Tate Science and Teaching Renovation: Four Things You Need to Know Before Your Next Renovation

Ken Sheehan, Alliiance
Ken Styrlund, JE Dunn Construction Company

The renovation of a 1926 beaux-arts building on the historic Northrup Mall on the University of Minnesota East Bank Campus is a story to tell. Having evolved through three major additions/renovations over the years, and countless minor remodeling's, the building had a lot offer, but was poorly equipped to meet the current needs of the College of Science and Engineering.

The $92M renovation transforms out of date research labs, offices and teaching spaces, into a state of the art facility that allows the School of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Earth Sciences to showcase their programs and research institutes within the College and beyond.

Four Lessons Learned:

  • Understand your existing building envelope.

    Tate's historic facades were state of the art in 1926, but per today's standards fall short of energy code requirements of modern lab environments. Vapor transmission, condensation, and historic window replacement or restoration all needed to be considered.

  • How much do you save, and how do you repurpose the remaining?

    Historic buildings typically have narrow corridors, large offices, closely spaced columns, and low floor to floor heights, all design attributes that fly in the face of modern building and lab design practices. Tate's project team surgically removed obsolete portions of the building to allow for new construction of flexible large format lecture space, daylit interiors and a vibrant atrium. Existing space was repurposed to accommodate modern Earth Science and Astronomy research labs, teaching labs, and department and faculty offices.

  • Take advantage of the opportunity to replace obsolete building systems.

    Operational expenses will far outweigh the cost of system replacement over the life of a building. New building systems not only address rigorous energy code requirements, but also aid in optimizing program layout, distribution, heat recovery, and overall system design. In Tate, the design team integrated highly intensive labs in the existing wings of the building, in some spaces with floor to floor heights below 10'. To accommodate low headroom and achieve energy conservation goals, extensive use of chilled beams and air change reductions helped the team manage to an impressive 163k Btu/s.f./yr.

  • Use the best technology available to coordinate and fabricate building systems.

    The design team utilized BIM from the onset, building on their model, the construction team further enhanced the model through integration of detailed laser scans of the existing structure. Scans were integrated into the fabrication models for all major systems, allowing the team to optimize the layouts, avoid clashes, and most importantly avoid expensive rework.

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will gain an awareness of significant design considerations for existing historic exteriors and renovated uses through illustrations from the Tate project.
  • This seminar will explore of the impacts of planning and layout within existing structures, including an understanding benefits of renovation and new construction.
  • Key MEP system strategies will be presented to accommodate historic buildings while maintaining aggressive sustainable goals. Participants will be able to apply knowledge gained to renovations in other historic renovations.
  • Attendees will learn how to maximize the potential and economy of extensive BIM modeling within historic structures.


Ken Sheehan has spent much of the past 17 year creating research facilities that enable life changing discovery. As a principal at Alliiance, he has focused on building longstanding relationships with science and technology research clients. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from Kansas State University and has been a LEED accredited professional for aver a decade.

Ken Styrlund is a Vice President for JE Dunn Construction Company leading the Minneapolis region's higher education work. He has been an industry professional for 38 years with experience in all construction types and numerous historic restorations. He brings an emphasis on team collaboboration in all phases of construction. He received his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota, is a Professional Engineer and a LEED accredited professional


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