In 2009, the County of Northampton received an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program, funded for the first time by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) of 2009, represents a Presidential priority to deploy the cheapest, cleanest, and most reliable energy technologies we have—energy efficiency and conservation—across the country.
The project scope of work included two different contract programs: work funded by the EECBG and exterior repairs funded by the County. The original EECBG program was to replace 163 existing windows of the historic courthouse and make repairs associated with the window replacements and other energy related building envelope problems such as closing unused vents. The program for the non-EECBG work was to repair areas of the historic courthouse that had suffered from years of deferred maintenance and included the metal cornices, front columns, built-in gutters and downspouts. All work had to be reviewed by the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission for compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment for Historic Properties and by the Department of Energy for compliance with the EECBG and the Recovery Act (ARRA).
The major challenge of the initial program was to satisfy requirements of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC). After a thorough interior and exterior building analysis, room by room interior inspections, and occupant surveys, it was determined that the project should be reconsidered as a window and envelope restoration effort. The existing historic wood windows were in surprisingly good condition especially considering the lack of maintenance and regular painting for decades. The monumental wood windows were repaired with consolidants and fillers, reglazed with traditional glazing compound, repainted, and interior aluminum storm panels were installed. The treatment of the rectangular double-hung windows included similar repairs plus the replacement of single strength glass with insulating glass with adhered exterior muntins that simulate the original muntins, new weather stripping, and glazing compound. In order to satisfy the need for a continued operability, windows were modified to be single-hung and weights recalibrated to operate with the new heavier glass. The two major window types were tested for energy efficiency before and after renovation. The results proved the efficacy of the window repair strategy and met all DOE expectations.
The cost to repair rather than replace the historic windows was significantly less than the estimates to replace the windows prepared for the EECBG submission. The additional grant money was used to upgrade and renovate additional features of the building. This work included the replacement of the existing deteriorated roofing and box gutter linings. Many layers of old asphalt roofing were removed, new sheathing installed over the rough roofing boards, and new roof shingles with cooling granules installed. The deteriorated EPDM box gutter linings were removed, repairs made to the wood substructure, and new, light colored Sarnafil PVC membranes installed in the gutters.
Repairs to the exterior of the building included repairs to the existing stucco masonry, repairs to the pressed metal cornices, replacement of undersized and deteriorated downspouts, and the installation of a lightning protection system. The entire historic courthouse was also repainted. A consultant was hired to undertake a historic paint analysis. We worked closely with the consultant, County Executive, President Judge, and the Director of Public Works to derive the new color scheme. This scheme is the best approximation of the original colors found on the courthouse at the end of the multiple building campaigns ending in 1910.
Another project challenge was site access for equipment, construction in an occupied public building, and the removal of unexpected lead paint and asbestos. A ramp was designed and constructed to provide access for future work, maintenance, and emergency vehicles. Working in an occupied institution building posed challenges for the contractor’s schedule and methods. In close collaboration with an industrial hygienist and the county safety committee, all work was monitored and modified to accommodate county workers and the busy and active court schedule in the historic courtrooms.