The Federation of the Blind
a home away from home
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) headquarters is a premier facility serving the needs of blind Americans since 1978. NFB is located in a building that encompasses a city block in South Baltimore that was originally constructed in 1906 and has been home to various manufacturers throughout the years.
Due to the building’s age, a comprehensive study of the NFB headquarters was conducted to understand the organization’s needs and aspirations, their current use of the building, and to provide recommendations on how a redesign could best support the mission of the organization. The first phase of improvements included the renovation of the fourth floor Barney Street Wing to create a “home away from home” environment for NFB members and visitors to eat, sleep, and relax.
Since this wing provides a space for visitors from all over the world to stay, a hospitality suite with 21 guest room accommodations were added. Comfortable and supportive amenity spaces are featured throughout the wing, including a family kitchen and living room with a large circular fireplace, a fitness center with showers, an updated dining room, and a community space for more youthful visitors.
A variety of low vision skills training elements were incorporated into the design, including custom acoustics, interactive vertical metal wall panels, and accessibly designed artwork. The updated Jernigan visitor center’s design is modern with a bright color palette of pink, yellow, green, and blue. It now houses the International Braille and Technology Center.
How Harkins Made a Difference
- As with any aged building, you never quite know what you will find behind the walls. When the ceiling was opened in order to raise the ceiling height, the team discovered a second set of framed drywall ceiling above the drop ceiling. Th extra drywall required additional demolition to make room for an upright 1924 sprinkler system located in the concealed combustible attic space. Additionally, a W24 Cantilever beam, weighing 150 lb. every foot was discovered. Instead of covering it up, we chose to leave it exposed and incorporate it into the design as a symbol of the history of the building.
- In order to return the building to its original exposed brick structure, a considerable amount of lead abatement occurred on various walls and poles along with infilling adjacent windows.
- Since work was being completed in an occupied building, the team was mindful to not cause any disruptions to building operations. To alleviate the need for any shutoffs, the existing MEP systems were isolated from the remainder of the building.
The experience of the construction team was incredibly helpful and creative in addressing unanticipated challenges along the way.