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myMarvin Architect's Challenge: An off-campus duo in Amherst

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A recipient of an “Award of Merit” for Adaptive Reuse in the 2010 AIA New York State Design Awards, this project from James McKinney of Sacco + McKinney Architects was selected as a winner for showcasing adaptive reuse, historic preservation and high performance.

The Mayo Smith, Seelye and Hitchcock Houses at Amherst College are viewed as local historical landmarks overlooking the town common. This project assures their preservation while looking to the future through the use of high performance building envelopes, solar energy for hot water and high efficiency mechanical and electrical systems.

These restored buildings provide attractive living environments with many of the same amenities as the new dorms on campus, including compliance with safety and accessibility standards.

Floor plans include a mix of room types preferred by upper class students, including singles, two-room doubles and suites. Also, common social and study space, music practice rooms, laundries and bathrooms. Existing floor plans were revised to improve space utilization, reclaim under-utilized space and accommodate new egress stairs.

Amherst’s “High-Performance Buildings Guidelines” called for technologically advanced systems and materials. While architecturally preserved on the outside, thermal and air barrier technology was applied at the inner face of the walls and integrated with window replacement to achieve a high performing envelope. Both open- and closed-cell foam products were used in response to differing wall construction in the various buildings. Existing windows were replaced with custom high-efficiency clad units matching existing profiles and sight lines. Marvin’s custom profiles and products, combined with their super energy performance, made them the perfect fit for meeting preservation requirements while addressing future needs.

New mechanical and electrical systems include high efficiency boilers, low flow plumbing fixtures, DDC controls to allow facilities to monitor performance of systems, energy recovery from ventilation air and high efficiency LED lighting. Roof top solar panels provide most of the hot water for showers and laundries and serve as a visible component of the school’s commitment to reducing carbon emission.

Modifications to accomplish modern accessibility were done with minimal impact on the historic nature of the buildings. New accessible walks flow with the site contours and porch decks were raised to eliminate the one-step barriers found at entry doors. Existing doors and entrances were selectively altered to meet width requirements in an architecturally sensitive manner. And historic main stairs were modified to meet current requirements, while maintaining their historic character.

Mayo-Smith, Seelye and Hitchcock Houses are proof that historic buildings can be fully effective in responding to the energy and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

Marvin products used in this project included double hung windows, custom configurations and historical replications.

Photography courtesy of James McKinney.