Pavilion IX Being Restored Using Environmentally Responsible Standards

October 29, 2010

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Matt Kelly:

October 28, 2010 — Pavilion IX, undergoing renovation on the University of Virginia's historic Lawn, will be the first Thomas Jefferson-era building at the University to conform to LEED standards.

LEED, the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program, is the construction industry standard for environmentally responsible and sustainable construction. The University has adopted these standards for all new construction on Grounds, but this will be the first time they are being applied to one of the original buildings on Grounds.

"Working with LEED can be tricky," said James Zehmer, project manager for Facilities Management . "One of the things they call for is to seal the building envelope and replace all the windows. But these are original windows and we're not going to do that."

But while historical considerations override some LEED requirements, changes are being made. Workers are replacing appliances with LEED-compliant models, installing low-flow toilets and using paints with low levels of volatile organic compounds, as well as installing new wiring and plumbing.

"One of the biggest things we are doing is recording and recycling all the items we are removing from the building," Zehmer said.

While LEED standards call for extensive insulation, the walls in Pavilion IX are solid, and about 80 percent of the plaster is original, so adding insulation, other than in the attic, is out. But the thick walls, 18 inches at the base tapering to about 12 inches on the upper floors, also retain heat and cold.

"Plaster is a good insulator," Zehmer said.

Preservation itself is environmentally responsible, said Brian Hogg, senior preservation planner with the Office of the Architect. "The most sustainable building is one that already exists," he said.

Workers also must conform to new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on working with lead-based paints. They have to wear respirators any time they disturb the original paint, such as when they remove the baseboards to install new wire.

Much of the work on the project is updating systems, such as fire suppression and appliances, installing access for cable television and wireless stations and replacing window air conditioning units by connecting the pavilion to the University's central heating and air system. The work also includes refinishing the original heart pine floors.

At about 5,000 gross square feet, Pavilion IX is not large. It does not have large columns in front, but it has a curved entrance, with the original curved door, which Jefferson modeled after the Hotel D'Guimard, which he saw in Paris in the 1770s.

"The curved alcove extends from the basement to the attic," Zehmer said. "That creates some neat spaces inside the building."

The building was extended in the rear, about the width of one room, in the 1830s and a two-story porch was added in the late 1800s. The kitchen, which was originally in the basement and was later moved to the first-floor addition, was renovated in 1983, expanding it out to part of the porch. At some point, a window in the original rear wall, which now separates the kitchen from the dining room, was closed off. Zehmer said the window will be restored, with translucent glass, and the current kitchen window in the rear wall will be enlarged, letting in more natural light.

Along with new appliances, new cabinets will be installed in the kitchen. One of the craftsmen who built and installed the cabinets in 1983 was Robert "Hotdog" Campbell,
who had been working in the cabinet shop and is now a trade technician working with historic buildings. This year, he helped remove the cabinets he installed 27 years ago.

"When we put them in, we wrote our names and the date on the drywall in back of the cabinets," he said.

Campbell said he was disappointed when he found that his cabinets were not being reinstalled, but he said he does enjoy working with the historical building.

"You learn a lot about the history of the University working in the old buildings," he said. "You learn how they were used and how the uses have changed over the years."

Among the changes over the years has been the use of the basement. The kitchen remained there until utility lines were routed through the rooms. With the current renovation, the utilities are being moved outside, running underground through the garden. The original brick basement floors had been replaced with concrete; the current plans call for brick tile floors, to restore the original look.

The limited exterior work includes replacing some porch railings. Aside from minor gutter repair, the slate roof does not appear to need attention.

The renovations, totaling $2.1 million, are funded through private gifts to historic preservation endowments. Work iis scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2011.

As with much of the work that has been done on the Lawn in recent years, this project is being handled almost exclusively by Facilities Management personnel.

"We're very happy almost all the work is being done by tradespeople already on U.Va.'s staff," Hogg said.

While not ornate, Hogg said Pavilion IX is a favorite.

"Among a lot of architecture and design people, Pavilion IX is one of the best-liked pavilions," Hogg said. "Its exterior is severe and clean in its geometry. The other pavilions have large columns or cornices, while IX is simple and cubic, with a curved entrance which is its focal point. It is a spare building that relies on proportion rather than decoration."

Among the residents of Pavilion IX, probably the best-known was William Holmes McGuffey, author of McGuffey Readers, a series of textbooks for young children. He was a professor of philosophy, starting at the University in 1845. He died in 1873 and is buried in the University cemetery.

— By Matt Kelly