Restoring a Building from the Inside Out

| January 27, 2017

by Nancy Greenwald

Nancy Greenwald

Extending the life of an existing building is both a science and an art. The first step is deciding whether the building should be preserved or replaced. There are many reasons for preserving older buildings that are unrelated to cost. Preserving our nation’s valuable historical buildings is one important reason. Buildings that represent the character of a town or a university and buildings of architectural significance may be deemed worth preserving. In other instances, the decision may be based largely on the economics. The cost of new construction may sometimes be less than the cost of renovation. However, in addition to preserving capital expenditures by extending the life of existing buildings, thoughtful renovation allows a building to be used more wisely and flexibly and can incorporate modern amenities as well as select green building features that allow for greater sustainability. Members of the Construction Institute (CI) have shared their expertise and creativity about several aspects of renovation.

New technologies for assessing existing structures

Many renovation projects begin with the realization that the building plans, if they can be located, don’t reflect the current condition of the structure. Working with the unknown is costly. Obtaining an accurate measurement of the as-built condition has not always been achievable. Fortunately, we now have the technology to create accurate maps of existing structures through the use of 3D laser scanning. In their recent presentation to the Construction Institute’s BIM Council, members Andy Ives of Langan Engineering and Matt Wunch of BVH Integrated Services described the process by which accurate measurements are captured through 3D laser scanning. Stated simply, data from the scanning is used to create a point cloud representation of the existing structure. The point cloud in turn, can be translated into a 3D model, known as a building information model (BIM) that can be used by designers and engineers. Although there is an upfront investment by the owner to use this technology, the investment is well worth it. Using better data allows for a faster turnaround and more accurate designs, which in turn can significantly reduce waste and time in the construction process.

Improving energy efficiency and sustainability

Retrocommissioning is a process that allows building owners to realize cost-effective improvements in energy savings measures and building system operations and programming. CI members Mark Miller of Colliers International and Rob Morrow of The Weidt Group shared their companies’ approaches and experiences at the CI’s 2015 Owners’ Forum Program. The process involves more than evaluating and replacing older equipment. It requires a holistic assessment of energy use in the building employing sophisticated software and the use of targeted controls and modern monitoring systems. System data is brought into management software that can be made available to facilities managers through an app.

Renovating the building envelope

Evaluating and repairing the exterior of a building is a crucial part of any renovation. CI member Hoffman Architects are specialists in the rehabilitation of building exteriors. Robert Delagrange of Hoffman shared some of the considerations taken into account using the example of their work on Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, Conn. The project spanned a number of buildings, each of which presented different challenges. On one building, masonry and concrete deterioration required repairs to resolve defects and prevent further deterioration. Another involved the replacement of a roof on a historic building. Still another involved evaluating options for the replacement or renovation of a 60-year-old glass and aluminum curtain wall system to create a more energy-efficient, modern system. Preserving the interior requires a careful consideration of preserving the outside of a building.

Maintaining renovated facilities with state-of-the-art data management

Capturing and translating data collected during the renovation process into a practical tool for facilities management is an important goal. CI member Kevin Wyman, P.E., Martinez Couch & Associates, LLC teamed with Jorge Sanchez, 3DVES, LLC to present to the CI’s BiM Council a process they have developed to combine BIM information with other building information model data to provide a working model for facilities management. Another approach to facilities data management is the interactive cloud-based system involving an interactive floor plan, photo documentation, and embedded documents that has been developed by CI member Building-Files.

Nancy Greenwald is executive director at The Construction Institute.

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