- Project Name
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral Conservation, Renovation and Systems Upgrade
- MBB Architects
- Trustees of St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Project Types
- Project Scope
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This article appeared in the November 2019 issue of ARCHITECT as part of our expanded coverage of the 2019 AIA COTE Top Ten Awards.
A series of largely incremental interventions demonstrates that even the most sacrosanct of historic structures can benefit from a sustainable overhaul.
A Gothic Revival cathedral in midtown Manhattan hardly seems a candidate for a COTE award, but a more-than-decade-long restoration of the James Renwick Jr.–designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral by New York–based Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects (MBB) transformed the 19th-century structure into a 21st-century sustainable design success story. The outcome seems almost miraculous: combining better insulation and other renewable strategies to reduce annual operating costs, increase the number of visitors, and still respect the integrity of a historic landmark.
As one might expect of the Catholic Church—a client with a 2,000-year history—the restoration required an extended period of time: MBB began working at the cathedral in 2007, developing a needs assessment for the late Cardinal Edward Egan, who retired in 2009. Restoration work began in earnest in 2011, and led to the renewal of every surface and system within the immense structure.
While the cathedral is the centerpiece of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York (and, by extension, is often considered the center of American Catholicism), MBB’s approach wasn’t entirely orthodox: “We had this historic building, and we had to figure out what we could do to make it more energy efficient,” says MBB principal Jeff Murphy, FAIA. “It wasn’t methodical in the sense that we knew the steps we had to take.” In other words, the architects had to invent the process as they went along. They began by researching the history of the structure, and learned that it originally incorporated features that would today be considered sustainable.
When Renwick started designing the building in 1853, for instance, his original sketches showed two grooves in the tracery that suggested it was designed for both protective glazing and the existing stained glass. “A lot of the stained glass was so damaged that there were sizable holes that were letting outside air in,” Murphy recalls. So, the restoration fixed those broken pieces and installed protective glazing, which greatly enhancing the thermal performance of the windows.
The main doors on Fifth Avenue posed a considerable problem for the integrity of the building envelope. Data showed that 30% fewer people came into the cathedral when these doors were closed, which led the church to adopt a literal open-door policy. “They were basically heating the outside in the winter and cooling the outside in the summer,” Murphy says. MBB designed new glass doors that provide a necessary thermal break while maintaining open sight lines that attract more than 5 million visitors each year.
To generate power, the architects and engineers decided to add 10 geothermal wells, drilled as deep as 2,200 feet into Manhattan’s schist. Fortunately, gardens on both the north and south side of the structure allowed this work to take place immediately adjacent to the footprint of the building, rather than beneath it. After the heavy construction was completed, the gardens were updated to include new native plantings.
Updates to the mechanical system also needed to respect the building’s historic fabric. “[Our MEP group was] very clever in helping us utilize existing infrastructure,” Murphy says. “There were radiators for the steam heating system behind the pews and against the walls and they were able to fit most of the fan coil units we needed in these existing boxes.” Beyond extending the useful life of a building whose massive structure embodies a significant amount of carbon, the many incremental changes resulted in a remarkable 29% reduction in both annual energy usage and the associated operating cost.
Originally consecrated in 1879, St. Patrick’s Cathedral had last been renovated in 1949, making MBB’s project a once-in-several-generations opportunity. “We touched every surface, inside and out,” Murphy says. “We replaced every system—rewiring and replumbing the place.” The effort shows—and, where appropriate, doesn’t. As a result, the cathedral will remain a viable place of worship, inspiration, and refuge for decades to come.
Architect: Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects (MBB)
Owner: Trustees of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Location: New York
Project Site: Historic structure or district
Building Program Type(s): Religious Worship
Year of Design Completion: 2015
Year of Substantial Project Completion: 2017
Gross Conditioned Floor Area: 148,076 square feet
Gross Unconditioned Floor Area: Zero
Number of Stories: Eight Project
Climate Zone: ASHRAE 4A
Annual Hours of Operation: 6,935
Site Area: 92,000 square feet
Project Site Context/Setting: Urban
Cost of Construction, Excluding Furnishings: $177 million
Number of Residents, Occupants, and Visitors: 5 million
Project: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
Client/Owner: Trustees of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Owner’s Representative: Zubatkin Owner Representation
Architect: Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects, New York . Jeffrey Murphy, FAIA (partner-in-charge); Taylor Aikin, AIA (project architect); Rolando Kraeher, AIA (project manager); Dawid Pol, AIA (senior designer); Sarah Rosenblatt (preservationist)
Construction Manager: Structure Tone
Restoration Consultant: Building Conservation Associates
MEP Consultant: Landmark Facilities Group
Structural Engineer: Silman Associates
Stained Glass Preservationist: Jean Phifer, FAIA
Stained Glass and Window Restoration: Botti Studio of Architectural Arts
Door Restoration Consultant: Mary Kay Judy
Code Consultant: William Dailey
Landscape Architect: Robin Key Landscape Architecture
Lighting Consultant: Fisher Marantz Stone
Elevator Consultant: Van Deusen & Associates
Cost Consultant: Christopher Slocum
Security Consultant: Ducibella Venter & Santore
MEP Acoustics: Cerami & Associates
AV Consultants: Jaffe Holden; Abel Cine Tech
Geotechnical Engineer & Surveyors: Langan Engineering; GB Geotechnics USA
Stained Glass Consultants: Drew Anderson; Keith Barley
MEP Commissioning: Aramark
Fire Prevention Consultant: Arup Fire; Northeast Energy Services
Construction Specifications: Aaron Pine
Glass Consultants: Eckersley O’Callaghan; Heintges
Geothermal Consultant: PW Grosser Consulting
Size: 140,000 square feet
Cost: $177 million
Materials and Sources
Sprinkler System: ABCO Peerless Sprinkler Corp.
Glass Doors/Walls: Seele Glass
Heat-recovery Chiller: Multistack
Circulator Pumps: Bell and Gossett Ecocirc
Heat Exchanger: Alfa Laval (titanium plate)
Building Automation System: Niagara
Entrance Doors: Vitrocsa USA (invisible wall system in narthex)
Chapel Enclosure Doors: C.R. Laurence Co. (Jackson 900 Series; spring-powered recess floor-mounted door closer)
This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.
Text by Ian Volner
Anyone walking past New York’s landmark St. Patrick’s Cathedral cannot help but wonder at the way it has suddenly taken on an almost luminous gleam—a startling shift from its former gunmetal gray, closer to the typical hue of Manhattan’s granite office towers. The church’s new look can be credited to New York’s Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects, the firm that oversaw a massive renovation over the course of the last three years. Originally the work of pioneering Gothic revivalist James Renwick Jr., the building has long served as an iconic backdrop for statesmen and popes (including the current one, who reopened it last fall) since its completion in 1888, but it has also suffered all of the attendant stresses, overuse, and exposure to the urban elements. Decorative columns were riven with cracks; mechanical elements had become outdated; and, of course, the city had done its exhaust-choked best to darken the façade. All of this called for a comprehensive restoration, the building’s first since the 1940s, that would eventually draw in nearly 200 specialists and outside consultants at a total cost of $177 million. On the exterior, micro-abrasion techniques cleaned the façade, smoothed concrete patches, and repointed ornamental details; inside, the plastered ceiling was repainted a pristine white, and new fire-safety systems were installed that blend almost invisibly with the existing interior. In total, more than 30,000 individual repairs were undertaken, each one meticulously checked against Renwick’s original design, transforming a building that seemed so familiar to so many into something no one had seen for a century and more.
For ARCHITECT's complete, behind-the-scenes report on the renovation of St. Patrick's Cathedral by Emily Hooper, go here.
This project is a winner in the 2019 AIA COTE Top 10 Awards:
FROM THE AIA:
Driven by social, ecological, and economic value, the 21st-century renovation of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral—the prominent 1870s religious landmark by James Renwick Jr., which was last renovated in 1949— achieved a 29 percent reduction in annual energy use and stabilized significant historic fabric while each year welcoming 5 million-plus visitors. Design solutions combined stringent conservation methods, 10 geothermal wells, fully integrated new mechanical systems, and strategic architectural interventions to enhance worship and functionality. Additions of modern glass doors and structural glass walls supported sustainability goals, creating an energy-saving enclosure, improving uses of the 1906 Lady Chapel, and enhancing visitor comfort while maintaining views of historic interiors, stained glass, and structures. The nine-year, $177 million effort impacts the entire city block-sized campus. Preservation of failing marble, stone, plasterwork, and stained glass stabilized and improved original materials. New ancillary spaces create expanded social and worship opportunities, and 1960s-era mechanical equipment has been completely replaced. Long-concealed original elements were restored or re-created, with deference to Renwick’s neo-Gothic details and design intent. As reported in the New York Times, “trustees of the 138-year-old building, the centerpiece of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York,” wanted the church to maintain its historic fabric, even as major systems were upgraded and “it was going green.” Offering valuable post-occupancy lessons for making historic places effective, relevant and resilient, the wide-ranging conservation and retrofit improvements to St. Patrick’s Cathedral created sustainable building systems and functionality with a focus on long-term, change-ready solutions. In this way, leadership invested in not only “the most sustainable, cost-effective, long-term options,” but also those “that best align with the greater good of the city, community and earth— not just today, but for generations to come.”
Community engagement: A partnership was formed with stakeholders to share in the decision-making process including development of alternatives and identification of the preferred solution.
Walk score: 99
Estimated occupants who commute via alternative transportation (biking, walking, mass transit): 95 percent
Percentage of the site area designed to support vegetation: 12 percent
Percentage of site area supporting vegetation before project began: 12 percent
Percentage of landscaped areas covered by native or climate appropriate plants supporting native or migratory animals: 60 percent
Predicted annual consumption of potable water for all uses, excluding process water:145 gals/occupant
Is potable water used for irrigation? yes
Predicted peak month consumption of potable water for outdoor (irrigation) purposes:17,421 gallons
Actual annual consumption of process water (e.g. cooling towers): 356,190 gallons
Is rainwater captured for use by the project? no
Is greywater or blackwater captured for re-use? no
Cost per square foot: $1195
Estimated annual operating cost reduction (identify baseline): 29 percent (based on utility bills prior to construction)
Predicted consumed energy use intensity (EUI): n/a
Predicted Net EUI: n/a
Predicted Net carbon emissions: n/a
Net carbon emissions refers to net purchased energy use (total energy use, less any energy generated on-site from renewable resources).
Predicted reduction from national average EUI for building type: n/a
Predicted lighting power density: n/a
Actual Consumed Energy Use Intensity (Site EUI): 66 kBtu/sq ft/yr
Actual net EUI: 66 kBtu/sq ft/yr
Actual net carbon emissions: 20.9 lbs/sq ft/yr
Actual reduction from national average EUI for building type: 43 percent
Percentage of floor area or percentage of occupant work stations with direct views of the outdoors: n/a
Percentage of floor area or percentage of occupant work stations within 30 feet of operable windows: n/a
Percentage of floor area or percentage of occupant work stations achieving adequate light levels without the use of artificial lighting: n/a
Is this project a workplace? no
CO₂ intensity: 87 lbs/sf
Estimated carbon emissions associated with building construction: 0.5 lbs/sf
Percentage of project floor area, if any, that represents adapting existing buildings:100 percent
Anticipated number of days the project can maintain function without utility power: 1 day
Carbon emissions saved through adaptive reuse vs new construction: Approximate net embodied CO2 for this project is 6,434 metric tons.
Has a post-occupancy evaluation, including surveys of occupant comfort, been performed? no
FROM THE ARCHITECTS:
MBB is leading a phased project to fully restore the Cathedral Complex, which includes exterior stone conservation, interior stone, wood and plaster restoration, and stained glass stabilization and conservation. All mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will be replaced and the complex will be heated and cooled with a new, nine well geothermal plant. The Parish House project will double existing non-cathedral program space. The project has been featured in a wide range of media including the New York Times, The History Channel and Channel 2 News. The Cathedral conservation project won the 2014 Copper Development Association's North American Copper in Architecture Award and the Rectory won the 2012 Lucy G. Moses Award by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.