Urban Growth
BILCO provided roof hatches to allow private rooftop access to tenants at Buchanan Park in Washington, D.C. The project consists of 32 three- and four-bedroom townhomes.

The historic buildings, monuments, and scenery around Washington, D.C. draw tourists from all over the world. Tenants of 32 new townhomes in the city’s swanky Capitol Hill will have a unique and private vantage point to the area with individual roof hatches, offering them a perspective that is available to only a few residents of the nation’s capital.


Buchanan Park is a residential development completed in December 2018. The project, built by Ditto Residential, includes 41 condominiums in a redeveloped historic three-story school building that dates to 1895 and was named after James Buchanan, the nation’s 15th president. Buchanan Park includes a central green, multiple outdoor gathering areas, and pedestrian walkways. “Buchanan Park,’’ the Ditto website says, “is carefully designed to embrace and reflect a unique sense of history and community—capturing the spirit of Capitol Hill.”

The 32 three- and four-bedroom townhomes line 13th and D Streets in Washington, surrounding the Buchanan School. Inspired by the Federal-style homes in the neighborhood, the townhomes include brick exteriors and spacious living areas.


The architect for the townhomes, Maurice Walters, designed them to provide residents with individual access to rooftop deck areas. DJB Contracting installed 32 thermally broken roof hatches from The BILCO Company to meet the architect’s request. 

“We have used BILCO roof hatches all the time,’’ says Eric Ward, project manager for DJB, whose business has been providing roofing and related services to the Washington area for more than two decades. “We had never used the thermally broken roof hatches before this project. I think it was a good fit for the situation. It’s an access point to the roof, and I like that they were pre-fabricated and pre-coated. It makes the job a lot easier.”


BILCO’s E-50TB thermally broken roof hatch offers a new standard in energy efficiency, making them ideal for the project at Buchanan Park. The unit includes a thermally broken cover and curb featuring R-20+ insulation. The unit also offers corrosion resistant aluminum construction. 

The hatch minimizes heat transfer and the effects of condensation. During summer, heat wants to radiate through most roof hatches into the cooler building interior. In winter, heat seeks to escape from inside a building, leading to increased energy expenses. BILCO’s thermally broken roof hatch solves both issues and includes a special cover gasket to further minimize air leakage.

“The increased R value makes this hatch superior to its competitors in the industry,’’ Ward says. “Typically, roof hatches don’t have much insulation in the cover. It’s made of aluminum, too, while others are made of steel around the base. It’s much lighter. I like this model because it’s lighter and maintenance free.”


Buchanan Park brings new life to an area with a unique history. The school was built in 1895, but had fallen into disrepair by the 1960s. The area was transformed as part of the “Beautify America” initiative created by Ladybird Johnson, the wife of then-President Lyndon Johnson, in the late 1960s to a playground that was lauded as one of the best in Washington, D.C. The playground swiftly fell into neglect as vandalism and poor maintenance took its toll in just 2 years.

The school buildings, which once housed secondary students, became James Buchanan Elementary School before it closed in 1994. A former college professor, Walter Boek, bought the four-building campus and started the National Graduate University. The school closed after Boek’s death in 2012, and had been a highly-sought after area for residential development. Ditto destroyed two of the buildings, and the other two were renovated for the redevelopment project.


When DJB started the project, the general contractor pushed for a quick install of the roof hatches. BILCO delivered them swiftly so that Ward and his team could meet the project timeline. While there were other delays in the construction process, BILCO’s customer service team delivered astonishingly fast. “BILCO’s customer service is great,’’ Ward says. “They did what they promised they would do. I absolutely loved working with BILCO.”


Ward believes the residents of the townhomes will appreciate the roof hatches. Besides increasing energy efficiency, they will allow residents rare private access to their roofs. Most city housing projects that offer rooftop access accommodate multiple tenants, and not individual access.

“I think the hatch will work great,’’ Ward says. “I’ve never seen this application before, but I think it’s a great idea and tenants will find they really like the BILCO product.”

For more information:

For more than 85 years, The BILCO Company has been a building industry pioneer in the design and development of specialty access products. Over these years, the company has built a reputation among architects and engineers for products that are unequaled in design and workmanship. BILCO – an ISO 9001 certified company – offers a line of roof hatches, automatic fire vents, floor access doors, natural ventilation products, smoke and fire curtains, and a complete line of residential access products. BILCO is a wholly owned subsidiary of AmesburyTruth, a division of Tyman Plc. For more information, visit www.bilco.com

Modern Contractor Solutions, January 2019
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