Track 1: Decline vs. Revival: Tempering the Impulse to Tear Down and Start Over

General Abstract

2 - Retaining Historic Neighborhood Schools

Monday, September 24
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: BNCC- 101AH

In 2009, the school board engaged our firm to help them ascertain whether to tear down their two historic neighborhood schools or renovate them. Pressure was mounting to provide 1000-sf classrooms, large gyms and separate cafeterias, and acres of outside space to have parity with new schools being built at the edge of town. These newer schools supported twentieth century teaching methods.

The school board held heavily attended public meetings. We presented the options and gathered input from the community participants. Overwhelmingly, the neighbors wanted schools their children could walk to, that had creaky wood floors and historic character. The community members not sold on the idea wanted assurances that the buildings would be energy efficient, easy to maintain, and didn’t place lower-grade children on the second or third floors.

We studied and presented the national educational standards, and countered them with the standards modified by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The latter demonstrated how existing schools on inner-city lots could provide quality education. We analyzed methods to provide equality between new school buildings and the existing: to improve the existing’s energy efficiency, to take advantage of the inherent ease of maintaining solid masonry buildings, and to provide the space (in additions) for the educational and recreational spaces not part of the original 1906 program.

We compared the costs for tearing each school down and building anew. We assessed seismic retrofitting, selective demolition, and mechanical system costs (of installation and operation). Renovation was estimated to be 5% higher than new construction, yet actual costs were ultimately less. After receiving more public comment and deliberating, the school board opted to renovate the existing schools and build an addition to each.

The renovations included demolition of unsympathetic additions to allow room for compatible additions with space for programmatic functions, secure entries, and competition-quality gymnasiums. The exterior masonry and roofing were restored, wood trim and flooring refinished, double-hung windows installed, and hollow metal door replaced with wood doors. Structural enhancements included installing plywood diaphragms at the ceilings and tying the framing back to the masonry walls. Electrical and mechanical systems were replaced, and fire protection provided. The latter allowed for greater leniency in the treatment of the large public spaces and stairways, and for removal of prior fire barriers.

Each addition included a new secure entry with drop-off lane, an elevator, cafeteria, gymnasium, some additional classrooms, and a direct link to the existing building.

The results:
1. Energy performance exceeds newly constructed schools in the school district by approximately 15-20%.
2. Handsome, restored buildings that now resist seismic forces.
3. Schools with a comfortable historic character to which children can walk.

Learning Objectives:

Lesley M. Gilmore, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP-BD+C

Director, Historic Preservation Services
CTA Architects Engineers

Lesley Gilmore is Director of Historic Preservation Services for CTA Architects Engineers, which has offices throughout the Rocky Mountain West. She is a licensed architect with over 30 years of experience in various aspects of historic preservation, preservation planning, and related architectural design.

She has led the restoration of buildings at Montana State University, the Masonic Lodge #18 in Bozeman, and several buildings in Yellowstone National Park.

Lesley has been an active member of the Association for Preservation Technology, the Montana Historic Preservation Board, and is a current board member of the Montana Preservation Alliance and the Extreme History Project.


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Tony James

Anthony James is a preservation architect with a background in architectural history and has worked on many restoration and rehabilitation projects of historic buildings over his 40+ year career. He holds a Bachelor of Architectural History from the University of Virginia and a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. He currently has his own practice in Buffalo, NY, and is Consulting Architect to the Buffalo OlmstedParks Conservancy.


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2 - Retaining Historic Neighborhood Schools

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