Upgrading Campus History: Windows Provide Green Update to Older Structures

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are more than 2,800 two- & four-year private colleges and universities in the United States. Many of those institutions were founded and built towards the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Many consider those buildings to be historically and architecturally significant and worthwhile in maintaining and preserving. Unfortunately, many of them have glaring deficiencies in energy efficiency. The cost of HVAC in many older institutions is significant. A couple of contributors to that cost are the outdated and inefficient windows & doors that exist in the building envelope.

Window and door design, manufacture and performance have improved greatly in the time since many of those buildings were constructed. Even those products installed during renovations 40 years ago pale in comparison to the ones being manufactured today. The advances in finishes, glass and design equate to products that are better performing than those made in the past.

It has been said that the greenest building is one that already exists. This statement is certainly relevant when considering those private institutions mentioned earlier. To take it even further, the suggestion of tearing down these significant structures in order to build a more modern and efficient building is simply not an option. A simple replacement of under-performing windows and doors can greatly reduce the operating costs of these magnificent structures – if done correctly. In many cases, when the proper windows and doors are specified and installed, they can even assist in bringing back the original architectural intent of these buildings.

University of Minnesota’s Folwell Hall

A prime example of a university renovation with the goal of energy efficiency and restoring the architectural and historical attributes is the University of Minnesota’s Folwell Hall. While this building is part of the public university segment, its example is certainly relevant to the private sector. The hall’s architecture makes it a fixture on the National Register of Historic Places. However, the original windows were replaced in the 1980s with a basic, aluminum system which detracted from the building’s architectural details and original intent.

In 2011, the windows were replaced using energy efficient, aluminum-clad wood products with white oak interiors, custom interior stain finish and custom aluminum panning to replicate those details from the original construction. The windows used were double hung products that met the state’s legislation requirement for energy performance, exceeding the state energy code by 30%.

The project requirements for Folwell Hall, along with the results, highlight the fact that today’s custom window and door manufacturers have the capabilities to produce high-performance products while providing the historically and architecturally-accurate characteristics needed for a proper renovation. Many of the profiles used on Folwell Hall would be considered historic in detail and not part of a standard library of profiles. The exterior of the windows was to be constructed of extruded aluminum making the replication even more challenging. However, custom window and door manufacturers have the processes and experience to address these types of project requirements.

Tiovoli Student Union in Denver, Colorado

As facility managers know, many college and university buildings actually consist of one original building with numerous additions that have been added as the institution has grown. This ongoing development presents specific problems when it comes to a renovation – especially for windows & doors replacement. A prime example of these types of challenges is a project in Denver, Colorado, called Tivoli Student Union.

Tivoli is actually a facility that is used by three different higher-learning campuses. The facility itself is comprised of 16 different buildings, major mismatched remodeling and an overall aesthetically-challenged structure encompassing 324,000-square-feet. The renovation entailed the repair/ replacement of warped and rotting windows, leaking roofs, peeling paint and crumbling masonry.

Tivoli is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a designated Denver Landmark. Because of these designations, the level of detail necessary for the windows and doors was quite high. There were several different window types and profiles, not to mention the performance characteristics demanded by the project. The replacement windows had to meet the city’s requirement of a 100 mph basis for wind loads.

Ultimately, an extruded aluminum clad wood product was specified and installed. Through the use of LoE2-270 glass, the energy efficiency of the openings was increased greatly. Since many of the openings were within masonry applications, sizing of the units was critical. Of the 182 window openings, only 12 were the same exact size. All others were distinct in their sizing to fit into specific masonry openings.

The outcome of the project was visually and architecturally dramatic. The new window products fit all openings accordingly, provided consistent aesthetics to the facility and improved the overall energy efficiency of the building envelope all while meeting the stringent historical demands of the project.

The project was given a Community Preservation Award from Historic Denver in 2004, an Association of General Contractors’ ACE Award in 2005, and recognition in Colorado’s Westword magazine as the “Best Building Makeover in 2006.” The project was also submitted for several design awards, including those of the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Improvement Without Total Window Replacement

Sometimes, the extent of the renovation can be minimized by using products that allow only a portion of the window or door to be replaced rather than the entire unit. When an entire window or door is removed from the opening, there are issues such as the disturbing of interior trim, the logistics of replacing entire units within a functioning/active facility and of course the cost. There are ways to achieve a more efficient opening without replacing the entire window or door unit.

One of those is to simply replace the glass. There are window and door companies that can work with facility managers or project architects/ managers to examine the existing products and provide modern, better-performing glass units. Today’s insulated glass units can be constructed to fit many different thicknesses and still provide the modern coatings to attain the energy savings mentioned earlier.

Another avenue is to replace just the window sash or door panel. Custom window and door manufacturers are accustomed to dealing with these types of requests. An experienced team can assist in determining the feasibility and predicted outcomes of doing such a replacement.

A prime example is a renovation that was done to the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Miller Hall is one of the oldest buildings on the campus, having been constructed in 1898. During the mid-1990s, an extensive renovation took place, but it was determined that the best course of action would be to replace the numerous double hung sash and keep the existing frames and trims. By doing this type of renovation, many times individual rooms or elevations can be renovated separately, keeping the facility in use and not having to be shut down.

Certainly, there are many upgrades that can be made to historical campus buildings that help them perform efficiently in spite of their age. Upgrading the buildings’ envelopes, specifically by replacing under-performing windows and doors, can pay dividends in future HVAC costs. By using historically-accurate window and door replacement products, this investment can marry the traditional design intent of a building with today’s increased energy efficiency needs.

About the Author
Lance Premeau, LEED® Green  Associate, serves as Kolbe's Business Development Manager.  He draws from 25+ years in the window and door industry and has contributed to thousands of new construction and renovation projects including residences, offices, schools and universities.