UW News

August 20, 2009

Remodeled, retrofitted and ready: Savery Hall is open for business again

Savery Hall occupants are coming home this month to a building that looks cleaner and brighter on the outside and completely new on the inside.

The Center for Social Science Computation and Research (CSSCR) has already settled into its new digs on the first floor, while the departments of sociology, philosophy and economics moved into offices on the second and third floors this week.

Savery is part of the Restore the Core project, which targets older buildings on campus — bringing them up to current building codes, making them accessible to people with disabilities and retrofitting them to withstand earthquakes. But in addition to these practical matters, the aim is always to create an aesthetically pleasing space that will serve the current occupants’ needs.

“We gutted Savery’s interior and inserted modern architecture,” said Gary Harris, senior associate with SRG Partnership and the architecture firm’s project manager for Savery. “But we salvaged historical elements from the interior as a reminder.”

Originally designed by renowned architects Bebb and Gould, the northern section of the building was completed in 1917 and the southern wing in 1920. It was dedicated in 1947 to the memory of William Savery, who was head of the Department of Philosophy from his arrival on campus in 1902 until his death in 1945. Savery’s last major renovation was in 1958 (south wing) and 1962 (north wing).

Savery doesn’t look terribly different from the outside, just cleaner. Its masonry was restored and repointed as part of the project and broken terra cotta was repaired. Because there was asbestos in a prior reconditioning paint coating that had been applied over the terra cotta, the building had to be encapsulated with scaffolding and plastic while the asbestos containing paint was removed.

The real changes are inside, where the architects decided a reorganization was necessary to improve circulation. “Before the renovation there were classrooms on all three floors, with offices intermixed,” Harris said. “This caused disruption in the offices between classes when students were walking by. Now there are two large lecture rooms on the second floor and all the rest [23 rooms] are on the first floor.”

The architects also rearranged things so that all the offices from a given department are close to each other, which was not true before. Economics is now located on the third floor, north wing, sociology on both wings of the second floor and philosophy on the third floor south wing, plus some offices on the mezzanine. Most of the TA offices have been carved out of the wide hallways and are located across from faculty offices, which are on the perimeter.

“The new space in Savery is great,” said Sociology Chair Bob Crutchfield. “It is organized so that we can more efficiently serve our students and faculty.”

Offices throughout the building have hallway walls made of frosted glass and re-lite windows above to allow for light transmission from the exterior to the interior areas. Interior teaching assistant areas have lowered walls that don’t go all the way to the ceiling. The idea, according to Brian Berard, Savery’s project manager for the Capital Projects Office, is to “harvest light” to interior spaces. 

“Savery’s hallways before were very dark,” Berard said. “We wanted to find a way to bring light into the building while maintaining sufficient privacy for people.”

Exterior walls have wooden, double-paned windows chosen to match the old ones — windows that open outward rather upward. They also have blinds that protect the rooms from direct sun while still letting light in.

Another part of improving circulation in the building was raising the first floor 24 inches and changing the south entrance so that instead of walking up steps to the second floor from outside, the visitor walks into a door at ground level and goes down a few steps to the first floor. The southeast entrance has also been changed. Before the renovation it had a ramp for the disabled that was too steep; now one can enter the building from there at ground level with no ramp necessary.

“The first floor felt like a basement before,” Berard said. “Now, given the new position of the windows relative to the floor, it doesn’t.”

He added that the southwest entrance has also been changed to allow entry directly into the first floor.

Another big change is in the mezzanine between the second and third floors. It was previously accessible only by a set of narrow stairs. The architects designed a sort of balcony that wraps around the front of the mezzanine and provides access to a new elevator. (There are now two new elevators in the building, replacing the previous one.)

The fourth floor of the southern wing, which was previously a “rabbit warren” of closed-off interior windowless TA offices, now holds three conference rooms and TA surge space in open areas. The northern wing has mechanical equipment housed within the existing attic metal truss system.

One of the things the Capital Projects Office is most proud of is that Savery — which was designed to be a LEED Silver-rated building — is on track for Gold certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the U.S. Green Building Council’s green building rating program that looks at all elements of a building’s sustainability and gives points that add up to an overall rating, with Gold being the second highest. The University has committed to build all state-funded, federal stimulus funded, and specific client goal-directed new construction and major renovation projects to at least LEED Silver standards.

A major part of the energy savings in Savery results from its unusual new hybrid mix mode heating and cooling system, which combines a fan-assisted natural ventilation system with a “variable refrigerant flow” or VRF hi-bred heat pump system. VRF is a simultaneous heating and cooling, multi-zone system that collects energy from one zone to provide comfort in another.

“The VRF is similar to a residential heating pump that can provide both heating and cooling, only it provides for sharing energy by using a refrigerant coolant within a piped system,” said Clara Simon, Capital Projects’ sustainability manager. “So when the sun is on one side of the building and the other side is in shade, there is a refrigerant that can move around and cool the building where it’s needed according to the thermostats.”

Each room is equipped with a sensor displaying a red or green light. If the red light is on, it means either the heating or cooling system is operating and windows should not be opened. If the green light is on, the room can be ventilated by opening a window.

And what about those historical elements Harris said were being salvaged? They can be seen all over the building. Slate chalk boards that were taken out in favor of white boards, for example, have been hung in the hallways. Wrought iron railings from the south stairwell that was removed can be found on the mezzanine. And a decorative wooden wall from the former philosophy library remains in place in a second floor office.

Fred Nick, the director of CSSR, has spent 32 years working in Savery Hall. He was not looking forward to the renovation, which he said just sounded like a lot of extra work. But now that he’s moved in, he calls the project “an amazing journey.”

“Hundreds of people, numerous teams and groups and a great deal of creativity, discussion and hard work somehow coalesced into a great new building,” Nick said. “Millions of little details morphed into a remarkable new structure, old on the outside but completely reborn inside. The final building is stunning, but far more impressive is the tremendous talent of all those who designed and produced it.”

Said Crutchfield, “We’re very happy to be back on the Quad and in the middle of campus, and we’re aggressively moving back into our new and improved Savery.”