213 West 15th Street Balcony, Summer 2009

An old addition on the rear of the three-story single family building at 213 West 15th Street was demolished years ago, leaving the second story bedroom with a “door to nowhere.” Sister Monica and Sister Janet kept the door locked, but hoped that a balcony would eventually provide some shade for the kitchen and patio below and allow for cool breezes on the second floor. Early meetings with the urban conservator revealed that a typical pressure-treated deck would not be acceptable in the historic neighborhood. The Over-the-Rhine DesignBuild Studio opted for a black steel frame (in keeping with the fire-escape aesthetic seen in the neighborhood) with wood decking and railing to provide a cooler surface for hot summer evenings.

Students worked with structural engineer and Miami University instructor Daniel Clark of Steven Schaefer Associates to develop a bolt-together balcony that could be erected by the students without field welding. Initial concepts (as shown in the renderings) had the balcony hanging from rods suspended from steel structure mounted in the attic. The idea was to limit the impact on living spaces and avoid a dig in the rear yard, which was likely loose infill from the demolition of the building addition. The cost of steel and difficulty of construction led the students to install piers in the existing concrete patio and stand the balcony on legs, despite digging into the unknown.

George Steel Fabrication of Lebanon, Ohio generously provided design assistance, steel fabrication, priming and delivery to a garage space on Pleasant Street, where students applied the black finish paint in a temporary paint booth. With the kit-of-parts ready, students bolted into the building to attach a bearing ledger, hoisted the structure into place, and wrenched it together. Redwood decking was screwed in from below so that it can be easily removed in the future for refinishing. The narrow decking strips transition into the pergola louvers which shade the kitchen window.