A Platinum Restoration

Wofford College developed Goodall Environmental Studies Center in Glendale, SC, as a field station for the private liberal arts College’s recent BS/BA degree program in Environmental Studies. Located approximately 6.5 miles from the College’s campus in Spartanburg, the 3.3-acre center, adjacent to 19 acres of protected green space, is anchored by an historic, 2,200-sq.-ft. building overlooking the rocky shoals of Lawson’s Fork Creek. The setting has become familiar turf for students to learn how to identify, remediate, and prevent the environmental impacts of modern society as they pursue a major or minor in the cross-curricular field that requires foundational work in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.     

Within this setting, the once severely deteriorated building that served as the former administrative epicenter of the Glendale Mill and Village underwent meticulous historic restoration and modernization to support a contemporary academic mission. The building’s original floor plan, except for the wall for new restrooms, provided enough space for two labs, a lecture classroom, conference room, office, and storage. Achieving accurate historic preservation can be challenging enough, but achieving LEED certification makes this building an equally admirable example of sustainable design and creative solutions.

Donald L. Love, Jr., AIA, principal with McMillan, Pazdan, Smith Architecture, LLC, of Spartanburg, led the restoration program. Love’s team produced the first academic building in the state to earn LEED Platinum Certification — the highest achievable of the U.S. Green Building Council’s ratings — with a total of 53 LEED credits, significantly more than the 33 minimum credits necessary for LEED Silver, the project’s original goal. Moreover, it was honored this month with an Historic Preservation Honor Award by the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation, South Carolina’s statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Starting Point
The once dilapidated building amid the fire-scarred ruins of the former textile mill was built in 1902. Love described it as an example of “vernacular textile mill construction” of the time. The mill began operations in 1832, supplied cloth to the Confederacy, and returned to commercial textiles thereafter. At its peak, the mill was the employment hub for a village of 60 houses, 400 residents, a sawmill, machine shop, carpenter shop, and two cotton gins. The business passed through several ownerships until offshore competition shuttered the operations in 1961. The foreign competition quickly eroded the local economic base and the elements took a steady toll on the structure’s integrity until a fire some years later all but finished off the industrial infrastructure except for a smoke stack, two towers, and the mill’s steadily deteriorating office building.

In 2005, several local organizations, together with Wofford College alumni, spearheaded a campaign to preserve and potentially revitalize Glendale using the mill town’s historic significance and the adjacent Lawson’s Fork Creek, waterfalls, and green space as recreational assets. Working with the gift of the old mill office and the surrounding acres, Wofford embarked on the historic restoration of what then qualified for a LEED credit as a Brownfield redevelopment structure due to required asbestos abatement. The program produced a fine academic building with an interesting legacy and a promising future.

A Commitment to Stewardship
With an enrollment of 1,500 students, Wofford College had demonstrated responsible stewardship earlier for the school’s historic academic assets. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) ranks it among the nation’s “green institutions” for its vision of environmentally compatible policies and facilities operations. In this case, the center not only gained a restored building of local historic significance, but also opened public access to the beauty of Lawson’s Fork Creek that had been hidden from view for the past century.
“When we began thinking about developing an environmental studies center at Glendale, Wofford’s board of trustees reminded us that a first-rate liberal arts education not only was about studying the right things and saying the right things, but also about doing the right things,” said Robert Keasler, senior vice president for operations and finance at Wofford. “We take great pride that their commitment is reflected so well in the Goodall Center.  Future generations of our students can look forward to learning in a fine educational facility that reflects all of the best practices in historic preservation and environmental stewardship. The project also sets a high but attainable standard for future projects as we move toward success in meeting a range of our ‘gold, black, and green’ goals.”

Preservation in Lockstep With a Sustainable Strategy
McMillan, Pazdan, Smith took more than a year of research to establish the original architectural character and interior spaces of the building. Working with photographic and other records, the roofline was recreated with brick units as closely matched as possible with the original masonry. The outside faces of the brickwork elsewhere across the walls were severely damaged. The solution for the rest of the walls was to dismantle and reverse the damaged units so that the intact face was exposed. In addition, the mismatched, boarded-up, or painted arched windows deteriorated beyond restoration so new, double-glazed units with low-E coating were constructed to match the original sash configuration. A new custom-made door now matches the original and is ADA compliant.   

The underlying structural and interior deficiencies were equally extensive. Rainwater admitted by the leaky roof had rotted the floors. The plaster finishes on both walls and ceilings were damaged or missing, floors were sagging, and wooden wainscoting was equally compromised. The work addressed the deflected floor joists with “sistered” (doubled with matching joists) reinforcement to support the loads over the spanned spaces.

Interior modifications after the building’s original construction were removed to restore the original layout. The plaster walls were repaired and refinished, along with missing woodwork replaced to match existing profiles. The original wainscoting and trim required extensive repair and refinishing with exclusively low-VOC materials to comply with LEED requirements. The original door hardware was removed, re-plated, and reinstalled. Other restoration involved the original fireplace surround, grates, covers, hearth, and mantel. As for the water-damaged, original heart pine floors, the sections with sufficient structural integrity were refinished while the worst were replaced with salvaged antique heart pine. The deteriorated roof that had contributed so much to the interior water damage was replaced with a white, reflective single-ply membrane system having a SRI 87 rating.

Mechanical Systems Contribute to Platinum
The building’s mechanical systems were replaced in the crawl space with one 15.2 SEER and two 17.17 EER air-to-air heat pump units that exceed the ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004. These are equipped with programmable thermostat controls and boosted by an energy recovery ventilator. Insulation was added to the roof but waived in the wall construction. Period light fixtures were modified to accommodate fluorescent bulbs and now operate on motion sensors.

Site lighting is designed with full cutoff fixtures that prevent light pollution and contributed to the LEED credits. The electrical design features will collectively require 32 percent less energy than standard buildings of its size.

In step with LEED emphasis on water conservation, the new toilets are equipped with low-flow fixtures and flush with water pumped from the creek instead of potable water. Rainwater captured in a cistern is used for landscape irrigation. Modeling projected a 45 percent reduction in domestic water usage from these measures.

The project’s construction management also contributed to the LEED score. No less than 78 percent of the construction waste was sorted and recycled during the process.

Enhanced commissioning began during the project development stage and greatly contributed to the effective LEED solutions credited with earning LEED Platinum, instead of LEED Silver certification for the project, according to the architect.

This building will serve far into the future as an academic environment for the fieldwork associated with the Environmental Studies program. As with most projects of its type, the modest-scale building can be characterized by both quantifiable and perceived qualitative paybacks on elements of the design and construction program. Viewed together within the context of comprehensive preservation of this early 20th-century office building and the restoration of Lawson’s Fork Creek, the less than $1M construction and landscaping project has delivered the academic community and surrounding neighborhood a relevant teaching venue for years to come.
Faculty members, students, and a variety of visitors have grown to appreciate this peaceful setting for the facilities and creek now serving a new mission. The building was formally christened the Goodall Environmental Studies Center last year to honor Chris Goodall, an insurance executive and a 1979 graduate and College trustee of Wofford College, who donated $1.2M toward the project.

Jim Ladesich is a freelance writer and communications consultant based in Shawnee, KS. He has more than 30 years experience writing about facility design and public infrastructure.