A sense of physical place can factor significantly in memory, particularly when associated with the formative years spent in school. The buildings in which young people learn often remain inextricably linked to the educational lessons themselves. When several Hotchkiss School alumni and trustees, including Forrest Mars, Jr. (class of 1949) and John L. Thornton (class of 1972), led the effort to rehabilitate the vacant, historic Monahan gymnasium, they not only helped achieve the preservation of this sense of place, but also a LEED Gold-certified adaptive reuse project.
Founded in 1891 and located in the northwest corner of Connecticut, about 80 miles north of Greenwich, the Hotchkiss School is a coeducational, independent boarding school for grades 9 through 12, and some postgraduates. As a campus-wide objective, the Hotchkiss School requires that all buildings on its campus – new and renovated – achieve LEED certification.
Prior to its green rehabilitation, the Monahan Building served as the school gymnasium. Designed in a neo-Georgian style by Henry S. Waterbury of Delano and Aldrich Architects, the 23,000-square-foot red brick building was built in 1938. In 2002, the building was left vacant and slated for demolition.
With the intervention of school alumni and trustees, the Monahan became the new home for the Alumni and Development Office, the Center for Global Understanding and Independent Thinking, and two apartments for visiting faculty.
The Hotchkiss School then assembled the project team. New York-based Butler Rogers and Baskett (BRB) seemed a logical fit for the project, as an architectural firm dedicated to sustainability and known for the design of educational and sports facilities as well as professional offices. Completing the project team were structural engineering firm DeStefano Associates; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineer Werner Tietjen, PE; civil engineering firm Saratoga Associates; construction manager O&G Industries; and LEED commissioning agent The Stonehouse Group.
With LEED certification a requirement put forth by the Hotchkiss School, BRB first investigated the evaluative programs. They decided to use the LEED-New Construction (LEED-NC) version 2.1, noting that while the project would rehabilitate an existing building, the interior of the structure was, by 2002, almost entirely gutted of original fabric. Despite its name, LEED-NC is often used in evaluating rehabilitation projects.
In addition, the design they proposed would change the building’s interior entirely, going from a gymnasium to multi-use, including spaces on the first, second and third floors for the Alumni and Development Alumni and Development Office and two apartments, and space on the top floor for the newly created Center for Global Understanding and Independent Thinking.
Though the historic fabric of the interior had mostly been lost by 2002, much of the historic exterior remained intact – and was used to help attain the LEED Gold certification. The original, historic design included many features that provided a durable framework for achieving energy efficiency. Like many historic buildings, Monahan features thick brick walls and large windows on all facades which maximize material breathability and access to light and air. These features provide daylight to 75 percent of the interior spaces and outdoor views for 90 percent of the spaces – elements that, in addition to the credits earned for the reuse of the building itself, contribute significantly to the LEED Gold rating.
Unfortunately, not every intact original feature could be retained. When the rehabilitation commenced, the Monahan building still had its original slate roof. Though it was only 70 years old, and had a life expectancy of up to 150 years, the team replaced the roof in-kind. While the team had originally sought to retain the roof, because of its durability and because it helped with the LEED certification, Hotchkiss has a policy wherein any building being renovated must have its roof replaced to avoid future costs to the school. Luckily, the team was able to recycle much of the historic slate and obtain new slate from a quarry within a 500-mile radius of the school.
Attaining the LEED Gold certification required careful planning and attention to detail. Because of the Hotchkiss School’s and project team’s efforts, the Monahan building has many environmentally sustainable features, including:
- Reclaimed wood flooring from a local supplier
- Recycled ceramic bathroom tile
- Cork tile and wheatboard instead of particleboard in the interior
- Water-efficient landscaping, using no potable water
- Water use reduction, 40 percent beyond baseline
- Energy performance, 25 percent beyond baseline for existing buildings
- Controllability of HVAC systems
Additionally, Hotchkiss’ commitment to a comprehensive plan of sustainable buildings requires that the housekeeping and cleaning of the buildings be green – i.e., natural products. The Hotchkiss’ LEED requirements for its campus buildings have met with success – the Monahan, two residence halls, and the newly constructed Esther Eastman Music Center have all achieved LEED certification.
Several Hotchkiss School alumni and trustees initiated the preservation of a vacant historic building, due partly to their understanding of the importance of physical place and their attachment to their own sense of it. Their appreciation for the building fueled a sensitive and carefully planned green rehabilitation project led by Butler Rogers Baskett Architects, which not only achieved the goals of the School, but also a LEED Gold rating. The original design and materials pushed the project a long way toward that achievement, again demonstrating the compatibility between historic preservation and sustainability.
For images of the Monahan Building and for more information:
Reid, Erin, “Monahan Gymnasium Begins Its Encore Career,” Hotchkiss Magazine, Spring 2008.
“Follow the LEED,” Contract Magazine feature series, Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI. By Robert D. Vuyosevich, AIA, LEED AP with Andrew Fuston, LEED AP of Butler Rogers Baskett Architects