Founded in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis is among the world’s leaders in teaching, research, patient care, and service to society. The University is committed to learning and exploration, discovery and impact. To further its mission, Washington University in St. Louis needed to renovate its School of Music 560 Building, complete with an HVAC upgrade.
To renovate the 45,000-square foot facility meant to house the School of Music, the project needed to be completed in three phases. Originally built as a synagogue in 1929, this 2-story building included performance, rehearsal, and teaching facilities. Furthermore, the facility included a 1,115-seat concert hall, a 300-seat performance space, a recording studio, and dozens of classrooms, practice rooms, and administrative offices.
The first phase of this project was to completely renovate the existing 30,000 square foot classroom facility to provide teaching spaces, practice rooms, and offices. Most importantly, this first phase had to be approached in a way so that the building could be used inside of one year. It was critical that the building be in use by teachers and students during the later stages of the renovation.
Acoustical measurements for background noise and sound transmission between music practice and ensemble spaces were performed at the beginning of the project to determine the existing acoustical conditions. Needed improvements to both limit the HVAC noise and modify architectural elements were then implemented to both improve the interior acoustic signature of the spaces and decrease the sound transmission between rooms to meet the acoustic criteria for music performance. Sound transfer issues were corrected by redesigning return air paths, adding acoustical doors, and increasing the sound transmission loss by modifying partition wall construction types. The interior acoustics were enhanced by adding a combination of absorptive panels and re-directing diffusive elements.
The second phase of this project was completed seven years later. During this phase, the acoustics in the ballroom was set to be improved. Absorptive and diffusive panels were added, which lowered the reverberation time, eliminated further echoes, and redirected music and speech more evenly throughout the space, making the theater an effective room for speaking and concert events. The HVAC noise was lowered as well, preventing the background noise from lessening the quality level of the performances.
The project also called for extending the HVAC system upgrades to reduce unwanted noise. These upgrades were also meant to provide temperature and humidity control for the larger performance spaces, including the Desmond Lee Auditorium, multipurpose theater, and recital halls. This work included an extension of the heating, cooling, and humidification plants developed under Phase 1 to serve new air handling systems supplying the performance venues.
During the third phase, the old steam boilers in the basement were replaced with high-efficiency condensing boilers, and another water-cooled chiller and cooling tower cell were added to replace the existing rooftop air-cooled chiller falling into disrepair. A dedicated high-pressure steam system was installed for humidification needs, and all air handling units were moved from the roof to the basement making them easier to access for maintenance and giving them a longer -life expectancy.
The fourth and final phase of this project was the construction stage. This incorporated the acoustical recommendations made during Phase 2 into the Desmond Lee Auditorium to improve the acoustical performance and the audience and the stage lighting in the Desmond Lee Auditorium.