Creating a New Space for the 21st Century Student

Savery Hall Renovation

University of Washington

Built in two phases between 1917 and 1920, this historic building is a significant example of the collegiate Gothic style that has established the University of Washington’s reputation as an extraordinarily beautiful campus. A building with a prominent location and distinctive heritage, Savery Hall underwent seismic, structural, life-safety, and accessibility improvements. At 90 years, Savery Hall needed more than a face lift, it was time for a complete interior renovation that would make the building new again for 21st century students.


105,000 sf


Seattle, WA

Year Complete


2010 Gold Award — American Council of Engineering Companies ACEC Awards

2010 Honor Award — Masonry Institute of Washington Excellence Awards

2010 Award — Mason Contractors Association of America

Hundreds of people, numerous teams and groups and a great deal of creativity, discussion and hard work somehow coalesced into a great new building. Millions of little details morphed into a remarkable new structure, old on the outside but completely reborn inside. The final building is stunning, but far more impressive is the tremendous talent of all those who designed and produced it. Fred Nick, Former Director, Center for Social Science Computation and Research


The renovation sought to maintain the original building’s exterior integrity by restoring its brick, terra-cotta and sandstone facades to their original luster. The interior was stripped to its structural frame to make room for a modern upgrade, a unique contrast to the exterior architecture. Previously, classrooms were scattered throughout the building with departmental offices filling in between. With the exception of two large lecture rooms on the second floor, the interior was reorganized to put the 20 classrooms on the first and most accessible floor. The original first-floor elevation was about 4.5 feet below grade with a resulting 5-foot-high windowsill height that created a very basement-like feel. During renovation, the first floor was elevated by 24 inches to give the classroom floor a ground-floor feel with waist-high windowsills. By manipulating the grade at the exterior and lowering two entrances that previously stepped up to the second floor, the number of ADA entries doubled and student pedestrian circulation to the first-floor classrooms was greatly improved.

Celebrating the Past

Throughout the building, original elements such as wrought iron guardrails remain intact amidst the modern-day upgrades. An unaltered 1917-era wood and glass interior partition wall was rejuvenated to remind the users of the 90-year-old building’s roots. Exterior single-pane, metal sash windows were upgraded to insulated aluminum-clad, wood windows with operable awnings to match the historic muntin pattern.

Sustainable Design

An efficient building envelope, lower lighting power densities, and energy-efficient HVAC design all combine to achieve a potential carbon emissions reduction of 25–30% over standard code requirements. Savery Hall’s historical significance prevented the addition of any external sunshades over the south side of the building, which would normally reduce heat gain. Therefore, the HVAC solution was to install a mixed-mode system utilizing natural ventilation and variable refrigerant flow (VRF). Natural ventilation through the use of operable windows and built-in “wind towers” creates a warm air buoyancy to induce air flow. VRF is a heating and cooling system that recoups energy from one zone to provide thermal comfort to another; it provides simultaneous cooling and heating with heat recovery. Ceiling-mounted VRF units are located in classrooms and offices while floor-mounted units reside in mezzanine offices. There are no heating or chilled water systems. With less need for mechanical air distribution, less ductwork was required; this in turn allowed for better utilization of existing space such as daylight access. Other sustainable features include new waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures, occupancy-sensor lighting, time clock shut-offs, daylight sensors and a new telecom distribution network.