Free workshops will focus on energy efficiency in older buildings

Energy efficiency isn’t a concept that belongs only in new buildings – and the Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission wants people to know that.

On Thursday, the Commission will present the first of a four-session series of free workshops on energy efficiency in older buildings and homes. Local green building expert Bill McAnally will present the first session. Among his topics will be building energy loss, heating and cooling aspects, air sealing techniques and common building failures.

The series will then focus on rehabilitating old and historic windows, and a national expert on that topic will be coming to town.

Bob Yapp, president of Preservation Resources Inc., will take workshop participants through a PowerPoint presentation, then talk about repairing, restoring and weatherizing old windows, showing all the tools and processes needed.

Finally, in a four-hour mini-boot camp, workshop participants will get a chance to get their hands dirty and work with Yapp as they actually help bring an old window up to modern-day energy expectations.

The workshops are open to anyone, from homeowners to contractors, who want to attend. But Fort Dodge Senior Planner Stephanie Houk Sheetz said she’s hoping the sessions – which have the name power to bring in participants from across the state – especially draw local people.

“We really hope that we will get a good local crowd,” Houk Sheetz said. “This information is something that draws people from outside this area. We’re going to see people traveling a couple of hours, most likely. But our No. 1 goal is for the local community.”

Window replacement is a hot topic in historic preservation, she said, which is why Houk Sheetz attended a session on window rehabilitation at the state’s historic preservation conference. That, in turn, led her to attend a presentation by Yapp at the Iowa Main Street conference.

“At the same time,” she said, “the city has funded a forgivable facade loan that the development corporation, a not-for-profit, runs, and what we were seeing from several of the projects was windows and window replacement. We were starting to hear a lot about how windows can be repaired and be retained, and how it can be done cost-efficiently. We needed to get some local knowledge about this.”

The Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission was “totally on board,” Houk Sheetz said, because the concept dovetails with the downtown plan.

“We have a historic district in place; that was a recommendation of our downtown plan,” she said. “The historic district is beneficial because it qualifies properties for a tax credit if they do an improvement project.”

Those projects can mean state and federal tax credits of up to 45 percent but would most likely require the rehabilitation of the building’s original windows.

“There are exceptions,” Houk Sheetz said. “But, most likely, you could not replace significant windows; you would have to repair them.”

The McQuilkin Building, 815 Central Ave., will be the focus of some of the workshops as well as the site of the third workshop. The building was purchased by Rich Seltz about a year and a half ago, she said, “and he obtained a grant to work on a restoration plan so it can qualify for historic tax credits.”

The workshops are possible because the Fort Dodge Historic Preservation Commission applied for and received a Certified Local Government Grant, Houk Sheetz said.

“These are kind of small grants to help education,” she said. “They might fund planning for preservation, survey and evaluation, public education or planning. They can even help fund preparing a building for the National Register or getting tax credits for an improvement project.”

In addition to the initial matching CLG grant, in order to afford national expert Yapp, funding was also provided by the National Park Service, Downtown SSMID, Deardorf Foundation, the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way, the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau. McAnally, she said, is donating his time with the project.

“That helps us with our match,” Houk Sheetz said, “because every grant has in-kind and cash match. He’s been wonderful to work with.”