Le Conte Hall Major Renovation

Built in 1924, Le Conte Hall is the historic home of the UC Berkeley Physics Department. In 2006 the campus completed a $30.7 million major renovation project to update the facility’s interior to provide for the department’s modern academic needs. The project also included seismic upgrades and other building system improvements. Given the building’s designation as a historic structure, the campus's Capital Projects department was especially interested in preserving its original architectural features and restoring attributes that were lost in subsequent additions and remodels.

The project team went to great lengths to retain and reuse original materials in Le Conte Hall. To do this effectively, the project architect created a database to catalogue items and record opportunities for retention and reuse. Detailed design and construction drawings were created to accompany the database. Additional attention was given to identifying and optimizing storage space for materials waiting to be refinished and/or reinstalled. These efforts required extra coordination between the project architect, contractor, subs, project manager, and the campus Fire Marshal.

With this extra effort, however, came a rate of materials retention and reuse that is unprecedented on the Berkeley campus. Project highlights include:

  • Seventy-eight doors removed from the building were reinstalled or used for repair parts
  • Solid brass door and window hardware was salvaged and reused
  • Transformers and motors from the generators, along with mechanical fans and electrical equipment, were reused by UC Berkeley’s Physical Plant department
  • Panels and breakers were salvaged by Physical Plant for reuse in other buildings that still use these systems
  • Clay roof tiles were carefully removed, saved, and reused on the east and south sides of the building
  • Chalkboards and slateboards were stored and reinstalled
  • A historic skylight was repaired instead of replaced; copper gutters were saved and reused
  • In the spirit of renovating the building to reclaim its original architectural character, the project team reopened the fourth floor’s central skylight. The skylight had been hidden for decades after a 1964 infill project closed it off with a gypsum board drop ceiling. Restoring the skylight enabled the project team to create a welcoming interaction space reflective of the building’s original design.

    In addition to exemplary materials retention and reuse, the project team successfully integrated other sustainability principles into the renovation, namely energy and water efficiency. Extensive upgrades to the HVAC system include new ventilation ductwork, exhaust fans, and a chilled water and variable air volume air handler system. The team installed a new lighting system with controls to reduce energy use further. Electronic direct digital controls now integrate the mechanical systems with the campus energy management system. The building uses less water through low-flow fixture upgrades.

    In recognition of this exemplary renovation and the green building strategies used throughout the project, UC Berkeley was honored with a Best Practice Award Honorable Mention for Best Overall Sustainable Design at the 2007 UC/CSU/CCC Sustainability Conference.

    Project Credits

    • Executive Architect: STUDIOS Architecture
    • Preservation Architect: Page & Turnbull
    • Engineer: Affiliated Engineers, Inc.
    • Contractor: Webcor Builders

    • UC Berkeley Project Manager: Judy Chess

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