Restoring the Building Envelope
- By Janet Wiens
- December 1st, 2007
Students, faculty, and staff walk by campus buildings everyday. While they may appreciate their beauty, few people probably give much thought to the building envelope, or exterior skin. Unless something major is visually identified, such as a loose brick, this important part of every building may not receive the attention it deserves.
Fortunately, college and university facility management personnel realize how valuable the building envelope is to protecting the resources inside. Restorative maintenance programs help to ensure that work is done before the budget and schedule soar to less-than-desirable heights.
Establish a Program
Gus Perea is president and chief operating officer of Adams-Bickel Associates, Inc., a contactor serving private and public clients, including a number of colleges and universities. He states that the work of the facility management team is critical to having a successful restorative maintenance program. “College and university facility personnel pay close attention to the buildings under their care,” he said. “The challenge is to allocate adequate funds to address the restorative needs that can be required in any given year. Well-funded budgets enable restorative work to be rotated among buildings to avoid higher expenditures in the future.”
Perea says that money must be available in the capital budget each year for restorative maintenance. Ideally, all members of a project team are involved early in a potential project in order to fully evaluate the assignment. This allows the team to develop the most appropriate and cost-effective design solution.
According to Perea, components of the building envelope, such as the roof, flashing, windows, and brick or stone should be inspected on a regular basis to identify deficiencies. Minor corrective work, such as patching a roof or resealing around a window, should be done immediately. The brick or stone that might be hidden by an ivy covering, as another example, needs regular inspection so that the building envelope underneath does not deteriorate extensively before a problem is identified.
“Scheduling a major project can greatly impact operations because it is difficult to take a building out of service,” Perea said. “Minor projects can be done during semester breaks, and the summer is an ideal time for restorative work because there is usually a two- to three-month window to complete an assignment.”
Perea comes back to the importance of the project team when he talks about scheduling. By working together and fully exploring all components and contingencies, he believes that the building team can respect ongoing operational requirements. The accompanying strategies make sure that all trades are ready to go and that materials are available the day work is scheduled to commence. This enables the required work to be completed efficiently and, hopefully, without delays.
Planning Restorative Work
Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, is home to many beautiful and historic structures. When the Office of Alumni Relations was looking for a new home, the solution was to restore and renovate the university’s historic gym for a new purpose. The $5.2M Peikoff Alumni House reflects the university’s commitment to restoring an historic and beloved campus building.
“The gym was constructed in 1881, and is part of a national historic district,” said Mark Rengel, AIA, LEED-AP, project architect for Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering, Inc. (EYP). “We completed an existing conditions report on the building 10 years before the most recent project, and knew that it was in rough shape. Our challenge was to restore the structure to make it a hallmark building on the campus.”
The project involved replacing the 9,000-sq.-ft. building’s historic building envelope. Exploratory demolition at the beginning of the project involved peeling back the layers of the building, which revealed that the structural system was in poor condition. As a result, the design team had to develop a new game plan for the project.
Restorative maintenance ultimately involved repairing or replacing approximately 75 percent of the exterior shell, replacing or repointing the brick masonry on the first floor, and replacing the wood siding throughout. All the windows on the first floor were replaced with historic reproductions.
“Understanding restorative maintenance on a campus with historic structures can be very challenging and involved,” Rengel said. “Each individual building must be treated as a separate entity with an accompanying investment strategy to avoid major repairs in the future.”
Rengel also advocates extensive communication between members of the design team and facility management staff during construction to address future maintenance requirements. These should be included in the Operations and Maintenance Manual that is furnished when the project is complete.
Finally, Rengel says to plan for the unexpected during a restorative maintenance project. When it comes to the schedule and the work itself, flexibility is paramount. He also promotes investing in exploratory work up front to help avoid surprises down the road.
Identifying deficiencies early, communicating between all project team members, and investing for the long-term health of a building will help make the best use of restorative maintenance funds while protecting the all-important building envelopes on campus facilities.