Pavilion IX Restored Using Environmentally Responsible Standards, and Largely by U.Va. Tradesmen

September 28, 2011

September 28, 2011 — Pavilion IX on the University of Virginia's historic Lawn, which has recently been renovated, is the first Thomas Jefferson-designed building at the University to meet LEED standards.

LEED – the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design program – is a standard for environmentally responsible and sustainable construction. The University has adopted these standards for all new construction and major renovations on Grounds, but this marks the first time they have been applied to one of the original buildings in the Academical Village.

Pavilion IX serves as a faculty residence. It is currently the home of Dorrie Fontaine, dean of U.Va.'s School of Nursing.

Historical considerations were balanced with some customary LEED practices, so the original windows were retained rather than replaced with modern, insulated panes. But the older appliances were replaced with energy-efficient models, low-flow toilets were installed, and renovators used paints with low levels of volatile organic compounds.

"One of the biggest things we did was to record and recycle all the items we were removing from the building," James Zehmer, project manager for Facilities Management, said.

LEED standards call for extensive insulation, which was added in the attic. But Pavilion IX has solid walls, 18 inches at the base tapering to about 12 inches on the upper floors, which retain heat and cold and still have about 80 percent of the original plaster.

"Plaster is a good insulator," Zehmer said.

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

Much of the work involved upgrading systems, such as installing new electric lines and plumbing. Window air conditioning units were removed, and the building was added to the University's chilled water system for cooling.

New smoke detectors and a fire suppression system were also added. The building had battery-operated detectors before, but now is wired directly into the University's systems control panel.

Utility lines that had passed through the basement were relocated outside, Zehmer said, and brick tile floors were laid to restore the basement's original look. The original brick basement floors had been replaced with concrete, and a basement kitchen was relocated, when the utility lines were routed through the basement.

A recently rediscovered original Jefferson-era window also was restored to the structure. When the relocated kitchen was expanded during a 1983 renovation, an exterior wall became an interior wall, and the window was removed and stored in the attic. Workmen restored most of the original jamb and molding in the wall, crafting new pieces to replace damaged ones, and installed the window between the kitchen and the living room, which had originally been a classroom.

"It had been the west window of the classroom," Zehmer said. "We fabricated two sashes and put it back in the original space, this time with translucent glass to move light from the kitchen to the living room."

Workers also installed a new closet near the back door, restored a structural support for the front staircase and "grained" the pavilion's distinctive curved front door – a process of painting the door to look as if it were made from mahogany or walnut. Local art teacher Andy Johnson performed the graining.

"It was painted to look more expensive than heart pine," Zehmer said. "Since the doors are curved, we left them in place and painted them there. We were afraid if we moved them, they might not fit back in."

Jefferson modeled the pavilion's entrance after the Hotel de 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 $2.1 million budget for the project was paid for by the University's historic preservation endowment and resulted from savings realized in the restoration work on Pavilions II and X.

At about 5,000 gross square feet, Pavilion IX is not large and does not have large columns common with the other pavilions. While not ornate, Hogg said Pavilion IX is a favorite.

"Among a lot of people interested in architecture and design, 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 that is its focal point. It is a spare building that relies on proportion rather than decoration."

Among the past 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.

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

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

— By Matt Kelly

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications