University of Nebraska-Lincoln Athletic Facilities Master Plan

Lincoln, Nebraska

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) awarded LEO A DALY a multi-faceted planning study for UNL athletics. The study had two primary components. The first component was a master plan of all UNL athletics facilities. The second component was a program statement for expansion of the Devaney Sports Center.

  1. Master Plan

The master plan included an assessment of existing facilities, totaling 17 facilities and roughly 1 million GSF, and a recommended plan of renovation or expansion for each facility “owned/operated” by the university’s athletic department. These facilities included:

  • The Devaney Sports Center
  • Memorial Stadium
  • North Stadium/Osborne Complex
  • Track and Field
  • Nebraska Coliseum
  • East Campus Union (Bowling Team)
  • Baseball/Softball Complex

The master plan encompassed all A/E disciplines and building systems for 23 men’s/women’s NCAA Division I sports programs. It also audited energy use at each facility and recommended solutions for retrofitting existing conditions to enhance energy conservation.

We delivered master plan documents for phased/prioritized renovations or expansions of campus athletic facilities and an estimate of probable costs per facility.

Our executive summary included concept graphs and summary recommendations for each facility and/or sports program.

  1. Program Statement for Expansion of Devaney Sports Center

The program statement met all state and university requirements. It also served as the first phase of the overall master plan.

We developed the Devaney expansion specifically to integrate and support the existing sports-center complex, while also anticipating future master planned phases of renovations. Our final Devaney expansion program statement addressed the following spaces inside the facility:


  • Dedicated practice facilities for men’s and women’s basketball teams
  • Locker rooms, team meeting spaces and coaches’ offices for basketball teams
  • Wrestling gym sized for three practice mats
  • Wrestling locker room and coaches’ offices
  • New strength training center
  • New athletic medicine center
  • New public concourse and amenities


University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL)

At a glance

Master plan and assessment of 1 million GSF encompassing

All A-E disciplines and building systems for 23 men’s/women’s NCAA Division 1 programs


Reduced energy footprint

Phased and prioritized renovations and expansions for 17 facilities


Master planning

Construction estimates

UMD School of Public Policy breaks ground

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Recent Articles

The prominent classroom building and Do Good Institute headquarters creates a new campus gateway and catalyst for public discourse

LEO A DALY, in association with VJAA, has completed the design for the new School of Public Policy building at the University of Maryland, College Park. A groundbreaking ceremony was held October 29, and construction crews are expected to begin work in November.

The project creates a landmark architectural presence for the school, which is rapidly growing in enrollment and is currently ranked 16th among national public policy programs by U.S. News & World Report. Executive architect LEO A DALY and lead design architect VJAA were selected for the project in 2016 after a competitive, multi-phased Design Excellence procurement process.

“The new School of Public Policy is a highly-visible symbol of the University of Maryland’s dedication to serving the public good, not only in developing the policymakers of tomorrow, but in expanding the policy conversation to the greater university and the world beyond it. This new building will have a transformative effect on the university, establishing a unique platform for collaboration and public discourse woven thoughtfully into the fabric of campus,” said Irena Savakova, RIBA, principal in charge for the project with LEO A DALY.

The four-story building at the heart of campus will bring together – for the first time under one roof – the School’s more than 90 faculty members and over 1000 undergraduates and graduate students, and serve as the headquarters for the Do Good Institute, a campus-wide hub for social innovation, philanthropy and nonprofit leadership. Five state-of-the-art instructional spaces ranging in size from 25 to 150 seats, a library and a rooftop terrace are also included.

“The School of Public Policy is a home for those committed to serving the public good, and who go out and do good in the world every day,” said Robert C. Orr, dean of the School of Public Policy.

The building occupies a prominent site along Baltimore Avenue, the main artery connecting College Park with the neighboring communities and the nation’s capital. Located just steps from the upcoming Purple Line light rail station on Baltimore Avenue, the building will allow students, faculty, staff and alumni to form connections throughout the National Capital Region and beyond.

The design concept is rooted in the spatial typology of the ancient Agora, the birthplace of democratic thought and public discourse. A cascading architectural form follows the natural slope of Chapel Field, forming an elegant edge to one of the signature open spaces on campus and shaping a carefully orchestrated sequence of interior spaces.

Entrances on the east and west connect within a large, communal atrium designed to encourage chance meetings, informal study and interdepartmental collaboration. Layers of academic space are tied together visually and programmatically, creating a series of adaptable, flexible learning environments. Do Good Plaza, a shared outdoor event space on the building’s east side, embraces the neighboring Purple Line station, establishing a welcoming new gateway into campus.

The architecture blends contemporary expressions of transparency and openness with materials and rhythmic elements found in the adjacent Georgian-inspired campus buildings. Brick cladding and white columns engage visually with Lee Hall to the north. The building’s carefully sculpted massing frames views of two historic buildings – Rossborough Inn to the northeast and Memorial Chapel to the southwest – creating a window into the past as a foundation for the future of policymaking.

The sustainably designed building is expected to achieve a LEED Gold rating. Biophilic design will connect occupants to nature, reduce the building’s environmental footprint and provide healthy and productive spaces for work and study.

LEO A DALY and BIG complete The Heights Building

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Recent Articles

The new building for Arlington Public Schools houses two of the most progressive public education programs in the United States

LEO A DALY, in partnership with BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group and Arlington Public Schools (APS), is pleased to announce the completion of The Heights, a new secondary school building in Arlington, Virginia. The architecturally stunning new facility co-locates two APS programs that are among the most progressive in the United States: a democratic alternative magnet program, and a program for students with severe intellectual disabilities.

LEO A DALY served as executive architect for the project, working closely with design architect BIG. Gilbane provided construction manager at-risk services.

“The Heights creates a new architectural icon in Northern Virginia and one of the most innovative educational facilities ever built,” said Tim Duffy, vice president and director of technical services with LEO A DALY. “Learning and community are infused into every detail, from its twisting geometry to the bespoke learning environments that support students in their educational journey.”

Building up, with a twist

The Heights employs a unique architectural form to maximize density and open space on a tightly constrained site in Rosslyn, Virginia. Five levels of classrooms are rotated around a central pivot point, creating rooftop terraces on each level that serve as outdoor educational environments. A cascading central stair stitches the five levels together, creating a sense of connectivity and community that is rare in midrise school buildings.

A lobby and gathering space, theater and gymnasium are located on the ground floor, occupying spaces of varying heights created by the rotation of the classroom bars. Public areas are accessible from the main street along Wilson Boulevard.

The design is a thoughtful response to the rapid densification currently underway in the Rosslyn business district. As part of the West Rosslyn Area Plan (WRAP), the Heights contributes to an urban mixed-use corridor defined by civic-minded public spaces and a blend of retail, office and residential uses. LEO A DALY and BIG worked closely with APS, WRAP and the Arlington community over the course of 12 public meetings to create a design that serves a wide variety of stakeholders.

DIY pedagogy: H-B Woodlawn

The Heights supports the learning needs of two unique APS programs housed there: H-B Woodlawn and the Stratford Program.

Based on the liberal education movements on the 1960s and 1970s, H-B Woodlawn empowers students from grades 6 through 12 to direct their own courses of study and engage directly in administrative matters. To accommodate independence and freedom of expression, H-B Woodlawn spaces are designed more like a university campus than a typical high school.

A large, open lobby offers tiered seating for students to gather between and after classes, engage in self-guided learning and investigate their interests alone or in groups. Classrooms use flexible layouts that can be rearranged for different learning formats according to the class or lesson type. State-of-the-art smart panel screens allow students to share content from their own school-issued devices for more interactive learning. Specialized spaces include a library, art studio, a kiln, science and robotics labs, music rehearsal rooms and two performing arts theaters.

Four rooftop terraces are accessible directly from classrooms on levels two through five. Each terrace provides a different scale of activity, from large gatherings to class discussions and quiet study areas. The four terraces are designed to reflect the major ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic physiographic regions and are landscaped with native plants and tree species through an intensive green roof system.

Learning independence: the Eunice Shriver Kennedy Program

The Eunice Shriver Kennedy Program, which serves special-needs students aged 11 to 22, occupies two levels within a dedicated wing of the building. Many Shriver Program students use wheelchairs and have sensory and motor disabilities that require the help of a personal companion during the day. The curriculum is individualized to each student and focuses on vocational and community skills such as daily living, communication, leisure, recreation and other skills that help with independence.

Shriver Program areas provide privacy and ease of accessibility, with both floors directly accessible from grade. Learning spaces on these levels support APS’s Functional Life Skills program, with distinct areas dedicated to different skills. Stratford students have a dedicated gymnasium and secure courtyard, occupational physical therapy suite, and sensory cottage with specialized equipment to help with sensory processing.

Executing a highly technical build

LEO A DALY and BIG worked closely with structural engineering firm Robert Silman Associates to execute the building’s many gravity-defying cantilevers. An ingenious system of trusses transfers building loads at each level while avoiding the need to have columns in classrooms or other large program areas, such as the gym and theater. A careful erection sequence was carried out in phases to build the complicated structure.

The density of the building’s program required a careful approach to acoustical design. Spaces with the greatest potential for noise bleed, such as gyms and theaters, are located on the ground floor. Other spaces, such as music rehearsal rooms, have isolated floor slabs and suspended ceilings to buffer them from surrounding classrooms. The large auditorium uses conditioned air supplied through an underfloor plenum, achieving isolation from the adjacent mechanical room.

This high-performance, sustainable building is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.

Reimagining the vertical school

Recent Articles

Andrew Graham, AIA, discusses how LEO A DALY and BIG collaborated to design the most progressive public school in the United States.

Image by MIR

The Heights Building in Arlington, Virginia, houses two of the most innovative educational programs in the United States: HB Woodlawn, a democratic alternative magnet program, and the Stratford Program, which serves students with severe intellectual disabilities. LEO A DALY served as executive architect, working closely with design architect Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG) and Arlington Public Schools (APS) to realize the building’s innovative academic program and wild, twisting geometry.

As construction finishes up, we sat down with senior architect Andrew Graham, AIA, NCARB, in our Washington, D.C., studio to discuss the design in depth.

What’s unique about HB Woodlawn and Stratford as academic programs?

The Heights co-locates two secondary school programs that are each very different. HB Woodlawn is a secondary school based on the liberal education movements on the 1960s and 1970s. It’s very egalitarian. Students can create their own courses, call teachers by their first names, give input on administrative decisions, etc. The program is very strong in the arts – including visual arts, like painting and graphic design, and performance arts like theater and music – as well as math and science. We collaborated with APS and BIG to create a building program that embodies that flexibility, supporting students as they self-select learning pathways that inspire them.

The Stratford program focuses on the needs of students aged 11 to 22, many of whom use wheelchairs and have sensory and motor disabilities that require them to have a personal companion during the day. The curriculum is individualized to each student and focuses on vocational and community skills such as daily living, communication, leisure, recreation and other skills that help with independence.

Images by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group 

How does the architecture support learning?

BIG and LEO A DALY worked together throughout the project to infuse learning into every detail. BIG’s design concept performs more like a university campus than a typical secondary school, full of environments that support opportunistic, independent, and project-based learning. The large, open lobby, for example, offers tiered seating for students to gather between and after classes, engage in self-guided learning and investigate their interests alone or in groups. Outdoor learning environments are located on roof terraces adjacent to each floor.

Even where there are structured spaces for traditional classroom learning, flexible furniture layouts allow the environments to be rearranged for different learning formats according to the class or lesson type. State-of-the-art smart panel screens allow students to share screens from their own school-issued tablet devices for more interactive learning. The building also includes an art studio, two theaters, science labs, and music rooms.

The Stratford Program has two levels within a dedicated wing of the building. This provides some privacy and ease of accessibility, with both floors directly accessible from grade. It has its own dedicated gymnasium and courtyard, occupational physical therapy suite, and a sensory cottage with various types of sensory-specific equipment to help students calm down and relax. Learning spaces are designed to support APS’s Functional Life Skills program, with distinct areas dedicated to different skills.

Image by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

How does the design respond to its local context?

The Heights is located in a rapidly densifying business district just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The area is undergoing a major transformation through the West Rosslyn Area Plan (WRAP), which focuses on increasing density in the neighborhood, creating an urban mixed-use corridor full of civic-minded public spaces and a blend of retail, office and residential uses. Much of the surrounding area is composed of suburban single-family homes built primarily in the post-WWII era.

A major challenge facing the BIG design team was to reconcile these two contrasting styles of development, tying them together to create a vibrant urban-suburban fabric. BIG focused on the question of what makes a school “urban,” and what design scheme would result in a successful vertical program. There was an opportunity here to reimagine the prototypical school for a new type of environment.

What makes an urban school different from a suburban school?

A suburban school can be thought of as a greenfield development where the school buildings are completely stand-alone and surrounded by a school yard or property. The site allows for a large spatial buffer between the buildings and the surrounding context, accommodating almost any type of site design. There is typically a hierarchy that favors vehicles over pedestrians because most people come and go within vehicles. Parking lots can be provided for visitors and building a bigger footprint may be more cost-effective than building up.

An urban school has to integrate more precisely within its context. Space is tight and the school is likely to be next to neighboring buildings, roads, alleys and sidewalks. Pedestrian access is the dominant means of approach to the site and building. Building services, including vehicle access, is largely defined by the outside context of the urban environment. An urban site typically has limited space available because of the site, and higher construction costs per square foot. With building space costing more, it becomes even more important to minimize space that is secondary to the mission of the project.

Image by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

How does the design help resolve these challenges?

BIG’s concept for The Heights leverages verticality to create an efficient building form that retains the sense of openness that is desirable in a suburban school. The building takes the form of a “fanning bar.” Classroom blocks are stacked on top of each other, but rotated horizontally around a fixed axis, or central spine, like spokes on a bicycle wheel. The building core is located at the pivot point, where services are stacked and the elevators are located. The corridors connect the building core to more specialized and unique programmatic parts of the school, which on the lower level are the gyms and theater, and on the upper levels are the library and classrooms.

How does the rotation of the building change the way learning and teaching happen?

The rotation exposes part of the roof area of each level to the sky as you go from higher to lower blocks. Here, each floor transitions to an open green space on the roof deck of the block below it. This gives each floor its own occupied roof terrace directly next to classrooms. Teachers and students can go to the exterior for classes or informal gatherings. It’s a unique attribute for the school to provide outdoor learning space – organized and informal for classes. These are secure spaces for the students and teachers to take advantage of throughout the year.

The locations between blocks, tiny angular slivers, are utilized in different ways. They allow light to filter deeper into the building and create voids that are used as exterior sunken courtyards at the lower levels. Because these exterior areas create secure courtyards at grade, they are perfectly suited to be next to the primary and secondary gyms of the project. These are secure outdoor areas that allow activities to flow to the outside.

Image by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group

What kind of technical challenges did you face in executing such a structurally complex design?

LEO A DALY and BIG worked closely with our structural engineer, Silman, to create a unique structural system. Because the columns grids do not stack as simply as they would in an orthogonal shaped building, there are multiple sets of grids that shift as the building rotates. We had to be very careful with the shift at each level and to transfer loads and make sure there were no columns located in classrooms or other large program areas. The gym and theater specifically use trusses to transfer column loads from above, allowing us to achieve large open spans within each block on the lower levels.

At the end of each program bar there are large full-height trusses. These serve to take the lateral loading at each level and to transfer loads into the building core. Behind each solid opaque wall is a full-height truss that spans the depth of each floor. These spanning bars and heavy truss assemblies are capable of transferring large structural loads, but they required a very specific erection sequence to pull off.

With such a dense program, there are also serious acoustical considerations. Schools are noisy, and a vertical school has the potential for sound to bleed out of gyms, theaters, hallways and other spaces. Our response began with programmatic separation – a passive first step that places the very loudest spaces on grade. Spaces located within the interior of the school use more sophisticated means to achieve acoustic isolation. For example, the music rehearsal rooms have isolated floor slabs and isolated suspended ceilings to buffer them from surrounding classrooms. The large auditorium theater has conditioned air supplied through an underfloor plenum below the seats. This isolates the theater from the adjacent mechanical room and supplies air directly to the theater occupants.

What about the terraces? How did you make those possible?

This was a very collaborative project, and the terraces are an area where collaboration really payed off. The terraces required an army of specialty disciplines working together, including landscape architects, civil engineers, structural engineers, life-safety and security experts. The intensive green roof system on each level is deep enough to grow plants and large trees, and required the involvement. The soil depth is very specific to the site’s stormwater requirements and the ideal soil volumes that trees need for a growing medium. The trees and additional soil loads were all strategically placed to work with the structural system. The trees are irrigated and tied into the rain-water reuse system for the site. The access stairs that connect each level, as well as a guardrail system and security controls, were also key important details to work out.

Any other big technical challenges?

BIG’s design creates a dramatic entry sequence for students in the main lobby, which we wanted to keep as transparent as possible through the use of glass and multi-story ceiling heights. This required upgrades to the school’s fire protection system and life safety design. We used a deluge sprinkler system to strategically locate sprinklers, and hidden fire curtains that deploy in the event of an emergency to contain different parts of the building. These all worked to create a safer school and more open school environment during normal use.

The biggest MEP challenge was maximizing each floor plate for program space. This meant we needed to have very efficient equipment layouts in each equipment room. There were also many cost constraints not unique to this project. The construction market has been quite volatile because of low labor availability, longer than normal lead times, and higher material pricing due to tariffs. All were behind the scenes challenges that the design and construction teams had to work through to get the project built.

About the author

Andrew Graham, AIA, NCARB, is a senior architect in LEO A DALY’s Washington, D.C., design studio.

LEO A DALY’s Corcoran School renovation reimagines a landmark

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

Recent Articles

The 19th-Century Beaux-Arts Flagg Building is now a state-of-the-art environment for arts education

LEO A DALY has completed phase one renovations of George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts & Design, the most significant update of the Beaux-Arts landmark in 90 years. The historically sensitive renovation reimagines the 1897 gallery as a state-of-the-art environment for arts education and exhibition, complete with four floors of classroom, studio, administration, fabrication and exhibition space; modernized fire-suppression systems; mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades; and accessible ramps, restrooms and elevators.

The multi-phased project, led by the Washington, D.C., studio of LEO A DALY with construction management by Whiting-Turner, has been ongoing since May 2016. Future phases will restore the building’s stone façade, lay lights and skylight system.

Leo A. Daly III, FAIA, RIBA, RAIA, CEO and Chairman of LEO A DALY, who played an active role in the Corcoran’s revitalization, said, “I applaud GW for their commitment to reimagining such an iconic Beaux-Arts building with its classic gallery space into a world-class arts education environment. A project like this is an extraordinary challenge but also an architect’s dream. I greatly look forward to the Corcoran School’s renaissance.”

Designed for a new era of the Corcoran

The redesign marks a new era for the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design, a revered arts institution that was absorbed by the George Washington University in 2014, merging with the university’s existing arts & design school. The project preserves an important piece of Washington, D.C.’s architectural and cultural fabric, allowing the Corcoran to continue its legacy as a training ground for fine artists and designers while gaining a platform for engagement within a comprehensive university.

The renovation preserves what is widely considered to be an architectural masterpiece, originally designed by Ernest Flagg, while meeting the needs of 21st century learning. Educational functions that were previously housed in the basement and sub-basement are now elevated, with every level featuring a mix of social, learning, and studio spaces.

“Our design centers on making the Corcoran a home for active pedagogy. It’s an amazing transformation, reimagining this storied and inspiring architectural setting in a way that enlivens creativity and encourages cross-pollination of ideas,” said Pierre Gendreau, RA, LEED AP, senior project manager with LEO A DALY.

The heart of the building is the Colonnade, a stately, daylit atrium that serves as a display site for exhibitions and a central gathering point for the Corcoran community.

On the second floor, several historic galleries have been reimagined as active learning spaces, with classroom seating, storage cabinets, power drops for technology and other learning-focused additions. Specialized studio environments include a new electronics fabrication lab, sculpture, drawing, and painting studios, performance spaces and a media lab. On the first floor, former director’s suites have been converted into seminar classrooms, and the former bookstore into a computer lab.

Working and learning among artworks by the great masters will continue to be an important part of academic life at the Corcoran. Selected gallery space on the second floor has been preserved, and portions of the Corcoran’s $2.4 billion collection, which was donated to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) upon the Corcoran’s dissolution in 2014, will return to the building. Significant upgrades to the building’s mechanical and architectural systems allow it to meet NGA’s rigorous environmental standards for art conservation.

A sub-basement houses the school’s metal shop and wood shop, which are now wheelchair accessible with appropriate ventilation and life safety systems. The basement retains updated studio and seminar areas outfitted for both general use and specialized uses such as printmaking and ceramics.

A delicate touch in repurposing protected interiors

Designers used a delicate touch in preserving historic interior finishes of the Flagg Building while transforming many of its functional parameters. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and many of its interior spaces were landmarked in 2015, meaning that they could not be significantly altered from the original design intent.

“The needs of the Corcoran School in training emerging 21st century artists bear little in common with the needs of 19th century art exhibitions. Our challenge was to reimagine these epic-scale exhibition spaces as intimate learning environments without altering the historic fabric,” said Jess Kim, RA, RID, NCIDQ, LEED AP, senior project architect with LEO A DALY.

The building’s use of diffused natural light, large open spaces, classical proportions, and sumptuous materials put the Flagg Building on par with the best galleries in Europe when it opened in 1897. Its galleries were designed to exhibit large-scale works that could be viewed from a distance, and rooms were arranged in sequence, with very few corridors.

“How do you add classrooms and code-required ingress and egress routes to a series of large galleries without making any permanent changes to the historic fabric?” asked Tim Duffy, AIA, CSI, LEED AP, vice president and director of technical services with LEO A DALY. “Our solution was to imagine the classrooms as objects within the landscape of the galleries. The classrooms function as pockets of creativity within a carefully preserved historic context. This approach allows the galleries remain essentially themselves while providing adequate life-safety protection.”

To protect the interior finishes, classroom walls are designed to stop short of the ceiling, and their construction is easily reversible with minimal impact. Where needed, acoustic baffles and other acoustical treatments have been added to create an appropriate acoustical environment for education while limiting sound transmission to surrounding areas.

Much of the work is out of sight, or nearly so, to the public. New mechanical and electrical systems are tucked away in the Flagg Building’s courtyard, attic and sub-basement. A new fire-suppression system, required by building code, was surgically crafted to minimize visual impact. Rather than attempt removal of the 120-year-old ornamental plaster ceiling (a costly and potentially damaging prospect), pipes follow the curves of coves and moldings, carefully blending into the architecture. Many plumbing fixtures were added to meet student demand without significantly reducing usable space.

A high-tech approach to low-impact design

The design team faced a major challenge early on with the discovery that, sometime during the Corcoran’s 120-year history, nearly all building plans that would have detailed its architecture, structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems had disappeared. What limited drawings could be found were faded, tattered and unreadable.

Complicating matters, numerous renovations over the years had resulted in building systems that were a maze of used and disused pipe, conduit, wires, and ductwork, usually not labeled or labeled incorrectly. The information needed to make sense of these layers was buried inside the walls, which could not be documented using typical means for the damage it would cause.

The inner structure of the floors was also obscured due to their Metropolitan-slab construction. The now-obsolete structural system uses thin wire to add tensile strength to a gypsum and wood chip matrix, and is easily degraded by moisture. Understanding this assembly was critical to designing fire-and-life-safety systems, determining acceptable loads, and locating and designing wet areas.

Designers used a range of cutting-edge technology to scan the building and create a highly detailed digital model. A combination of laser scanning, ground-penetrating radar, and CCT pipe-camera surveying created a 3D scan of the walls and their embedded systems. This data was fed into a digital model, creating a detailed picture of nearly every cubic inch of the facility.

Decades of deterioration also complicated efforts to design mechanical and wall-system improvements to meet the NGA’s environmental standards. Over the years, the building’s skylight system had sprung multiple leaks, and much of the uninsulated exterior stone walls allowed excessive air and moisture infiltration and exfiltration with inadequate thermal control. Where leaks were not coming from the exterior, they were coming from unidentified pipes and ducts.

The team used hygrothermal wall analysis to forensically analyze the building’s envelope for air leakage, moisture ingress and degradation of the building envelope.  Then, computational fluid dynamics modeling was used to determine whether mechanical and architectural design solutions would achieve NGA criteria. This iterative process continued until NGA was satisfied by the model’s performance.

The information collected was combined into what designers call a “data ecosystem” using Revit, a program for building information modeling. The process captured the intricate ornamentation of the stone work on the exterior and the ornamental plaster and wood paneling of the interiors. As design progressed, the 3D model was updated to reflect improvements. The result is a comprehensive, historically layered picture of the 120-year-old building.

“We were able to turn all of the model data over to GW for use in their facilities management system. This will make the building easier for them to maintain, and safeguard this architectural treasure well into the future,” said Andrew Graham, AIA, NCARB, senior architect with LEO A DALY.

All photos by Ron Blunt.

Transforming historic buildings for modern higher educational uses

Recent Articles

In the July issue of American School & University, LEO A DALY higher education designers share tips for transforming historic buildings into modern educational environments

Built to last

By Andrew Graham, AIA; Joseph Bower, AIA; and Gabriel Jaroslavsky, LEED AP, NCARB:

Historic buildings present a dilemma to colleges and universities. On one hand, they are valuable pieces of cultural heritage that showcase a commitment to education. On the other hand, they are often in some state of disrepair, with layouts that are ill-suited for modern teaching and learning styles. Transforming a historic building to meet modern educational uses requires extensive planning, a more flexible design process, and a unique sensitivity to historic detail.

Buildings with baggage

Higher education facilities today have distinct functional needs. To support contemporary pedagogies, they must be high-tech, flexible, and offer large amounts of unprogrammed space to promote opportunistic learning.

Meeting these needs when transforming a historic building is challenging. Their rooms may be irregularly shaped, with shorter floor-to-floor heights and outdated mechanical and electrical systems. They may hide decades of damage, accessibility violations, and fire and life safety code issues. Their documentation may be lost, inaccurate, skewed by shifting foundations. Meanwhile, they are often protected by preservation standards that can limit changes and frustrate efforts to discover hidden issues.
Corcoran School of the Arts & Design blend seamlessly with historic architecture.

Developing a building master plan

Step one of adapting a historic building is to develop a master plan that outlines the big-picture goals of the project. Clear project objectives help organize the priorities of the project. A categorization of issues, like outdated building systems and hidden damage, help to minimize their inherent risks. This prioritization helps to achieve the main project goals by balancing the necessities against the nice-to-haves.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art is one of Washington, D.C.’s most beloved cultural institutions. In 2014, after decades of financial hardship, the George Washington University agreed to absorb the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design, and with it, the 1897 Beaux-Arts building that had been its home for more than a century. LEO A DALY was commissioned to transform the 19th-century art gallery, originally designed by Ernest Flagg, which hadn’t seen a major renovation in 90 years, into a state-of-the-art education building.

Developing a building master plan helped focus the goals of the project in the light of budget constraints, code requirements, and construction schedule. While there was a lot of excitement about restoring the exterior façade, we helped GW determine that code-compliant space was a more important first step.

Executing the master plan

In executing the master plan, we conducted a detailed study of the building’s existing condition. Decades of piecemeal renovations had left the building’s systems a redundant maze, and its original documentation had been mostly lost to the ages. To complicate things further, the Corcoran’s landmark status limited the types of design solutions we could offer. We leveraged a variety of reality-capture technologies – laser scanning, pipe cameras, hygrothermal wall analysis, and ground-penetrating radar – to create a realistic 3D model of the building. With this information, we were able to provide surgically focused design solutions that limited and preserved the historic fabric.

learning spaces designed to be reversible, per historic preservation guidelines.

Reversible change

Another challenge of the Corcoran was transforming its landmarked interior galleries into modern learning spaces, while honoring the historic preservation committee’s requirement that any intervention be reversible.

Flagg’s original design intent for the Corcoran was to allow large, epic works to be viewed from a distance under natural light. The galleries are soaring spaces with ornamental plaster detailing all around and frosted lay lights overhead. The floor plan unfolds in sequence with no circulation corridor, per se. Our challenge was to carve these monumental galleries into human-scaled learning spaces that comply with modern building codes without making any permanent change to the historic fabric.

Sculptural installations

We chose to treat the learning spaces as sculptural installations—temporary, visually compelling and appropriately scaled. Rather than classrooms, they are objects within the gallery, with a porous border between in and out. Their walls stop short of the ceiling, allowing their tops to remain open and receive natural light. To reduce ambient noise, louver-like clouds are suspended. Hanging quad boxes provide power to students, enabling flexible use of the rooms. The zone between the inserted rooms and the existing room’s perimeter forms corridors for natural circulation.

Interiors are seldom landmarked, but when they are, the restrictions to adaptive reuse are challenging. Navigating them requires close collaboration with historic preservation committees and a surgical level of design detail.

The historic David W. Dyer Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse

Finding open space

Historic non-education buildings often lack some basic programmatic elements necessary for 21st century higher-education. A common challenge is finding a flexible, open space that can serve a variety of functions, including events, pre-function and spontaneous collaboration among students.

The David W. Dyer Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Miami is currently undergoing renovation to house Miami Dade College’s new School of Design, Engineering and Technology building. Originally built in 1931 to house Federal agencies, the Mediterranean-Revival courthouse is composed mainly of narrow, out-of-proportion rooms. Its corridors, which feature remarkable, vaulted ceilings, are protected, placing a hard limit on the size of spaces. Miami Dade College’s program calls for a conference center where students can gather and take advantage of networking events.

With those restrictions in mind, we determined that an event space could be made by combining several smaller rooms and enclosing the building’s inner brick courtyard – a garden-like outdoor space in the center of the building. The enclosed courtyard will allow it to function as a casual gathering space, event space and pre-function space for the conference center. The addition of a skylight will enhance the utilization of the courtyard by providing an open, air-conditioned space for a range of activities.

Limesrone - clad additions to existing building

Creating a sense of place

As a campus expands, newly acquired buildings can pose an image problem. Universities master plan their campuses to create a strong sense of place through a coherent architectural vernacular. Care must be taken when transforming a historic building to integrate the building into the campus fold.

Winona State University in Minnesota recently annexed a two-block area just off campus to house its growing college of education. LEO A DALY was commissioned to adapt three former K-12 buildings, one of them historic, into Education Village, a micro-campus for teacher training. The buildings needed a cohesive identity that would connect to the main campus.

Local materials form the basis for Education Village’s identity. We used chiseled Winona limestone for additions to each of the buildings, reflecting the iconic bluffs overlooking the city. The additions instantly identify the mini-campus as part of WSU while connecting to Winona’s unique geology.

In an increasingly competitive higher education marketplace, a strong sense of place connects facilities to a university’s brand, attracting students who want to be part of something special.

A spectrum of learning spaces, from historic classrooms

Letting history teach

Winona is a city with a legacy of education. WSU was originally founded in 1858 as Winona State Normal School (or, teacher’s college) and was the first tax-supported school west of the Mississippi River. Education Village offered a unique opportunity to use the buildings’ history to teach, connecting students to the university’s roots.

Education Village is designed to give future teachers experience with every potential challenge they will face as educators. That means creating a spectrum of learning environments, ranging from no-tech classrooms to the most cutting-edge technology-enabled STEM and maker spaces. On the no-tech end of that spectrum, Cathedral Elementary, a historic Catholic school built in 1929 and the oldest of the existing three buildings in Education Village, created an opportunity to challenge students in novel ways.

A planning study of WSU education grads found that young teachers are often challenged by the outdated classrooms they find themselves in. To respond to this need, a historic classroom in Cathedral Elementary will be fully preserved. Slate blackboards will teach chalk writing. An attached coat room will tax the students’ situational awareness. Historic wood flooring will test them under increased noise and glare conditions.

Projects like Education Village show how seemingly anachronistic features of a historic building can be leveraged as pedagogical assets.

Building good will

One more feature of Education Village is the increased good will WSU has earned for rehabilitating three buildings that are beloved by the communities.

Relations between universities and their home communities are sometimes strained. Traffic woes, parking battles and rental housing are frequent sore spots. It may have been cheaper and more convenient for Education Village to be built as a ground-up project, not to mention easier to sell to alumni as donation opportunities. By saving these buildings, WSU also saved the stories, memories and values of a community. Gestures like this resonate for years to come – and forgive a multitude of noise complaints.

Transforming a historic building to higher education uses requires extensive planning to uncover hidden issues, surgical precision to preserve significant spaces, and good judgment to harmonize the old with the new. The benefits are just as significant. Students learning in a historic building profit from an added layer of meaning to their educational environment. The fabric of a building can teach, inspire creativity, deepen the campus’s story and bind a school to its community. These are hard projects, but done right, they can maximize value to the university and add a compelling new character to campus.

Read the issue:

American School & University

Andrew Graham, AIA, NCARB; Joseph Bower, AIA; and Gabriel Jaroslavsky, LEED AP, NCARB are architects with LEO A DALY specializing in the planning and design of higher educational facilities. They can be reached at;; and Ignacio Reyes, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP; Michael Bjornberg, FAIA; and Cindy McCleary, AIA, NCARB, also contributed to this article.

Kearney Campus Wellness Center

Kearney , Nebraska

This highly visible 24,000 SF addition and renovation project includes a two-story addition to the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) Cushing Arena and Athletics Building. The center includes facilities for student fitness, employee health and wellness, community outreach, and public health research. The Wellness Center is the home of UNK Campus Recreation, available to 7,000 students and 370 faculty members, and is considered a key recruiting tool and important component to enhancing the overall quality of campus life.

The Campus Wellness Center provides space for fitness and cardio training, strength training, and exercise studio space on the main level. The addition’s second level is the home of a new Physical Activity and Wellness Lab and includes specialized research studios for exercise, human performance, and physical therapy and rehabilitation. The wellness lab area includes departmental offices, student collaboration spaces, research labs, and specialized multi-purpose classrooms.


University of Nebraska at Kearney

At a glance

24,000 SF

Two-story addition

Multi-purpose classrooms


Exercise and training space

Physical activity and wellness lab


Architectural Design

Engineering: mechanical, electrical, structural, civil, fire protection

Interior design

Project management

UNMC Center for Healthy Living Expansion and Renovation

Omaha, Nebraska

As the latest project in a relationship that has spanned over 60 years, the University of Nebraska Medical Center retained LEO A DALY to plan and program the expansion and renovation of its student recreation facility, part of the Student Life Center.

The 6,525-SF addition to the Center for Healthy Living relocated the entry from the secluded south side, providing a north-facing, wall-to-wall glass façade on the busy Ruth and Bill Scott Student Plaza. Fitness is on display, with contemporary cardio equipment looking out onto the student plaza. At night, the space glows from within, acting as a living billboard for wellness.

The second piece of the project was the renovation of 11,845 SF on two floors. The renovation and addition provide larger strength and fitness machine areas; additional dedicated group fitness activity areas; permanent areas for stretching and table tennis; larger locker rooms with private changing areas and showers; and a new synthetic gym floor designed for user comfort and safety.

The Center opened in October 2016.


University of Nebraska Medical Center

At a glance

6,525 SF addition

11,845 SF renovation


Larger strength and fitness machine areas

Additional dedicated group fitness areas

Permanent areas for stretching and table tennis

Larger locker rooms with private changing areas and showers

Synthetic gym floor designed for user comfort and safety



Architectural design

Schematic design

Design development


Contract documents

Contract administration

Boost higher ed recruiting with athletic facility design – Creighton University

Recent Articles

by Erin Froschheiser, RA, NCARB, LEED AP

This spring, LEO A DALY Project Manager Erin Froschheiser will discuss firsthand data and feedback from LEO A DALY fieldhouse, athletic- and wellness-facility projects. She illuminates feedback from clients, stakeholders, students and school staff, who reflect on a facility’s ultimate influence on recruiting, retention and perception.

Part 4: Showcasing Values Through Design to Attract Talent and Financial Support

For Creighton’s women basketball and volleyball players, the days of missing practice because of a lack of court space ended on Feb. 4, 2019, with the opening of the Ruth Scott Training Center — named after its chief benefactors, Bill and Ruth Scott, and nicknamed The Ruth.

“Our amazing facilities, with the addition of The Ruth, set us apart from so many institutions,” said Creighton Senior Megan Ballenger, a volleyball player, during the facility’s opening dedication.

The $5 million training facility added 16,109 square feet of space programmed for use exclusively by women’s volleyball and basketball squads. In addition to its highly functional features, architectural flourishes such as a transparent curtain wall make lasting visual impressions on players, coaches and visitors.

LEO A DALY deployed immersive virtual reality (VR) technology to allow stakeholders, including donors and athletic department staff, a virtual tour of the facility during the design phase. The VR systems proved useful for amassing support from financial stakeholders, according to Creighton’s Senior Director of Athletic Development Lauren Steier Miltenberger.

“Our donors appreciated seeing what they were being asked to support,” Lauren said.

For athletic department staff, VR informed design decisions, including finishes and the placement of scoreboards and shot clocks.

The mere existence today at Creighton of a dedicated training facility for women’s volleyball and basketball telegraphs to the wider world the university’s commitment to female athletes. It’s one of the ways the facility showcases Creighton values, which invites support from parents and donors who share those values. During the dedication, Creighton Volleyball Coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth noted the facility’s impact on recruiting.

“You don’t think we talk about it to every recruit?” Kirsten said at the dedication. “We are building strong women, and we have these facilities to back it up.”

The Ruth provides space for two full-sized basketball or volleyball courts, six retractable basketball hoops, two automated volleyball nets that lower from the ceiling, state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment to film and review practices, a hydration station and additional storage space. Behind the scenes of The Ruth exists a technology framework seamlessly woven into the architectural fabric without interfering with the structure’s core features.

This framework allows audio-visual equipment to record video and audio data. Ongoing 10-second replay allows players to instantly review in slow motion the last action they performed. Players and coaches access replays from designated screens to evaluate and adjust strategies.

The facility’s technology infrastructure meets this need and adds flexibility that can help “future proof” the facility for upgrades later.

Learn more about the Ruth Scott Training Center in this short video.

Erin Froschheiser Leo A DalyAbout the author

With more than 16 years of experience, Erin Froschheiser stands out to clients for her service-oriented style of leadership and successful track record of delivering complex projects. She believes wholeheartedly that today’s facilities should meet the needs of their users, while maintaining adaptability. Erin can be contacted at 402.390.4457 or