MANSFIELD -- Tim Alexander is 76 and has been an active architect in Mansfield for more than 45 years. The Lucas-area resident has designed a lot of structures from homes to office buildings to schools and libraries.
His best-known local project was the design of Mansfield’s current municipal building. He said that building has held up well and still looks good.
But, until he was approaching his 40th year on the job, he had never planned a building with a 12-inch thick roof and 18-inch thick walls. He said the roof would never lift off and the walls are missile-proof.
The unusually fortified building is the Veterans Administration clinic off of South Trimble Road. It was opened in January of 2014 and is known as a LEED building, meaning it complies with aggressive federal standards for sustainability and energy conservation.
“I am proud of the work we have done,” Alexander said, expressing a sense of pride in accomplishing possibly his most complicated project at a late stage in his career.
Alexander said the development of LEED construction standards is excellent for the environment and long term sustainability but is very complicated and expensive to achieve. He explained that sustainability not only means a structure will better last over time, but will also hold its value.
Leed stands for Leadership, Energy, Environment, and Design. There are four levels of LEED buildings. The local VA clinic is at the second level, called silver. There are two higher levels with stricter standards at gold and platinum.
Alexander explained that the thicker roof, walls, and window glass at the clinic are all intended to conserve energy. But, he added these factors also double as protection against potential terrorist attacks. He explained this level of security was made to the building because it is used to serve military veterans and thus could become a terrorist target.
With this in mind, there is also a unique fence around the facility to prevent vehicles from reaching the structure.
The primary source of temperature control is geothermal. Alexander said there were 57 geothermal wells drilled to support this system. He explained the ground temperature is 54 degrees, making the cooling process more efficient than the heating. Alexander said the roof was covered in a particular type and shade of green material to be more efficient in absorbing and reflecting heat.
The long-time architect said the LEED construction process also focuses on minimizing waste during construction. For example, he said old bricks taken from the demolition of a house on the clinic site were not discarded, but instead used as base material under the paved parking lot.
Alexander pointed out the design of the parking lot included preferred spaces for those driving hybrid cars or bicycles. He also said an outdoor smoking room was built with the realization that some veterans visiting the clinic are likely to be smokers.
Another important aspect of the construction, Alexander said, was the preferred use of Ohio materials, including native plants for landscaping.
Overall, Alexander says he believes in sustainability and environmental protection, but he says the complexity of the construction requirements and the resulting high cost has discouraged the construction of privately held LEED buildings. He pointed out that he dealt with 13 different agencies in the VA construction.
There are a handful of LEED buildings in Mansfield, all government structures. Three of those are on the Ohio Air National Guard Base at Mansfield-Lahm Airport.
“I am pleased with the work we did on the VA building. It was long and complicated, but I knew we could do it,” the veteran architect concluded.
Alexander began work as an architect in Mansfield in 1973. He had graduated from Lucas High School and got his architectural degree from the University of Cincinnati.
“I liked to draw, and I liked buildings, so I put the two together,” Alexander said. He added that he has a special interest in historic buildings and their design.
He feeds that interest when planning European vacations. And, yes, he was able to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Alexander compares being an architect with being the conductor of an orchestra.
“I am the conductor, but I can’t play any of the instruments. I know how it all comes together,” he said.
Alexander describes himself as a moderate Republican married to a liberal Democrat. He and his wife, Jeanne, have two daughters, Jenny and Sara.
Alexander jokingly describes his daughters as ultra-liberal Democrats. Alexander served as chairman of the Richland County GOP for 14 years, from 1986 to 2000. His tenure as chairman is the longest in the history of the local Republican party. He added that Joe Mudra, current chairman of the county’s Democratic party, recently surpassed Alexander’s length of tenure as a local party chairman.
Alexander described the late former Mansfield Mayor Ed Meehan as his best friend. He said he was the chairman of Meehan’s first campaign even though he knew nothing about how to organize such an effort. He said the ultimately successful campaign focused on understanding the voting history of Mansfield precincts and conducting an aggressive Sherrod Brown-style door-to-door campaign.
His involvement in the local community has gone well beyond politics. He has been involved with a variety of organizations including the Renaissance Theater, Richland County Transit, Mansfield OSU, the Jaycees and the Lucas Board of Education. Alexander said involvement of this nature is a family tradition. He said his wife was president of the Mansfield Rotary club and the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra at the same time.
After a long working career and extensive community involvement, Alexander has a special request for Mansfield business and government leaders.
“Hire more local architects,” he said, explaining that many local construction projects have been completed with the use of out-of-town architects when qualified local professionals were not talked to or considered.
“There are many good and qualified professionals here, and it always makes sense to buy local,” Alexander said.
Tom Brennan is the retired editor of the News Journal and chairman of the Mansfield in Bloom steering committee. If you are interested in becoming a MIB volunteer, please contact Roberta Perry at 755-7234 or Roberta@chooserichland.com.