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Showhouses in Grand Central go on despite September 11th

November/December 2001
Building Systems Magazine

Despite the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, two demonstration homes -- one of which was built with building-systems technologies -- were open to the public in the heart of New York City just days after the tragic events that paralyzed the nation.

Country Home magazine organized and built the two show homes, set for the first time at the very crossroads of urban and suburban living at the nation's busiest train station, Grand Central Terminal. Originally scheduled to be open to the public for three weeks beginning Sept. 10, the show homes were closed for one week after the attacks.

"We were originally going to use the proceeds from these homes to benefit Habitat for Humanity. But in light of the attacks against New York and Washington, we've altered that. All proceeds will now benefit the New York City Fire & Police Widows and Orphans Fund," says Lindsey von Busch, a publicist for Country Home magazine, a Meredith publication.

The show homes in the train station's Vanderbilt Hall on East 42nd Street feature two distinct styles. On one side of the grand space is a fully furnished and decorated Country Cottage, a 1,200-sq.ft. timber frame with an envelope of SIPs, provided by Riverbend Timber Framing and Great Lakes Insulspan (Blissfield, MI). On the other side of Vanderbilt Hall is a conventionally constructed penthouse apartment with a contemporary architectural design.

Thanks to the energy efficiencies of SIPs, the Country Cottage will cost less than $300 a year to heat and cool, even with its great room and vaulted ceiling. The SIP performance advantage would save the owners more than 50% in energy costs when compared to a comparable stick frame home, say organizers behind the event. After the timber frame was precut to exacting dimensions at Riverbend's facility, it was raised in Vanderbilt Hall, by hand, with the help of volunteers from Habitat for Humanity. While timber frames are typically raised with cranes, the Hall's dimensions and human traffic precluded that for safety reasons. For the same reason, the SIP package was precut as well, with all door and window cut outs and electrical chases performed at the factory by a CNC machine. "Preassembly was a must in order to anticipate any special construction needs once we reached Grand Central," explains Mitchell Dennis, founder and owner of DSA Builders, the contractor on the project. "The panels were fabulous to work with. They came together fast and easy."

This marks the third time Insulspan has worked with Country Home magazine on a show home. In 1996 and again in 1998, Insulspan helped create the magazine's show homes inside the Mall of America in Minneapolis.

If you missed the show homes in person, Country Home will feature them in a spring 2002 issue. As the centerpiece for this feature, readers will find articles focusing on the building process, interior design and the products and innovations that exemplify the best and most inventive of building and design. Additionally, the magazine's Web site, www.countryhome.com, features the floor plans, construction photos and other information.

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