Renewing windows in a historic or heritage building can be a tricky proposition. To balance performance improvement with heritage preservation, unique solutions often need to be developed for each individual project. RDH rose up to the challenge by completing a historic window retrofit in an occupied condominium that was formerly a high school originally constructed between 1909 to 1955.

 

Queen Anne High School (QAHS) is a historic 137-unit low-rise condominium in Seattle, Washington. It was originally constructed in 1908 with additions in 1929 and 1955. In 1986, it was expanded and renovated during an apartment conversion, then finally converted to condominiums in 2006. The conditions encountered on the buildings after 100 years of service lead to, among other things, the replacement of the original single-paned wood frame window sashes with new double-paned wood frame window sashes to replicate the originals and fit within the original frames. Throughout the process, RDH uncovered some lessons about managing expectations that can be translated to almost any rehabilitation project.

The Challenge

The building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, so it had very strict requirements for modifications. In addition, the three existing buildings that formed the former school varied in construction type and age, adding another layer of complexity to the project. Working with the ownership group of a historic complex brought up some interesting concerns along with the need for strong communication to ensure owner expectations were realistic and aligned with the project objectives. The retrofit was intended to allow the windows to work much the same as they had when they were originally installed a century ago, but with improved heat, moisture, and air control. Early in the project it became apparent that some owners were expecting the retrofit window to operate like a modern window. Furthermore, over the life of the building, small changes and modifications had been made to each window. As a result, RDH created an almost custom approach to the replacement project. With 137 residential units in three very different buildings from different construction periods, good communication and planning were imperative.

 

The Project

In order to minimize surprises during the investigation and design phases of the rehabilitation project, RDH partnered with Peter Meijer Architects–the leading historic preservation architecture firm in the Northwest–to provide historic preservation and repair design expertise to supplement RDH’s building enclosure work.

During construction, RDH and the project team discovered each of the small nuances of the building. The fit of each window became a customized operation, and often the installation required two or three adjustments over a period of several weeks to accommodate the fit of the new sashes into the existing frames. Often the contractor adjusted a window to its proper operation only to find it had changed over the course of a week, much to the dismay of the homeowners. To manage this, RDH built into the schedule follow-up adjustments to ensure that the owners knew additional adjustments would be required for the windows to function optimally. These checks continued for a few weeks, often into a different season to confirm the windows had fully adjusted to the environment they had been installed in. This also allowed the contractors to more efficiently target the adjustments by planning a day to adjust all the windows at once instead of responding reactively to residents’ concerns on a case-by-case basis, saving the residents time and money in the long run.

“It is particularly noteworthy that your success has been achieved in some very difficult, everchanging and dynamic circumstances. No challenge is too big for RDH. You guys always produced the right solution in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner.”

Rod K Pray
Board President, QAHSC

The Result

The better our team was able to communicate with the owners and tenants, the more realistic their expectations were about how the work would impact their lives and what the final result in their units would be. The adjustment protocol gave the owners greater confidence in the contractor and alleviated the need for owners to report each small issue individually. Residents were also able to enjoy the functionality of newly customized windows as well as repaired roofing and exterior walls. At the conclusion of the project, RDH provided a final sign-off form to residents to catch any last issues that were missed over the course of the construction process.

 

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Our Leaders

Marcus Dell, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.

Senior Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Marcus is a professional engineer who specializes in practical solutions to building enclosure problems. He combines his academic training with over 20 years of work experience to offer all-around knowledge of the application of building science principles to buildings around North America. His focus at RDH is on existing buildings and repair, renewal, and rehabilitation projects.  In particular, he has advanced expertise in roof design and assemblies. He serves as a Director with RCI Inc, Western Canada Chapter and has published many papers and conducted research on a variety of roofing topics.

Paul Kernan, Architect AIBC, LEED AP

Managing Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Paul is a registered architect with a wide range of working experience in North America and Europe. For the last 15 years, Paul has specialized in building enclosure design and construction. Paul leads the building enclosure Repair, Renewal, + Rehabilitation (3R) service area at RDH.

Michael Aoki-Kramer, B.A., J.D., LEED AP

Managing Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Michael leads building enclosure projects for both new construction and rehabilitation. Michael’s experience as well as his knowledge of Washington State and Seattle Building, Mechanical, and Energy Codes are an asset to any project. He co-manages RDH’s Seattle office.

Sarah Gray, M.Sc., P.Eng., CAHP

Principal, Building Science Specialist

Sarah Gray brings her North American and international expertise to RDH’s Toronto office. Her work includes heritage rehabilitation, existing building condition assessment, and new construction enclosure consulting. Sarah previously served as a Board Member with the Canadian Association of Heritage Preservation (CAHP) and is currently a volunteer for the Association of Preservation Technology. With over 18 years’ experience in the building science industry, Sarah has worked on many historic buildings, including terra cotta rehabilitation at the 1 King West Hotel and Condo in Toronto, and the brick and sandstone repairs at Toronto’s Confederation Life Building, which won a Craftsmanship Award from CAHP. Recent work includes collaborating with RDH Building Science Labs on the testing and assessment of masonry buildings to receive interior insulation retrofits.

Chris Schumacher, M.A.Sc.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Chris Schumacher is recognized as an expert in the field of building monitoring, as well as enclosure and building systems testing. He has led the design, installation and analysis of monitoring systems for a variety of research programs and demonstration projects, both in the lab and in field locations around the globe. Chris’ formal education in architecture and engineering is balanced by almost two decades of experience in design, computer simulation, physical testing, and forensic investigation. Chris was the lead consultant on the development of the Historic Masonry Building Retrofit Guidelines for the US Military Academy and has consulted on several historic buildings including the Halifax Armoury Building in Halifax, NS as well as the Google Building in New York NY (in collaboration with BSC).

Dave Young, P.E.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Dave specializes in building enclosure consulting for both new and existing construction. His experience and expertise in historic building enclosures spans close to 30 years and includes work on the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa and the University of British Columbia Main Library.

One of Dave’s focus areas is to make historic buildings better by incorporating new enclosure technologies without changing the original aesthetics.  This includes implementing moisture control, thermal improvements, and air tightness strategies, while reinstating original materials. This approach was used on the 100 year old Oregon College of Oriental Medicine building in Portland, where corroded steel lintels above the windows were removed. The steel lintels were cleaned and protected, then reinstalled to create a new rainscreen cavity behind the brick veneer over the windows. The 3-wythe mass masonry wall above the lintels remained intact.