Design Vault Ep. 25 102 Bainbridge with Michelle Todd


design vault episode 25 michelle todd architects 102 bainbridge


A design firm specializing in progressive and innovative designs that enhance the environment and existing urban fabric. * Our focus is to design and develop projects that are sensitive and responsible to social wellness, cradle to cradle architecture and the planet. * Better buildings. Better change. 


Michelle Todd is an architect and urban community activist who has a longstanding passion for socially responsive, innovatively progressive, and restorative preservation design. Michelle grew up in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the 1970s before it was hip, in one of Mayor John Lindsay’s modular housing developments. She knew she wanted to be an architect at ten and had big plans for the empty lot across from her apartment building. 


It was the beginning of her interest in Urban Planning and how socially responsive architecture can do something positive for people and the planet. After a brief stint at Perkins Eastman, she opened her own firm in 2008. Since then, she has worked for small and large corporations such as Snapple, the New York City agency Office of Emergency Management and private residential projects. Since 2008 she has since set up her own studio in Brooklyn, New York and focuses on historic renovations and additions to collaborate more directly with clients and be closer to the construction process. She has worked on landmark designated buildings, bakeries, restaurants, school projects and completed dexterous renovations which push the envelope of the expected, creating simple beautiful spaces. Michelle has a Master of Science from Columbia University GSAPP in Architecture and Urban Design, where she was awarded the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Honors Award for work in Urban Design. Master Planning of Community Developments is an initiative she is well versed in accomplishing. She is certified as a consultant with the International Institute of Building Enclosures (IIBEC) and Living Future Accredited (LFA) with the International Living Future Institute. She also studied at the famous École de Beaux-Arts in Fontainebleau, France. She is an adjunct Professor at New York City CUNY College and a licensed architect in New York State and Maryland State. You can find her gardening and planning programming with the AIA Brooklyn COTE Committee and AIA National Regional & Urban Design Committee. 







Residents of New York City take immense pride in their city, renowned for its vibrant energy, rich culture, and remarkable history. Among the numerous neighborhoods, Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant, fondly known as Bed-Stuy, stands out with its collection of over 8,000 buildings pre-dating the 20th century.

One of those buildings immersed in this historical tapestry is the beautiful home of 102 Bainbridge Street located in the Bedford Stuyvesant original Stuyvesant Heights Historic District which was designated on September 14th, 1971. It was built within a row of building Nos. 76-104 and is a long group of houses planned to form seven freestanding architectural units, consisting of fourteen paired houses plus a single house at the eastern end. These unusual two-story houses, designed by W. F. McCarthy, are of red brick laid in Flemish bond, and were built in 1919 for Samuel Willen, treasurer of the Prosser Construction Company. 102 Bainbridge itself is a modified Spanish Renaissance style with a triple arch loggia surmounted by a group of five (5) double hung windows. The roof parapet rises at the center in an arch supported on concave shoulders. The house is set back behind brick terraces with brick balustrades and are approached by L-shape stoops set back at a common wall.

The initiation for the restoration for this building was due to the exterior façade along the roof parapet on the west and north elevation were buckling with severe step cracking occurring along masonry segments in the façade with patches of damaged stucco. Within the west façade along the base of the stepped parapet were damaged steel tie rods. At the north façade, the center stone pediment needed to be supported correctly and coping stones above it had to be repaired. At grade, the front façade along the brick terraces walls showed signs of masonry buckling and deterioration. The entire existing roof, skylights, roof hatch and areas of limestone and blue stone above and below the windows were in dire need of repair.

The premise to rectify the structural conditions of the home began early in the design to utilize sustainable means and methods to restore the building. A major step taken was not to replace the areas along the façade again with new stucco. Stucco accounts for 8.2% of carbon emissions and is a material that is hard to maintain due to temperature change effects, dealing with moisture and freezing. During the removal process of the existing stucco along the rear east elevation the homeowners genuinely liked the appearance of the natural brick underneath. The advantage of keeping the natural brick exposed was its resilience to harsh climatic resistance, durable, low-maintenance, fireproof, noise cancelling, energy efficient and just made the building more attractive. The existing brick under the stucco in the rear of the home was a different brick color and style from the original masonry brick along the front east elevation and north elevation. We therefore chose a brick like the underlining brick called Glen Gehry Cushwa Calvert Series Middle Plantation Brick 52-DD along with 403 mortars to match masonry bond style.

As the construction project continued upon removal of the stucco face, it was revealed that a 1956 addition to 102 Bainbridge Street along the second-floor rear east and south façade was framed with wood along the exterior instead of masonry as per the original blueprints and approval submitted. Even though this construction was done before the landmark designation in 1971, the use of wood was illegal back then and present-day NYC building code because the building is along a shared property line with an adjacent building. This plot twist made the project move from being an exterior renovation to a demolition and reconstruction of a new addition.

To address this issue, the structural engineering firm Silman Structural Engineering was brought in to provide consultation on the next steps. Their recommendation was to reuse the existing steel lintels that were located under the wood along the exterior façade where the original windows were located and the roof structure. An entirely new structural design was created to merge the old methodologies of the 2-wythe masonry wall with the new steel framing from Marino\WARE. Scott Hughes Principal Director of Structural Engineering at Silman stated he specified Marino-Ware products because of the wealth of publicly available published information about them and their sustainable qualities of steel being robust, long-lasting, and 100% recyclable, making it unmatched by most other building materials in terms of its lifecycle. The new wall construction entailed the structural steel from Marino Ware which has the environmental product declaration from UL, USG glass mat sheathing made of recycled material and is 100% recyclable, the Blueskin vapor barrier to contribute the energy efficiency of the home and Glen Gehry bricks for the 2-wythe exterior wall. The existing steel lintels rediscovered remained to install the original style windows back at those locations along the east and south façade.

In correcting the existing parapet at the roof, we replaced the existing steel tie rods with the assistance of a local steel maker in Brooklyn who created each unique piece separately. This became handy when we had to go back to him again to create additional steel tie rods, upon the demolition of the top parapet along the north façade. There it was discovered the masonry construction was three wythe and within it were steel tie rods hidden from view to support the center of the arch with the stone pediment along with the concave shoulders.

The masonry wall along the front porch during the demolition process existing bricks were analyzed closely to see which ones could be salvaged and reused. This helped to maintain the budget of the project but also to have less impact to add to the wasteful construction materials to landfills which brick encompasses about 6.54% sadly. Areas within the masonry façade that were in decent shape stayed and dilapidated areas were replaced with new bricks. The entire roof was professionally abated and replaced using Siplast roofing system which uses reusable insulation to bright white liquid-applied roof membranes and granule surface that helps reduce atmospheric pollution. The environmental and sustainable goals were met with the reduction of building energy use, increase roof longevity and reduction of urban heat island effect. The large skylight was replicated and replaced. The small skylight on the roof was replaced with an operable solar skylight which aids natural light and ventilation to come into the building.

All existing coping stones were cleaned, repaired, reused, and restored. New limestone and blue stone used in the restoration was advocated from quarries and manufacturers who met ANSI/NSC 373 Standard.

Completing the exterior façade restoration entailed the replacement of the steel window lintels for some of the existing windows. The steel used was recyclable. The homeowners desired to have all the windows replaced for the home to save energy, save money obtain ultimate insulation, climate control, more light, less noise, dust, and outside pollutants. The windows was provided by Norwood Window and Doors because of their strong advocacy of their products created from sustainable harvested lumber and NRFC rating.


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