New Cabell Hall gets a new lease on life
Photo by Stephanie Gross.
The South Lawn Project is a shining example of sustainability as much for what goes up as it is for what does not come down.
In the case of New Cabell Hall — a 55-year-old building that holds the largest number of classrooms on Grounds — the process started with a careful study of the possibility of renovation rather than demolition and rebuilding.
“When one considered the disruption and cost of demolishing and replacing New Cabell Hall, it was apparent that we needed to understand our options,” said University Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard Sandridge. Sandridge explained that although New Cabell Hall does not meet expectations for an academic building by today’s standards, the building is well constructed and structurally sound. “We found it was much less expensive to bring New Cabell up to our standards than to tear it down and build a new one of equal size,” Sandridge said.
The dollars and sense of the situation were quickly made clear. “It is a less costly option by more than one-third,” Architect for the University David Neuman said, “the difference between $80 million to renovate and $126 million to rebuild.”
The renovated building will have new plumbing, electrical, heating, communication and central cooling systems. The interior finishes will be comparable to the rest of the South Lawn Project. The work will include a sprinkler system, improved accessibility and significant audio-visual upgrades.
The benefits of renovation extend to equally critical concerns for the College, namely space. “We were originally planning to replace the existing 160,000 gross square feet with a new building of only 100,000 gross square feet,” Neuman said. “So we immediately net nearly two-thirds more space.”
The space gains are as much about quality as they are about quantity. “We are going to renovate it to a degree that, when you are inside, you won’t know whether you are in the new South Lawn or in a 55-year-old building.”
In a project that is all about changing perspectives, New Cabell will have a new perspective of its own on the new landscape. The South Lawn’s terrace will actually meet New Cabell Hall on its third level, putting it on the same level as the South Lawn and the other existing buildings that surround it.
Finally, the choice became even clearer given the ever-greening University mindset. “What we have here in New Cabell is 160,000 gross square feet of structurally sound, recently-roofed ‘work-horse-type’ space that may not fit everyone’s sense of aesthetics,” Neuman said, “but the embodied energy — materials, labor, etc. — is tremendous. The notion of putting it into a landfill is not sustainable to anyone who has looked at this choice with an open perspective.”
“The decision to renovate New Cabell significantly reduces the duration and amount of disruption that students, faculty and staff will experience compared to demolition and replacement,” Sandridge said. “The next step is to demonstrate to donors and the state that this is a smart investment for the future of the University.”