The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Old Main recognized for 2014 green renovation

Heather Newberry
A view of Old Main on Tuesday, Sept. 6 in Tucson, Ariz. Old Main is the first building ever constructed at the UA, and it was originally the School of Agriculture building.

Old Main’s renovation, completed in 2014, recently received the 2017 U.S. Green Building Council’s Arizona Leader Award in Building Performance during the Arizona chapter’s Heavy Medals Luncheon on April 19 in Tempe.

According to the Arizona council, the award was granted for the renovation’s “significant increase in building performance through the implementation of sustainable design solutions.”

Peter Dourlein, UA’s assistant vice president of planning, design and construction, said the award recognizes not only the increased comfort, efficiency and extended functional life, but the UA’s vision as a whole.

“The great thing is it’s in recognition of our program and how we treat buildings,” Dourlein said. “We’re not just looking at the upfront cost; we’re looking at the life cycle cost of the building. We’re going to own it a long time, and we want it to have a long life and be comfortable and efficient.”

Dourlein said the renovations included increased natural light, better air quality and better acoustic quality, to help people perform better.

“You can create space that is inspirational,” Dourlein said. “It doesn’t just facilitate work, but it also inspires. Good architecture can lead and do more than facilitate.”

Rodney Lane Mackey, associate director of planning and public private partnerships, was the design project manager for the renovation. He said the renovation was timely because the building was experiencing issues. The wood portions, in particular the outside porches and the outdated mechanical systems, were all failing. 

RELATED: Hard rock at Old Main: UA mining students compete to drill massive boulder

“This is the oldest building on campus, one of the oldest institutional buildings in the state,” Mackey said. “It was the only building on our campus that had not had a major renovation since it was built, so it was not in very good shape.”

Mackey said the team took Old Main back to the original design concept from the 1880s, which includes large cross hallways that divide the space into four large, open blocks.

“Our efforts to restore it to its original design concepts, but still have a facility that meets modern office requirements, is something we feel really good about,” Mackey said.

The project cost $13.5 million, but Mackey said it’s hard to estimate how much money will be saved, because the building was not metered individually prior to the renovation.

Lorna Gray, facilities project manager for the renovation, said the installation of efficient heating and cooling equipment means the building now benefits from a combination of the original, Tucson-appropriate architectural design and modern technology, making it more environmentally friendly.

“Although we don’t have older data to compare to, we do have a national ASHRAE [American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers] standard which was used for a baseline as the designers pushed for a 24-percent improvement above and beyond,” Gray said. “The LEED Silver certification and the recent Arizona Leader Award for Building Performance are a result of these design priorities.”

RELATED: Ecuador study abroad brings conservation biology to winter break

Other awards the Old Main renovation received: the 2015 Governor’s Heritage Preservation Grand Award; the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission’s Historic Preservation Award; the Design-Build Institute of America’s Western Pacific region Design-Build award; and the National Award of Merit in Rehabilitation, Renovation and/or Restoration from the Design-Build Institute of America.

Gray said the awards recognize the UA’s commitment to sustainability and tradition.

“There is probably no building on campus that is closer to people’s hearts than Old Main,” Gray said. “Throughout the design and construction processes, many community members provided input, shared stories, watched the progress and engaged in the transformation.”

Mackey agreed the building is more than just a space for offices, and said with the renovation, Old Main is set for another 125 years.

“Old Main is an essential symbol, for not only the UA but also for Tucson,” Mackay said. “You’d be surprised how often you see that image associated with Tucson. It’s really the center of the UA universe.”

Dourlein said when other old campus buildings need to be updated, the teams will look to the Old Main renovation for ideas.

“When you work on a historical building, it’s kind of like peeling an onion,” Dourlein said. “You could just keep peeling away and peeling away, but if you’re not careful, you won’t have anything left. You just have to know how far to peel away before you start to restore.”

Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search