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Project Summary

The Chemistry Annex on the campus of University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) is a 39.000 SF Art Moderne / Art Deco style building. Built in 1937, the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is located in a National Register of Historic Places District on UIUC’s campus.

The university wanted to preserve the historic fabric of the building while providing modern amenities and new, state-of-the-art teaching and laboratory facilities. The central stair is an exception to the otherwise utilitarian original interior and as such was considered character defining, for its location in the building, function and prominent location as well as for the use of multi-colored terrazzo, for the treads, risers and wainscot. The stair was constructed of terrazzo over a cast-in-place concrete structure. The terrazzo floor pattern at the landings is a particularly beautiful element of the interior, and characteristic of Art Modern style. The $14 million project began in July, 2013 and was substantially complete in Fall 2016. Renovations included a rehabilitation of the interior, the addition of new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems along with new finishes. A 9,000 square foot addition was included with the renovation which houses an elevator, fire egress stairs, and collaboration spaces.

The exterior of the building was largely intact, and restoration/preservation strategies emphasized to restore the exterior to its original appearance. The exterior wall system is a cavity wall system with face brick and Hadite block backup. Plaster and painted block was the predominate interior finish. The existing wall system had no insulation in the cavity wall or the concrete spandrel panels, an extension of the cast-in place concrete which forms the buildings base. In order to meet the goal of LEED gold for this rehabilitation project, the exterior wall system needed to be thermally upgraded. Careful study and coordination with the interior build-out was required to provide two (2”) inches of open cell urethane insulation at the inside face of the exterior walls. The Chemistry Annex concrete restoration was particularly challenging. The existing exposed concrete was uncoated as it was originally installed, and patching materials needed to match the color and composition of the original material. Testing and analysis during the design phase aided in the selection of a concrete patch method that will provide long term repair of the concrete while maintaining its historic appearance. 

Many investigations were undertaken to better understand the building, such as a laser point cloud scanning to verify the size and detail of the building, which determined the building was foot longer than indicated in the original drawings. A field investigation was conducted of the location of reinforcement in the wall system for identification of localized condition or wall construction failure. Finally, field sampling and laboratory testing of original colors for materials requiring historic matching, including elements such as: windows, doors, trims, cast-in decorative panels, mortar, limestone, terra-cotta and concrete. Additionally, lifts were used to perform field inspections of the material condition of the exterior envelope, windows and roof systems.

The exterior renovations and rehabilitation included work on the exposed cast-in place concrete, spandrels and base, brick masonry (repointing and restoration), and restoration upgrades to existing historic light fixtures, terra-cotta, belt course and cornice. In addition, new aluminum windows were replaced to match the original Art Moderne aluminum windows which had previously been replaced with wood double-hung units.

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Champaign, IL


Design Vignette

The Chemistry Annex features an original terrazzo stair case, built in the 1930s. Over time, screwed in traction plates were added to increase accessibility. Prior to the restoration of the staircase, those traction plates were removed, and the old polish stripped off. We were then able to fill the holes the screws made from the traction plates and other cracks to subsequently reseal and polish the stairs. The new sealant used is easier to maintain because it doesn’t have to be coated every year, and it doesn’t yellow over time, allowing the original colors to show through. Thinner, carborundum strips were installed to allow for traction while still showing more of the terrazzo stair than the traction plates. Furthermore, the staircase’s original mahogany handrail was not ADA compliant. Modifications were made by adding more mahogany to the existing rail, and re-staining to maintain the original appearance while bringing the overall handrail up to code.