Watch: New York creatives recast a propane filling station as a co-working office and build a sense of community
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Bas Berkhout and Hanne Ghijsen have worked in enough co-working spaces that they knew precisely what they wanted in theirs. Top of their list: comfort.
When the couple moved from New York City to the small town of Delhi, New York (population 4,800), they discovered that working from home didn’t suit them. They figured, correctly, that others in Delhi felt the same way. To give themselves and other remote workers a place to be productive, they acquired a former propane filling station and converted it into a communal office called Work Station.
See how they did it:
To turn the drafty old space into a comfortable work environment, Berkhout and Ghijsen opted for hydronic radiant in-floor heat, a system that circulates hot water through a series of tubes beneath the floor. Retrofitting a commercial space for radiant heat isn’t common, as it requires chipping out concrete to lay in linear feet of quarter-inch tubing, but the couple were committed.
“The first thing that we knew when we started renovating was that we wanted a radiant heating floor with propane boilers because that was the most efficient way to heat this big garage space,” says Ghijsen, an animator and graphic designer.
It helps that the concrete floor is an effective heat conductor. The hydronic tubing distributes heat evenly, resulting in comfortable warmth at lower temperatures. A pair of 120,000 Btu Rinnai condensing boilers, fueled by propane, generate both space and water heating throughout. The units operate at 94 percent efficiency.
To further maximize efficiency, Berkhout and Ghijsen installed energy-efficient windows, filled the hollow walls with insulation, and spray foamed the attic.
“We’ve done a pretty good job,” says Berkhout, a filmmaker. “I think the bills over the winter were far less than we expected.”
A river runs through it
The West Branch Delaware River flows through the center of Delhi. Work Station sits on an island where Berkhout and Ghijsen can take in views of rushing water from their corner office. Given the environmentally sensitive location, oil as a fuel source wasn’t a good option. Propane, on the other hand, is non-toxic.
“Fuel oil could present a hazard,” says Dan Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Plumbing, Heating and Cooling. He worked on the Work Station project. “If there was ever a leak in the tank, it would find its way to that river. You certainly hope you’re never going to have a leak with propane, but if you do, it’s going to evaporate in the air, not cause any issues.”
Using natural gas wasn’t a possibility either. Delhi is more than 20 miles away from the nearest natural gas line.
“This community is very dependent on propane,” Kennedy says. “And let’s face it, propane is still a very clean burning product.”
Work Station not only provides desks to rent and high-speed internet, but also a daycare in a town where childcare centers are few and far between. It’s a convenient arrangement. Working parents can drop their children off at Bizzy Bee’s Learning Academy, which occupies a separate space in the building, and plug into work around the corner.
What was previously a vacant building is now buzzing with activity.
“It’s really great to see how much this has become a community hub for the town,” Ghijsen says.