Renovations to 440 Pearl St.

2012 Renovations

Check out the latest renovations to Owls' Nest!

2011 Renovations, Part Two

2011 Renovations, Part One

2010 Renovations

Update from Spencer Baker '64

Before undertaking a major renovation of our Nest, we needed to consider our immediate requirements: how to generate sufficient operating income, projects that will be necessary in the near future, and improvements to the Nest that will result in continued savings and comfort. As we begin our 175th year, the house approaches its 100th year, we have expanded the scope of the renovation to essentially "do everything that makes sense," exempting only stand-alone projects (such as the kitchens) that can be done at a later date. Short-term interest rates at historical lows have helped our situation.

Our current needs
To keep the doors open:
  • Sprinkler system - Install in all interior areas, including attic and outside porches. This was mandated to be complete by October 2009; we received a two-year extension.
  • Alarm system - Update entire system, which includes fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors. These need to be connected by radio to the Burlington Fire Department.
  • Pillars - Replace four remaining rotted wood-pillars with fiberglass.

To generate operating income:
  • Third floor - Increase bedrooms to five double-bedrooms and install bathrooms. Replace interior fire escape with exterior stairway.

To fulfill our community service agreement and serve our brothers:

  • First floor - Make accommodations to create a handicap-accessible area with an ADA-compliant half bath.

Our needs in the near future

  • Roof repairs
  • Boilers and water heater

Safety issues beyond city codes
Not up to code:

  • Rear basement entry.

Total project
Due to the complexity of the project and city-code issues, the board of governors decided to enlist the services of an architect. We chose Doug Viehmann as our architect and Jim Jorschick as our general contractor because of our previous satisfactory experience with them. We were fortunate to be able to enlist the services of John Higgins '92 for structural engineering and Ira "Al" Allen '66 for his engineering and construction skills. Al is also serving as our clerk of the works, overseeing the project and reviewing requisitions. As we developed the scope of the renovations, we considered deficiencies in our structure and near future projects. Questions arose regarding the following:

Insulation - There is a complete lack of insulation in all of the exterior walls as well as the sides and roof of the seven third-floor dormitories. All these areas will be exposed during construction.

Roof - We will be adding insulation of R-19 in the walls and R-38 in the ceilings. The slanted portions of the ceilings will be foamed from the flat ceilings down to the exterior walls to provide both insulation and an air seal. The roof was repaired in 2008, and it has already developed several leaks. We've been told that it has an estimated remaining life of two to five years. Some of the roof decking has to be replaced because of the 1928 fire. Replacing the roof and decking at a later date would disrupt the integrity of the air seal and insulation.

Basement ceilings - The ceilings in the basement hall, bar, and cafeteria must come down in order to install the sprinkler system. Instead of replacing them as they are now, we can raise the cafeteria ceiling from 7' 5" to 8' 3 2/3" and the bar ceiling form 6' 7" to 8' 4" while removing abandoned heating and plumbing pipes and old wiring.

Basement entry - Snow and ice from the roof have always created a safety hazard and recurring water damage at the rear door. Due to the Founders Room windows, there isn't a practical way of installing a roof. A new entry will be turned 90 degrees and include a roof and exterior door. The excavation equipment will be on site.

Exterior perimeter drains - Ground water has been an issue in the bar and, to a lesser extent, the cafeteria. We are planning to create a drain on the south, east, and north sides while the equipment is on site. Existing sewer lines are being cleaned and inspected to make sure they are in good condition.

Additional exterior work - While the scaffolding is in place, masonry repairs are being done on the brick walls and chimneys, and abandoned cable and wires are being removed. The front steps are being replaced and a handicap-accessible sidewalk will run from the east end of the front porch to North Prospect Street. The brick is being raised for access through the front door and an ADA-compliant half bath will be installed off of the library.

Heating - Our 1974 boilers are inefficient and approaching the end of their lives. The savings on replacement boilers and water heater will pay for the units in less than 10 years. The reduced size of the units will allow us to expand and upgrade the laundry room. Modifications will be made to the heating system while walls and ceilings are open. Bedrooms will have individual heat control valves.

Other improvements - LED lighting and motion-detector switches will be used where they are practical. The Founders Room woodwork and paint will be upgraded after the sprinkler installation. The fireplaces will be sealed and converted to safe, efficient gas units. Structural improvements to the rafters and roof, including jacking one area up several inches, have already been accomplished.

The ultimate goal is to regain a warm, dry, structurally sound Nest that can be efficiently operated and maintained. "As built" drawings, operating manuals, and maintenance schedules are being created. As unforeseen deficiencies are uncovered, we will address them. We have already achieved significant savings by doing most of the demolition ourselves and hauling bare wood to the wood yard, rather than the landfill. We have the opportunity to save more by working with Jim on the painting and exterior projects.

This is obviously a very ambitious project, but the end result will be a facility better than new and better than any other house on campus. It will be a fitting tribute to the men that met 175 years ago, on April 21, to found our society.

Spencer Baker '64
LI Board of Governors