Texas A&M University’s administration building, named for the university’s seventeenth president and chancellor, Dr. Jack K. Williams, was originally constructed in 1932 to provide office space for university leaders. As time passed, the building’s systems declined, forcing university leaders to relocate to other campus buildings. Texas A&M University hired Vaughn to restore the facility to its original purpose. The three-part renovation included replacement of all MEP and life safety systems, reinforcement of the structure to accommodate the new systems, and restoration of the building’s historic finishes. Construction in a facility that contains historic finishes requires constant communication and pre-planning. Before each trade contractor could begin work in any space, we met with them to not only plan the work, but how the work would affect the historic finishes.
Systems. Since HVAC systems were not standard in 1932, air handlers had been installed in odd places through the years in an attempt to condition the building. We had to demolish 10 air handlers with associated ductwork and install life safety systems throughout the building’s four floors. Before we began demolition and installation, we teamed with MEP and life safety contractors and restoration specialists to determine the finishes to be most affected by our work and the level of difficulty required to replicate them should they be damaged. We either temporarily removed sensitive historic elements or covered them with plywood for protection before each scope of work began. We then worked with the trade contractors to strategically place the systems above the full height historic ceilings, under discreet drop ceilings, or inside vertical mechanical chases constructed to blend with the historic décor. Then we installed a new consolidated HVAC system in the attic.
Structure. The existing structure needed reinforcing to support the new HVAC system and to provide emergency egress from the attic and upper floors. We met with all personnel to set and measure noise and vibration levels for protecting the building’s historic finishes and façade during construction. We built a structural support system with a concrete deck to hold the new larger capacity air handlers. We couldn’t bring the equipment through the building without causing damage to the existing finishes so we cut a 12-foot by 12-foot roof hatch through which to pump concrete for the deck and lower the AHU units into place.
Historic Preservation. Numerous renovations had been performed in the building over its lifetime, many of which covered up the building’s historic décor. To prepare the finishes for construction, we temporarily covered them with plywood as we performed activities in each space. We demolished eight-foot lay-in ceilings that hid floor-to-ceiling decorative windows, removed carpeting and laminate flooring that covered ornamental tile and terrazzo, and removed stained glass doors and windows to repair and protect them during construction. We enlisted specialty contractors from around the state to restore original paint colors, repair ornamental plaster features, repair ornamental tile and terrazzo, match existing woodwork, and repair over 50 stained glass windows and doors, each over seven feet high. The tradesmen exhibited superior craftsmanship and pride in their work, which is evident in the building finishes.
We completed the project under budget and approximately four months ahead of schedule. We restored the iconic building to its original state of prestige as the centerpiece of the Texas A&M University campus.