The Second Century: Modernizing Park Buildings for the Next 100 Years

This presentation is part of A Century of Design in the Parks: Preserving the Built Environment in National and State Parks, June 21-23, 2016, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Abstract and Presenter’s Bio

Robert J. Hotes, EPY Architecture & Engineering

Robert Hotes: First of all, I want to thank Mary, and Debbie, and everyone at NCPTT, and the Park Service for putting this program together. I think it has been wonderful. I’ve certainly enjoyed it and I hope you all have, as well. I also want to recognize the Park Service. I think we often talk about the level of different maintenance, very inadequate budgets, and those are both very negatives, but what I think what has always impressed me about the Park Service, probably more than any other of the government departments that I work for, is their ability to do so much with so little, and I think we need to recognize that as well.

Finally, I do want to thank all of you, for those of you who have been counting this is the 12th presentation in this room today, so congratulations! I am very conscious of the fact that I am what stands between you and your next installment of the Margarita Trail. I am going to be brief. I did take Mary at her word for, I think Shawn is here, so I know at least one person has heard me speak before. I love slides and I love to talk. To keep it to 20 minutes and to 25 slides was a challenge for me and I took it and I am going to be very brief. These are two ongoing projects and so I’ve tried to limit my comments and I solicit any questions, comments, criticisms, or whatever, because we are definitely still in, now we’re in construction documents for both of these projects. Anything that you tell me can potentially inform what we are doing.

When I got the call for papers I talked to my colleagues at EYP and we’re like, well we’ve worked for the Park Service for decades and we’ve worked on a lot of great historic resources, but none of them were Park Service built facilities. What should we talk about? I knew that there would colleagues here who would talk about iconic visitor centers and have certainly we’ve seen several of them here today, so I took a slightly different tack. A lot of the work EYP does for the Park Service is under IDIQ contracts both for the Northeast region and Nation Capital region primarily. A lot of these are small task orders. After hearing Caleb Waters talk yesterday, I look at my presentations as the design professionals corollary to hits. He talked about maintenance and maintenance budgets. What I’m talking about are these smaller task orders and how to implement them in a way that maximizes the budgets they have and balances the preservation concerns with the programmatic concerns with the sustainability goals, etc.

I am going to cut out my little introduction that talks about Mission 66 and the history of park-built structures, because I think we’ve all heard that. In fact, I don’t know how many times today I’ve seen this slide, but quite a few. Certainly Jeff Pappas’ presentation earlier today gave us an excellent background particularly into Mission 66. As we have heard, many of the park facilities built by the service over the past century are now significant historic resources in their own right and certainly the one, although now gone, the Neutra building at Gettysburg, but all of course the park service buildings as resulting from Mission 66 as well.

The challenge for the next century is balancing the preservation of these resources with the rehabilitation and modernization to serve the needs of the park service, its staff, its volunteers, its visitors, for the next 100 years.

The 2 case studies that I’m going to talk about from the Northeast region, one is part of the result of the Mission 66 program, although by an architect that I don’t think anyone recognizes. It might be the smallest visitor center we’ve seen today. I was talking with Tim Mitchell earlier today and we were discussing the fact that this visitor center might be forgettable, but that might be a recognition of its success as well. What the visitors remember from visiting this site is not potentially the visitor center, but the other historic resources. The other was built in 1967 for Pennsylvania’s first state park. Each of these, I’ve chosen to illustrate the strategies and lessons that we’ve learned, from how do achieve modernization of these facilities that still balances preservation and sustainability.

Original Visitor Center, Booker T. Washington National Monument, 1965

Booker T. Washington National Monument near Roanoke was established to protect and interpret the site of Booker T. Washington’s birth, its cultural landscape and the view shed. The park also memorializes and interprets Booker T. Washington’s life, his historical contributions and accomplishments and his significant role in American history. It provides a focal point for the continuing discussion about race in American society and about the legacy of Booker T. Washington regarding that issue. It provides a resource to educate the public on the life and achievements of Washington. This is an image of the visitor center, which was completed in 1965, under the Mission 66 program. This is a plan of Booker T. Washington National Monument. The North is to the left. You can see the visitor center here, with an access road here, and then you proceed through the visitor center and then out to the landscape and the various historic resources from the plantation.

The visitor center again was constructed in 1965. It’s a wood frame building that originally housed approximately 5,500 square feet of area built on two levels. The main building housed a lobby, exhibit space, a small book shop, and offices. Then later, which you can see on the right, a restroom building was added to accommodate increased visitorship. A maintenance shop was attached to the West end of the building on a lower level. The park’s visitation grew substantially since the building was originally constructed, and in 2010 a new multipurpose room was added to the facility, which you can see here built out in front of the façade of the original Mission 66 structure.

Additional office space over the maintenance shop was also anticipated as part of that 2010 plan. It was taken through construction documents, but was not constructed due to budget constraints. Here you can see an interior of the multipurpose room from 2010. This is an image of the original lobby. I think probably, similar to many of these structures, unlike some of the more iconic visitor centers, there are very few historic images of these buildings. There were no original drawings, actually there were a few, but very limited. Here is an image of the historic lobby, similar to the idea of circulation discussed this morning, but with a glass entry wall on the right hand side. You proceeded through this orientation space with an exhibit area, then out through glass doors on the back façade and out to the landscape. Here are some images to how the visitor center looks now. Again, as discussed earlier today, this use creep that has occurred, the book shop has grown and taken over half of that lobby as well as the addition of the staff information desk that projects out into that lobby space.

Original and Existing Lobby, Booker T. Washington National Monument

The layout of the existing office space is quite compact, to put it mildly, and certainly does not meet staff and volunteer needs. Also, designed and constructed prior to the enactment of any disabled access legislation. Obviously the space does not meet any of the required clearances for wheelchair use and does not meet any current accessibility codes. You can see here, that every inch of space is being used. These office interiors were modified over time, slightly, so that most of the finishes you can see here are not original. The steel windows are, but they are single glazed, and what is hard to make out in these images are interior storms that were added that make the operation of the hoppers somewhat problematic.

The visitor center currently has a fire alarm system, although not code compliant. It does not have a fire suppression system. Water is currently supplied to the visitor center by two wells on the property and the building is not connected to the municipal water system. Based on the park service’s mandate and focus on fire protection, at the current time, the purpose of the task order was to provide a new fire suppression system and an upgrade to the existing fire alarm system, including the insertion of exposed sprinkler piping and heads in the historic lobby and exhibit areas.

In order to provide adequate water for this fire suppression system and domestic use, the building will also be connected to the municipal water system. This is a drawing of the proposed sprinkler layout on the main level. As you can see here, the existing office area, the proposed office addition, and the multipurpose room all have existing dropped acoustical tile ceilings. There the sprinkler heads will all be concealed heads with the piping above the ceiling. In the historic lobby, a single pipe will run across behind one of the exposed beams so that when you enter the building from the parking area here, it will be invisible. It’s only when you are returning from the site to leave and you enter through the back, that if you were to look straight up, you would see that pipe. It will be as concealed as we could get it. There’s obviously no concealed space above the ceiling in the lobby.

Then, in the exhibit area, this wall has been furred out for interpretive reasons in a previous renovation. We will be running the sprinkler pipe behind that so that all the fire suppression in the exhibit area and the lobby will be provided by side wall heads. As minimal intervention in those spaces as we could get.

We have proposed a full dry pipe system for the building. There are existing attic spaces above the office and the multipurpose room requiring dry pipe for those areas. The park staff wanted a wet pipe system to avoid the annual valve testing and maintenance that’s required in a dry pipe system. We looked at ways of achieving the required climate control in the attics in order to provide a wet pipe system there. They really proved impractical and a two part system with dry pipe in the attic and wet pipe in the main floors, really maximized your first cost for construction while basically, not alleviating the need for that annual maintenance. The decision was made to go ahead with a full dry pipe system.

Proposed First Floor Plan and North Elevation, Booker T. Washington National Monument

In addition to the fire suppression, the scope of design included renovation of the existing office wing to meet space and accessibility requirements. This was based on the 2010 plan with some adjustments made for programmatic reasons. A new office addition above the maintenance shop has also been designed to compliment the Mission 66 structure while providing much needed staff and volunteer space and a new library and conference room. All of the work is anticipated to be constructed while the building remains in use. Here you can see, this is the original office area, reconfigured again primarily to provide handicap clearances to all of the spaces and then this is the addition over the maintenance room below. Then an elevation of that addition. Again, trying to be compatible and designed appropriately with the existing Mission 66 structure to the left. This was not easy to do because the ceiling heights in here are not that generous to begin with, but to bring the roof line down so that those exposed beam ends of the original gable are still visible above the new roof.

Case Study No. 2

The administrative building of about 8,600 square feet and the auditorium of about 4,200 square feet at Valley Forge National Historical Park were constructed by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1967 in advance of Valley Forge becoming a National Park Service unit in 1976. Both buildings were two stories connected by a covered breezeway, with stone masonry exteriors designed in a regional vernacular to harmonize with the historic Valley Forge landscape.

Original Administration Building and Auditorium, Valley Forge National Historical Park, 1967

Occupancy and use of both buildings are year-round and are essential to the park’s operations. Here you can see an historic image of both buildings. This is a plan of Valley Forge. North is almost up in this case. Philadelphia is down to the bottom right. The visitor center complex is here on the Eastern end of the park, again with its ubiquitous loop road. The complex consists of both the two buildings that I’m looking at which are the auditorium here, and the administrative building here, as well as a later visitor center constructed by the park service. Although, it’s not part of our task order, it is considered one functioning complex by the park service. Then again, a more contemporary image of the two buildings.

The purpose of the current task order is to modernize the existing HVAC systems in both the administrative building and the auditorium. By developing design solutions for the replacement of the existing 100 ton water-cooled reciprocating chiller, for the replacement of the electric resistance variable air volume boxes and supplemental electric base board heat, it provides heat to both buildings and for new duct work to distribute the conditioned air more effectively. Here is a current image of the auditorium. Again, limited interior photos of the buildings. This is a historic image of the auditorium, and a more recent photo. Very few changes to the interior of the auditorium.

Original and Existing Auditorium, Valley Forge National Historical Park

The administrative building was never really designed with significant interiors and it’s been muddled and modified over time so that what little integrity that that interior may have had originally is almost entirely gone, but the auditorium does retain some. Here an image for you mechanical geeks in the audience, a historic image of the mechanical system on the left. A contemporary image on the right, a contemporary image on the left. Basically, the take away from this, they are exactly the same. There has been minor modifications and repairs and some replacements over time, but basically these buildings are running on the same mechanical systems that were installed in 1967.

Blower Door Testing, Valley Forge National Historical Park

EYP retains Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) to perform high tech non-destructive analyses of the administration and auditorium buildings, including both infrared thermographic survey and blower door air leakage testing to understand the existing conditions and help inform our work on the project. SGH interpreted the test results of their air leakage testing to indicate that the air leakage rates at both buildings are grossly higher, that meaning 2 to 7 times higher, than the relevant standards for new construction. They also cited a report from 1986 that looked at existing office buildings and found that the administration building had air leakage and energy use that was approximately 4 times what one might expect from a comparable building. Significant air leakage and energy loss in these two buildings. The entire visitor center complex, so these two buildings plus the later glass and steel visitor center, have monthly energy costs of $10,000. There’s significant opportunity to improve on that by addressing these buildings.

Here you can see just some images of their work here, with the blower door equipment in place. Here’s some of their thermographic images of the two buildings. I don’t think any of this is surprising where they saw significant air leakage and heat loss around openings, mostly doors. The windows on these buildings have been replaced fairly recently, so the seals around those windows and the windows themselves are fairly good, but the doors had not. Those were an issue. Basically, intersections between the masonry walls and the roof. Intersections between chimneys and the roof, here the cornice. The louvers at the attic although louvers at attics are supposed to vent, so these ones are actually doing what they are supposed to do, and again some of these other connections.

Infrared Thermography, Valley Forge National Historical Park

We also brought in the White Group, which is EYP’s energy practice to look at and to perform a preliminary digital energy analysis using DOE 2.2 which is a sophisticated building simulation program that performs thermal and illuminance calculations on an hour by hour basis. It uses typical yearly climatic data to determine the energy loads and system requirements for the building. Again, we brought them in at the beginning of preliminary design and with some very simple information, most of which you can see here in terms of building configuration, square footage, and energy costs, as well as the floor plans that we had so that they could get some room usage information as well as square footages, they were able to give us some very good comparative information on options for the building systems.

The focus of the analysis was to compare the impact of 7 HVAC system options on the energy use and costs of the building. These are the 7 options. I’m going to go through them not quite in the order they’re listed in an attempt to make it a little easier to understand.

Option 3 is the existing building configuration with a water-cooled chiller and electric heat. Obviously we would be replacing all of the equipment, but basically using the same system type as existing.

Option 4 is to again use a water-cooled chiller, but bring in natural gas to provide the energy for the heating.

Options 1 and 2 are similar in that they use electric heat and natural gas, but replacing a water-cooled chiller with an air-cooled chiller. There are several advantages to that, but one primarily is an air-cooled chiller does not have the danger of Legionella (Legionnaires’ disease).

Option 5 was a ground coupled water-cooled heat recovery chiller. Otherwise known as a geothermal system as I think is obvious to everyone, when you’re dealing with a site such as Valley Forge, every square foot of undisturbed landscape is a potential archeological nightmare, to put an editorial comment on it. While the park service was interested in seeing how a geothermal option fit into the cost and energy use information, it was really not considered a viable option for that very reason.

Then finally options 6 and 7, which are virtually the same as options 1 and 3, would be where the electricity for the electric heat would be provided by a photovoltaic array. Valley Forge is looking at providing a photovoltaic array as part of renovations to the visitor center and that whole visitor center area. That’s something a little more longer term, but they wanted it included in the options to see how all of that shook out.

Here you have the energy use results from that analysis. I won’t go into what the colors basically mean, well quickly green is equipment, blue is lightening, purple is SWH, fans and pumps gray, cooling, and heating in red.

Energy Use Intensity, Valley Forge National Historical Park

The take away here, is basically that options 2 and 4, which were the natural gas options, use slightly more energy. Options 1 and 3 are the electric options. Option 5, not surprisingly, the geothermal option, uses considerably less energy and then of course, options 6 and 7 are going to be identical to options 1 and 3, because the energy is still electricity. It is just being provided by the sun and not by the public utility. In terms of energy use, options 6 and 7 are the same as 1 and 3. Where you see the difference, is the annual energy costs. While options 2 and 4 were less than the electric because the natural gas was cheaper than the electricity needed for the heat, the decision was eventually made to go with an electric system, because the hope is you’re going to eventually end up over there, where your annual energy costs are virtually zero.

Annual Energy Costs, Valley Forge National Historical Park

Based on all of this investigation, we presented and evaluated these options in collaboration with the park service. The intention of course was to upgrade the existing heating, the cooling and the ventilation systems and they’re intended to provide a cost effective system to better serve the HVAC needs of both buildings to reduce fossil fuel consumption and the resulting CO2 equivalencies at both buildings.

At the conclusion of this process, the park service has selected option 1, which is the electric heat with an air cooled chiller, which hopefully will be adapted to connect to the future photovoltaic field as part of the renovation rehabilitation of the whole complex. Currently, as I mentioned before, we are providing currently construction documents for both of these projects.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
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