the exterior.
A gut rehab is underway on the interior where previous owners have not been kind to the home. “There is no original woodwork to save and just one stained glass window,” says Pfohl. “The floors were like roller coasters.”
“It did have beautiful bones however,” adds Pfohl. “Some of the exterior eave details are intact and we’ll be adding back a gingerbread porch and narrow, tall windows in keeping with the Victorian styling.” (rendering right)
“Everything we’re doing is using a green approach,” he says. “We’re using sustainable materials and envision it ultimately being a passive house, one which uses minimal fossil fuels.”
The home’s walls will be super-insulated during this phase of the rehab. Since this work is expensive, the goal of creating a truly passive house will be done in phases. Pfohl says a thick, second roof will be added in the future. At that point, most of the heat needed in the house will be generated by its occupants, lights and appliances.
Since Pfohl and his parents are handicapped, accessibility is a key component of the renovations which are expected to be complete by January 1.
A new entrance into the basement is being created, leading to an elevator that will serve the three levels of the home.
To create stair-less access, crews excavated six feet down to bring the driveway to the basement level.
There will be no lawn. Greenstone that was salvaged by Buffalo ReUse from M&T Plaza will be used for garden pathways. The front walk will be made of cobblestone.
One of the goals is to keep storm water on the property. Rainwater is seen as a resource, not a nuisance.
“Since we’re essentially creating a swimming pool there, we’ll pump the water into a rain garden planned for the site.”
Pfohl credits Kevin Connors and Sandy Heiser of eco-logic STUDIO for the innovative designs. Tom Kolveck of Buffalo Carpentry is the prime contractor and Dave Majewski, many of his projects profiled on Buffalo Rising in the past, is assisting with the exterior landscape work.
Pfohl envisions the landscape and house as becoming an example of urban permaculture where the ecosystem produces the same amount of energy as it uses.. He also plans on raising chickens.
Majewski says the project is one-of-a-kind in the region and the principles could be replicated elsewhere.
“The project is unique in that the client, along with the architect, and our staff are all on the same page regarding low-impact developing and the importance of it to the local environment and community,” says Majewski. “We are making every single effort to manage 100 percent of the runoff from this site any way we can. A unique component of this is that there will be no concrete on the site at all. All the unique components of the project certainly make this a Buffalo first.”
“It is a showcase, absolutely,” says Pfohl. He would like to use the principles of the passive house combined with other new technologies to create an affordable passive house to be built for working people of Buffalo on the empty lots of the east and west sides. “A house with no furnace in this climate, it will be revolutionary.”
Plants that will be utilized according to Majewski:
Nemopanthus – mountain holly
Aesclepias – orange milkweed
Vaccinium – lowbush blueberry
Carex – sedge
Eupatorium – Joe Pye Weed