Austin CC Renovations Awarded LEED Platinum

By Eric Althoff

AUSTIN, Tex.—A building serving as part of the Austin Community College’s Rio Grande Campus has transitioned from a high school to college campus over its century-plus in the Texas capital city. Following a recent $59 million upgrade, the school is a more able home for 21st century learners.

Architects Studio8 Architects and Overland Partners have re-envisioned the building, while carefully maintaining the building’s historical architecture and original design elements and artworks. Working with Bartlett Cocke General Contractors, the architects burnished the Elgin-Butler golden bricks on the exterior facade while modern energy-efficient windows were installed that matched the original frames. Meanwhile, the lowest level of the building was refashioned to allow for an all-new street entrance, and a new roof was added to better protect the building.

On the exterior, the campus now features two enclosed courtyards. Elsewhere on the campus, the contractors have fashioned the ACCelerator Lab, a center for instruction, group activities and research. The contractors also restored the campus’s theater, which is now home to an Army training center and collaboration with the school.

Ground was broken in August 2017. The designers and contractors eventually added 8,650 square feet of educational space to the 150,000-square-foot campus.

Sustainability elements that won the project LEED Platinum status include utilizing recycled water from the city of Austin and applying a MERV 13 filtration system that provides energy savings and delivers cleaner indoor air. In addition to the LEED Platinum designation, the ACC project has been recognized with an Austin Energy Green Building four-star rating.

“Breathing new life into this iconic and cherished community asset, which has supported students for more than a century, ensures ACC Rio Grande’s continued positive impact on future generations of students,” Adam Bush, Overland Partners principal on the project, said in a statement to School Construction News. “It was exciting and deeply rewarding to play a part in bringing renewed vibrancy to the historic Rio Grande campus and strengthening ACC’s goals for transformational educational outcomes and student success.”

Added Robert Byrnes at Studio8 Architects: “Integrating state-of-the-art systems into a century-old ACC building while celebrating its historic character was a challenging puzzle for the design team; the solution resulted in a welcoming, light-filled environment for learning that will support ACC’s mission for the next century.”

Scott Stites, educational facilities market leader at Bartlett Cocke, said his firm commissioned a complete laser scan of the building, which allowed the construction manager to solve some problems in the computer before opening up any walls at the ACC jobsite. This saved some four months for the project timeline, he estimates.

“A major project hurdle was the integration of modern climate control and ventilation into a building originally designed to be heated with a coal-fired boiler and ventilated by opening windows,” added Stites. “Working together during the design phase, the AE/CM team was able to develop a strategy where new mechanical equipment was distributed evenly between rooftop locations and mechanical rooms located in newly created sub-basements in the newly enclosed lightwell courtyards. The reduced rooftop interventions helped meet the City of Austin’s Historical Commission’s expectations for exterior interventions that would deviate from the building’s appearance over the last century.”

“With our project teams, we are reinventing a priceless educational asset in Austin’s urban core, with careful restoration of the 100-year-old main building that features advanced, flexible learning environments for 21st century learning,” said ACC Chancellor Dr. Richard Rhodes. “This project honors the campus’s past and boldly embraces the future.”