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This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the January 18, 2006

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Getting Their Energy Act & Music Together

For Gonzalo Rizo-Patron, founder and owner of Hamilton-based Entasis Architecture, creating the ideal living or working space is more than just a way to make a living. To him, doing architecture the right way means engaging in the sort of attention to detail that could make an ancient Greek blush. That is why working on the new corporate headquarters for Ken Guilmartin’s music education empire Music Together, a facility that will include a state-of-the-art geothermal heating and cooling system, has been such a rewarding experience.

"From the very beginning, this project has been wonderful," says Rizo-Patron. "Ken is very sensitive about the materials we use and he let it be known right away that he was very interested in creating a building that was sensitive to the environment and green things."

"At Music Together, we believe we are all stewards of our environment," says Guilmartin. "Although we are focused on music education and appreciation, we believe every person should play a role in protecting the environment."

And if heating and cooling costs continue to stay as high as they are this winter, other developers may want to consider Music Together’s geothermal heating and cooling system. Geothermal systems are becoming increasingly popular for schools, institutions, and historic buildings. Though Music Together’s system is expensive, it can be expected to pay for itself by 2013.

For over 18 years, Guilmartin has been something of a trailblazer in early childhood music education as founder and director of the Princeton-based Music Together. In the process he created and popularized the concept of a music and movement approach to a developmentally appropriate early childhood music curriculum that emphasizes adult involvement (U.S. 1, March 26, 2003). Enhanced by a bevy of professionally produced CDs, songbooks, and parent education resources for home use, it has licensees in nearly all 50 states as well as more than 24 foreign countries. All told, it is taught in over 1,400 communities around the world. Here, Music Together has 20 to 30 employees.

After graduating from Swarthmore in 1967 and working in New York musical theater, Guilmartin founded Music Together in 1987. But by 2001 Music Together was beginning to outgrow its cozy confines of 66 Witherspoon Street in downtown Princeton. Looking around for a suitable facility, Guilmartin learned that the 13,000 square foot building at 225 Pennington-Hopewell Road that formerly housed such oft-neglected night spots as Charlie’s Brother, Max’s 1893, and Jimmy Kaptain’s Tomato Bar & Grill, was up for sale.

"I think he was looking for something a little bit smaller," says Rizo-Patron. "But when this property became available, he was able to contemplate including into the project other ideas that would have been just a wish before. We started with some quick schematic drawings just to see whether it would be a good fit or not. It was, and that was when he made the decision to try to bid for the property to see if he could get it."

Early in the process, Rizo-Patron suggested the possibility of using a geothermal heating and cooling system that would be both environmentally conscientious and – eventually – cost effective. Though Music Together would not provide cost information about the building’s rehab, the company did say that the geothermal system cost $100,000. "It will pay for itself in about seven or seven and a half years," says Rizo-Patron. "It’s a very clean source of energy, economically feasible. There is the considerable cost upfront, but after that it is a win-win situation."

"Geothermal is an alternative energy system that basically uses the very consistent energy of the earth," says Guilmartin. "So in the summer you can use it to cool the building and in the winter it can serve as a source of heat."

Morven paid $65,000 for a geothermal system under its parking lot, and Tenacre is considering one as well, according to Jerry Ford of Ford 3 Architects (www.ford3.com).

School districts, in particular, like geothermal systems’ low maintenance costs and long life, says Heidi Fichtenbaum of Farewell Mills Gatsch Architects on Forrestal Road (www.fmg-arch.com). For instance, geothermal systems have been installed under playing fields at Grover Middle School in West Windsor-Plainsboro and at Hopewell Elementary School.

Fichtenbaum points out that taxpayers who are ready to pay for "bricks and mortar" costs this year may not be willing to pay for upkeep in years to come. "It is hard to keep coming back to taxpayers for maintenance," she says, "and if maintenance is deferred, energy costs skyrocket." Once funded, the high-cost geothermal systems practically run themselves.

For both commercial and residential systems, subsidies or rebates are available: Stockton College invested $5 million in its geothermal system and recouped $1 million under a program administered by the Board of Public Utilities (www.njcleanenergy.com).

Still, geothermal systems are relatively rare, says Ira Guterman of Princeton Engineering Group on Forrestal Road (www.pegllc.com). But his 10 person-group’s first and only geothermal project so far – a system for Princeton University’s two-year-old seven-building apartment complex on Lawrence Road – has saved more energy than projected, he says, and this saving has been enhanced by the sharp climb in energy costs.

A geothermal system provides heat in the winter and cool air in the summer similar to conventional air pumps. But the primary difference is that a geothermal system relies on the nearly constant temperatures found underground. A ground loop provides the means of transferring heat to the earth in the summer and extracting heat in the winter. Water is pumped through a heat exchanger that in the summer absorbs heat from the refrigerant hot zone and carries it away from the building through the piping. In the winter it absorbs heat from the earth through the ground loop.

Installed by Mays Landing-based Geothermal Services Inc., the Music Together system has 14 wells in front of the building, each extending 480 feet into the earth. "If I have to look out the window and see a paved parking lot, it makes me feel good to know that the land below the surface is serving a secondary purpose of conserving our environmental resources," says Guilmartin.

Construction on the building on the six-acre property got underway in August with William Wilson and Ken Prusik of Advanced Construction Group heading up the project. Bill Wakefield, as the owners’ representative, is the construction manager. Music Together is expected to occupy the building in June, with landscaping completed by late summer or early fall.

Even apart from the geothermal system, for Rizo-Patron, the entire project has had its unique challenges. One of the most difficult has been the residential-style wood framing of the original, smaller 1970s construction. "Starting with an existing building that has been added onto many times represents quite a challenge to come up with something that is coherent," says Rizo-Patron. "There was no provision for spaces between floors. Normally, in a commercial building project, all the heating and air conditioning takes place there between floors. But in a residential building everything takes place in the thickness of the walls. As the building grew in size over the years, half of the lower floor was nothing but duct work protruding into spaces all over the place. The challenge for me was to allow a building do its own thing without being intruded upon by duct work and mechanical systems. We solved it by creating about eight different zones so we don’t have to distribute duct work all over."

In the process of the remodeling, the building has increased from 13,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet. "What we have done is add not so much to the perimeter of the building as we have excavated areas that were one story when he acquired it," says Rizo-Patron. "Those parts of the building were in very poor condition and had to be demolished anyway. Basically we took the opportunity to dig underneath and make those areas two stories – the main level and the level below."

According to Rizo-Patron, the fact that Music Together is a company that is run with a family-like atmosphere required a more sensitive use of space. Not only are the music classes meant to evoke and promote family togetherness, but several of the principals at Music Together have a familial relationship. Lynn Sengstack, general manager, is Guilmartin’s first cousin. (Their grandfather’s firm, the Birch Tree Group, owned the rights to the "Happy Birthday" song, and when that was sold some of the proceeds helped pay for the development of the Music Together curriculum.) Another principal in the firm, Lynne Ransom, is director of program development for the Center of Music and Young Children.

Says the architect: "We didn’t want it to be a sterile environment because the way that they do everything is very much the way you might do it at home. Everything is meant to reflect the way that they work."

Consequently, the community room will have timber trusses and the main entrance will be rather large so that when it is finished it will be a very inviting space for children and staff. The lower level, which had previously housed a bar, was dark and shallow. "We’ve put in a grand clustering of windows to open it up to the light and the wonderful rural setting that is around us," says Rizo-Patron. "It has really opened the building tremendously to be outward looking."

Inside the main level the intent is to have one classroom as well as staff offices. "Ken and his staff train teachers and run workshops and usually have to rent a space to hold about 150 people," says Rizo-Patron. "Now there is enough room to create a community room so that the training can happen here. At other times that space can be used by different organizations from the community that may be looking for an open space." There will also be space for the company to do some of its shipping of materials to the licensees around the world, as well as a room for recording music.

Born in Lima, Peru, Gonzalo Rizo-Patron is one of eight children (five boys and three girls). His father was an agricultural engineer who had studied at M.I.T., and his mother did much of the child rearing. "She was from Lima, which is near the coast, and our farm was about an hour and a half south of there. So it was a very nice childhood. It was a beautiful time and it was a great place to grow up."

As a boy, Rizo-Patron was also very close to his grandmother. "She was a phenomenal artist and for her time it was very unusual to be a woman artist," he says. "I have beautiful sketches that she made as she traveled through Europe. Then she would bring them home and make them into paintings."

"She was very socially minded as well," he says. "She did a lot of work with indigent children in Peru and would teach them how to paint and would then publish their pictures as postcards and things like that. She used the resources from that to create a house where they could have a square meal everyday and breakfast. I remember as a kid I would go with her all the time and help her do all these projects. She was an amazing woman." Rizo-Patron`s grandfather was a miner who did very well and eventually bought a lot of land on the coast of Peru. He also went on to father 20 children.

All eight children in his family attended private American-based schools in Peru. "We learned English from the get go," he says. "About half of us then went to college in the United States.

Rizo-Patron studied at Lehigh University and the State University of New York at New Paltz, graduating in 1976. "I earned a bachelor of arts in economics," he says. "But I was introduced to architecture, taking some architectural classes at Vassar."

"I was always strong in art and design," he says. "And I had an engineering background. In Peru, they value engineering, so there was a lot of pressure to become an engineer. But when I came here I started looking at the other side of my brain and architecture was something that seemed to blend in both of those things very well." His master’s degree in architecture is from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

He is philosophical about his architectural career. "I think it was the right choice," he says. "I loved the education and I love what I do. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I love beginnings and I love ends, because where there are ends there are beginnings."

After working on his own as well as for several architectural firms in the area, Rizo-Patron started his own company, Entasis Architecture, in 2001. "An entasis is a curvature of the columns that was devised by the Greeks," he says. "It describes a visual means of counteracting visual perception. If you see a straight shaft against the horizon it appears to become concave. So the Greeks developed a way to make it appear straight by putting a taper in the column and making the bottom wider than the top. To me it represents the utmost in fine tuning something. It is an attention to detail beyond what normally one would do, and that is what we like to do with our projects."

Among the recent projects for his two-person firm are a fit-out for the Lakeview Child Center in Ewing and projects for Sovereign Bank, Yardville National, and the Trust Company of New Jersey. Some residential clients include Steve Sabol, president of NFL Films; real estate broker Bryce Thompson Jr.; Eli Mordechai of MDL, the medical diagnostic laboratory; Allan Glickman of Starr Tours; and Ken Guilmartin, whose house is in Hopewell. Entasis also designed the conversion of a former stone church in Carversville, Bucks County, which had been decommissioned in 1913, into a private residence.

Rizo-Patron is married to his second wife, Wendy, who has four children (two girls, 18 and 16, and two boys, 13 and 12) from her first marriage. He also has a son from his first marriage, who is attending college in Rochester, New York. "We also have a little guy, three and a half years old, who keeps us so busy," says Rizo-Patron.

For Rizo-Patron, architecture is more than merely designing buildings or filling in spaces but something closer to an art. He believes that when it is finally completed, the headquarters of Music Together will be something truly special. "Once it is finished and you see all the landscaping, it’s going to be quite a transformation," he says. "Once you are inside, you will become very aware of the building’s location in a rural setting and it is quite wonderful. It is beautiful and very functional as well. The best of all worlds."

Music Together LLC/Center of Music and Young Children, 66 Witherspoon Street, Princeton 08542; 609-924-7801; fax, 609-924-8457. Ken Guilmartin, CEO. www.musictogether.com

Entasis, 2917 East Street Extension, Hamilton 08619; 609-584-9979; fax, 609-584-9969. Gonzalo Rizo-Patrone, owner.

Advanced Construction Group, 19 Main Street, Building C, Robbinsville 08691; 609-333-1124. Ken Prusik.


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