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Business Officer Magazine

Extreme Building Makeovers

Before-and-after photographs reveal how four institutions revitalized sagging structures, turning some into architectural beauties and enhancing the functionality of others.

By Margo Vanover Porter

Berea Tragedy Creates Energy-Saving Opportunity

During a renovation in May 2001, the second and third stories of Lincoln Hall, a Berea College administration building listed as a national historic landmark, collapsed. Faced with rubble of bricks and plaster from a central interior wall, the Berea, Kentucky college’s administrators opted to remodel the interior to meet the needs of the modern workplace while keeping the historic exterior intact.

Lincoln Hall Interior, Berea College - Before

Lincoln Hall Interior, Berea College - After

Lincoln Hall's new interior brings in more light and saves energy. Berea approached the renovation in a way that allowed the historic exterior to remain intact.

Lincoln Hall Exterior, Berea College - After

“The tragedy that took place turned into an opportunity for Berea College to support and demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency,” says Ron E. Smith, vice president for finance. “The renovation kept the character of the old building… but converted the interior into a model ecologically friendly office space for administrative functions.”

A three-story central atrium now opens up the interior and brings daylight inside, plus serves as stack ventilation for the building when outside temperatures allow heating and cooling systems to be shut off. Water-saving devices, such as dual-flush control toilets, allow a 30-percent reduction in potable water consumption. Smith expects the building’s ecological features to reduce energy costs by 35 percent.

The facility, which was certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, also brings administrative offices and functions together to facilitate better communication and streamline processes. In addition, it’s an easily accessible student service center. The cost of renovation totaled $5.5 million, which included construction and owner’s costs, such as desks and furniture made by students in a woodcraft program.

Engineering an Overhaul in Baltimore

Ever try to put a new infrastructure system in a 30-year-old, occupied building? That’s exactly what officials decided to do with the chemistry building at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The $32.7 million project was divided into two phases. Construction of the north wing began in February 2002 and finished in January 2003. Work on the west wing began in April 2003 and is scheduled to be complete this August.

Chemistry Building Interior, University of Maryland, Baltimore County - Before

Chemistry Building Interior, University of Maryland, Baltimore County - After

Construction on the chemistry building at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, involved replacing the air handling, plumbing, and electrical services in accordance with building codes.


“The challenge for the design of the infrastructure was to completely replace the air handling, plumbing, and electrical services with state-of-the-art equipment,” says M. Teresa Cook, director, architecture, engineering, and construction. She cites three complications:

  • To serve occupied areas, the existing mechanical and electrical systems had to be maintained and operated until new systems were online.
  • Building codes required 100 percent outside air for the new uses in the building. This meant that the new HVAC system had to service the building from the top down and that equipment had to be located in a penthouse on the roof. “This location, however, presented the need for complex structural reinforcement work in the building to accommodate the additional weight and associated wind load,” Cook says.
  • A lack of available shaft area and existing floor-to-floor heights presented logistical problems. To overcome this, officials installed multiple vertical shafts to a header system through the center corridor on each floor.

Close to completing the project, Cook has this advice for business officers contemplating building makeovers: “Select design and construction professionals who have similar renovation experience, and provide for contingencies for unforeseen conditions in terms of both funding and time.”

From Eyesore to Historic Inn at Fayetteville

If not for the assistance of historic advocacy groups and external resources earmarked for historic preservation, Carnall Hall would have been torn down long ago, admits David O. Martinson, associate vice chancellor for business affairs, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. “The building sits on the front lawn of the campus in a prominent location and had become an eyesore,” he says. “The design of the building did not lend itself easily to reuse possibilities. We attempted several unsuccessful approaches to finding a suitable use for the building, and we were about to give up when we found the project that finally worked.”

The result: The Inn at Carnall Hall and Ella’s Restaurant, which hosts the university’s hospitality and restaurant academic program and serves as a 50-room historic inn and five-star restaurant for the campus community. It opened in September 2003.

The Inn at Carnall Hall and Ella's Restaurant Exterior, University of Arkansas - Before

The Inn at Carnall Hall and Ella's Restaurant Interior, University of Arkansas - After

A formerly unattractive building, The Inn at Carnall Hall and Ella's Restaurant now benefits from historic preservation funding. It's also home to the hospitality and restaurant academic program at the University of Arkansas.

The Inn at Carnall Hall and Ella's Restaurant Exterior, University of Arkansas - After

“The new building is a model public-private partnership development, aided by historic preservation grants and historic tax credits,” Martinson says. “Roughly one third of the funding came from each of the primary sources: historic preservation fund, private developer investments, and university funds. Without any one of these sources, the project would not have been feasible.”

The makeover, completed at a cost of $7.4 million, took 17 months. To qualify for historic preservation funding, the institution preserved as many original features as possible, including the pine floors, windows with wavy glass, and front porch columns.

Looking back, Martinson believes the renovation decision was great for his institution as well as town and gown relations. “The university would have spent almost as much to tear the building down as it contributed to the renovation,” he says. “The goodwill and showcase facility that have been gained from the project are real bonuses for the campus.”

Repurposed Structure Preserves Seattle’s History

Reusing an existing structure for new programs saves money, can be less disruptive to the academic environment than starting from scratch, and maintains the institution’s building fabric and history, says Stephen De Bruhl, project center manager, facilities administration design and construction, Seattle University, Washington.

So when Seattle built a new student union, officials opted to renovate the existing union at a cost of $5.6 million for the School of Theology and Ministry. The location, adjacent to the Chapel of St. Ignatius, was ideal for the ministry program, which was recently added to the curriculum.

Rather than tear down the existing structrure after construction of a new student union, Seattle University transformed the old building for use by the new School of Theology and Ministry.

School of Theology and Ministry Exterior, Seattle University - Before

School of Theology and Ministry Exterior, Seattle University - After

“Outside of a general redesign of all the interior spaces, the structure was in good shape and the issues to contend with were updating the mechanical and electrical systems and installing a new roof,” De Bruhl says. “There was a fair amount of asbestos abatement that was taken care of as well.”

The recently completed Hunhausen Hall has three floors, with about 10,000 square feet per floor. Construction began in 2003, and the hall was dedicated this past February. The School of Theology and Ministry occupies the first two floors, and the Fine Arts Department has additional art studios and classrooms in the basement.

“Seattle University is committed to doing all we can toward supporting sustainable design and building practice when we have the opportunity,” De Bruhl says. “By recycling the building and having a new school program that was a space match, we saved money and met one of our facility’s goals.”

Author Bio Margo Vanover Porter is a freelance writer based in Locust Grove, Virginia.

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For additional examples of campus building makeovers, along with before-and-after photos, visit and read this month’s Online Exclusive.