Architects from all over the state are meeting in Ames today for a conference they’re calling "Building a Better Iowa by Design." Dale McKinney, a Sioux City architect, is one of the workshop speakers. McKinney says he helps community leaders focus on revitalizing their downtowns to create a better quality of life that can attract new residents to otherwise sleepy Iowa towns.
McKinney says, "Most of these communities have a hundred-year or 150-year pasts so it’s working with what you have and what you can do to make that even better." His lecture is called "Redesigning Downtown for Livability" which he says means not giving in to urban sprawl and focusing instead on the wonderful old buildings that are already in place.
McKinney says: "We’ve done a number of adaptive reuse projects across the state in a number of cities that have taken abandoned buildings, sometimes recently unoccupied, sometimes unoccupied for 20 or 30 years, and injected a new use into them, brought them up to today’s standards and put them back on the tax rolls." He says urban sprawl is gobbling up Iowa farmland at an alarming rate, plus, it forces cities to further extend overstretched utilities.
McKinney says: "We really need to maintain the core development in our communities. A piece of green architecture really is salvaging existing buildings and not tearing them down and cluttering our landfills with more debris that we have to worry about what effect that will have on the environment into the future." He says many cities are seeing the value of turning old vacant factories, warehouses and storefronts into chic condos or trendy loft apartments.
McKinney says we simply can’t afford to build buildings today as well as they were built years ago. He says "An old masonry building might have walls that are 18 inches to 24-inches thick. That’s a huge heat mass and then add insulation to that and you have a building that is extremely efficient from an energy operational standpoint." The conference of the Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Architects is underway today only at the Gateway Center in Ames.