For fifty years the Ochre Lodge Carriage House, on the campus of Salve Regina University, had been used as an unheated storage garage. Set amidst 19th century mansions and just a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Breakers Estate, the exterior of the building deteriorated over the decades behind its boarded up windows. In 2010, the architects were engaged to convert the building to much needed dormitory space for the University. Using advanced Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology, the firm set out to carefully document the existing structure and turn it to productive use.
The original building was in such a derelict state that much of the original structure was deemed unsuitable to build upon. After a careful documentation of the existing conditions, the architects had to figure out how to renovate the building design to meet the requirements of the University's tight construction budget, the historic district commission and the needs of the students. On top of these significant challenges, the architects set out to design a structure that would conform to LEED standards.
The building, originally constructed in 1893, is set in the Historic District and the carriage house was typical of other structures in the neighborhood. Because of the importance of the building to the historic architectural fabric of the neighborhood, the architects decided early in the process to try to bring the building back into use in a form as close to the original structure as possible.
Working closely with the facilities staff of Salve University, the architects figured out a way to neatly fit the necessary program into the structure along with the living area, kitchen and other spaces that were required. At the same time, the firm worked hard to keep the traditional character of the building intact, even as the entire infrastructure was upgraded or replaced. At the ground level, a polished concrete floor similar to the one original to the carriage house was installed, only with radiant heating buried within it to achieve a very high level of fuel efficiency. The dormers on the second level were expanded just enough to allow for new egress code compliant windows to be installed, but not so much as to change the appearance o f the building. The old carriage house door was refinished and installed into the open position to give historic character to the living space and a new glass storefront was built to be the translucent image of the original door in the closed position but allow for light and entry.
At every design turn, the architects sought to reclaim components from the original design and structure, not only to reduce the material shipped to the landfill but also so that the new building could begin life with finishes that felt solid and weathered by time. The students are delighted with the result and Ochre Lodge Carriage House is now one of the most sought after dormitories on campus. By late summer 2012 the University had an attractive, highly energy efficient building that will serve it for generations and the neighborhood saw the return of a long derelict structure back to beauty and functional use.