Higher Education Case Study: History Lessons

By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the June 2007 issue of Facility Executive

 Marshall-Adams Hall at Michigan State University Illuminated from within, Marshall-Adams Hall at Michigan StateUniversity was restored both inside and out. (Photos: ©JonathanHillyer/Atlanta )



In October 2005, the dedication of Marshall-Adams Hall at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, MI marked an achievement borne of historical research, resourceful planning, and teamwork. In both appearance and function, the building had been given a new lease on life. The reason for this transformation was a $6 million gift presented by an MSU alumnus in 2002.

Built as a bacteriologylaboratory in 1903, Marshall Hall (renamed Marshall-Adams to honorWalter Adams, a past president of MSU and admired professor of thedonor) was serving as offices for members of the economics departmentwhen the opportunity to perform the project arose. The configuration ofthe building had changed a great deal over the years, and the aim wasto rehabilitate the building with sensitivity for its former use andcharacter. Additionally, it would be outfitted with new and upgradedbuilding systems.

Planning The Project

With the funds available to renovate Marshall Hall, Greg Houghtaling,AIA, senior architect in Engineering and Architectural Services at MSU,created a committee comprised of MSU faculty and staff to provide inputinto the planning and design of the project. Among the members of thisteam were the chair and two members of the economics department; amember of administration from the facilities planning group; and an MSUmechanical engineer.

Aftersoliciting and viewing presentations from several architectural anddesign firms, the MSU committee decided to hire Lord, Aeck &Sargent. With an office in Ann Arbor, MI, one of the firm’s focuses ison historic preservation; consequently, the committee found it to be agood fit.

Says MSU president, Lou Anna K. Simon: “It is aspecial kind of design firm that allows its own work to tread lightlyaround that of a predecessor, creating something uniquely its own whilehonoring the work of another.”

Susan Turner, AIA, principaland director of Lord, Aeck & Sargent’s historic preservationstudio, said from the firm’s Atlanta, GA office, “The client reallyloved the building. They had a real desire to understand what it hadbeen originally and to try to recapture some of the essence of itsoriginal qualities.”

Splitting The Difference

Planning the configuration of the new Marshall-Adams Hall presented achallenge. The building housed the economics department faculty, as dida neighboring facility, Old Botany Hall. However, the donor hadspecifically directed the funds be used for Marshall Hall, so the teamneeded to decide what spaces would be housed in there while keeping in mind a future, yet unspecified, rehabilitation of Old Botany.

Inorder to facilitate this process, the team referred to a campus masterplan that MSU had created in recognition of approaching its 150-yearanniversary in 2005. “First, we had Lord, Aeck & Sargent refer toour existing master plan as it related to the two economics buildings,”says Houghtaling, who has been with MSU for seven years and headed upthis project. “We had to find a way to create as many offices as wereneeded and to provide for future growth without knowing when or if OldBotany would be renovated.”

Additionally, there was a onestory wing attached to the east side of the building. This wasoriginally a stable, used as an infirmary in later years, and morerecently had been divided into offices. Another space had been added onin the 1990s, which served as a seminar room.

“We wanted tomaximize the number of offices within the space,” explains Houghtaling.“This included evaluating the seminar space. The structure had not beendone too badly, but it didn’t really blend well. The mechanicalequipment was also very noisy in there.” Ultimately, the team decidedto remove the seminar room and restore the building’s originalfootprint.

 Marshall-Adams Hall at Michigan State University Through careful research, the architects returned the main stairwell toits appearance circa 1903. (Photo: ©Jonathan Hillyer/Atlanta)

Other elements removed from the exterior included a setof stairs attached to the rear of the building and a small additionthat housed an accessible ramp. The stairs had been added in the 1940sto provide a second means of egress, but they were placed in aninconvenient location. The renovation included locating a stairwellinside the building to replace the exterior stairs. An elevator wasalso added to provide barrier free access to all levels.

Opening Up The Inside

Lord, Aeck & Sargent conducted historical research and investigatedexisting physical conditions to understand the building’s initialconfiguration. Rob Yallop, preservation planner with the firm’s AnnArbor, MI office, headed up the process.

“Wetry to develop a thorough understanding of the history and evolution ofthe building during the earliest phases of a project,” explains Yallop.“As part of this, I spent several afternoons at the campus archivescollecting historic photos, yearbooks, and written narratives, as wellas related reports given throughout the years. This gave us anunderstanding of the original design, spaces, and materials.”

Thearchitects ascertained that the original layout consisted of a centralmasonry core surrounded by circulation spaces, with large classroomsand laboratories situated along the exterior walls. High ceilings andtall windows allowed an abundance of natural light into the building.

Marshall-Adams Hall at Michigan State University Incorporating glass along the top of interior office walls allowsdaylight to reach further into the building. (Photo: ©JonathanHillyer/Atlanta)

In 2002, the internal layout was quite different. Theinterior had been modified in the 1950s when the building was convertedto offices. As Houghtaling explains it, this had been an inexpensiverenovation with functionality as the goal. No structural walls weremoved; rather drywall was used to divide the spaces. As a result, mostof the building’s historic features had been removed.

SaysHoughtaling, “We basically gutted the inside, taking it down to therafters. We also took a major bite out of the center of the building toplace the elevator and new stairwell.” Restrooms were also housed oneach floor within the central core.

“For the most part, thebuilding program was small, multiple faculty offices,” says Turner.“The challenge was to recreate large open interiors while alsoachieving the multiple offices.” The solution was to divide the officespaces with casework partitions that went up to just above the doorheight. Above that, glazing was used to reach the ceiling.

“Thisallows the natural light to flow in to the interior spaces from thewindows,” Turner explains. “It gives a sense of what the originalspaces might have looked like. That was one of the really fulfillingaspects of this project; we were able to integrate the modern needs ofthe building in a way that was truly consistent with its originalinterior qualities.”


Plansfor interior changes also included the building’s main staircase. Afterremoving plywood that had covered the baluster, the team found an oakgothic arch design and agreed it should be saved. Restored to itsoriginal appearance, the staircase once again serves as a grandentrance to the building.

As with the interior, exteriorrestoration aimed to return the building to its original appearance.Designed in the Romanesque style, the building is constructed of redbrick, granite, and limestone. To maintain its integrity, Yallopexplains, “We performed an analysis to make sure the bricks and mortarmixes used for the repairs were compatible—both visually andphysically—with the historic material.”

Architecturalelements discovered in historical documents were also addressed. “Overthe past century, a lot of the detail on the building had been lost,”explains Houghtaling. “This included cresting on the roofs and theremoval of a large, central chimney. Also, at some point, the windowframes and cornices were painted white, whereas the historical photosshowed them to have been painted terra cotta.”

Working fromphotos, the team discovered the central chimney had penetrated the roofwhen the building was first constructed, though it did not remain therefor very long. “We have pictures of when the building was justcompleted,” says Houghtaling. “And, in pictures from a few years later,the chimney was gone. My guess is it was probably too drafty with thewinter climate here.”

This was because, in the originalconstruction, the chimney was connected to an interior shaft thatserved as an air venting feature—letting air up and out of thebuilding. “At the lowest level of the shaft, there was an ice room. Ourtheory was that this formed a natural ventilation and coolingprinciple,” says Houghtaling.

Past Meets Present

As part of the project, virtually all of the building systems inMarshall-Adams Hall were replaced or upgraded. This included new HVAC,electrical, plumbing, fire alarm and protection, and computernetworking systems. Maintaining the historical integrity of thebuilding was a primary goal in planning the configuration andinstallation of these elements.

“Asis the case with many historic buildings, the HVAC system was achallenge,” says Yallop. “We wanted to maintain the tall, originalceiling height. To do that, we minimized the size of the ductwork andequipment.”

In terms of ductwork placement, the team workedto find existing spaces within the building structure. For instance,Yallop notes that much of the horizontal ductwork was placed betweenthe joists, while the team took advantage of historic verticallaboratory ventilation chases to place ductwork running between floors.

 Marshall-Adams Hall at Michigan State University This one level space, which was part of the original 1903 construction,now serves as a classroom. (Photo: ©Jonathan Hillyer/Atlanta)

Minimizing the space occupied by the mechanical equipmentwas also important, and the solution was to place these items on thetop floor of the building. “We were able to divide the equipment andtuck it under the eaves,” explains Houghtaling.

The existingchimney shaft came into play here as well. At some point in thebuilding’s history, occupants used some of the shaft space to houseadditional building needs, such as rest rooms. Therefore, the shaft nolonger ran up and down the entire height of the building; rather it wasfilled with various components on the first three floors, while at thehighest level, the shaft did remain open. This open space became themain route for intake and exhaust air for the HVAC system.

Another 100 Years

The restoration of Marshall-Adams Hall marked another step toward theeventual goal of renovating the six historic buildings located on MSU’s“Laboratory Row.” Further, the modern building systems and ADAcompliance ensured the building would be functional as well.

“Whatgives me the most pride is that we have given the building anopportunity for a new lease on life,” says Houghtaling. “It is now astructurally sound, relatively low maintenance building which meets allof the current codes in terms of accessibility, safety, and usability.”It appears the building will be a proud part of MSU for another 100years.


This article was based on interviews with Houghtaling (houghtal@pplant.msu.edu), Turner (sturner@lasarchitect.com), and Yallop (ryallop@lasarchitect.com).

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Project Information:

Project: Marshall-Adams Hall.
Name of Organization: Michigan State University.
Type of Facility: Existing.
Function of Facility: Higher Education/Economics Department.
Location: East Lansing, MI.
Square Footage: 20,000.
Budget: $6.8 million.
Construction Timetable: September 2003 to October 2005.
Cost Per Square Foot: $340.
Facility Owner: Michigan State University.
Facility Manager: Greg Houghtaling, AIA, PM.
Architect/Interior Designer: Lord, Aeck & Sargent.
General Contractor/Construction Manager: Fryling Construction.
Electrical/Mechanical Engineer: Peter Basso Associates.
Structural Engineer: Robert Darvas Associates.
Landscape Architect: Fitzgerald Henne Associates and Michigan State University.

Product Information:

Furniture: Community Furniture, a division of Jasper Seating; Steelcase.
Seating: Haworth; KI.
Storage: Borroughs.
Flooring: Permagrain Timeless Series 3.
Carpet: Mohawk.
Ceilings: Armstrong; W.F. Norman.
Paint: Sherwin-Williams; Paint Analysis by Welsh Color & Conservation.
Rest Rooms: Oasis Water Coolers; Smith Manufacturing (plumbing);Signature (fixtures); Building Access Corporation (accessories);American Specialties; Accurate.
Building Management System/Services: Siemens.
Fire Alarms: Siemens.
Safety Equipment: Siemens.
Lighting Control Products: Nine 24 Inc.
Lighting Fixtures: Lithonia Lighting; Bega; Baselite Corp.
Ballasts: Advance.
HVAC Equipment: Trane.
Power Supply Equipment: Siemens.
Back Up Power: Cummins.
Cable/Wire Management: WireMold.
Roofing System: Gaff.
Exit Signs: Lithonia Lighting.
Signage: Fabricated by Michigan State University.
Windows: Blackberry Windows/Traco.
Draperies/Blinds: Lansing Vertical Blind Company.
Elevators: Detroit Elevators.

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