Article Title

Preserving the Past, Conserving the Future



At Urbana Readiness Center, renovation of an historic facility beat the budget and aspires to earn LEED Gold.

When Terry Anderson (LTC Ret), the former Chief of Planning for the Department of Military Affairs, IL looked to modernize the 1938 Readiness Center in Urbana, IL, his first thought was to build a new facility. However, when funds were appropriated several years earlier than anticipated, plans had to change. Anderson noted, “We weren’t planning to build in FY09, so when the opportunity presented itself, we realized that renovation would be the right answer for this facility.” Bailey Edward, a Midwest-based, women-owned, small architecture firm with a track record of successful projects with the National Guard was selected with their team of consulting engineers to take on the mission. “The Guard asked us to take an historic 83,000sf cast-in-place concrete armory and develop it from Schematic Design to Bidding in 8 months. It was a challenge we just couldn’t pass up,” stated Ellen Bailey Dickson, Managing Principal at Bailey Edward.

If a shortened design phase wasn’t challenging enough, the design team learned that the building had been determined to be “eligible” for the National Register of Historic Places by the State Historic Preservation Officer at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA). This designation could potentially create roadblocks to meeting key project requirements like increasing the net assignable area of the building, meeting or exceeding a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design LEED Silver rating, and meeting minimum Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection (AT/FP) requirements. As the project construction is now complete, success appears to be on the horizon with approval from the IHPA, a potential LEED Gold rating, and solid AT/FP measures in place. The project couldn’t be more timely for the Guard. As the Army National Guard ARNG Readiness Center Transformation Master Planning project is fully underway, the renovation of the Urbana Readiness Center is positioned to provide a template for how existing, historic Readiness Centers can be modernized to meet today’s functional and environmental needs while preserving the character which makes buildings like this unique.

How did they do it and how can these results be replicated? First and foremost, these results are the outcome of a solid partnership between the Architects, Engineers, Owner, Using Agency, and Contractors. Trust and respect went a long way in establishing that bond and generating an atmosphere where everyone had a personal stake in the success of the project. Renovation projects have unforeseen conditions and when those arose, the project team was able to openly communicate and work through the challenges to find the best solutions for the project both in terms of cost and schedule.

Second, starting the project with a solid vision and goals for sustainability set the stage for success. This helped to ensure the goals were carried through from concept to building occupancy. Bailey Edward utilized their strategy of bringing a proposed LEED checklist to the very first kickoff meeting and placed their LEED Accredited Professionals on the project who knew what it would take to achieve the sustainability credits. By marrying expert environmental knowledge with their insight into ARNG’s programmatic needs and budget, Bailey Edward was able to establish specific sustainability goals for the project upfront. This clarified what systems and technologies were the best fit for the building before design really began.

With these guiding principles of partnership and early goal setting, the team was able to employ innovative sustainable design strategies and build them into the project from the very beginning.

While preservation has value for our communities and culture, the Guard wanted to be sure that investing in a building from the 1930’s made sense for their 21st century needs. With updated AT/FP requirements, a tight budget, and federal sustainability mandates, some wondered if it would even be possible to address all of these needs through a renovation project. The answer was a resounding yes, with all AT/FP requirements met, the cost for the project nearly half what it would have cost to construct a new, similarly sized facility, and an anticipated LEED Gold certification with expected annual energy cost savings of 17.9%.

Earlier projects had replaced the original Readiness Center windows with wood and vinyl casement windows. Not only were these windows leaking water into the building, they were inefficient and did not meet the blast resistance required for AT/FP. The Architect utilized historic photographs found during their research on the facility as the basis for the mullion pattern at the replacement windows and worked with their consulting structural engineer, ABS Consulting, to identify the level of blast protection needed at each window.

The entire building was constructed with a cast-in-place concrete façade which was cracked and spalled allowing further water infiltration into the building. The Architect surveyed the facades and documented each crack and spall, providing drawings and specifications dictating the proper procedures for removal of loose concrete, anti-corrosive treatment for exposed rebar, methods for patching cracks and spalls, and the procedure for coating the entire building with an elastomeric coating. At the area of the building determined to receive the highest blast impact, the Structural Engineers scheduled the inside face of the cast-in-place concrete wall to receive a coating of fiber reinforced polymer composite along with steel brackets which extend from the floor to the roof at the window piers.

To meet the changing needs of the Guard and their updated security measures, various doors were required to be replaced or modernized with updated hardware. The work included the replacement of overhead doors which were designed to match the original wood doors that had formerly led to stables for the cavalry’s horses and restoration of existing wood interior doors to outfit them with modern hardware.

Never far from their minds, the team had to focus on efficiency and creative solutions to keep the project’s budget in line. The construction funds available to renovate the 83,000sf building, construct an addition, and make sizable improvements to the site were just under $14 million. For new construction, a project of similar size and construction quality would be estimated to range between $270 - $300 / sf. Representing a potential budget of $22- $25 million. By reusing over 95% of the existing building shell, structure and interior walls, the Bailey Edward team was able to save nearly 50% of the construction cost of a new structure. That’s money in the bank that can be used for other mission needs.

In addition to the initial cost savings realized by reusing the existing building, the energy improvements made to the building will continue to translate into savings at the bottom line for years to come. While it is understood that the LEED rating system may not specifically be utilized in the future, the following sustainable innovations and strategies utilized at the Urbana Readiness Center are applicable under any criteria used to measure the impact on our environment and provide a sustainable roadmap for the renovation of other facilities.

Reusing the existing location kept the project from becoming a new construction facility on a greenfield site, which in Illinois, typically ends up being located on prime farmland. With a location near the heart of the city, the Readiness Center was able to capitalize on the existing nearby public bus stop and existing bicycle infrastructure, reinforcing the mass transit and cycling culture that was already established in the Champaign-Urbana community.

After evaluation by the project’s civil engineers and landscape architects, Harley-Ellis Devereaux, the site was determined to be conducive to restoration and a bioswale was created for natural filtration of the stormwater coming off of the enlarged military parking lot. As discussed, the project called for the addition of over 12,000sf. By strategically infilling the larger than authorized Assembly Hall and building on top of an existing single story portion of the building, the original building foot print was maintained while gaining the required functional space, resulting in no building increase to the impermeable site area.

In a Readiness Center, showers and toilets are a must. Add to that the size of the units anticipated to utilize the facility and the fixture counts became high. To offset the impact of the water needs for the facility, the plumbing engineers selected low-flow urinals, low-flow lavatory faucets, low-flow shower heads, and dual flush toilets to minimize water usage. After working out the initial commissioning bugs, these devices have had no complaints from the users and are functioning as intended. Additionally, the project’s landscaping utilized native and drought tolerant plantings, removing the need for permanent irrigation.

With 12” cast-in-place concrete walls with no insulation as the exterior envelope, improving the thermal performance of the exterior walls was a high priority for the Bailey Edward team. To determine the right solution for the walls, samples were taken and analyzed in a laboratory to determine the composition and condition of the concrete and to characterize the water vapor transmission properties of the existing coating(s) on the exterior surface. Through this analysis and Bailey Edward’s research, it was determined that the exterior walls would be furred out on the interior with 3 5/8” metal studs, filled with spray foam insulation, and covered with gypsum board for a finished interior, tripling the R-value of these walls.

Similarly, existing roofing and insulation was removed and replaced with thicker polyisocyanurate insulation and roofing, more than doubling the R-value of the roof. Electrical and mechanical systems were reviewed and energy efficient systems were designed by KJWW Engineering Consultants. Specifically, outdated lighting was replaced with high-efficiency fixtures, exterior lighting utilized high performance LED fixtures, and a water source variable refrigerant flow system was installed for heating and cooling.

In addition to reusing the existing structure, the design team carefully specified new materials, beating LEED credit requirements for recycled content and regionally manufactured materials. The general contractor, Felmley Dickerson Company, exceeded the project’s construction waste management requirements, providing documentation showing an impressive 81% of the construction waste was diverted from landfills through recycling. Construction Project Manager, Jim Meek, included the following in his LEED submission, ”At a minimum, the goal of the project's construction waste management plan was to divert at least 75% of debris from disposal in landfills and incinerators. The approach to satisfy this requirement was to require sorting of all debris materials on site to individually labeled dumpsters by recyclable material type. This sorting of debris was to ensure that the maximum quantity of debris material was in fact appropriately diverted. When a dumpster was filled to capacity, the recycler or hauler would remove the debris from site to be processed and then report the actual weight of debris on a monthly basis. At monthly project meetings, we provided an up-to-date Construction Waste Management Log to track the type and total quantity of debris removed from the project. Types of material debris that were able to be recycled included wood, concrete, metal, and cardboard.”

The quality of the air we breathe both during and after construction affects our overall health and productivity. To manage this issue, air quality was monitored during the construction process, and building materials were protected from moisture damage and subsequent mold growth. Bailey Edward specified low VOC materials for adhesives, sealants, paints, coatings, and carpet systems making sure that when specifying these products, they met the performance requirements necessary for a military facility. Additionally, to ensure the right amount of fresh air was available in each room, a carbon dioxide monitoring system was installed to measure Co2 and increase the volume of outside air circulating in each room to match the occupant load in real time.

In conclusion, the renovation and addition to the 1938 Urbana Readiness Center, demonstrates that a historic building can be renovated to meet the needs of today’s military while preserving its unique character and the environment. The innovative solutions implemented in this facility can be translated into facilities nationwide and provide a meaningful roadmap for the transformation of existing Readiness Centers into sustainable assets for the future.