The new 280,000 s.f. Alexandria High School’s open, streamlined design would look right at home in a modern office building, with its digitally-enriched, collaborative workspaces, abundant daylighting, a three-story atrium and DIRTT wall classrooms. The Honor Wall in the school’s commons area provides a rustic contrast, however: Comprised of reclaimed, sandblasted barn wood signs recognizing the individuals, groups and companies who have made the school a reality, the wall is a striking, fitting tribute to a rural community from a school built on a former farm field.
The Reuse, Reclaim, Recycle sensibility is alive and well in construction. Not only does recycling and repurposing make sense for economic and environmental reasons, but also to add a distinctive aesthetic to a project that new can’t do.
There are many applications for repurposing in construction. Sometimes, new products and materials just can’t match the specifications of an old product. During renovation of the WPA era Lake Superior Zoo Pavilion in Duluth, the KA team found that newly sourced beams were too small for roof reconstruction. Instead, they located and used reclaimed beams from Duluth grain elevators.
At other times, aesthetics drive the decision to go with reclaimed materials. A chandelier from the glamorous St. Paul Hotel found new life at the Chapel at Deephaven Woods Senior Living in Deephaven, MN. Lyn Ringold, KA project manager and Jill Levorson, interior designer with Encompass Interiors discovered the fixture while on an excursion to Art & Architecture on University Avenue.
“We didn’t come with the intent of finding a light fixture, we were actually there looking at doors,” said Levorson. “But I looked up, saw the chandelier, and we fell in love with it. It’s perfect for the space.”
Well-chosen traces of the past can infuse a modern structure with immediate interest and character. Marshall University High School was demolished to make way for The Marshall, a 600,000 s.f. mixed use development in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. But glimmers of the old school have been incorporated into the new structure. Old gymnasium boards and architectural elements are repurposed as a partition wall and accents. Architectural molding from a door frame and an old trophy case are also incorporated into the new facility.
One of the highest achievements in sustainability is reclaiming and repurposing an entire building to new use, in all its distinctive glory. Valspar Corporation recently took on the challenge of renovating two century-old buildings on its Minneapolis campus, converting a former warehouse and manufacturing facility to the high-tech 170,640 s.f. Valspar Applied Science and Technology (VAST) research and development facility. The renovation provides state of the art safety, energy and use-specific amenities in a facility that is on the National Register of Historic Places. The VAST project conserved and restored original materials including interior and exterior brick, stone, wood floors, windows and support beams. Industrial artifacts such as steel track fire doors and a resin storage tank have been conserved and are displayed as accent pieces throughout the facility.
“As you come into the space, one of the things that will strike you is the combination of old with new, and that’s been done on purpose,” said Valspar Executive Vice President Steve Erdahl. “We certainly want to honor our history, be respectful of our history, but we also want to demonstrate that we are moving into the future.”