March 28, 2008
Kirk Hall will undergo a $3 million renovation as part of the University’s core area revitalization project.
Photo by Liam Richards
The University has a diamond in the rough that is about to get some polish.
Plans are taking shape for the first phase of a renovation to Kirk Hall that will maintain its unique character but improve the comfort level for those who occupy it. Colin Tennent, associate vice-president of Facilities Management and University architect, said the initial $3 million investment will create “a model for where we could go with other buildings on campus.”
Opened in 1947 as a residence for College of Agriculture students at a cost of $600,000, Kirk Hall is a key component of the core area revitalization project which will see administrative units moved to the campus periphery to create room for academic units closer to the core. But the building presents two particular challenges—accessibility and the fact “it’s not a pleasant environment at times,” a nice way to say hot in summer and cold in winter.
And following the University’s commitment to environmental considerations, “the original intent, and the ultimate as well, is to go completely sustainable with the building,” Tennent said.
One part of the renovation, which is set to begin in early summer, will involve installation of an elevator in the three-storey building as well as changes to washrooms to address accessibility issues. Major work will also be done on the roof to upgrade it “to a more thermally responsible level.” Increasing insulation levels in the roof will help modify seasonal temperature swings within the building, he explained.
The “all or nothing sort of heating system” currently in the building will be refined and balanced, and high efficiency air conditioning will be installed. But even then, occupants will need to take an active role in maintaining their environment, he said.
“Humans have a very narrow comfort band and while the building will still be very comfortable, it’s going to require a little bit more adaptability. Even the most sophisticated green buildings rely on a degree of occupant engagement. That doesn’t mean people will be sitting around in sweaters because we refuse to heat the place. What it means is that they will have to be aware of what’s happening in their environment and, for example, open a window if it gets too warm.”
Educating occupants on how to “effectively and efficiently modify their environment” will be as important to the operation of the building as fine-tuning the mechanical systems.
The renovation plans also calls for some aesthetic modifications, but Tennent said this will be done carefully. Kirk Hall does not have a historic designation “but we do have our own internal registry of buildings that have heritage value. It’s admittedly subjective, but I would still argue that we should limit changes to both the interior and exterior. There is very delicate detailing in the building that we don’t want to overpower with really abrupt change.”
Tennent added that future upgrades to Kirk Hall will enhance those done in the first phase and could include reinsulating exterior walls and replacing windows.