Harvard goes green with historic library renovation

Harvard University’s Tozzer Anthropology Building was designed by Kennedy & Violich Architecture. It includes numerous sustainability-minded strategies, including glazed systems that bring in daylighting.
Photos © Enrique Diaz. Photos courtesy Wausau Window and Wall Systems

Emphasizing sunlight and views, windows and curtain walls transformed and expanded Harvard University’s Tozzer Anthropology Library into a collaborative learning space. For the Cambridge, Massachusetts project, the glazed assemblies were set in a staggered pattern throughout the brick- and copper-clad exterior, and installed as a sloped system to create a naturally illuminated interior light well. For its energy-efficient and environmentally sound design, the project earned Gold under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

The Tozzer Anthropology Library was founded in 1866 as part of the Peabody Museum. In 1971, a new building was constructed to house the growing collection of ethnology, archaeology and related anthropological items; three years later, it was renamed after Harvard professor Alfred Marston Tozzer.

As the building aged, its condition deteriorated to the point the three-story structure was considered uninhabitable. That condition, along with the school’s strong desire to consolidate social anthropology and anthropology archaeology programs under one roof, led the way for the newly renovated and expanded Tozzer Anthropology Building.

Opened last June, the $12-million project included a complete renovation of the existing 2300-m2 (24,800-sf) building and a two-story, 930-m2 (10,000-sf) addition.

To meet the project’s goals, schedule, and budget, Boston-based Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA) worked closely with the university and general contractor Consigli Construction. (The glazing contractor was Salem Glass Co., while BuroHappold Consulting Engineers served as mechanical/electrical and envelope consultant.) The goal was to create a space that would allow students and staff from both sub-disciplines to work and learn alongside each other, while also support the library’s changing role from ‘book storage’ to an environment supporting collaborative learning. At the same time, the team needed to keep the renovation within the existing 1971 structural footprint.

The library was reborn into collaborative learning spaces that maintain high levels of indoor environmental quality for students and staff.
The library was reborn into collaborative learning spaces that maintain high levels of indoor environmental quality for students and staff.

The new layout is organized around a central ‘lightwell’ clad in birch wood. Offices, classrooms, and informal gathering places ring this ‘living space,’ which brings daylight into the building, creates visual relationships between floor levels, and provides acoustic treatment.

A custom-engineered four-side silicone-glazed window wall system, including insulating laminated glass and spectrally selective low-emissivity (low-e) coatings, was developed for the project. Its exterior glass face projected outward from the façade by (4 to 7 in.), creating a unique visual texture, but presenting design challenges in maintaining long-term weatherability. Therefore, at critical wall interface locations, a custom perimeter receptor system was designed to accept extruded silicone membranes. Occupant-operated zero-sightline awning vent windows also provided a seasonal opportunity for natural ventilation, and blended with the four-side silicone-glazed aesthetic.

Along with natural light and views, recycled and durable materials also helped the project achieve LEED Gold. The curtain wall and window systems’ extruded aluminum frames contained recycled content averaging 70 percent or greater. High-performance architectural finishes contribute to their durability, reducing maintenance needs.

The recycled aluminum framing was finished using a Class I clear anodize on the interior and a three-coat 70 percent polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) resin-based coating for the exterior. The liquid paints’ volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were captured via a regenerative thermal oxidizer to eliminate the exhaust of potential pollutants.

At the end of its useful life, the aluminum framing can be recycled. Constructed of another highly recyclable metal, the copper-clad mansard roofing drapes Tozzer’s top floors and caps the traditional red Harvard-brick façade. These distinctive design elements earned the project a Best in Class award at the Brick Industry Association’s (BIA’s) 2014 Brick in Architecture Awards and a 2015 North American Copper in Architecture Award from the Copper Development Association.

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