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Case studies

Project: Rag Flats


Rag Flats      

Project: Rag Flats
Architect: Onion Flats
Typology: Urban Infill/Adaptive Reuse
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Sustainability Elements: Ecology, Energy, Culture, Resources

Rag Flats is an 11-unit residential renovation and expansion of a former rag factory in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Designed by a small team of architects, each of whom took responsibility for one aspect of the project, Rag Flats creates an eclectic mixture of building types and styles that are carefully woven into the existing urban fabric.

While Fishtown's architectural vernacular is comprised mostly of modest brick and stone rowhouses, the architects utilized a distinctly modern palette of steel and aluminum, accented by wood slats and vibrantly painted stucco. Despite the contrast in materiality, Rag Flats maintains the scale and sensitivity of the neighborhood. At the front of the site, new construction fills a gap between the existing warehouse and a neighboring home creating a continuous street front where there was previously vacant lot. With access from the side alley, five freestanding units rise three-stories at the back of the site to enclose the courtyard, which provides parking and access to the interior units.

Rag Flats incorporates numerous sustainability features. The courtyard uses permeable pavement to filter stormwater and reduce runoff, as well as a 6,000-gallon rain cistern to collect rooftop water. A 32-kilovolt photovoltaic system located on top of the retrofitted warehouse reduces the project’s dependence on grid electricity. The remaining roof area accommodates an eight-inch deep green roof which reduces solar gain due to heat island effect while providing a simple green space for families to relax.

In older commercial and industrial areas in the County - Fenton Village, Woodmont Triangle, Twinbrook - existing neighborhood fabric can be a significant asset for new development. Much like Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, these areas are composed of small lots, and numerous individual landholders which gives each block and building a unique character. Rag Flats provides an excellent example of how adaptive reuse can strength neighborhood character, and creatively provide housing in industrial contexts.