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Century-Old MIT Building Gets Reno

Thursday, May 26, 2016

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A recent major building renovation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology centered around new window technology and repairs to mortar work that went wrong after a previous renovation.

The Main Group buildings on the school’s campus were constructed 100 years ago, built of reinforced concrete and steel, and covered with limestone cladding, according to the university. They were the first buildings on the Cambridge, MA, campus. Recently, Building 2, which houses the mathematics department, got a full renovation.

While some of the problem the buildings were facing stemmed from a lack of energy efficiency, some had more to do with problems encountered following a 1960s renovation.

Mortar Problems

Gary Trondorf-Dick, program manager for capital projects at the school, explained that at that time, repairs were needed to fix mortar work that was failing. The mortar formulation the masons on that job used was a more rigid mix, which at the time was thought to be more durable.

MIT Building 2
Photos: Jose-Luis Olivares

As part of the recent renovation, crews went back to the old formulation of mortar, to help preserve the limestone cladding.

The mortar was durable—so much so that it wouldn’t give at all, and couldn’t deal with the natural expansion and contraction that would happen due to weather changes. Instead, the limestone itself began cracking.

As part of the recent renovation, crews went back to the old formulation of mortar, to help preserve the limestone cladding.

Original materials and formulations played a big part in the project, which focused on restoring and maintaining the buildings’ early-20th century design. Trondorf-Dick said the university began looking into proper materials for the job 10 years before the project’s completion.

New Windows, New Roof

Also central to the renovation was windows: The university wanted to find windows that fit the original frames, aligned with the building’s original appearance, and would be durable and long-lasting.

The product they found is a thin, double-paned window with a vacuum between the two panes, which the school says will be more efficient and durable than normal double-panes.

Windows on MIT Building 2

MIT found a thin double-paned window with a vacuum between the two panes, which the school says will be more efficient and durable than normal double-panes.

Building 2 got a fourth floor as part of the renovation as well. According to the university, the addition of a new floor, and a new roof on top of that, garnered the school honors from the Cambridge Historical Commission.

The Players

The Building 2 restoration project was undertaken with the help of Ann Beha Architects. MIT also worked with exterior architects Wessling Architects and Speweik Preservation Consultants. The project contractor was Bond Brothers.

The buildings of the Main Group were originally designed by architect William Bosworth.

MIT officials say the Building 2 renovation is a model for future renovations to other Main Group buildings.


Tagged categories: Historic Preservation; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Mortars; Renovation; Windows

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